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If elected president, John McCain will raise taxes.

Why? Because this election has so many eerie parallels to 1988. The older war hero emerging from the shadows of a two-term Republican. The move to paint his Democratic opponent as an elite tax-and-spend liberal. The young, once-obscure sidekick that many people argue is inexperienced (I can’t wait for Sarah Palin’s first visit to a Central American market or her first speling lesson).

Barack Obama is running hard to escape the trap and become Bill Clinton, not Michael Dukakis. But even Obama has repeated some of Dukakis’ steps. The main one is tapping an experienced Washington senator to be his vice president. Obama’s saving grace is his charisma, which puts him back in Clinton’s league. Clinton also gave a great speech, lest anyone forget.

But the biggest parallels of all are these: Rising deficits, a big defense build-up abroad and a financial crisis requiring the government to cover bad debt.

The Resolution Trust Corp. may very well have ended the savings-and-loan crisis, but the rescue came at a cost. George H.W. Bush was willing to pony up. I suspect McCain will do the same once in office — provided we can expect a war hero not to worry about paying the ultimate (political) price for doing the right thing.

People try to draw connections between campaigning and governing, but the two remain wholly separate. George W. Bush ran as a uniter not a divider, and has been anything but for the last eight years. Some say McCain is running as a divider. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a uniter in office. It’s just unclear whether the distinction will matter on election day.

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Health care is the new weather. Everyone likes to talk about it (especially in an election year), but no one wants to do anything about it. Except talk some more.

I’m glad that a lot of people see a need for change. But I imagine if you took a poll about the weather on any given day, you’d get similar results.

At least the weather has a chance of changing for the better if you just wait. Not so with health care. Someone has to be benefiting from the current situation and its progressive worsening (my premiums are going up nearly 30% this year and I already pay a ton out of pocket as it is). And I doubt those someones will green-light reform without putting up a huge fight.

It’ll all come down to who pays. People will be stirred up against higher taxes, not realizing that a heavier financial burden will be taken off their backs. But maybe that paradigm is shifting. People may be realizing they get something for their taxes, whether it’s war, health care or clean roads.

If you don’t want to pay for it, stop complaining. Save your gripes for the weather.

Is it possible that the Internet is changing politics? You’d be foolish to think otherwise. But you’d also be foolish if you thought the Internet laid the foundation for some utopian break.

What if the Internet served mainly as a funnel for the village cranks who, in the past, bored their family, friends and neighbors with their rants, sent angry letters to newspaper editors and generally made a habit of being self-righteous, indignant and quick to jump on everyone else’s hypocrisy but their own? Sounds like the political Internet, eh? The funnel has turned into a megaphone that’s harder and harder for the rest of us to dismiss politely, as we would the neighborhood crank. All the cranks are linked together now — and plugged directly into the media.

Consider the tempest-in-a-T-1-cable over comments by John McCain’s Internet adviser. He said something to the effect that McCain doesn’t need to know how to use a computer to govern effectively. The people bemoaning this sound a bit like someone complaining about a city council member who doesn’t know what it’s like to live on their street because s/he lives in some other, better-protected neighborhood.

Ultimately, Americans don’t need a leader who understands the Internet. They need a leader who can help them get affordable health care, sensible energy choices and perhaps an end to the war in Iraq. But just as the issues are eclipsed by the likes of Chris Matthews’ analyzing the interior and ulterior motives of Bill Clinton, they’ll be eclipsed by judgments concerning politicians’ use of, and attitude towards, new technology.

The good news for American democracy online is that there will always be some new toy for the insiders to twitter about.

I’m not sure which will be worse: having to endure eight months of right-wing smears or having to endure eight months of liberals complaining about them. Especially when they use indignation to disguise a counter-punch, as in this recent sample from MoveOn:

Media watchdog group Media Matters has chronicled how FOX spent months trying to smear Obama by associating him with Reverend Wright’s words. Greenwald’s new video shows how the attacks successfully migrated to the mass media—Tim Russert repeated Sean Hannity’s smears virtually word-for-word!

Meanwhile, the big networks all but ignored Pastor John Hagee, whose endorsement John McCain was “honored” and “proud” to receive. Hagee says Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexuality, Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism, and Catholicism is the “Whore of Babylon” and “a cult.”

The message goes on to note how the smears distract voters from the “real issues.” It strikes me as exactly he kind of whining you hear from people who joined their high school debate club and now are shocked — shocked — to learn that the world doesn’t sit in rapt awe at their reasoned, rational commentary. They are equally shocked to find opponents refusing to play by the same rules : (

I did debate club once. Sure, I was too shy to talk, but I was also struck at how divorced the whole charade seemed from the real way in which political issues are debated and elections are decided. I learned a lot more reading newspaper op-eds and arguing with my right-leaning friends over lunch in the cafeteria.

Just throw the damn counter-punch.