Monday, October 06, 2008

Life as an undecided voter

I've never been on the boat with Barack Obama. I liked Hillary Clinton better, mostly because I thought another Clinton presidency would be another Clinton presidency. (That is, she would have a cabinet much like Bill's, with similar goals and actions.) In the months I spent supporting Clinton, I developed a dislike for Obama, a visceral, squinty-eyed, "there's something not right about that guy" kind of attitude. And I've only recently been able to articulate some of that feeling.

For one thing, the religion thing bothers me. Not the Jeremiah Wright thing, but the fact that I know what his religion is (do you know Clinton's? Or McCain's?), and it's not one of those innocuous, "we go to church only when we have to" religions. Rather, it's one of those, "my pastor tells me what to think" and "I spend more on my church than I do on food" religions. Hey, if the rest of the country can hate me for my lack of religion, I can not vote for someone because of the imposition his religion has on his life, right?

I also don't like the strangle hold Obama seems to have on the rest of democrats, especially those in my age group and with my education level. It's as if I'm supposed to adore him, but I can't figure out why. Almost like when everyone insisted "Star Wars" was the best movie ever and when I saw it, I hated it. Maybe I wouldn't have hated it so much if people didn't exaggerate. Maybe I wouldn't dislike Obama if people didn't think of him as the messiah.

I think Aaron Sorkin made a great point in his mini-screenplay of an imagined meeting between Barack Obama and Jed Bartlett (former fake president on "The West Wing"). Obama seems to be saying only what he thinks people want to hear. He's trying to please too many people, and not actually saying what HE thinks is right. If he had any real convictions, I might respect him for that.

So I've been trying to warm to the idea of voting for Obama, by watching Bill Clinton talk about Obama on late-night TV and by recognizing how awful the alternative would be. And I was almost resigned to it, until I saw Ralph Nader on TV last night.

He was talking to Tabitha Soren (of early MTV reporting fame) and was so articulate and powerful and right that I was thrown. He did spend a lot of time talking about how bad the main two candidates are (they're in the pockets of their donors, large corporations, and aren't trying to help the little people), but he also talked about how bad the bailout is, and how easy it would be to have universal health care (not low-cost insurance, but actual universal health care, like they have in France and Great Britain and Canada), and how we shouldn't be telling middle eastern countries to be democratic using our military strength, but by helping them to achieve it by humanitarian aid (which incidentally, is a lot cheaper than guns, bombs, and human lives).

It's just that I actually agreed with everything he said. It wasn't Joe Biden's, "Oh, I don't think gay people should be able to get married, but they should be able to visit each other in the hospital," or Obama's "affordable health care" or "timetables". It wasn't something vague enough to please just enough people. It was specific and direct.

I know Ralph Nader isn't a viable candidate. I know he's not going to win, and even if he does, he probably wouldn't be able to get enough support in Washington to ever get anything done. And even if he does, he's not exactly president material. I think that's the point with him: he's not one of THEM. He's not connected and he's not bought into the lobbyist mentality. He doesn't make bargains with special interest groups. He's actually out to do good.

Though Connecticut isn't a foregone conclusion (it went republican in the presidential elections of 1972-88, but not since then) Obama is expected to win by a pretty strong margin here. I'm not worried about my vote throwing the election. What would be the harm of voting for Nader? I'd actually be voting for something, instead of against something, and I'd actually support the candidae for whom I'd vote. Isn't that novel?

I'd love to see the two-party system ended, and have a better variety of candidates to choose from. I'd also love to see the electoral system tossed, in favor of a popularity contest. It doesn't seem right this way. It doesn't seem fair. I kind of wish I lived in Ohio so I could vote already and be done with the anxiety of choosing. Of course, if I had voted three days ago, it probably would have been for Obama. Who knows what could happen in the next month to sway me one way or another? And who knows what could happen after November 4, to make me regret my choice on that particular day?

2 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about your post, which I can understand but don't entirely agree with, since you wrote it. I'm sure we'll have more conversations on this topic, no matter what happens in November (besides me finally being able to concentrate on something else).

    I did want to share some insight into Hilary Clinton and religion:
    http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/hillarys-prayer.html

    And this is an article about the man she considers her spiritual advisor: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525

    Also, an interesting perspective from someone who voted for Nader twice before, but probably won't this time: http://think3institute.blogspot.com/2008/09/presidential-candidates-ralph-nader.html

    I know you've been inundated by Democrats who think Obama is the second coming, and I also know you know I'm not one of those people. Still, where you see a manipulative politician, I see a calm, clearheaded pragmatist whose views may not match mine 100%, but whose basic approach to human rights and the role of government is one I can get on board with. I also see someone who's very smart, and that's incredibly important to me. I can't argue away your gut instinct, but I can tell you about mine. And that is that Obama is a step in the right direction. He's not the answer, but I don't think anyone is. I do think he's what we have to work with, and I know that's what I want to start doing -- working for a different sort of country.

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  2. I completely understand what you are talking about. I never absolutely Love the choices, but have never choosen a Nader or anyone else because I would feel really bad if I was the one vote that got a Palin into position for VP (she scares me). She sounds like a nice woman, but not presidential material and moves backwards in womans rights IMO.

    However, I have a passionate cause to vote for one person now.

    Obama for president!! :)

    He's not perfect but he will give more funding for Autism and Diabetes research. Especially the stem cell type. :)

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