Monday, October 29, 2012

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Lose

I Love Politics.

There, I said it. It's one of my favorite things to watch or talk about or be involved in. I know, I know, it's crazy. It seems virtually impossible to have a rational conversation with anyone about politics. Everyone is so passionate about how America is going straight to hell if people don't wake up and start believing what they do about politics and policies. And you know what? It's always been that way. Ever since the beginning of our country, people have been saying the same things. It's because fear is a great catalyst.

But let's get one thing straight: this is not the end of the world. Everyone put down your signs, take off your tinfoil hats, and let's just agree to step away from the hyperbole. It really gets tiring to hear that this is "the most important election of our lifetime" [sic]. Sorry, it's not. If it were, then there wouldn't be so many similarities between the candidates this election (just watch the foreign policy debate), or between President Obama and his two immediate predecessors (all are effectively centrists who have generally disappointed the hardcore elements of their respective parties).

I can't tell you how many different posts I've read on Facebook that I've deleted my comments on before hitting "post". Sometimes I had a serious comment. Sometimes I had a sarcastic one. But I (usually) just couldn't do it. It wasn't going to help anything. To the people I disagreed with, my comment wasn't going to convince them. To the people I may have agreed with but wanted to needle, it probably would have just set them off. I'm much more interested in having conversations about politics with people, and that works much better face-to-face. I'm also more interested in learning why someone believes differently than I do than I am in arguing talking points. I am as passionate about what I believe as any other person, and about the direction I think the country should take, but I try to talk dispassionately to other people so that they are free to discuss what they believe without having to be immediately defensive or feel judged. I had a conversation with a coworker about the upcoming election not too long ago, and even though we disagree about some issues (including abortion), we were able to have an amicable yet substantive discussion. No names were called. No judgments were called down. No vitriol was spewed. And even when I try to point out what I think are errors in people's beliefs, I try to do it in such a way that lets them see what I am thinking. I believe that's a much better way to convince someone; lead them along the same thought processes that got me there. During the 2008 election I asked a young lady why she voted for Obama; she said "Because he's black." Wanting to demonstrate that I thought that was a poor reason to pick a President (the color of one's skin), I asked her, in as calm and unjudging a way as I could (by making a joke out of it): "If I told you that I voted for McCain because he was white, would you be offended?" For the record, I voted for neither, but I wanted to help her see why I thought that wasn't a good idea.

So here is my opportunity to talk about issues and candidates and actually let it all out. I don't feel like I have to edit myself for length or content, because this is MY blog. We might be friends on Facebook, but you may or may not want your Facebook feed clouded up with my opinion. But if you clicked your way here, you're fair game.

Let me say one thing first: I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and so politics comes somewhere long after that. I think that's why I can look at it as a hobby now, instead of the all-encompassing crusade that some seem to take it as. I think that anytime followers of Jesus label themselves as anything but that, we end up having problems. But I also believe that we have been given a great stewardship in being citizens of a free democratic republic. We have the ability and responsibility to be active citizens, and to do good in everything. But I think that many who call themselves "Christians" have used or are using that label to try to push carnal agendas. And I have to agree with Andy Stanley, who said "Anytime the church tries to leverage anything other than love, we go backwards, not forwards." So these are my opinions about earthly matters, but just because we may disagree doesn't mean I don't love you!

Let's start with the issues. These are what I consider to be important to me.

  1. Abortion. If you could label me as a single-issue voter, this would be the issue. Everything else can be shades of gray to me, but this is not. And let me explain to you why: IF you think that a fetus is a human life, how can you not protect it? If we disagree on whether or not a baby in utero is actually a baby or not, then that is a valid discussion. But because I believe it is a human baby from the moment of conception, he/she must be protected. Because we believe that the right to life is an inalienable right, it cannot be taken away without due process. An aborted baby is not given due process. I've been asked what about conceptions in the case of rape. I honestly cannot answer what it must be like to go through that horrific ordeal. I have no framework to deal with that discussion. I'll never know personally because I'm a man, and I cannot even begin to imagine what I would go through emotionally if it happened to my wife or daughter. I just... can't. BUT - if I believe that baby is a human baby, then why should he/she be punished for the crime of his/her father? That is the only logical answer I can come up with, and I know it does NOTHING to answer the emotional pain. It's completely lacking, but it's all I've got.
  2. The Economy. We all want to see the economy improve. I live in an area that is still seeing 12% unemployment. But I realized something the other day: it's true that unemployment numbers are only concerned with those actively seeking employment, but what if companies decide those people are unemployable? What percentage of the unemployed have felonies on their records and so are considered too much of a risk to hire? I live in a low-educated, highly unemployed area of the country. And while we have seen factories close and companies fail, more opportunity isn't the only answer. It would help get that number lower to be sure, but it wouldn't make the unemployable more attractive to employers. I do love the study of economics, by the way, but it's funny to hear politicians throw around numbers as if they are fact when two branches of our government can't even agree on what effect each year's budget (back when we had those things, remember those days?) will actually do. Economics is the one of the only "sciences" in which a theory really can't be tested; after all, there's no such thing as a closed system in economics. Consider me a supply-sider who thinks Keynesian economics is interesting, but doesn't trust it. 
  3. The Budget. Why is this so hard? Because we have 535 people voting on a budget and 1 person signing it who are all trying to get reelected all the time. And the more money they can funnel towards their home district or state or preferred swing state, the more likely it is that they will be reelected. Everyone is for less spending... somewhere else. Not for their area, or pet project. That is one reason why I think a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution would be helpful. It would force politicians to make difficult decisions, decisions that wouldn't always be popular, but we would stay in-budget. There aren't many people who are happy with the cuts that have had to be made to the Georgia budget, but at the end of the day it is balanced. I'd rather have everyone a little upset and the budget balanced than everyone happy and unrestrained spending.
  4. Education. I was homeschooled, so I will always be for more choice and freedom in education. But let's get one thing absolutely clear: education policies will not succeed without parental involvement. And since that can't be effectively legislated, this gets tricky. 
  5. Foreign Policy. George Washington warned against "foreign entanglements", and I wonder what would have happened if we had followed his advice more carefully. To be sure, John Adams following that policy probably kept us from a war that (most likely) would have destroyed us. But since then we have grown more and more involved overseas. I wonder sometimes how necessary it is. Is foreign aid at a time of record deficits wise? If the Defense Department sees budget cuts, shouldn't we cut foreign bases before domestic bases? Is there a way to promote peace and prosperity without having to rattle the saber so much? The funny thing about foreign policy is that no matter what a candidate says about it while trying to get elected, they all seem to change their tone when they get to Washington (especially Presidents). Obama's foreign policy, other than a couple glaring exceptions, hasn't been substantially different than Bush's, when you look at the day-to-day decisions.
So here's what I like and don't like about each candidate:

Mitt Romney
  • I didn't really like Romney until after the first debate. For the first time, he really seemed passionate about what he wanted to do. It was a stunning performance. And while Obama came out swinging in the next two debates, by the third Obama was sounding churlish to me and Romney seemed steady. 
  • Romney has been successful in almost everything he's been in charge of. For whatever reason, he does a good job in a leadership role. Just look at the Salt Lake City Olympics. I remember many people saying that while Romney could certainly help, they would still be mostly a failure; that it was too late. Instead they were a great success. 
  • He wants to repeal Obamacare (or whatever you want to call it). I will readily admit that we have a healthcare problem in America, but I simply don't think that a government program is the answer. They always end up doing less than promised at a higher cost than forecasted. Government programs are simply not efficient. There will come a day when the exact same fights and cuts that have happened to Social Security and Medicare will happen to Obamacare, at which point it won't be helping every person, and isn't that the point?
  • He's a flip-flopper. Now, I like to believe that Romney believes the way I do about abortion NOW, but he didn't at one time. I do wonder sometimes why we don't allow politicians to change their stances on issues EVER. But face it: this isn't the only issue he's changed his mind on.
  • He's a moderate. I'm not saying that I want a President who never compromises, but it would be nice if the values the President fought for were the values I wanted him to fight for. Hey, at least he's been pretty transparent as a moderate from the beginning. Even though he tried to run right, he didn't get far. Most candidates pander to the wing of their party during a primary and run to the center in the general.
  • He's Mormon. Simply put, I don't think he and I have the same religion. But let's be honest: how many Presidents have claimed to be Christian, but their actions were anything but?

Barack Obama

  • He's youthful, energetic, and passionate. Politicians seem to all be cut from the same cloth most of the time, and he's different. A lot of times his solutions seem based in a real-world sensibility.
  • I love, love, LOVE that he is a family man. He is a man that seems obviously in love with his wife and is dedicated to his children. America needs examples of dedicated fathers. As an African-American, his example is that much more inspiring, because there is a fatherhood gap in America and it is worse in the African-American community. 
  • He is strong on foreign policy. I didn't like that he put his timeline for ending the Iraq War out in public. I thought it was risky and imprudent. And I was wrong. It worked. While there are parts of his foreign policy that I disagree with, I don't see that Romney will do anything different.
  • He has offered differing amounts of spending cuts for every dollar in tax raises. While I don't like tax raises, if there are some (or if certain tax cuts are allowed to expire, which they should be) then they should be overwhelmingly outweighed by spending cuts. If we do not find a way to restrain spending, it doesn't matter how much money we raise. In that case, I want more cuts, because I want my money to stay with me and not the government. 
  • I won't say that this is a like, but it is an interesting comment: there is some discussion among Keynesian economists that Obama wasn't allowed to go FAR ENOUGH with the bailout. They believe that if he had been given more money to spend, or had more guts to ask for it, that we'd be better off now. Not saying that I agree, but these people are supposedly much smarter than I.
  • He is ardently pro-abortion. Much more so than any President I know of. He consistently voted against banning partial birth abortions while in Illinois. He doesn't believe in parental notification. I cannot reconcile his position with mine, because it doesn't in any way.
  • As stated above, I don't like Obamacare. I think that it could be a success for a few years, but by year 50 will be in financial trouble.
  • He is more willing to throw Republicans under the bus than he is to actually work with them. He can whine all he wants about the Republicans he has to work with, but good leaders don't whine about the their situations, they lead anyway.
My hope is that with that list I managed to make both sides mad. I've always felt that the best baseball announcers are seen as biased by both teams' fans, so hopefully I've been able to pull that off. But I call 'em like I see 'em. 

Here is the best part: in most of the states, we already know who's going to win. The question of who will be President really comes down to less than 10 states. And if most of those shake out the way everyone thinks they will, it really only comes down to one: Ohio. So if you're reading this and you live in Ohio, GO VOTE. If you're living in Georgia or New York, still go vote, but understand that we pretty much know what's going to happen there anyway. So for all my friends who live in Georgia and want to vote Libertarian, please do! You won't be throwing your vote away (no vote, based on conscience, is ever a "throwaway" in my book), you are very unlikely to swing the election, and you still get to make your statement! DO IT! 

What I ask is that you look at this election, and these candidates, with clear eyes. Neither is the devil, and neither is a savior. They are both men, and will disappoint you. Sometimes unintentionally, and sometimes deliberately. When Sonny Perdue was elected Governor of Georgia, there was great excitement. But two years later many people were sad they ever voted for him. I was confused; he did exactly what I expected him to. I guess I thought everyone else had a realistic a picture of him as I did. Don't idealize a politician - it never works out for you. 

So what is my prediction? I think Obama wins. Obama has used a different strategy than 2008. In that election he tried to inspire people, and it worked big time. This time he has played more of a "prevent defense", and while it will make the election much closer, he is leading in the swing states he has to carry to win. This really reminds me of 2004, when Kerry made a late push and so the media started painting the election as an upset, but that was really just to get viewers. Bush ended up winning reelection. It really is true that incumbents tend to win, if only because voters choose the devil they know over the devil they don't.

So thank you if you read my essay on this election. It's too long and likely makes little sense. But writing is cathartic to me, and I wanted to put my opinion out there. I will delete this post not long after the election because I just don't think it'll be relevant for long. However you feel about this election, let me give some free advice: VOTE, and have grownup discussions about why. There's no need to demonize or belittle someone who disagrees with you. You'll never convince them that way anyway. A friend of mine convinced me to vote for a candidate in the primary simply by kindly putting his opinion and some facts in my way. We all want to convince other people, but if you really want to do that, it takes work. I love how much Americans love America. So let's do it well.

Edit: I wanted to add my favorite political ad of the year:


1 comment:

gtfalcon23 said...

Good post Scott... I too enjoy politics (for some weird reason) ... I however see a slight win by Romney... I feel like he might edge Obama out in a few states that he carried in 2008, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, maybe Michigan, Nevada. I believe this could lead to Romney dropping Ohio and still eeking out by slim margin. and yes I know that no presidential canidate has won election without winning Ohio. But anyways good post, hope you feel better because I know how daunting it can be to see facebook post and not blow off some steam by responding, so in this I hope you found peace.