So ... we've had months and months (years on one side of the aisle) of campaigning, and now the Democrat and Republican parties are throwing their big parties -- the national conventions. If you are not sure already who you will be voting for in the 2012 Presidential Election, don't bother to watch either of these "dog-and-pony" shows. They are, to say the least, extremely slanted, as one would expect.
Not that you won't hear some wonderful speakers. Not that you won't be inspired and challenged. Not that you won't come away thinking you've finally found a politician you can trust.
That's all part and parcel of the party conventions.
All of us -- no matter the political persuasion -- need to feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves; that we are part of something right. We need someone to give us hope that things will get better; we need someone we can trust and something we can believe in.
And that's what party conventions are: Pep rallies for the delegates in the hall and those of us watching on television or on the web or listening on the radio or reading the coverage in the newspapers.
One former campaign strategist for the current administration went so far as to say -- more or less -- that it was all mirrors and lights and smoke; that Styrofoam columns offer little substance.
I think he's right, no matter which side of the aisle you stand on.
Each party trots its best, brightest, and most promising out onto one of the biggest and most far-reaching stages in the world and we are all left to decipher what was said; to try to separate fact from fiction; to sort out which predictions were fear mongering and which are most likely to come true.
We are introduced to those who may well be the party leaders of the future.
To put it more succinctly and in the more modern vernacular: We are being played.
Many good people will make the decision about who to vote for based on what they see and hear from the conventions.
Remember, though, that being shown and told the best they have to offer over a period of a few days does not reveal the big picture. To see where either party will take us in the future we must look at the past.
And not far enough back to compare what is to come with the days of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. Those were vastly different men than what we have before us today, and those were vastly different times.
Look at the last twelve years and ask yourself if you ever thought we'd be in the shape we are in today; think of what we will be leaving to our children and grandchildren if things don't make a drastic 180 degree turn; think about the negative impact federal policies might have on your aging parents.
Forget what you see and hear in Tampa and Charlotte this year.
Then listen to -- and vote with -- your heart.