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Last night, Sarah Palin made a convert out of me.

Eight months ago, I was a registered Republican, standing in a cold room in Iowa supporting Ron Paul in the Iowa caucuses.  For most of my life, I've been a believer in small government and individual liberties, the ideals that, according to what I learned in high school civics, the Republican Party stood for.  I voted Libertarian in 2004, simply because I felt that the Libertarian candidate seemed to best voice those ideals at the time.

As I stood in that cold caucus room, I listened to several people stand up and talk about their candidate.  For the most part, instead of giving me compelling reasons to vote for that candidate, each stump speaker (aside from the bubbly young woman who spoke about Ron Paul) spent their time not talking up their own candidate, but hurling shovels of specific insults at the people in the Democratic caucus in an adjacent building.  I didn't learn much about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or John McCain, but I did hear a lot of talk about the negative character, poor experience, and profound ignorance of the primary Democratic candidates, Obama, Edwards, and Clinton.

Over the next several months, as the campaign season went along, I started actually opening my ears and listening to talk radio a bit.  Previously, I would just listen to music in my truck during my commute, but I started tuning into a pair of local talk radio stations, which aired programs by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the like.

And I was deeply disturbed.  Instead of hearing compelling arguments for why John McCain was the right man for the job, I would hear three nonstop hours of insults levied toward Barack Obama, much of it not directly aimed towards him, but intended to serve as character assassination by association.  Breathless stories about his pastor, Reverend Wright, and a guest pastor at his church, David Pfleiger.  Amazing tales about William Ayers.  

Very rarely did I hear a word about policy, and when I did, it was usually just deriding a specific plank of Obama's plan.  

After a month of listening to a large daily dose of talk radio, I learned virtually nothing about what John McCain actually planned to do for this country.

What I did hear, though, is a lot of supposedly negative things about Barack Obama, most of which seemed nonsensical and completely frivolous compared to the problems of this nation.  The worst, for me, was repeated harpings on the idea that Barack Obama was somehow "bad" because he was a community organizer.  

I know what community organizers do.  I have friends and family who are involved with social work and community organization.  They register people to vote.  They get people involved with the political process.  They know the real, day-to-day problems of the people in their community like the back of their hand.  They help people with their life problems, helping elderly folks keep the lights on and helping groups with a significant problem get organized enough to get the attention of an alderman or city hall.  The people on the ground, the "community organizers" and very local politicians, do a ton of good work for the people of this country.  And through that process, they gain a deep understanding of the real problems and thoughts of everyday people.

That brings us to last night.  Until last night, I was slightly leaning towards Obama, but I hadn't firmly decided who I was voting for.  I held out hope that during the Convention, I could get a real grasp on where the Republican Party was.

Last night, Sarah Palin gave a speech that was in theory meant to get people like me excited about the Republican ticket.  This was one that should have gotten me back on board and excited about the McCain/Palin platform.

Instead, it sickened me in a very deep and personal way.

I could go through some of the quotes that made my stomach turn, but many others have already done a great analysis of the speech.

All I heard was a long stream of extremely bitter attacks against Barack Obama, none of which go even the slightest step towards solving the problems of this country.  When I tuned in, Rudy Giuliani was firing off some attacks, but I expected that - every convention has some room for criticism of the opposition.

But Palin's speech was obviously meant to be the centerpiece, the real statement about the direction of the Republican party.

And I heard absolutely nothing about their plans for the future.

All I heard was a long, long stream of pointless attacks against Barack Obama, the Democratic Party in general, and the media.

No solutions.  No real content.  No anything.

There was one line at the end that really twisted things for me.

"Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?"  

Every single human being has the right to a fair trial and to be treated humanely by their captors.  John McCain, of all people, should understand this.  He was a prisoner of war.  

On the one fundamental issue that his entire campaign is centered around - the character-building experience of his POW stint - he gets it wrong.

America cannot be a shining beacon of light in the world when we condone policies of treating our enemies with the same standards as the Viet Cong treated their enemies.

Every criminal, no matter how heinous their crimes, deserves humane treatment and a fair and expedient trial.  Period.  That is a fundamental human right.

When you're giving the central speech of your party's convention, to make a joke out of it makes a joke out of me.  Not just as a (former) Republican, but as an American.

This morning, I donated $250 to Barack Obama's campaign.  Tomorrow, I'm stopping by the voter registration office to change my party affiliation to Democrat.  Saturday, I hope to plant an Obama-Biden sign in my front yard.

This lack of respect for your political opponents, this denial of basic human rights to those who oppose us, this complete emptiness of policy - it ends.  Right here, right now.

Originally posted to trenttsd on Thu Sep 04, 2008 at 08:33 AM PDT.

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