9.22.2008

Political Perspective

Most of the people in most of the circles I run in are Democrats, and
many of them assume I am too. After all, I'm a well-educated, young
minority person living in an East Coast big city. When I explain
where I actually sit in the political spectrum, the response ranges
from incredulity to outrage: "how could you possibly - be a registered
Republican / not for Obama / for McCain / for Palin?" I just smile
and feign ignorance, after which I'm usually privy to an unfiltered
perspective on what the questioner really thinks about people like me.
(Hint: it's not very flattering.)

So what are my reasons? For one, I guess I like being the contrarian.
When everyone's going one way, I find it useful to go the other, if
only to better learn both sides of the story.

Second, there are indeed both sides to every story. Whether it was
Bush/Gore in 2000, Bush/Kerry in 2004, or McCain/Obama this year,
we've been treated to two starkly different perpectives to the same
issues, two starkly different solutions to the same problems. This
is, unequivocally, a good thing; dare I say, what America was founded
on in the first place. When the political process works best is not
when one side vanquishes another - although, to be sure, we will only
be electing one president in November, and rightly so - but when both
sides contribute.

Third, don't believe the media hype. And I mean that for both sides.
Let's be honest: both candidates are flip-floppers, both are out of
touch with the majority of Americans, and neither is ready to be
President. No one is truly ready to be President, no one is perfect,
and everyone is a politician in the pejorative sense of the word.
Thankfully for the media and for political junkies, there's plenty to
pick at on both sides.

Fourth, I am increasingly irritated by people who label Republicans as
ignorant hicks. Not to say we all don't need to become more informed,
but it smacks of elitist coastal snobbery to assume that someone who
is more in line with Republican values than Democratic ones is simply
not as progressive. And not to say people aren't racist, but to
assume that if you are white and are not voting for Obama it's because
you're not "enlightened" enough sells people awfully short. And not
to say it may be time for a change in leadership to the younger
generation, but let's remember that the fact that Obama uses a
Blackberry and McCain hardly uses a computer at all may be a sign that
Obama is more "with it," or it may just be that McCain's
torture-induced wounds make typing hard for him, and tech-savvy
coastals shouldn't begrudge him for that.

But let's get into some substantive things. I am certainly
free-market, which tends to align me with the Republican perspective
on taxes, trade, and labor. Although McCain has been worryingly
absent on his economic plans, he's generally in favor of letting
capitalism work; and although Obama has been refreshingly confident
and specific on his economic plans, he's generally in favor of more
government intervention.

As for social positions, I am a conservative Christian, and my take on
values is usually the Republican position. With the exception of
inclusivity issues like immigration, gay marriage, and affirmative
action, you could call me a social conservative and you'd be right.
If you think me backwards for my beliefs, I don't know what to say.

What about the candidates themselves? I admire Obama as a person,
though I disagree with most of his social, political, and economic
stances. On the positive side, if he wins, I'll feel more optimistic
that we will take the aggressive steps we need to take in shifting out
of a petroleum-based economy; and if he loses, I'll lament the
potential disillusionment of young voters who wonder if the political
process truly works for them.

McCain I disagree with on energy and transportation issues, and he is
becoming frustratingly pat on a number of issues he was once a
maverick on: The Economist's cover story last week even called for the
return of "the old McCain," and a fellow conservative friend of mine
shared my disappointment that his campaign has been all the worse of
Republican politicking that it was once thought McCain wouldn't stoop
to. But there's no doubt he would be a public servant, he has as good
a track record as any of working towards a solution and not against an
opponent, and he alone seems to understand just how dangerous a world
we live in.

Palin seems to be the lightning rod for folks, and for good reason.
But I appreciate her advocacy of special-needs children, agree with
most of her values positions, and (unlike some feminists) I think her
being veep would be a huge step forward for women. Is she ready to
lead from Day One? Of course not: her foreign policy resume is thin,
and her lack of international perspective worrisome. But, as alluded
to above, it's not about who's ready to lead but who's made out of the
right stuff to step up when put in a position to lead. This is also
the opinion of none other than David Cohen, Ed Rendell's chief of
staff and as blue as they get, who met Palin and left with the
impression that she is made of that stuff, just like Bill Clinton,
circa 1992, was.

A lot can happen in 6 weeks, but that's where I stand now and where I
tend to stand. You may still think me absurd, but if you once
wondered, now at least you have a little more information.

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