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Thinking through the presidential politics

I’ve had an easy time deciding who to support for president for pretty much every election cycle since I turned 18. This year, though, the choices are not so easy. I’m a life-long conservative with a distrust for Democrats but a growing distaste for the Republicans. Which makes this next sentence a very difficult one for me to say: unless something drastic changes between now and November 4, I’m voting for Obama.

Now, let me work out some of the reasoning behind this, for my own mind if nothing else. Let’s group it around three broad areas: economy/domestic policy, war/foreign policy, for lack of a better term, “morality” issues, and, finally, general personality issues.

Economic/Domestic Policies

  • I have a huge distaste for the tax-cut promise pandering. Both sides think that they’ll get me to vote for them by promising me more money (i.e. “tax cuts”). I’d rather they told me why they need to spend my money, and then we’ll figure out if I can pay a little less.
  • I’m not much of an economist, but it’s clear that things are pretty hosed up right now. That’s probably the fault of both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration before that. I don’t think anybody has a magic bullet to fix it right now.
  • Short conclusion: this area doesn’t really make me favor either candidate over the other.

War/Foreign policy

  • As far as the war goes: I think both candidates will have to more or less do the same thing – slowly withdraw troops as Iraq becomes more stable. Both sides know that leaving immediately would cause big trouble in Iraq, so they won’t do it. So they try to recriminate each other to score political points. Ick.
  • Maybe I’m foolish here, but I think an Obama win would force the rest of the world, Europe especially, to take a long, hard look at themselves. It’s been too easy for the past decade to just blame George W. Bush’s America for all the world’s ills. When the European’s darling is in the White House and there are still problems in the world, they’ll have to start looking further for how to fix problems. (Or, they’ll just still blame GWB for everything… )

“Morality” Issues

  • The biggie here is abortion. I have a real difficulty wanting to support anyone who is in favor of legalized abortion. But we have to look practically at it, too. Aside from appointing Supreme Court justices, there’s not a lot the president can do about abortion law. I may need to just hold my nose here.
  • And about those Supreme Court justices. The traditional right-wing position is that a liberal president will get to make several appointments, thus turning the Court to the left. But let’s look at who’s likely to retire from the USSC: Stevens, Rehnquist, maybe Breyer? Liberals all. Which means even if Obama replaces them with liberals, the Court’s ideological balance won’t change much. The conservatives Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito are comparatively young and healthy, unlikely to leave their seats any time soon. So, I see this as a non-issue.
  • Another thing I want to lump into the “morality” bit: health care. This is one place where I’m increasingly convinced the hard Right has gotten it wrong for a while. We have a moral obligation to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. Now, I’m skeptical about the effectiveness of government-run health care, and I don’t think the USA will end up with a fully-socialized system akin to the Canadian or British ones for a while yet, but we should find a way to make sure people are cared for. i think Obama will have a better focus in that regard.

Miscellanea

  • The VP candidates: the debate last night cemented it for me. Palin isn’t totally incompetent, but she isn’t ready for the number 2 position, either. Let’s put it this way: if something happened to Obama, I wouldn’t be afraid for my country to have Biden in the White House. If something happened to McCain, I’m not sure I could say the same thing. I like Sarah Palin, I like the idea that someone like her could make it to this point, but the hopes that she was the great savior of the Republican party have been dashed over the past few weeks. If she wants a political future, I propose this: get that corrupt Senator Stevens out of office and let Palin replace him. Give her some time to get used to the national limelight and bone up on the issues. Then let her come back in 4 or 8 years.
  • John McCain. I respect his years of service to the country, but I’m not really sure that we’d get anything different from him than we’ve had from the previous administration. All the talk of “reforming” is great for the stump speech, but much harder to do when you’re in office, especially if you’re dealing with a Congress controlled by the opposition party.
  • Barack Obama. For whatever it’s worth, I like the idea that America could elect a non-WASP to be president. I like his notion of change, though again I’m skeptical of just how much of it will translate from the stump to the office. I don’t think for a second that he’s the messianic non-politician that some want to make him out to be (can anything non-corrupt come out of Illinois politics?), but I think he’s different than the Harry Reid-Nanci Pelosi school of Democrats we’ve been afflicted with for lo these many years.

In conclusion: most of it’s a wash. Obama takes it just based on health care, VP, and general “change”. So, that’s my ramble. I’m sure this will greatly please some friends and family and greatly shock others. Feel free to agree, disagree, argue, whatever. I’m just hoping that next time around there’s a candidate I’m actually enthusiastic about voting for.

22 thoughts on “Thinking through the presidential politics

  1. @richard: I’ve heard a lot of the idealistic arguments from friends, but let’s face it. There is no viable third party. The other alternative is to not vote at all. I don’t consider that a good solution either. Is there some course of action I’m missing that you would propose?

  2. @Ron. It’s not. In an ideal world this should be taken care of by families, the Church, charities, etc. But that’s not happening, and is quite impractical. I think we’re to the point that the federal government is the only institution that has enough influence and power to make it happen.

    Summary: I don’t trust the feds to be able to do it right, but I don’t think anybody else will be able to do it at all.

  3. It just seems to me you don’t like either candidate, but are just settling for one of them… and it’s really not even decisive between them. Like, ‘oh, I’ll vote for Obama… but I don’t really like him, either, and I don’t really care if McCain gets it in the end’.

    I agree there is no viable third party (of course, due in part to dissatisfied people saying ‘there’s no viable third party’), but there doesn’t appear to be a viable first or second party, either. I know, I know… I’m abusing how language is being used here. ‘Viable’ just means getting elected. But what if viable means a good candidate, with solid positions that can be elected? Then we just don’t have one. So, yeah, there’s no viable third party, but the major parties are just as dead, IMO.

    And why throw away your vote on somebody you hardly support? I don’t see how it’s a better option than voting third party, or even not voting at all.

  4. “In an ideal world this should be taken care of by families, the Church, charities, etc. But that’s not happening, and is quite impractical.”

    Why is it not happening? Why is it impractical? What can you/I do to make it happen?

  5. Why is it not happening?

    In general, because the church abdicated to the government on this one years ago. Most church folks I know will help out some, if they can, but expect that the primary burden for, say, major health costs belongs on insurance companies, and, as a fallback, on government help.

    Why is it impractical?

    Two reasons come to mind:

    1) Even convincing my whole church (whichever church I end up deciding to join) isn’t practically going to help much in the scope of the national problem.

    2) Even if my church got fired up about it, well, let’s use my previous church as an example. Last year we’ve had at least 5 folks getting treatment for cancer, including one teenage boy who had to have a leg amputated and buy a prosthesis that cost thousands more than even his insurance company would pay. You need a broad pool to be able to spread the cost. (You also maybe need some more regulation of the industry, but I’m no expert there.)

    What can you/I do to make it happen?

    Give where there are needs. Encourage others to give. Pray for faithfulness in God’s people.

    In general, here’s the question: at what point are we willing to put aside practically unattainable ideals in pursuit of truly helping the sick and weak?

  6. “We have a moral obligation to provide health care for those who can’t afford it.”

    I don’t agree at all. If that’s one of your big sides for Obama, then I haven’t gotten as much as I had hoped from this. Usually you lead me to do some deep thinking. I just can’t agree that healthcare is a right instead of a privilege.

  7. Roger, I think we reveal a lot about our thinking by the terminology we use. (And I’m having a long discussion with Becky about this even as I type this reply.)

    Do I think that health care is a “right” that each person should expect from their government, comparable to the right to assemble or the right to free speech? No. As I’ve already noted, in an ideal world, the government would not need to deal with this issue at all, because Christians would have cared for the needy and sick in overwhelming fashion.

    But we live in the wealthiest country in the world. And as citizens of that country, and just as human beings, I don’t see how we can not feel a moral obligation to care for the sick. Should those who can afford it have access to better, more expensive care? Sure, that’s fine. But I believe there is some level of care that we owe to each person as one who is made in God’s image. Do they “deserve” it? Maybe not. But do we owe it to them? I say yes.

  8. And I want to make my terms clear, too. Just because I don’t think it’s a right doesn’t mean I don’t think we should help people out if we can.

    I also think our points of view are tinted by where we are in life. Phil and I work in healthcare. You don’t work in the field, so don’t see the attitudes of the people who come in thinking you owe them the world.

    Just more food for thought.

  9. You don’t work in the field, so don’t see the attitudes of the people who come in thinking you owe them the world.

    Roger, absolutely, I can see that being an issue. The challenges with any system where people are being given something are both keeping people from taking unreasonable advantage of what is being given, and dealing with the attitudes of people who expect that you owe them something. I don’t envy you in dealing with them.

  10. Hey Bro! Kudos from your leftist pinko brother (lol) on supporting Obama. You probably guessed which was i was leaning long ago =). Since this argument seems to be primarily focused on healthcare, I thought I’d throw in my two cents having worked in the field myself… as far as Roger is concerned, I can easily see how it would be frustrating to have people come in with a sense of entitlement. But look at it from the shoes of the person who has consistently been marginalized in society; they have a physical problem that could potentially take away their ability to provide for themselves or their family, they are hurting, and they have little other recourse but to go to the ER and make a stink because there simply aren’t other good options as to how they can get healthcare. A major tragedy in the way that HC is run is that when budgets get low, community health clinics are one of the first things to get the ax. Which only exacerbates the problem. And sure, needy people are a nuisance, but if God viewed us the same way, where would we be??

    As far as the church is concerned, the church is already directly or indirectly involved in providing a great deal of the care in this country – a huge number of hospitals are not-for-profit, faith-based organizations who give away a huge amount of charity care. The financing of healthcare, though, necessitates a large pool of individuals to share the risk. Should the church – of all denominations – band together, it would have the size and financial scope to effectively share risk. I would be interested in seeing churches offer their own healthcare plans and see how that worked out.

    However, the idea that healthcare is simply a commodity like any other is one i simply can’t subscribe to. We treat education like a right in this country, and no, much of it isn’t great, but we recognize that it something that people have to have access to irrespective of their ability to pay. Healthcare is even more essential to people’s lives than education, yet many seem happy to say that you only deserve to get it if you can afford the increasingly high cost. From a Christian standpoint, i think you have to back the idea that healthcare is a necessity rather than a commodity whose accessibility is contingent on your ability to cough up the money.

  11. One current alternative to both insurance and government programs is a Christian self-help program like the Samaritan Ministries that you and Ryan and the rest of the family have been mostly covered by during your growing up years. Even with a pool of only several thousand members, the monthly “share” has always been way cheaper than any comparable health insurance.

    However, even that program leaves a lot of needs unmet and we sometimes went without treatment we really should have had.

    I agree with most of your reasoning. I do think universal health care is a moral imperative, but we may not have the funds to even think about adding it if this meltdown continues.

    At some point politicians are going to have to tax us sufficiently to put our economy back on a sound footing. But it may be too late even for that. These last few weeks before the election should at least be humbling for both candidates, as they find out that there are economic forces well beyond their control. I don’t suppose we should expect to hear any less confident bluster from any of them, though.

    The jury is still out for me, but I know Palin isn’t ready and I think Obama would make some good, measured changes.

  12. Ryan, from how I read your comment, you’re comparing apples to oranges. You start off talking about the people who come in with a sense of entitlement, but then you continue to talk about a different subset of folks altogether. The ones following the correct process, as far as they are able, are not the ones who have the attitudes.

    I could say a lot more, but I think my point of view is falling on deaf ears.

  13. I could say a lot more, but I think my point of view is falling on deaf ears

    Roger, I don’t think your arguments are falling on deaf ears so much as that you haven’t really developed any arguments. Give us something to wrestle with and respond to!

    Dad, I thought about mentioning Samaritan Ministries when I wrote the post, but ended up omitting it. Certainly they’re a good start… but, as you noted, still insufficient.

  14. Let me go back to the beginning then and see if I can develop anything.

    At what point did healthcare become a right? It wasn’t always that way, so what changed recently?

  15. Roger, so far, you’re the only one in this discussion calling health care a “right”. Obama did, last night, too, but I’m not so sure I want to use that word.

    I believe we have, and always have had, a moral imperative to provide care for the sick. As technology has increased and the available quality (and quantity) of health care has gone up, it only becomes less excusable for people in our country to go without the care that they need.

    As a practical matter, it seems to me that the health care and insurance industry has exploded in size over the past 50 years, and our growing recognition that the current insurance system is highly flawed (if not broken entirely) is a driving factor in the current debate.

  16. Daggone, man! If I get off topic, just smack me and tell me to get in line! Life is much easier that way. Seriously.

    Tangent: What’s the difference between wanting to insure everyone and insurance for everyone being a right?

    On topic…?: I’ll agree to a moral imperative to provide care for the sick…to a certain point. Care can be just ministering to them with a cold sponge bath and chicken soup. It doesn’t have to be the latest and most expensive medical treatments. I think the level of care is probably where we differ.

    On the talk about the insurance industry, I’m not sure I can disagree. One thing to keep in mind, and I don’t really know the answer to, is insurance industries are indeed paying out a lot of money for the sick people they cover. It seems to me that an honest insurance company should be as little for-profit as they can be to survive. Maybe legislation needs to hit there instead of country-wide socialized health care. That is what I’m truly against: healthcare like Canada. And that whole “right” think that gets me in a tizzy. 😉

  17. Thanks for your thoughts as you are considering the Presidential candidates. In one of your remarks you said, “I’m just hoping that next time around there’s a candidate I’m actually enthusiastic about voting for.” I suspect you, like me, have been disappointed by the past 8 years. You see the economic mess we are in and are looking for someone who has passion and clarity to address the many problems we are now facing. Looking at the economic and moral woes we face I believe we must also realize they are the results of years of bad choices. Many of them originated prior to year 2000.

    The various issues you cite are vitally important and the next president has opportunity to address them. As a nation we must do all we can do to move forward wisely. Our nation and the world are poised to have significant change. The leadership we pick will do much to determine both the attitudes and actions (changes) that will occur for several years.

    I believe there is one more important area to consider. The earliest recorded history clearly shows why nations rise and fall. As we live in this great democracy where people are concerned about being free and having rights, we also live under a greater ruling entity. The supreme entity is a Kingdom where all outcomes are determined by the Ultimate King. If we claim to be a Christian, our Christianity exits because we have placed ourselves under the rule of the King of Kings.

    From the first earthly family through the nation of Israel and throughout our present history you see how prosperity and peace are tied very closely with the Faith and Obedience of those who are in the Kingdom. What is interesting is we tend to blame the evil world for our current conditions. A look at history and almost exclusively our bumps are tied to the attitude and actions of the believers. It is not government but those in the Kingdom who have the most influence on what is happening in this world. Those with faith and obedience not only have a powerful General but the weapons and armor needed to do battle with the powers of darkness who want to move in and engulf and destroy. Light will illuminate darkness and Salt will influence and/or season where it’s present.

    Throughout time when the King’s Kids, the believers, were under the rule of the King, it often perplexed and sometimes petrified those living for the world. The USA is one example who for nearly 200 years confounded the world with its immense greatness and blessings. What is amazing is the past 30 or so years, as Christians have compromised and lost their salt, we are being led to the possibility of becoming another washed up country. So what is the answer for believers so that our land can once again move toward peace and respect? It is found in Jesus’ prayer in which most of our present churches choose to ignore. Looking at the last third of John 17, as Jesus is about to be arrested, He is praying earnestly for us. He desires for us is to fulfill His Prayer. If we choose to do so we can, like the early church, turn the world right side up again. His promise if we live out His prayer, we will point people back to the Father. His prayer has three important aspects: (1) for us to be in Unity with Him as He is in Unity with His Father; (2) for us to love one another, and (3) for God’s Glory to be seen through us.

    At first, this sounds simple but each of the 3 go against the grain of selfish man. History has shown no type of government has the power or ability to change hearts. If we desire to fulfill Jesus prayer it will only come about as we the church allow Him to arise in us and ultimately throughout our land. The good news is the King has provided all we need. We simply must be willing to exercise faith and obedience. He is in the Heart changing business and with a changed heart we can fulfill Jesus prayer and connect those around us back to the Father. The real change needed lies in the heart and minds of the Kings Kids.

    What is happening today is people (denominations) want us to be unified around their world view, cause and organization. Instead of love they promote antipathy to those who are not in their walls. They are also concerned whether I or my church group is getting the Glory. What’s interesting is that parallels with the religious leaders of Jesus time. At that time the religious leaders were so set in their worldly view they choose to kill anyone who might have a different view. What is even more unsettling is when the people took a very important vote at that time, their thinking was so skewed they called out for Barabbas to be released and Jesus, the one who created our world, to be crucified. It is even thinkable the people of today could be just as absurd (lost) including Christians.

    Thank God we have an Ultimate King on the throne who loves us enough to intervene even when we do not deserve His righteousness or His love and mercy. We have a King who even though we are totally confused and lost in our thoughts and actions He is willing to guide and illuminate the way to those who want truth and light.

    Back to voting. In His manual, it is clear the real King will determine and appoint who our future leadership will be. Though our democracy allows each of us to cast our vote, our vote will reflect our value system. In the end, the King will give us over to what we value. He will give us the desires of our heart and the leadership to carry out our desires.

    Today we are sitting on the edge of change. Though the woes of the world seem intimidating, I know the King of Kings still rules, and can use the bumps we bring on ourselves to accomplish His purpose. The bottom line is much change is needed for our nation. There is a clear choice of candidates who will encourage one type of change or another. All throughout history when “His Church” gets it right, it is the starting point for peace and blessings which originate from the Higher Kingdom. Today we have a strong revolution brewing somewhat like Cuba and Nicaragua faced. With those 2 countries there was a leader with charisma who was conveying he had the wisdom and power to fix things so the government would rescue, protect and even finance everyone.

    Today if the King’s Kids and our nation is experiencing bumps, what should be our reaction. What do we do when we see darkness enveloping us. Do we seek and depend on a worldly governing body to straighten things out. If there is a higher ruling Kingdom do we need to figure out what has gone wrong with the Kings Kids and then be open to conviction and correction? If this is true and important, which Presidential team can best encourage the above? History shows Godly leaders can bring about good change?

    May God have His way and will, especially in the hearts and minds of the Christians. May we as Christians take a deep look into the mirror provided by our King and check out the reflection we see and then have the courage and wisdom to make the necessary adjustments. Help us to realize the importance of fulfilling that very important prayer He prayed for us and be able to realize all power and blessings only come from Him and His Kingdom. May we understand how, especially in a democracy, the grass roots level has much opportunity to influence our destiny and value system. Help us understand how our King loves us and wants to give us the desires of our heart. GaryS

  18. I feel that it is unrealistic in places (mostly because the US isn’t all Christian), but I’d be interested to know exactly what you (plural) think it wrong.

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