Monday, October 27, 2008

Final Campaign Thoughts I

I decided I would try to blog a little bit about the campaign, and my reasons for supporting Obama, a little each day for the last week before the election.

Today's topic- social agendas.

One of the reasons I have been so bored and turned-off by the campaign coverage, both on TV and online, is that it has alternately centered on either personal aggrandizement or personal attacks. The truth is, though, that I am less interested in electing an individual than supporting specific policies, values and issues that I agree with. The reality of politics these days, for good or bad, is that the vast majority of the time, politicians will stay with their party line, or if not, with the ideological niche they have carved out for themselves. At the end of the day, that is the job they are being elected to do- to vote and write legislation, to decide court cases, or to sign bills, appoint judges, and influence policies how they see fit.

Character is not insignificant, but it should not be the determining factor of who gets your vote. Personality traits do not necessarily predict who will be a good President. The most frustrating element of Bush's 2000 campaign was that he was able to turn the focus from who was most qualified or informed to who people would rather have a beer with- as if any of the people who voted for Bush ever got to have that beer.

Should we go out of our way to elect morally questionable people? Certainly not. But most of the attacks laid at Obama's feet about supposed radicalism, much less links to bad people, have been overstated, overblown, or downright wrong. And the truth of the matter is that it does not matter if Obama sat in Ayers' living room many moons ago, because this fact is going to have zero impact on what he will do as President (particularly since Ayers has become such a hot media focus). I also believe that the "Obama character" issue is basically a strawman because few of the people that have done so much to try to sling mud at him (including members of my own family) would ever have any intention of voting for a Democrat at all. It's an issue of politics and issues. At this very moment I am watching Elisabeth Hasselbeck ranting about how great it is that Palin wears a flag pin- is there any better example of how superficial the talking heads can get? (Yes, liberals can be superficial as well- the whole "Palin clothes"-gate thing comes to mind. However I don't think anyone has suggested that Palin's clothes disqualify her from being VP material, or have questioned her patriotism because of it.)

Some people object to the idea of "voting your party, right or wrong." I understand that view and have some respect for those who call themselves independents and try to think about each issue before making up their mind instead of just going with whatever their party says. On a national scale, however, you have to look at the long-term ramifications of your vote.

Eight years ago, McCain was far more moderate than he is now. Eight years ago he was the only Republican I remember Abbot Yid commenting, "I actually wouldn't mind that much if he became President." Sadly that McCain no longer seems to exist. I have no doubt that Senator McCain still cares very much about this country and if elected would hopefully pay closer attention to our national and foreign policy issues than President Bush has for much of his term. However on the national social agendas, we are worlds apart and there is nothing that can bridge that gap. McCain's "maverick" status these days seems limited to palling around with Joe Lieberman (sorry John, once a Dem speaks at the GOP convention, I think you lose any claim to bipartisanship points). It is possible that Obama may not be much better when it comes to reaching across the aisle, but I can be optimistic.

The fact is that I know that Obama will support the social causes that are important to me: as much progress on the same-sex marriage as we can get; ensuring that Roe v. Wade stands; supporting comprehensive sex-education; making sure that the evangelical wing of the GOP is kept in check on the Church-State stuff (and maybe shutting up whoever keeps harping on about that damn culture war crap); maintaining government safety nets for people that need them (while hopefully still looking for ways to fund them); focusing on renewable energy research (let's be honest, we need a dozen-barreled shotgun on this one, whatever can be safe, practical and effective, and yes, that includes some drilling if necessary- but it can't be all!); battling global warming and climate change; working towards a humane and effective immigration policy; supporting stem cell research; defending civil liberties; and, fingers crossed, will also get to put a few judges on the bench to shore up the liberal/conservative balance.

Should people not be allowed to delve into Obama's past? Of course not. But who at this point has not heard of Wright or Pfleger? Who has not heard of Ayers? Fox News is screaming these things at the top of their lungs, and despite all that, polls seem to be showing that a lot of people simply DON'T CARE. Obama's choice of former pastor is not going to have an appreciable impact on these people's lives, and they know it.

Let's be honest. Character is important. Personality is important. But we aren't voting for just a guy. We're voting for a party, we're voting for an agenda, and we're voting for a vision, plan and direction for the future. Even if you have misgivings about Obama as a person, if your agenda even remotely matches his, it seems like your decision is straight-forward.

Tomorrow: Foreign policy.

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