After the conventions are over and the running mates have been picked, I have finally made my selection. I am a registered independent, and although I have strong political opinions on each specific issue, I am very much undecided between political parties in each given election cycle. This time, I have taken longer than is typical for me to make a decision. The reason is that both candidates were appealing to me for different reasons.
Before I let you know my decision, let me tell you something about my political views. Readers of this blog already know that I am a staunch free market capitalist. I am very much pro international-trade, I am against large government, I support lower taxes AND a balanced budget. I am very much against corporate and farm subsidies. My economic agenda pretty much matches that of the traditional Republican Party, before they decided that deficits were the way to go and that corporate welfare was a good thing.
However, I am very much a social liberal. I am for gay marriage. I am pro-choice. I am for reasonable gun control. I very much support social security and I am extremely pro-environment. Drilling for oil? Not if I can help it. Tax credits for clean energy? You betcha. You could say that my social agenda is pretty close to that of the Democratic Party, although I seriously dislike big labor.
My rationale for both my social and economic positions is similar: I don't think that government should be interfering in people's lives. They shouldn't be picking economic winners and losers, and they shouldn't tell us who we can and cannot get married to. For that matter, I don't think they should be telling us what we should or shouldn't be smoking in the privacy of our homes. Basically, my philosophy is: live and let live, and I view good government as an impartial regulator that steps in to prevent an individual or a group from taking unfair advantage of another individual or group. It's as simple as that.
So you can see my dilemma. I don't completely agree or disagree with either the Democrats or the Republicans. If I vote for McCain, I get his right-wing religious fanatics stepping in to push their creationism and erode the separation of church and state. If I vote for Obama, I get to pay higher taxes and give more power to organizations like the teachers' union who will keep fighting against school reforms. Darn it.
BUT, I finally did make up my mind, AND it wasn't that tough either. I am voting for Obama. Here are my reasons:
1. Disgust - I was driving back from work one evening during the Republican convention and I was listening on the radio to Rudy Guilliani speak at the GOP convention. A more vile, condescending and obnoxious speech I have not heard in recent years from a "main stream" American politician. Guilliani was actually belittling Obama for his previous work as a community organizer. Would he dare to do this if Obama worked as a teacher, fireman, sanitation worker or any other profession? How dare he stand up on the national stage and insult someone's honest day's labor? Well, that's just Guilliani, right? Nope. Instead of shouting the idiot down, the Republican establishment stood around, laughed, clapped and cheered.
When I got home and turned on the TV to watch Sarah Palin accept her nomination, the vile rhetoric continued to spew. Sheer arrogance is the message I got from the screen. After 8 years of a disastrous Republican presidency, I would think that more humility would be in order.
2. Environment - global warming is the biggest challenge facing human kind today. Hearing the cries of "Drill, baby, drill" coming from the Republican convention, I am now sure Republicans simply don't get it. They may pay lip service to the problem, but they will drag their feet until it's too late. Economy and Environment are my two main issues this year, and the Republicans clearly fail this one.
3. Economy - from my perspective this one would typically be an easy one in favor of the Republicans. I think that it still is, marginally. However, after having mis-managed the economy for the past eight years, even if they win a few points in my book compared to the Democrats, their record is simply not good enough to tilt the balance in their favor.
4. Hope - as jaded and cynical as I am about the American political system, I have to say that I find Obama inspiring. Listening to his speech at the Democratic convention, I heard something that I haven't heard from a politician in a long time: vision. This makes me want to bet on him.
4. Sarah Palin - I like McCain. Until he chose Palin as his running mate there was a decent shot that he would get my vote. No more. I have no problem with Palin's lack of experience. OK, I have some issue with this, just like I have some issue with Obama's relatively short record. My real problem, however, are her positions on the issues (as far as these have already been revealed). This is someone who supports abstinence-only sex education - after the utter failure of this approach has been demonstrated by her own teenage daughter's pregnancy. I don't question her personal decisions, I simply refuse to let these misguided opinions be applied to my kids. Palin is someone who truly believes in creationism - even if, to her limited credit, she hasn't tried to push this superstitious and ignorant position as Governor of Alaska. Perhaps worst of all, she doesn't believe that global warming is man made...
It was after Palin concluded her speech that I made up my mind. I like McCain. I like him a lot. If he had chosen a centrist running mate, such as Lieberman, chances are that McCain would have gotten my vote. However, with his party so full of hubris after eight years of failure, and his horrible choice of running mate my choice seems simple enough. In fact, it's not even close.