Sunday, October 26, 2008

recycled political spew

Mmm...I'm starting to like this thinking about politics thing. My brain has needed the exercise since I got out of school. Here are my thoughts in response to Chris's recent blog on political power. Please forgive the elevated speech. It just seems to be the language of my brain on politics, I didn't mean to sound pretentious...

(please read the original blog before you read my answer)

As usual you've clearly articulated some very good thoughts here, Chris. I love the quote from Thoreau. And of course Gandhi's is one of my all time favorites.

chAng, I have to agree with Chris as far as the political power we hold. Voting and jury duty? What about lobbying? How do you think the barons of the oil industry and all the other corporations we love to hate have gotten their interests so deeply engraved in legislature?

And what about the countless, tireless social reformers who spoke up and marched and entreated and wrote letters and boycotted - and those who continue in their tradition today? Chris I'll add to your list of victories one we'd all rather forget - what about the Prohibition?

Voting is only the beginning - the infant's first step - to enacting change. With this in mind, I have to hand it to your precious Obama - he comes a hair closer - with his campaign - to inspiring people to direct, grassroots action than any presidential candidate I've known. If only I could believe that, once in the white house, he won't simply put his feet up, turn to all the grassroots leaders who have fought so hard for him and say "Thanks for the hard work guys...I'll take it from here."

I was surprised by the conclusion you drew from your "approach to voting," which isn't fundamentally different from mine. Issues change, after all - I want someone who will confront whatever issue is at hand from the perspective I am most fundamentally aligned with - this is the person I can trust. However, you threw me for a loop when you said this is an argument against third-party voting - I had seen it in support of a non-bipartisan system! After all, what is one supposed to do when the two dominant, prepackaged standpoints are closer to each other than they are to mine? (Therein lies the difference between us, Chris...)

And laying aside all the issues the Dems and Reps are virtually ignoring, how are any other viewpoints to be heard at all, much less represented in government, when most everyone in power was handpicked as the truest shade of red or blue? What progress can be made in debate between two parties for whom all issues are settled, who have already made up their minds? Sure, they'll listen to those with whom they those whose concerns they've allowed onto the table.

After reading your post and thinking it over, I am only more deeply convinced to vote third-party. (Regardless of whether another candidate more accurately reflects my views). If the biggest problem with the third-party vote is what we all three agree it is - not enough people believe the system can change - then it is even more imperative that I use my vote as more than a vote - as a voice for change.

Political scientists are already beginning to notice the shift - more Americans are claiming themselves as independents and straight-ticket voting is decreasing. As the aggregate of third-party votes rises, Americans, in typical fashion, will realize that "other people are doing it, I guess I can too." It will compound on itself and more and more people will begin to consider non-bipartisan politics as viable and possible. I'm not sure what other actions, legislations and paradigm shifts will have to take place, but I am compelled to, if nothing else, take that first baby step. do I continue my research on third-party presidential candidates, go work on my Halloween costume, or watch Heroes? Decisions decisions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's muh birfday!

I'm 20 years old today. How about that.

I'm writing this while manning the front desk at the library so I'll have to be brief. Tommorow I'm leaving for wonderfully awesome Aunt Mary Beth is giving me her old car - a '96 camry with a CD player and a sunroof - and all I have to do is go pick it up!

So I guess I'm getting Freedom for my 20th birthday. I'd say that makes the Top 10 list of best gifts ever.

Makes me want to go on a road trip. One without my dad offering me peanuts & jerky every 5 minutes and my mom feigning a heart attack every time I hit the brakes. Maybe one with company of my own choosing and a soundtrack we create and a destination unknown until we get there...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Evils

Nah, I don't actually think either Obama or McCain are evil but I don't like 'em neither. It's so late and I'm exhausted but I have to record my observations and conclusions of the debate or I will hate myself tomorrow.

I've been really riding the fence this whole election season. I refuse to have anything to do with the major parties and in fact utterly despise the bi-partisan system. My mother is a Democrat-turned-Republican and my father is something like a radically constitutional alt-energist conservative with Libertarian leanings. They have instilled in me an understanding that one of the fundamental ideas America was founded on is that government is a necessary evil and therefore should have a smaller rather than a larger role in the lives of citizens. Another is that all the power within a country and, following, its responsibility, stems from and ultimately lies with us, the citizens. Not the state.

Tonight, after watching and listening to both candidates, I still am really borderline. Both candidates managed at times to utterly impress me, and at other times completely disappoint me. However I did arrive at two new conclusions. 1. I really can't stand McCain - his "stage presence" is horrible and he's a pompous braggart. 2. I'd feel safer with McCain leading the country than Obama.

This is why: Obama, for all his smooth speech, intelligence and even sincerity, is Democratic to the very core. He has many, many grand ideas, for increasing volunteer opportunities, bailing out various people groups in need, and extending financial help to struggling countries, etc. etc. And yet, he claims he's going to reduce our net spending. As many projects tonight he suggested funding, he did not elaborate on one solid idea for where to cut. Except, of course, cutting taxes for "95% of working Americans." Oh wait, that's less money to spend on these government projects, not more. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the government siphoning money off of my honest labor any more than the next person, but where does he expect the money for all these great dreams to come from? Are we supposed to just print it up and get bit in the butt by inflation?

McCain brought up Obama's vote for a 3-million dollar projector for a Chicago planetarium. My Democratic friends, with whom I was watching the debate (at Hub-Bub), considered that an irrelevant attack. But it brought to light Obama's fundamental belief about the government's role in society. To him, it was the federal government's responsibility to write legislation to give one projector to one planetarium. As much as I'm sure that planetarium really needed that projector and it benefited a bunch of people, I do not believe that a law should have been written about it, or that it was the Fed's responsibility to think about it in the first place.

McCain acknowledged that we will need to make sacrifices to get through this economic crisis. He indicated broad measures to cut back on federal spending "across the board." Obama attacked this, saying McCain wanted to use a "hatchet" while he would use a "scalpel" to only cut spending where it wouldn't hurt "everyday people." It appears his plan for getting us out of this economic hole is to generously fund new projects while tiptoeing around shaving money off of certain projects he doesn't like.

As much as I hated the way McCain kept plugging himself as a reformer (thank heavens he managed to completely avoid the term "maverick" this time) and harping on his "record," he made a solid point when he stressed his willingness to step across party lines and even challenge those whom he respected the most when he felt they were wrong. While I admit, it was just what America needed to hear in order to vote for a Republican after Bush, I believe he means it. Obama made no effort to challenge the claim that he has never challenged Democratic orthodoxy. Independent thinkers (an ever-increasing percentage of Americans) need to know that a president is willing to take off his red- or blue- tinted glasses if there's a chance they are hindering his ability to make the best choice.

On the flipside, I believe Obama truly understands cooperative leadership and the importance of building on one anothers' strengths. I am not sure how much Mr. Maverick will trust and rely on the experience and expertise of those around him. Or inspire the average citizen for that matter. One thing Barack certainly has is the ability to inspire and coordinate grassroots leaders and ordinary people, to tap the strengths of the citizens to effect change in their immediate surroundings. If only he would use that power to advocate a radical rethinking of the "American lifestyle"; sustainability on the family front, environmentally-aware consumer & transportation choices, healthy financial habits, physical wellness...but after tonight, I just don't think such advocacy would make it onto his priority list. It's not Democratic enough.

Like I said before, I'm still not deeply committed. I may choose to wield my vote against the tyranny of bi-partisan politics. But it's looking more and more like I won't be voting for Obama. Even though something in my gut tells me he's going to win. He is charismatic, sharp, a visionary perhaps. As the figurehead of our country, I think he could inspire a lot of people towards doing whatever they could to change the world for the better. But as its leader, I believe his choices would only benefit the short term, leaving us deeper in debt than ever. Like a few other "great" presidents that come to mind, Obama, praised by future generations as a "hero", would create and then step untainted from a huge mess that his unfortunate successors would spend entire terms trying to clean up.
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