For weeks now, I’ve been one of those people that the media and the Daily Show love to both covet and scorn, demonstrating a clear fascination with their every move. I have been an Undecided Voter.
And yet, it’s not really me they’re after. Because John McCain never once entered my consideration as anything other than a worst-case scenario. I am wholly convinced that a McCain administration would make people yearn for the days of George W. Bush… he was the only candidate I was more afraid of in 2000 than Bush. And he’s gotten, if anything, more militant and crazy since then.
No, it’s been between Obama and Nader. After the first debate, as Obama discussed at length how he would kill this person and that person, I was pretty sure I’d made up my mind and set out for a viable third party alternative. I knew I was in trouble already, having voted in the California Green Primary and seen the selection. The choices were so bad that I had to give Bob Barr a look.
This year is a perfect storm for a voter like me (ha! – there probably aren’t any others). An actual major party candidate with a lot of potential combined with the worst imaginable choices from the third parties.
I’m registered Green, but Cynthia McKinney is a joke. She doesn’t even take her own candidacy seriously, much less have the ability to inspire anyone else to join the cause. Maybe some of her thunder was stolen by being up against a Black major party candidate, but she might not have brought it against a woman either. You may recall McKinney from being escorted out of the Capitol as a Democrat. This is the only reason she’s gone Green. Major party cast-offs don’t really inspire change I can believe in.
Then there’s Bob Barr, who was worth exactly one look. I find a lot of Libertarianism kind of abhorrent, even though the society I advocate is kind of a flipped Libertarianism, where the only thing they use government for (violence, war, law enforcement) are the only things I don’t use government for. Yeah, our common ground is being complete opposites. Anyway, Barr’s got a little too much “build a wall around America” in him for me, for this time.
Which leaves me with Nader, someone I desperately hoped wouldn’t run again. He’s transformed himself from a viable voice into Lyndon LaRouche, a perennial candidate who no one takes the slightest bit seriously. I know a lot of people think that ship sailed in 2004, when I ardently supported him, but absolutely no one was else was standing up to provide a good choice against John Freaking Kerry. I mean, seriously. Nader had to run then.
But 2008 is not 2004 and Barack Obama is thankfully not John Kerry. And not just because he has a pulse and can speak. He has not spent the entire election cycle desperately trying to be a Republican, to endorse the Iraq War, to out-hawk the hawks and out-conserve the conservatives. He has actually advocated some small amounts of progression. He shows signs of being capable of having an actually productive administration.
The problem is, as I’ve noted before, that nobody really knows what Obama would do as President. I wrote the last post about this in January, and we don’t know a whole lot more now. He’s focused on his tax policy, which I agree with, and some vague notions of “an army of new teachers” and “line by line budgeting”. He has deliberately kept things to platitudes and grandiose vision… mostly because it’s strategically brilliant. The more one relies on platitudes and universals, the more universal the appeal one has as a candidate (especially if one is already young, attractive, and articulate). When things get specific, people tend to get bored or militantly opposed.
McCain has tried to exploit this fact, but to little avail. Mostly because he wants people to believe such extreme things about Obama that he’s covering up. Maybe he thinks the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one, but things like “palling around with terrorists” are awfully absurd. I think McCain would’ve done well to just nail the low-hanging fruit on this one. Not that it would’ve given him a chance, but it would’ve made things a little interesting.
So this makes an Obama Presidency a vastly unknown quantity, ranging from a Clintonian nothing-fest on one side to a truly historic and groundbreaking Presidency that I mostly agree with on the other side. That’s a huge swing of possibility. There’s all this upside, but just as much potential that Obama doesn’t want to make waves or take risks, or worse, that he never had any substance lurking and held back in the first place, but is just a pretty guy with pretty words. He may actually be more like Bill Clinton than Hillary is.
So while I’m excited about the upside possibilities, I have to decide based on what I can be confident Obama will actually do. He will surround himself with people like Joe Biden. Disaster. He will move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and accelerate hostilities there. Disaster. He will attempt to enact tax policy that is exactly right for this time. Good. He will support measures like the $700 billion bailout that passed Congress earlier this month. Disaster. He will increase the amount of healthcare coverage in this country, though he may use mandates to do so. Toss-up. He will talk about hope and change and sacrifice and be aware of the times we are engaging in, as much as most any politician could. Good. He will talk to foreign leaders. Good. He will not commit to ending the war in Iraq. Disaster.
That’s a lot of disaster. I could be accused of being close to a one-issue voter in many ways… war and violence are pretty much the only thing I care about at the end of the day. I think tax policy is somewhat important, and certain social issues here and there (gay marriage, for example). And there’s an increasing issue about who will have the dignity to allow America to step down from its throne of arrogance and superpowerism to gracefully withdraw without pressing red buttons and going nuts. On that last front, Obama clearly beats McCain, though there’s little confidence I have that any American politician can really do that.
Ultimately, I can’t end up supporting someone who has made one of their only concrete policy articulations a description of exactly how many Afghans they want to kill. You can say all you want about him having to say that to get elected and that he’ll actually end both wars, but I need to see that happen before I have any reason to believe it.
You know who I’d really like the opportunity to vote for? The person that John McCain wants you to think Barack Obama is. That’s someone I would’ve devoted the last few weekends to going out and campaigning for. I’d be in Nevada right now. I wish he were a Socialist. I wish he were a Muslim. I wish he did believe what Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaches (speaking of people I’d vote for). I wish he did want to talk and negotiate instead of going to war. I wish he did want to raise taxes.
I know, I know, he wouldn’t have any chance of winning. You know what? Winning is going to get a lot less important to America in the next 25 years. Like Henry Clay, I’d rather be right than President.
So I’m left with Ralph Nader, someone I know I agree with about 95%. And Matt Gonzalez, the person I most want to vote for, a San Francisco Green who should’ve been Mayor and I can actually be enthusiastic about voting for. He’s really the only person of the 10 people on either half of all the tickets that I can demonstrate commitment to. That alone would be good reason to vote for him, and may have more to do with the ultimate vote than anything. If Nader had picked David Cobb as his running mate, I might have to skip the President question altogether on my ballot.
But you know what, Barack? You have four years to earn my vote. Everyone knows you’re going to be President, probably elected by a very wide margin. You’ll have one of the largest friendly majorities in Congressional history, lofting you to a groundswell of support not seen since FDR. They’ll be desperate to prop you up and make you look good, regardless of what they actually feel like doing.
Then, I hope you prove me wrong. I hope you make me eat my words and regret not voting for you. I hope you make sweeping changes that turn the country upside-down for the better. I hope you end wars and don’t start new ones. I hope you get as close to Socialism as the US has seen since FDR. I hope.
If you do that, Barack, even a good chunk of that (a lot will hinge on the wars, of course), then I’ll pre-commit to you in 2012.
Seems like a long way away, huh?
Oh, and Barack. Can you maybe ditch Biden in the re-election campaign?