Jim's Blog Ramblings about novels, comics, programming, and other geek topics

18Oct/083

Presidential Election 2008

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Now that I've finished my local (San Diego) and state (California) ballot proposition blog entries, I can move onto the presidential election debate. Hopefully, this will be one of the last political posts of the political season and I can get back to random, technology, and programming blogging...

Note: You can read my state and local proposition blogs by clicking on the local politics categories on the side of the page.

For the record, I've been able to vote in four presidential elections since I turned 18 (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004). I was a bit young and unconcerned with politics in my first two elections (1992 and 1996). I was deployed overseas somewhere in the Arabian Gulf region during the 1996 election and I was a little bit busy and still a bit unconcerned. I did vote in the last two presidential elections, but I didn't vote for Democrat or Republican. One year, I voted for an independent (err... I mean someone that wasn't a Republican or Democrat) and most recent election I just wrote in my vote for 'none of the above'.

Friends have stated that I threw away my votes there, but the state I was living in at the time (California) went pretty heavy democratic, but I still feel that I wasn't being responsible enough to dive deeper into politics and choose either a turd sandwich or a douche (South Park reference, view full episode).

After spending the last few years more involved in politics, I now believe that candidates aren't just choices between the turd sandwich or a douche. It's just the political cycle and the 24-hour news cycle that surrounds the countdown to the election. Two years ago, the same politicians were out doing work and saying the same things they are saying now. However, only they weren't being repeated on the news channels 24 hours which turns them into the turd sandwiches and douches.

I also believe that as election draws near, people begin to cluster into groups and their delusions, positions, feelings, and perceived truths sway more into the extremes. Some people sway a bit too far into the extremes, while others that are less interested or moderates just move a bit further away from centrist and moderate ideas into the hardened partisan demagogy and ideology.

Social psychologists have conducted scores of these "group polarization" experiments since the '60s, and they all come to the same finding: Like-minded people in a group grow more extreme in the way they are like-minded.

-- Bill Bishop at Slate.com on Psychology studies of '60s

Blogging about Politics
My Background

I became more interested in politics a couple years ago when I began discussing politics more with a friend. We'd throw around our ideas and impressions of various political schemes or direction. I'd watch all of the Sunday political shows (Hard Ball with Chris Matthews and Meet The Press with Tim Russet being the two most watched). So I owe my friend a little for helping wake up my conscience about politics and the world.

Before the presidential primaries got underway in early 2007, I thought that both Senator Obama and Senator McCain would be the best representation of their parties. I remember saying that I had hoped they would end up as the candidates since both of them (individually before the parties and others got involved) seem to be good and decent politicians.

My Political Leanings

Like many that fondly remember the 80s, I was raised and grew aware of politics under President Regan. I still remember sitting in front of the TV watching the news of his attempted assignation. I wasn't too much interested in politics then -- but as a kid, who is really interested in politics anyways.

I believe that my initial indoctrination was as a conservative. That might be due to my culturally southern upbringing combined with my first few years of adulthood spent in the military. I enlisted under Bush (41) after the first Gulf War and served under Clinton. I've never been registered with any political party. However, if I had been asked, I would have probably stated that I was a Republican.

As I grew older, I became both better educated (finishing college and graduate school many, many years after high school), better informed (by reading lots and lots of books about religion, philosophies, etc.), and more exposed to other countries, cultures, and religions (mainly due to military and then DoD-related contracting work afterwards), I believe that my views began to shift from middle-right leftwards towards the center. Moving to California also pushed me a bit more to the left, probably due to the whole group mentality mentioned above.

Now, I consider myself a moderate and I am pretty comfortable here. On the two key attributes, I lean towards being socially liberal (tolerance) and fiscal conservative (responsible) with a little bit of libertarian (citizen rights). That doesn't necessarily line me up with either party in the classic sense of the terms. I am not a big versus small government idealist. We don't live in an ideal world, so we can't live without government. I believe we just need it to work responsibly and effective.

Most of the political tests that I've taken either list me as a moderate (WashingtonPost Facebook Political Compass app) or as a left-leaning libertarian (Political Compass).

Washington Post Political Compass

Washington Post Political Compass

Political Compass

Political Compass

It's interesting to note that I'm closer to Ralph Nadar than either the democratic or republican party candidates. I really don't agree with this polling or assessment -- I think there's a handful of questions there where you need to give a Agree/Disagree response where I would otherwise have taken more of a Neutral stance. I do agree that I am more libertarian than authoritarian, but I don't agree that I'm that far to the left. I believe my position on this chart is a bit off center is based on a several questions that automatically shift me towards the left (tolerant) and libertarian (less government involvement). Also, based on other charts of prominent people, I am pretty close to the Dalai Lama.

On Leaning Right...

I believe that in the last few years, the Republican Party has swerved away from being fiscally conservative. The only thing the Republicans have left is being socially conservative -- which I'm not. I also believe that the term "socially conservative" is now even more limited and restrictive than it was 20 years ago, since a large majority of social conservatives have taken over the reigns of redefining social conservatism into a more xenophobic and anti-tolerant group.

Even recently in the economic problem, the Republican presidential candidate proposed to add more government involvement in the market -- that goes against nearly all of the capitalistic and small-government tenets of a historically defined fiscal conservative and capitalist.

Right now, I feel that most Republicans might be embarrassed to be associated the the party due to the lack of intellect being demonstrated by those that call themselves social conservatives. Seeing that most of the moderate and fiscally conservative republicans are now leaning towards or supporting the Democratic candidate in the race, whereas the far-right social conservatives are continuing to embarrass themselves, their religion, and their party.

After Christopher Buckley (republican and former writer of the National Review) came out in support of the democrat candidate (Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama), he resigned from the magazine that his father founded. He explains why he resigned stating (Sorry, Dad, I was fired) :

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, ... But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me."

I feel that the Republican Party has also left me. I used to be around 45/55 between Democratic Party and Republican Party (leaning right). Today, I'm leaning more around 65/35 (leaning left), that 20 point shift is mostly because I feel that the Republican Party has moved too far to the social conservative right and the Democrats has seemingly (by relative comparison to the Republicans) moved towards the fiscally conservative right.

On Leaning Left...

I believe that the Democratic Party (since Clinton) has shifted a bit to the right towards the center on the financial issues. I believe that is a bit subjective, since the Republican Party has been in charge the last 7 of 8 years (both President and congress). Currently, I'd consider that both parties are pretty close when you weight their current positions (not historical) on economic matters. The biggest difference between the two parties now are the social issues and there's not much difference between the presidential candidates on those issues.

The left (historically) hasn't always been the socially liberal (or inclusive versus exclusive) party. That change came back in the 60s and the party almost split over it. You can still see much of that chasm in many of the southern states. It appears that a lot of the dixiecrats were encompassed within the Moral Majority and moved into the Republican Party which helped Regan and Bush (43). (I don't think it helped Bush 41 as much as Regan or Bush 43.)

Both parties talk about regaining some of our deficit. But, if you look over my lifetime (instead of historically), the Democrats have done better with the economy than Republicans, which (to me) is hard to believe, but the charts don't lie.

Christopher Buckley summaries his endorsement of Barack Obama stating:

Eight years of "conservative" government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

-- Christopher Buckley, Sorry, Dad, I was fired

There's crazies on the left as well. One of the reason why you don't see them on the news as much as the crazies on the right is that they aren't as dangerous as the far-right. They aren't shouting racial epitaphs, promoting violence against the other party, or shooting at doctors. Sure the left-crazies have crazy ideals and may throw paint on your fur jacket, but I haven't seen any as hate-filled, angry, and wanting to kill the candidate of the other party.

On Not Leaning...

I know that there's good people on both sides of the fence, but unfortunately, there's a party's base they need to identify with. If they veer away from the base to reach the moderates (like me), then they lose the base which they need to win an election.

I still think that either McCain or Obama would make fine presidents. Although, I'd still have wished that McCain would have fared better in the 2000 primaries and ultimately got the party nomination.

My biggest concern for the next president is whether or not they will consider things "outside the box" and be intellectually curious about why things happen and how to fix them. I believe that's been one of the downsides of the current president - the lack of interest and curiosity. The concept of having a president just make decisions after getting a couple briefs from "smart people", I believe that is folly. I believe that the president needs to be more involved in the understanding of the problem in order to fix it.

How to Decide Who to Vote for

I think that single issue voters are really taking the easy road out. Single issue voters don't need to do any due-diligence about the candidates' other positions. More often than not, that single issue doesn't even become relevant to the elected presidential term. Sometimes, a black swan (such as 9/11, economic collapse, a world war) will appear out of nowhere and drive much of the president's policy.

I believe that you should treat your selection for president (or any other political) just like you were able to hire your manager, boss, or CEO. You shouldn't pick anyone based on which party they are affiliated with. Remember that you are hiring someone for 4 years and that you can't fire this person, once you've approved him, then he has a job.

Who I've voted for

Yes, I've already voted. I'm a registered permanent mail-in ballot voter. I get my ballot in the mail, fill it out, put a stamp on it, and mail it back.

So... I've voted for Obama-Biden ticket for president/vice-president.

That's the first time that I've voted for a Democratic presidential candidate, but also the first time that I've felt good about my vote. Although, this is also the only election where I think that the US will do pretty well with either candidate as president. I'm not so confident in one of the VP picks, so let's all just hope that the top of the ticket winner stays at the top for the next four years.

James Welch

James Welch is a software engineer in Vermont working for a large information technology company and specializing in .NET. Additionally, he holds a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science. Jim also enjoys local craft beer, comic books, and science-fiction and fantasy novels, games, and movies.

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Jim, thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope that you don’t mind me putting you on my blogroll. I agree with your views. And they are refreshing.

  2. Sure, but this is probably my last politics post. Hopefully, after the next few weeks are over, I’ll be back posting about my usual non-politics topics.

  3. That is to bad
    I really enjoy your point of view on politics. I found it very enlightening

    I hope to visit your site again.


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