Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
September 12, 2008
Why I support who I support
Category: Serious

One of the things I've found sort of baffling about politics (and that I find baffling about topics of so-called importance in general) is how reluctant people are to explain or elaborate upon their views on the subject(s). They'll readily offer up the name of the candidate or party they support, but they take offense if people ask why -- as if to say, "I don't have to justify myself to you." And while that response might have more to do with these people's exceedingly low opinions of me than anything else, I don't see what's so objectionable about explaining one's views to anyone. If one does regard political views as being so personal that they shouldn't be discussed openly, a simple statement to that effect would be more appropriate than psuedo-righteous indignation.

Anyway, I bring this up to preface another series of ideas cut and pasted from a comment that I posted on someone's blog. The person wrote that she liked and admired Sarah Palin and agreed with her views, which I questioned thusly: "...what exactly is it that you like and admire about Sarah Palin? Which of her beliefs, specifically, do you agree with? I'm genuinely curious." Maybe she took offense to the tone there, as one could argue that my tone implied that there was little to like about Palin or her policies -- and I'll admit that I do feel that way, since, among other things, the bulk of her record as she presents it is riddled with distortions and half-truths -- but she went on to write:

And tell me, when have I asked you how you can support Barak [sic]? This is what really pisses me off. I am truly trying to recall if I have questioned any of you as to your own support of your own candidate of choice. So tell me why Barak.

Of course, I have no problem answering that question and take no offense at anyone asking it, so I was all too happy to respond. The stupid LJ thing wouldn't let me post a comment longer than 4300 characters, though, so I really only got to discuss why I'd probably end up voting for any generic Democratic nominee -- and I even had to truncate that. But since I did want to post something like that here anyway (though I've probably discussed several of these issues before on the blog), I figured I'd crib from the original comment for another political post. Hurray!

While I am more enthusiastic about or at least attentive to Barack Obama's candidacy and the 2008 election for certain reasons -- one of which is admittedly Obama's ethnic background -- I'd most likely have supported the Democratic ticket no matter who won the nomination. Even though Hillary made me pretty angry during the primary season, what with her 3AM and bin Laden ads and Geraldine Ferraro (ugh), I just don't agree with the Republicans on most issues. I'm registered as an independent, and my ideology is probably more progressive than it is profoundly Democratic, but I recognize that a third-party candidate isn't going to win a major election. And since I don't find both parties' positions to be equally unpalatable, I'm a pretty reliable Democratic voter.

I was about to launch into a description of hypothetical election in order to illustrate my point here. The election as described would have designated Atticus Finch and 1960s George Wallace (and yes, I know he was a Democrat) as the two major party candidates in a race in which the third-party candidate was, say, Barack Obama, and I would have used it to illustrate that although I agree more with Obama than Finch, I'd vote for Finch because, as a candidate for one of the two major parties, he'd have a much better chance of winning. I don't think it's really necessary to present that illustrative example in greater detail -- I was originally going to have it span multiple paragraphs and contain specific objections to Finch's outward views -- but you get the idea. I probably wouldn't have mentioned it at all if I didn't like it so much. 😉

(Trivia Tidbit: Wallace was shot in my hometown, in the same shopping center as the bookstore at which I used to work.)

Anyway, here are some of the issues that generally lead me to vote for the Democratic ticket:

  • As I wrote way back in 2004 (apparently in noting my support of John Kerry), I believe in the right of a woman to choose. Or, more importantly, I do not believe that the government has a right to tell women what to do with their bodies, especially when it comes to nine-month ordeals that can have all kinds of lasting effects and potential complications.
  • I fully support same-sex marriage. The vast majority of the arguments against same-sex marriage are appeals to religion, so I find these arguments to be thoroughly unconvincing given the supposed separation of church and state. Moreover, if the government is going to recognize unions between two adults, to discount or distinguish those unions based upon the sexes of the individuals in the union is tantamount to discrimination. So while civil unions may afford same-sex couples all of the rights of "married" couples, I still ultimately find this solution to be unsatisfactory. Either same-sex marriage should be accepted or all unions -- even those between men and women -- should be termed "civil unions" in government materials. So this is an issue where I don't think Democrats go far enough, but they tend to be infinitely more gay-friendly than Republican candidates.
  • I am wholly in favor of universal health care. I probably don't think the Democrats go far enough here as well, but they're obviously more committed to providing health care to all Americans than the Republicans.
  • I have more confidence that the Democrats will actually focus on resolving education issues instead of ignoring these problems by simply allowing some parents to send their children to charter schools. The Republicans' argument about public school monopolies and motivating public schools to improve by introducing competition makes little sense to me, since it seems to assume that public schools have the same modus operandi as businesses seeking profit (which, as best I can tell, they don't). Rather, this argument -- and the support of vouchers and offering parents educational "choices" that it entails -- seems like a blatant pander to parents who want to send their kids to religious schools that takes attention away from the real problems with our public education system.

    I'm also worried about the kids whose parents aren't taking an active interest in their education. The Republicans allege that school vouchers will actually level the playing field, but I think that they could also reinforce and contribute to the learning disparities that currently exist. Parents who aren't paying attention to their kids' education (or can't read, have little education themselves, find the forms to be too difficult, etc.) aren't going to make the effort to investigate options to send their children elsewhere, so introducing school choice isn't going to do much to help them.

  • I believe that war should always be a last resort that is implemented when all other diplomatic avenues have been exhausted. This is an issue where I particularly like Obama's approach, as I really don't see the problem with just talking to the heads of other nations, preconditions or not. Contrary to what President Bush and John McCain might believe, simply talking does not constitute appeasement.
  • Another issue that's more rooted in the particulars of this election: the economy and the national deficit. With respect to economic and budgetary issues, Clinton left office with a budget surplus. Thanks to Bush, the United States is deeply indebted to foreign powers. And with the exception of the removal of unspecified programs (and here it's also worth noting that Obama pledges to cut and/or fix ineffective programs), John McCain is virtually indistinguishable from Bush with respect to his economic policies... except where he wants to extend and expand the tax cuts that once so offended his conscience. Independent analysis notes that whereas both Obama's and McCain's economic plans would increase the deficit, McCain's will increase it by $1.5 trillion more than Obama's. Furthermore, whereas Obama is honest and doesn't claim that he will be able to balance the budget by the end of his first term, McCain -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- has no problem saying that he will.
  • And it's not a specific issue, per se, but -- given the examples of prominent conservative pundits as well as my experiences with the Party of the Right in college -- I'm convinced that, at least in practice/campaign tactics (if not in theory), conservatism appeals to the basest human tendencies and emotions. I maintain that religious intolerance, racial prejudice, and other negative traits are frequently and more often exhibited and exploited by right-wingers. Compare, for example, the more amusing writings of pre-politician Al Franken (he's really the only liberal personality who comes to mind and isn't in the news media) to the hateful rhetoric of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh.

    Plus -- and again this recalls my college experiences -- I've seen how Republicans of color are encouraged and expected to become twisted caricatures of self-hating minorities. See Michelle Malkin, who wrote In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War On Terror, or Larry Elder, who wrote Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card -- and Lose. While my main problem with Democrats is that they don't go far enough in support of certain causes, I regularly find myself flipping disgusted by the abhorrent arguments and attitudes that Republicans advance.

Anyway, that'll do it for this post -- sometime soon I plan to post another (shorter) one that gives some of my more specific reasons for supporting Obama himself. Ja!

-posted by Wes | 5:21 am | Comments (12)
  • T.A.B. says:

    I'd like more elaboration on your health care stance. Playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, Republicans argue that a universal system will lead to heavier taxation (and nobody wants to pay for it, particularly them) and a decrease in quality of care (since competition encourages better quality and national health care would be akin to your education example where there is no profit incentive). How could such a change to the health care system work here?

    (I do have a counter-argument in mind already, I'm just curious about your thoughts on the issue.)

  • dave says:

    Why is it that when someone introduces facts and logic into a conversation in a way that points towards clarification of an otherwise incomplete argument or obscure point, it is called Devil's Advocate? Shouldn't that be a good thing?

  • De says:

    As much as I loathe Michelle Malkin, she called the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac scandal years ago. I suppose no one gave her the time of day about it because she's such a flippin' harpy.

  • Wes says:

    TAB: The comparison to education is a good one, since my views regarding education and health care are similar. Just as I'm concerned with the disparities in education and really don't think that the Republicans are committed to improving public education -- i.e. where the disadvantaged children will probably end up -- I'm most concerned about the people who don't have health care. And again, I'm not convinced that the Republicans care much about making sure that these people get covered. I also think that any health care coverage -- provided that it's not so incompetent that people are enduring unnecessary surgeries and having perfectly good limbs amputated -- is better than none. So while making universal care both affordable (and ideally "free" for all citizens, though I don't think we're there yet) and optimal would be ideal, I'd still support it even if the coverage isn't quite on par with that of private providers.

    Besides, I'm not saying that private health care should be abolished -- just that people who can't afford these higher costs should also have a way to get covered -- so the competition and decrease in quality of care arguments wouldn't hold for the people paying for private service. (Although, with respect to the competition position, I admittedly do have a strong moral aversion to people profiting from others' misfortune and illness. Not that something should be done about that at this point; just saying.) I also don't give a crap about the higher taxes argument -- particularly since Republicans are the ones who claim to have a lock on patriotism. I've written about how it's a nebulous concept, but, if it has any meaning, then a significant part of it must involve civic duty and caring for one's compatriots. As such, if they're so supremely patriotic, Republicans more than anyone should be willing to pay more to ensure that their fellow Americans receive adequate health care.

    Dave: I think TAB was calling it "Devil's Advocate" to indicate that he doesn't necessarily agree with the Republican argument (hence his counterargument in the wings).

    De: Yeah, that's a pretty good reason for not listening to anything she says. 😉

  • Dave says:

    I think TAB is using the term as it is usually used, and it's actually a good and important point. It's not a DECISIVE point, but that is what people call Devil's advocate. Trust me, people tell me I do it all the time. But clarifying a point - which has the effect of making it more true - is God's work, not the Devil.... unless it's untrue, in which case exposing it is still God's work. Clinging onto an issue that can't be supported by facts and logic is not a positive thing. Certainly God doesn't support holding onto an opinion that can be disproved by logic and facts.....unless it's in the bible.... oh wait, maybe second guessing the bible is where that term comes from!

    Your answer is well done - it is disingenuous to suggest that the government will run the healthcare systems rather than subsidize them. It shouldn't make a difference who pays for something - if the government pays for an agent to fly a commercial flight, it doesn't have an effect on the quality or not of that flight.

    The disappointing thing about government coverage of the health system is that corporate interests will be served unchecked - pharma companies who create diseases and encourage medicine when diet can be a solution will be able to run rampant, and people will demand their products as an entitlement - making them rich in the name of "helping" people.

    But I don't think Republicans are concerned with whether big commercial interests are made rich as much as they get offended at someone getting help, really.

    Health is a legitimate concern.

    Now consider this. Iraq was arguably a legitimate concern - the same natl security issue it was before 9/11, same human rights issue, same un world order issue. And this legitimate issue - has been exploited to no end by private equity firms with ties to government officals who buy companies that then receive no-bid contracts from former board members. Which of course makes the Republicans culpable to the worst imaginable use of government force to take money from private citizens and giving it to others - in this case companies who were not fit to excel in a purely capitalist system. It is a combination of the worst of Atlas Shrugged and 1984 combined. At least the healthcare issue is only Brave New World.

    And I lean towards the intervention which saves lives - healthcare. But I'd like to hear a politician stand up and tell the population that they can improve their health by eating right and exercise. If people did that, costs would go down for everyone, because there would be fewer interventions for heart disease, diabetes, etc. But big pharma would rather prescribe insulin and anti-depressants for the mood swings that are caused by sugar crashes, and ritilan for the attention problems caused by too much sugar etc.

    Interestingly, in the 1980s Reagan teamed up with Arnold to incourage kids to learn to keep in shape. Now, the media lampoons Bush for doing horrific (sarcastic) things like running every day. Condi Rice has been similarly attacked. And the Repubs attacked Obama for going to the gym "instead" of visiting a vet hospital in iraq - as though it's not a necessary thing to do.

    More interestingly, the only candidate who has truly addressed the health issue in a truly productive way is Mike Huckabee, who wrote a book on how to integrate healthy habits into a busy lifestyle. His thesis is that human beings have the power of choice and aren't subject to their baser instincts. And although he clings to this bit of adaptation, the media attacks him for holding onto his integrity when asked a preposterous question about evolution. The common belief form both parties that humans can't make choices that will improve their lives is much more absurd and caveman-like than a belief that evolution isn't an adequate answer.

    Be honest - the Democrats at the convention gave a message of "vote for me or you will die of health problems" rather than "good healthcare might not be available, so make sure to watch out for avoidable health problems."

    And with that I will end my digression. To come back to the point, I'm still voting Obama, because at least his misguided answer addresses the question, and nobody (but huckabee - but that wasn't really a policy, and still leaves uncovered people with broken legs etc. out in the cold.... except that those broken legs would cost an insurance program less if it didn't have to pay for avoidable triple-bypass surgeries, and cover doughnut eating children on Ritilan... but then the people who work for those companies would be unemployed....who knows the answer - especially with very few public officials discussing it in any depth) on the republican side has even addressed it. Occassionally everyday joes will make unbacked up suggestions that free markets could cover it.

  • Dave says:

    Also - I think Malkin's objection to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was that those agencies helped people get loans who otherwise might have had no other option to buy a home. She normally gets pissed off at things that help others.

  • Jersey Girl says:

    I think most often people vote based strictly on party affiliation. They don't undersand that they don't HAVE to vote Republican simply because they've registered as such. It's as if they think they're betraying their party by actually thinking for themselves. It's a good thing to question someone about their reasons for liking or disliking a candidate. If someone says they admire Sarah Palin, I would also have to ask why...what specifically has she done that is worthy of that admiration, in that person's opinion. I personally find her to be reprehensible, and I have any number of reasons why I think that way. If asked, I would have no problem detailing them, just as the person you mentioned should have no problem detailing the reasons why she thinks Palin is a good choice. If you CAN'T detail those things, you have no business casting a vote, because it's not an educated vote. If you can't be bothered to do the research and really make a decision based on what issues are important to you, then I sure as hell don't want you making a decision that will affect me!

    Here's my latest reason for believing that Sarah Palin is, in fact, misogynistic :

    Ignorance is not an excuse. That actually makes it worse, in my opinion, 'cause she didn't know what was going on during her watch. I don't believe she wasn't aware because the state wouldn't have needed to pass legislation after Wasilla, the only city in the state of Alaska, refused to stop charging rape victims for the cost of the rape kit.

    "Hello, Wasilla Police - will that be cash or charge?"

  • Wes says:

    Dave: I agree that there are things people can do to improve their health, and that politicians (and government in general) can and should do more to educate people about diet and exercise and other beneficial behaviors. That said, I think it's also worth noting that programs to teach people about good health practices are probably among the things John McCain would call pork!

    I like that you mentioned Iraq as well. Actually (and I'm sure someone must have done this, though I can't recall a name), I think the health care debate should be framed in terms of national security. We're supposedly in the Middle East fighting The War on Terror -- but more people die of heart disease and cancer every day in the United States than died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. We're throwing away billions of dollars a month on a war that even General Petraeus doesn't know is making us any safer and with respect to which he isn't sure he would ever use the term "victory." And yet the Republicans would rather keep throwing money into that black hole than increase health care spending to help their fellow Americans? I find that -- particularly from the so-called party of patriotism -- to be downright repugnant. And I wish someone would call them on it in those terms.

    JG: Yeah, that Palin is a real piece of work! I hope more of this stuff comes up in future media interviews -- assuming that she grants many more. I imagine that Hannity will give her a cakewalk.

  • Dave says:

    If we were to fight heart disease and other diet/exercise related forms of death instead of a not-really-defined "terror" not only would we save more lives, it would be almost free. I'd vote for a true "take care of yourself without looking for a handout" republican in a heartbeat if I ever ever actually believed one existed.

    The rightwing media is so stranger than fiction. Yesterday, I heard Monica Crawley babbling on about Obama using "uh"s alot in his speeches. She went so far as to make spliced sample for 30 seconds or so.

    I thought "What kind of a strange person cares about this stuff."
    Lo and behold, I mentioned that Obama handled OReilly like a champ (vs. Palin against Gibson) and was answered, "are you kidding? He didn't answer any questions. He just said UH alot."
    He did in fact answer the questions, he just used the placeholder "uh" when he was THINKING.
    The conversation continued and this person protested to Gibson's use of notes during the interview - this person is well aware that I'm in the interview business - he insisted that that is out of line and unprofessional.

    So - for Rightwingradiofans: Thinking before speaking is a bad thing, and taking research notes before conducting an interview is a bad thing too!!!!!!

    Yep, that was my dad.

    And the most frusterating part. A third party who I spoke to later said he'll have to look into it to see who's making a better point. Why? Because to Joe Public if there are two statements that are meant to support two opposing sides, the arguments must be equal in merit and worthiness of consideration. Preposterous.

    What they'll do, of course is look up as many opinions as possible and find one they're comfortable agreeing with - as opposed to considering facts and making a judgement of their own.

    That's why I really want an Obama in office - because he'll have more of a need to pander to the note-taking/thinking-before-speaking crowd while McCain will give a bunch of self-depricating-sounding-but-with-a-fuck-you-undertone jokes to maintain his influence.

    Wes, thanks for letting me use your blog to vent.... I don't know why I don't just use mine - actually I do. I start writing with a qucik answer in mind, and then just keep going!

  • Wes says:

    No problem, Dave! Fighting diet/exercise-related forms of disease via those means would be good, although it wouldn't entirely solve the problem because the diseases aren't wholly attributable to these factors. For example, as far as I've been able to find, only an estimated third of heart disease cases could have been prevented with any certainty by human behaviors. So even with that -- and considering the number of random illnesses and other physical difficulties -- the need to make health care more affordable and accessible would persist.

    And I actually think that most Republicans qualify as "take care of yourself without looking for a handout" types, though they may be inclined to make exceptions for the wealthiest among us. I wouldn't vote for that kind of politician even if he/she were explicitly honest about those points, though, since I think inequalities and disparities should be addressed. Furthermore, I think that addressing them is well within the responsibilities of a government -- particularly considering that many of these social and economic ills can be traced back to harmful government policies that bred discrimination or unfairly favored the wealthy while harming the poor.

  • dave says:

    Still, imagine reducing the problem by a third instead of using it as a political rhetorical tool for years on end without addressing it at all?

    And Wes do you honestly think that people taking care of themselves is a bad thing? Truly needy people drown in a sea of irresponsible fools muddying their cases.

    A great Democrat once said, "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" That includes making choices that don't burdeon the healthcare system, saving money not to overburdon the social safety net, attending to your children's education so as to not overburdon a school system which needs to be there for children whose family can't take care of them.

    Instead we have Republicans telling people "Blame Government for all your problems!!!!!!"

    "Take care of your self" means it's not immigrants or arabs or democrats or unions or hollywood or taxes or regulation who's causing your problems. There are problems, and you're the one to overcome them, because you can handle it. There are no Republicans who speak like that. They're all about blame.

    Repbulicans accuse Democrats of playing victim while they spend all their energy claiming to be victims - and that you're a victim - of Democrats, liberals, ivy league, intellectuals, mainstream media, non-christians......

    Imagine a Republican saying, "So what if that guy's gay. Get over it and take care of yourself." Never in a million years.

  • CM says:

    I think people don't want to elaborate on their views because either they don't really have good answers, or they are not a good debater and are worried about being shot down or made to look dumb. A lot of people go on instinct or on generalities.

    And some people are just defensive after their candidate has been mocked a lot, as Palin has.

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