Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts before voting...

I went to dinner recently with a friend and her family. The food was excellent, but the conversation became suddenly tense (at least for me) when her uncle brought up the 2008 election. He noted that both McCain and Obama made a promise in the beginning of their race to accept only federal funds for marketing themselves over the next two years. Obama broke that promise. To the uncle, this was unforgivable.

I watched my friend as this judgement was passed, and could see it reaffirm her preconceptions about the candidate. I suppose she might have observed the same in me if my uncle had made a disparaging remark about McCain. The difference is I have been a decided voter for the last two months, while up until this morning, she was "undecided."

I did not attempt to argue with my hosts (as they were footing the bill!) partially because I couldn't think of a calm, collected answer and partially because I knew it wouldn't make a difference if I could. It seems to me that even those elusive indecisive voters aren't truly confused about their options, or even giving those options a fair analysis.

Early this summer I did not count myself among the Obama supporters. I was fascinated by my parents' support of the neophyte senator. I had not heard the speech that made catapulted him onto the American political map. What I saw was a lot of talk about change, but not a lot of substance to back it up. I wasn't a huge Hillary fan--the Clintons both strike me as self-righteous. McCain was a different story. Out of all the Republicans, I liked him the best. He had a record of deviating from the party line when he held ethical issue with it. He was a veteran of war as well of Washington. He reminded me of my grandfather. I had some issues with a few points in his platform, but I'm hardly a one issue voter. A few things happened to make me change my mind.

First, I read Obama's 2004 convention speech, and I got chills.

Next I did some more reading.

McCain has an impressive record, to be sure. But he also has a record of voting with Bush 90% of the last eight years. He was against the tax cuts that benefited the top echelon of the country initially, but has recently been campaigning on the promise of extending them. As he finds the idea of "spreading the wealth" socialist, he's going to let the rich get richer while the poor stay poorer, because as we've seen the last 8 years (and even since the days of Reagan) trickle down economics doesn't work. He's promising to lower taxes--and yet to get the country back on track fiscally, taxes will have to go up. This is inevitable. Sacrifice comes in many forms, and we will all have to sacrifice to pull America out of this recession.

"...In the midst of recession and Wall Street calamity, with looming crises in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—[McCain promises] more tax cuts. If McCain, as he has proposed, cuts taxes for corporations and estates, the benefits once more would go disproportionately to the wealthy."

Mercilessly tortured during the Vietnam war, McCain has been the champion of anti torture legislation. Yet he recently voted against a ban of "enhanced interrogation" techniques. He condemns Obama for his associations with the ideologue Reverend Wright, while "paying obeisance to Jerry Falwell and preachers of his ilk"(New Yorker). He seems to have forsaken his maverick status for the adulations of the right wing.

One of the most ill-advised choices he made was his vice presidential pick. In an effort not only to satisfy the extreme conservative fringe of the Republican party, but in a moment of extreme cynicism, McCain chose an admittedly charismatic, but entirely unvetted and barely experienced beauty queen from Alaska. I've read ultra conservative writers claim that feminists' issue with Palin center around jealousy over her looks. Perhaps this is true for some, but for me, I am reminded of high school when I look at her. She is the cookie cutter, sporty, popular girl who promised soda machines in the cafeteria. She snorts at intellectualism, displays contempt for the very experience she faults Obama for lacking, and tours the country with her "you betcha" attitude that is as practiced as the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Please. Country first my ass. William Kristol of the Weekly Standard wrote in early September that America shouldn't be nervous about Palin's being a heartbeat away from the presidency, making the case that former presidents like Truman and Teddy Roosevelt succeeded their partners and did quite well. He asserts:

"Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington."

Really? So your problem with Obama then is...what exactly? He concluded with:

"A Wasilla Wal-Mart Mom a heartbeat away? I suspect most voters will say, No problem. And some — perhaps a decisive number — will say, It’s about time."

Everyone in America should be afforded equal chance to follow their dreams and actualize their potential. But leaders of the free world must be held to certain standards. I don't think it is elitist to demand that the head of this country be a cut above, even if they hail from the very bottom of the barrel. Robert Cohen wrote in the New York Times that "[Americans are] not interested in where you came from. They’re interested in who you are. That has not changed." I don't care where she's from--I'm from a tiny town too--I care what she's about and what I've seen has scared me.

"Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama."

The worst bit about the McCain campaign is how nasty it has become. To his credit, McCain has made efforts to quell some of the more schitzoid behavior at his rallies, but his campaign ads and speeches in the last weeks of this race have become increasingly predicated on fear.

"Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina."

It doesn't help that he's been endorsed by Dick Cheney, and perhaps most ironically, Al Qaida. McCain has tried to color Obama based on his lack of experience and exchange with the now famous Joe Wurzelbacher.

"Mr McCain says that Mr Wurzelbacher’s straight question about taxes revealed the true Barack Obama. But Mr Wurzelbacher veered off-message in a television interview on Sunday, saying that he doubted Mr Obama's “loyalty to our country”, and that Mr Obama's ideology is “completely different than what democracy stands for”. As Mr McCain's campaign nears an end, it is mixing mainstream worries about taxes with fears of Mr Obama drawn from the fringe."

We've had 8 years of fear, of twisted half truths. We've seen America's name crumble on the world stage, as its infrastructure and economy crumbles within it. It is time for a change.

Tonight, America may send Barack Hussein Obama to the White House, and reaffirm the ideals this country was built upon.