Tuesday, November 4, 2008

So I Voted.

I've been struggling with this for months, but this morning, a few minutes after 9:00, I colored in the last circle on my ballot. For Barack Obama.

I'm more than your typical political junkie. I've read everything about every presidential and vice presidential candidate. I know (or think I know) how each would vote in a particular situation. I know about John McCain's adopted children, Sarah Palin's pregnant-out-of-wedlock-daughter, Joe Biden's family tragedy when he was newly elected, and Barack Obama's grandmother who worked at a bank.

I know John McCain comes from a long line of those serving in the military, that Sarah Palin couldn't tell you a newspaper she reads, that Barack Obama taught at the University of Chicago, and that Joe Biden himself said he didn't want to be a candidate.

Sarah Palin is our generation's Dan Quayle. Joe Biden is an older, more refined, Dan Quayle.

I think on about 80% of the issues, you couldn't identify one presidential candidate from the other. Who supports putting the missle defense shield in Poland against Russia's grumbling? If you said John McCain, you'd be wrong. Who thinks that more offshore drilling is part of the short-term answer to our energy crisis? Barack Obama and John McCain both support it. The list goes on.

I've always thought of myself as a Republican. My mom tells a story about me when I was two years old, running around the Whitewater Armory polling location in 1980, shouting "Ronald Regan is a great man!" And he was. "The Great Communicator" is what they called him. But we're far and away from Reaganomics.

I got out my Social Security statement a while ago and was looking at the amount of income that was recorded for each of the last 11 years I've been working full time. The most interesting part? 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 were the years I've made the most money. Who was President? William Jefferson Clinton.

While I've always been a subscriber to the thought "the president doesn't have much to do with the economy" or "any changes a president makes aren't seen in his term," the tax returns show I made the most money during his second term in office. I've seen a steady increase in my taxes in the 2000s (one year, we jointly paid over $45,000 in taxes) and not a whole lot of benefit.

Historians say that political parties start out on the extremes, work their way towards the middle, and then after about 50 years of moving toward the middle, flip sides. I think that might explain part of where we are.

Traditional Democratic stronghold issues of global warming, green technology, and the like seem to find an audience on both sides, which I'm very happy to see. I don't understand why being a Republican meant that you had to be big-business and anti-environment. I heard a minister a while ago on the radio make a comment about this to the effect of, "God created the world and us; as Christians, we're entrusted with taking care of it--it shouldn't be the domain of tree huggers." I totally agree.

So last night, my wife and I sat down with the candidates and asked the tough questions. Well, I actually printed out a matrix of 75 questions from procon.org and the candidates' positions on them. I put a check mark under each column where we agreed. At the end, I tallied them up.

Out of 75 questions, both candidates had clear answers for 52, or about 70% of them. Offshore drilling. Abortion, gun control, stem cell research. Medicinal marijuana. Global warming. Russia, China, Korea, and Sudan. Israel. Fuel economy standards, fiscal policy, constitutional law. Iraq, Iran. Corporate taxes, illegal immigrants. On and on.

I learned something about myself. I don't think like my parents did. While both candidates play to the middle, I found that I had 40 check marks in the Obama column, and 35 in the John McCain column.

I was shocked.

We discussed Michigan Proposals 1 and 2. Proposal one was to allow the use and cultivation of medicinal marijuana. My wife was instantly against it, because we're supposed to be anti-drug, right?

But what makes marijuana any less of a drug than Vicodin? The fact that Vicodin comes from your pharmacist in a bottle? I started talking out loud about the last few months of my father's life--he had some very odd blood disorder that caused clots in his muscles. Every time he stood up, the clots would move around and cut off blood flow or pinch other things, causing the physically and emotionally strongest person I knew to break down and cry because of the pain. While my dad was staunchly anti-drug, he was popping 30-40 Vicodin a day to deal with the pain. Can that be any better for you than marijuana?

Checkmark in the Yes column for Proposal 1.

Proposal 2 was about embryonic stem cell research. They look like they may have the best prospects for discovering cures for things like leukemia, parkinson's, and hodgkin's. Proposal 2 was to allow the use of embryos that were leftover from fertility treatments that were going to be thrown away. Of course, Christian advocates call it abortion; is it any more abortion than if the embryos get taken off ice and thrown in the trash can? If Christians were *really* concerned with what happened to embryos left over from fertility treatments, they wouldn't go through procedures like IVF so there wouldn't be the potential to create life that might not get a chance. How does IVF jive with the "God chooses" mentality? "God chooses" as long as you keep trying through every medical means available? Hmm. If we're going to destroy life either way, we might as well reap some potential benefit.

Put a check mark in the Yes column for Proposal 2.

So, at the end of it all, I learned that while I'm for generally lower taxes, I also want to help ensure that my aging mother working a minimum wage job has the opportunity for lower health care costs. I don't want us destroy our planet before my kids grow up by dumping chemicals in rivers or letting factories billow mercury into the air. I don't want to go bombing countries we don't agree with; I think that careful diplomacy should be exercised before a gun ever comes out of a holster. I don't think the United States' sole purpose is to "spread democracy." Some people don't want it. Deal accordingly.

I don't want the fox guarding the hen house in the financial sector. Banks should be responsible with their customers' money, You shouldn't be able to trade stocks you don't have (naked short selling), and you should verify that the people you lend money to have more than a snowballs' chance in hell of paying it back (sub-prime mortgage mess). The ability to leverage $1bn 100:1 only ends up in sadness for someone--to date, the taxpayer has been singing the blues.

I want accountability from my stockbroker. How did we end up paying for AIG and Lehman Brothers' executives to get lucrative pay packages while the entire global economy slipped into recession?

I want to reward business for doing the right thing. I don't want to bail them out for making bad choices.

I'm a little less country, a little more rock and roll. And maybe a little bit more Democrat.


  1. Well said. I went through the same process, albeit mentally, without matrices and checkmarks, and I came to the same conclusions as you did. I had thought of myself as a Republican, and voted that way previously, but I'm not anymore. I voted for Obama too.

  2. I was raised that way. I've voted in three elections, and have voted for Dole, W, and W. Amazingly (or not so), I've been disappointed / ashamed of those choices. Both of my parents were Republicans (lower taxes, less gun control) and always claimed the "bleeding heart liberals" were the scourge of the US. I often wonder which of today's parties Washington, Jefferson, Adams, or Lincoln would choose if they were around today.

  3. growing up is crazy. but it's nice not blindly following our parents' examples. i think when i was 10 i was a staunch republican, because i had to be.


  4. According to the world's smallest politcal quiz, I'm a Libertarian. I'm financially conservative and socially moderate. So, whatever that makes me. I want to be able to do whatever I want that doesn't affect other people (drink, stay up late, marry who I want, etc) and I want the government to be a careful steward of my money.