The ReThink Blog

Starting from scratch in politics and science


The Candidates 2008

The Candidates 2008 and My Vote

[EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve missed any of my previous essays on the candidates, feel free to check them out here:
The Candidates and Science
The Candidates and Domestic Issues
The Candidates and the Economy
The Candidates and Civil Rights
The Candidates and Energy
The Candidates and Foreign Policy

We're not the only ones tired of this presidential debate
We're not the only ones tired of this presidential debate

Political ideologies are remarkably similar to religions. For a disturbingly large proportion of the population, political thought is dictated by confirmation bias, ad hominem arguments, false dichotomies, ignorance, arrogance, and worst of all bigotry. Any intellectually honest attempt to find the illusive political truth (which is more divergent than convergent, unfortunately) will force you to re-examine everything you believe, and few people—not even our most intelligent—are able to rewrite their beliefs from scratch. And make no mistake; politics is as closely related to blind faith as any cult.

This is why choosing a presidential candidate is either the easiest thing in the world or the most difficult. In the past four months, I’ve attempted to ignore my gut reactions to the presidential candidates and tackle the important issues of the day with an unbiased eye in order to make my own conclusions. I can’t say I’ve been entirely successful in reigning in my political assumptions, but I still look at the conclusions I’ve made thus far as much fairer than any I’ve made in the past.

Going back and examining all of my essays in this series, it seems clear that I will be voting for John McCain tomorrow, as he has been the victor in five out of six rounds. However, please understand that this is by no means a simple decision for me, and the apparent landslide victory in my personal polling is more than a little misleading.

The Pros and Cons of John McCain

McCain begging Obama to spread his campaign money around
McCain begging Obama to spread his campaign money around

John McCain’s presidency would bear little resemblance to George W. Bush’s, and McCain would make a better president. He has a history of disagreeing with his own party on numerous issues, which proves to me that he is not bound by the gospels of his party. We cannot afford a president who toes the party line, and McCain is far more moderate than his opponents would have you believe.

For example, John McCain is a supporter of gay rights. He says he would be comfortable with a homosexual president, and has vocally called for tolerance on issues of sexuality and gay marriage. Additionally, he is pushing for legislation to control carbon dioxide emissions in order to curb the potential damage of global warming, and he has made an all-of-the-above alternative energy program one of his major platforms. This is not your typical Republican.

Sure, he does support a lot of the things that make liberals red in the face, like the Second Amendment, medical and educational competition in a free market, and the war on drugs. He is also pro-life and wants to lower taxes for everyone, even the rich, white, or Republican. Most infuriating for the Democrats, though, is his stance on Iraq. He doesn’t want to abandon the Iraqi people whose infrastructure we helped destroy, and for that, he is considered a warmonger. If we’d done it McCain’s way from the outset, though, we’d probably have our boys home by now.

I don’t agree with everything McCain stands for, of course. I am rabidly pro-choice (though I still think parents should be notified if minors are getting abotions), I think the war on drugs is the single greatest abuse of our tax dollars and police power, and I don’t think the world is going to end if we keep spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

For me, though, the deciding factor is the economy. I believe that, short of a full monetary revolution, the best way to stimulate the economy is to curb government spending, reduce national debt, find bipartisan solutions to the social security problem, and give money back to the people. This is what McCain wants to do, and it is probably number one on my personal list of reasons to vote for him, thanks to the chaos going on in Wall Street right now.

The Pros and Cons of Barack Obama

Obama vows to never mispronounce 'nuclear'
Obama vows to never mispronounce "nuclear"

Barack Obama, who is likely to win tomorrow’s election, is not a socialist and would not make a bad president. For one thing, he is a slick talker and immensely likeable as a person. This would be of great benefit on the world stage, and he would no doubt make giant strides in improving America’s image abroad. For another thing, he would be our first president with black skin, and that would help this country overcome the lingering scars of racism and slavery that have haunted us for far too long. Having said that, I think anybody who votes for a president simply because of the color of his skin is a bigot and a fool; in a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter in the slightest.

When it comes to issues of science, Barack Obama seems a little more current than McCain, though he is by no means an ideal candidate on the basis of scientific issues alone. I do think we, as a country, would be on better scientific ground with Obama in charge; we’d make greater strides in stem-cell research and we’d be less likely to let creationists into the science classroom. However, that same classroom will continue the indoctrination of our children when it comes to global warming, and money will be wasted on things like researching the alleged link between autism and vaccines that has already been dismissed and accounted for by the greater medical community.

Obama does want to improve the state of our healthcare and education, and though I disagree with how he wants to go about it, I don’t think he will reign ruin down upon the people like the conservatives seem to think he will. He also wants to tone down the war on drugs, allow public schools to teach more than just abstinence, has no interest in repealing Roe v. Wade, wants to bolster our presence in Afghanistan, and wants to strengthen our intelligence here at home without repealing the Patriot Act. On each of these issues, I think Obama is on the right track.

Still, I think his plan to abandon Iraq as quickly as possible would do irreparable harm, not only to the Iraqi people (who’ve been through enough, thank you very much) but to our national security as well. It would be a de facto failure, and it would only serve to strengthen anti-American sentiment in the middle east. Worst of all, it would prove to the larger world that terrorism is an effective means to affect change.

But, again, the economy is a deciding factor for me. Obama’s plan to deal with our current economic crisis is to tax the crap out of the upper and upper-middle class while simultaneously increasing government spending across the board. This is not a conservative talking point; this is easily verifiable fact. If you ask me, such an economic policy is horrendously naïve and would do pretty severe damage to our already unsteady economy. I do not believe in class warfare, punishing the rich, or “spreading the wealth around a little,” because let’s face it; if you make the rich poorer, the first thing they’re going to cut down on is how much money they give their employees.

Other Considerations

When the Democratic Party took control of Congress a few years back, I thought it was a good thing. As I see it, whenever one political party has control of both Congress and the White House, bad things happen. We need checks and balances for our government to remain somewhat sane, and there is no better check against the drunken authority of partisanship than having the other party in a position of equal power. Since the Democrats are already getting stars in their eyes on the vague possibility of a supermajority in Congress this year, the last thing we should want is to have a Democrat in the White House.

The Libertarian Perspective

I do not believe that voting third party is the same as throwing your vote away. No, there’s absolutely no chance that a third party candidate could win nowadays. However, if more people voted third party, we might be freed from the tyranny of the bipartisan system. The Republican party seems to want to control your life, but will let you do what you want with your money. The Democratic party seems to want to control your income, but will let you do what you will with your life. Why can’t we have a third option? Why does it always boil down to a choice between two less-than-stellar candidates?

I have voted Libertarian in the past, and the Libertarian party is the one I most identify with. However, Bob Barr is not a good candidate; he has changed his positions on many issues so often that it’s hard to figure out what he actually believes in. Still, if I take his current positions at face value, I don’t want to vote for him.

thumbs downWhile I appreciate his stances on civil rights, his wish to simplify the tax code, his eagerness to allow capitalism to take care of any global warming problems, and his notion to let private institutions tackle embryonic stem-cell research, I find his take on energy policy too radical to be realistic and his take on national security to be a national death wish. In short, I think Bob Barr’s downfalls would make him a far worse president than either McCain or Obama, and it pains me to admit that.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the vice presidential candidates. As I see it, they’re both pretty insane, though they are loved by their political bases. Sarah Palin is no less qualified for the vice presidential role than Obama is for the presidential one. In fact, some of our best leaders came out of political obscurity (should I mention a governor from Arkansas?). Having said that, Palin is the kind of woman who hunts out of the door of a helicopter and has a voice as grating as Fran Drescher’s. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is a political veteran. He is also out of his mind. Just two months ago, Biden said, "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" In case you’re as in the dark about history as Biden appears to be, some notes: the stock market crashed in 1929, there were no commercial television stations in the United States until the 40’s and 50’s, and Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t president until 1933. Luckily, regardless of which candidate wins, the vice president won’t really do much. In other words, don’t let the vice presidential candidate influence your vote for president.

Another historical note. Can you imagine a Democrat taking office today and, during his inaugural address, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”? Seriously, what happened to the Democratic Party? I really wish they’d find some rational footing again.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I believe the American democratic process will work just fine. Neither candidate will destroy the country or make it a paradise, and I’m quite frankly tired of the shrill voices on either side trying to convince us otherwise. Besides, even if a candidate turns out to be the worst president in history, we’ll be able to vote him out of office in four years or, in an even worse scenario, impeach him.

McCain thumbs up
The Candidates and My Vote
thumbs down Obama

One prediction I will make, though, is that the economy will see a surge after the election, regardless of who wins. The president elect’s political party will announce that this is a grand success and portent of the bright future ahead. The economic crisis will ultimately be blamed on the Bush administration either way, and any continued economic growth into the new year will be attributed to the new president. Conversely, if the markets start to falter again, the new president will not be blamed right away.

My only real fear is that the American people have worked themselves into such a politico-religious fervor that they will actually allow one political party to have a supermajority in Congress. This is letting the political pendulum swing too far, and while I don’t think it’ll happen, I still fear it. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, if it happens in the future—no matter which political party we’re talking about—it will be a rough couple of years for the United States.

So yeah, I’m voting for John McCain. I was greatly tempted to not vote this year, but after doing all this research, I have found plenty of good reasons to vote for the man. I expect you to make your own decision, but I hope that you will not be swayed by silly talking points, bad rhetoric, or political ideals that have more basis in faith than in evidence. If you agree or disagree with me, feel free to leave comments below, and we will let the free democratic process work its magic.

-e. magill, 11/03/2008

  • The Candidates 2012 and My Vote
  • Unnecessary Complications: The Pros and Cons of Daylight Saving Time
  • The Politics of Hate