Current Political Atmosphere

It has been an exciting political season and it hasn't even started yet. I just have a couple of thoughts on the process and the people involved.

1. Party trumps person. This election season has sparked a lot of
interest in people who in the past haven't paid too much attention to politics. This is a good thing. As I turned out to caucus last night I was impressed by the number of first time caucus goers that were there. I heard a few people last night stating that if their favorite candidate didn't win the party nomination they didn't think they could vote. That is the wrong attitude. If you are put off b/c your candidate didn't get your party's nomination consider the alternative. Would you rather have someone who is somewhat aligned with your views or someone whose values run totally contrary to your own? I still would have voted for Ford in 1976 even though Reagan didn't get the nomination that time around. A vote for Ford would have been better than not participating at all. I care who gets my party's nomination, but the seemingly big differences between the same party candidates are minuscule when compared to the differences between Democrats and Republicans. By not participating you only give the other party an advantage. So much of politics is choosing the lesser of two evils. A rule to those new to the political game is PARTY TRUMPS PERSON.

2. Hillary over Obama. Not that anyone can decipher what any candidate stands for in a campaign of 15 second radio spots or 30 second TV ads, but I must admit the support that has been drummed up for Obama is disturbing to me. If this were a personality contest I am sure Obama would win. I know I would rather go bowling or be stuck in a car for 6 hours with Obama than Clinton, but at least we know what we would be getting from Hillary. While both Hillary's and Obama's voting record have moved left in the year leading up to the election, Obama's has moved a lot further. He was rated as the most Liberal Senator by National Review for 2007. He has very little experience. He is clearly a smart man, but much of his past has been called into question. I am not saying that his past should preclude him, but it should be on the table for discussion. Should I be perceived as prejudiced b/c I am curious about the claim that his church is afro-centric? That is what has happened to many who have questioned Obama's beliefs. When running for public office it is all on the table. No one gets a pass. I feel like Obama to this point has gotten a free pass. At least Hillary (and her husband) are the ultimate pragmatists. If a Democrat is elected that is the most we can hope for. I don't think we know the same for Obama. But then again, Ted Kennedy and Oprah support him. That goes a long way in my book.

3. Everyone calm down. Regardless of who is elected, the President doesn't determine the fate of our country. Contrary to the opinion of many if Bush were to stay in office another 10 years the country wouldn't be goose stepping while singing hymns in big pools of oil. The US would still be here, the economy would have experienced ups and downs, and illegal immigrants would still be crossing the borders. The President is a president and doesn't have complete control. He still has checks and balances to keep him in line. He is not a god.

4. Independents. I know many people who say they aren't registered with any party as though I should be impressed with that. Like these people are their own person and not going to be brainwashed by any politician. Pick a side people. There are more than two parties. You don't have to choose Republican or Democrat. You can align yourself with Libertarians, the Green Party, the Communists, the Socialist-Worker Party, or the Constitution Party. You could even join the Marijuana Party. Find a group you agree with and go. In CO and many other states an Independent can't participate in the nomination process and can't participate in the party organization. There is no benefit to being an independent. Just because you belong to a political party doesn't mean you have to vote the party line, but it does provide you with a voice in the process.


Janice said...

AMEN! Obama scares me. Everytime I see him speak, I feel like I am watching a spiritual revival meeting--a lot of hand waving, hollaring, and no true substance.

Christina said...

Sounds like you have some strong feelings! I must say I am not very happy with how things turned out yesterday. So maybe I'm one of the people you hate. :) It was great to have such a turn out at our caucuses.

Chris said...

I understand that party trumps person and as a general rule I agree. This case may be the exception for me. We are not talking about a party member that I merely disagree with, we are talking about John McCain who had discussions with the democratic leadership after the 2000 election to discuss leaving the party. McCain who asked john Kerry if he could run as Kerry's VP. The one whose major legislative accomplishments have all come at the expense of Republicans.

I could argue that Ford losing in 1976 was the best thing that ever happened to the party. It brought us the Reagan Revolution, which probably wouldn't have happened without the misery of the Carter administration. Maybe the party needs another wake up call! And there are few things that unite the party like a Clinton in the white House.

I am going to have to do give it some serious thought before November.

PS I couldn't agree with you more on the independents. Grow up and decide what you believe in already.

Travis said...

Bravo Dave! I love the political discourse! Here's my 2¢ (take it for what it's worth).

1. I definitely agree that people shouldn't get turned off and disenfranchised if their candidate doesn't get the nomination. On a semi-related note, I do think there may be instances where poeple might want to go outside their party and vote for a candidate not of their party.

Since the president is the head of the executive branch--and has much more influence over foreign policy matters than domestic--in some instances, a Democrat might want to vote for a Republican (or vice versa) if that candidate's foreign policy stance is more inline with theirs.

I know many Democrats who voted for Ron Paul because they believe in his non-interventionist foreign policy. They voted for him even though they didn't necessarily share his views on other issues (immigration, social issues, etc.)

Of course the president will have influence on domestic matters; but when comparing his/her influence on foreign affairs, domestic influence is much more tempered and balanced by the legislative branch.

Given the increasingly global society we live in--and given foreign policy's impact on national security--a president's approach to this is important for a lot of people.

2. ABC News looked at Obama 'most liberal senator' rating. According to them, this is primarily because Obama was out campaigning for much of 2007 and missed 32 out of the 99 notes the New Republic used in its ranking

While campaigning, both Clinton and McCain missed many of these sames votes (which is annoying to me that all these guys are slacking on their day jobs).

According to ABC, out of 65 votes, Hill and Obama voted the same on 63 of them. Obama differed in that he voted with Sen Lieberman to create an Office of Public Integrity (Clinton voted against it). The other difference is that he voted to allow 'Y' visa holders to stay in the US while renewing their visas (while Hill, who has staked out a more conservative position on illegal immigration, voted against it.) So there's not necessarily a huge difference between the two in terms of their liberalism.

3. Agreed that the president doesn't determine the course of our country (except in large part when it comes to foreign policy).

4. Independents can't vote in primaries in 17 of the 50 states. Many of these peeps can change their party affiliation with as little as a week's lead-time to vote for whatever candidate they feel best represents their views. Several of the candidates have actively courted independent votes. I'm personally okay with this approach (and probably biased to it), because I'm a registered independent!)

I was really hoping Ron Paul would pick up steam and get the nomination. If it's between Hillary and Obama, I actually prefer Obama---I think he's less divisive for a lot of people (a uniter), and I think a woman's place is in the home.

P.S., just kidding about the 'women at home' comment.

carrie said...

Travis you crack me up. I love your last two sentences.

Steve said...

I love these political posts. It is refreshing to see intelligent posts regarding the political state of our country. I agree with portions of all of these posts...including Travis' comments. If you don't like your party's candidate, I can see value in voting for the other party (or not voting at all - which I don't recommend) to send a strong signal to your party that you are not pleased with the party's direction. However, you must consider what the next 4 years might bring (e.g. New Supreme Court Justices, Iraq war ending, etc.) in making your choice. Frankly, I'm not pleased with how certain things have played out in the Republican Party. I am mostly displeased with the focus on the Mormon religion and not the actual issues when it comes to Romney. It is also discouraging to see a protestant religion unite against one candidate and see that protestant candidate use all of his efforts to bring down Romney instead of the front-runner, McCain (fishy indeed if Huck is a true conservative voice). I see this as a personal attack against Romney's religion, not the man himself. Huck has openly tried to make a mockery of the LDS church which is completely deplorable in a President race (it reeks of bigotry at its best).
But I digress…if you hold conservative values, not voting for McCain may bring several undesirable outcomes in the next four years, especially with democrats currently controlling both the House and Senate.
Good posts ladies and gentlemen. Good food for thought.

TippettsFam said...

Travis straightened out the misconception about Obama's liberalism in relation to Clinton. There is no factual basis to assert that Obama is more liberal; the "Most Liberal Senator" designation by the National Review should be viewed skeptically both in terms of the source as well as criteria. I also think it misses the mark to label Obama as less substantive than Clinton, because there is a difference in lacking detail and lacking substance in your policy stances. Obama lacks the former, not the latter, and because he has simply not spent the same amount of time developing his policy positions as Hillary has, about which she loves to remind us (btw, where does she get the 35 year number from; is anybody else tired of her using this?). In this election, many clearly are opting for someone fresh and not of the system, sacrificing policy detail and alleged extensive experience. Personally, I don't like Clinton because she seems to think she deserves the White House, she is part of a political machine that craves political power more than common good (my belief). I think Obama also craves power, but I guess I believe there is more idealism in him than in her. Also, his message of alienation between the people and our government, and public trust in government, I believe resonates with most people in a way that other candidates crave.

But I'm not voting for Bama. My man is John McCain, precisely because of the reasons that staunch conservatives hate him. I despise the far right's stranglehold on the Republican Party. McCain is not a Democrat or a Republican, in my opinion, which is why I like him. His positions on immigration, a same sex marraige Constitutional amendment, tax cuts for the rich, and campaign finance reform explain why I am not a registered Republican and why there are so many Independents out there. I do not see meaningful distinctions any more between Dems and Repubs, enough to urge me to vote a party line all things considered. My fundamental political beliefs center on small government, robust federalism, low taxes for middle to low income people, devout environmentalism (still support ANWAR drilling), massive gun control, and a very, very high priority for US military and state run education. I am very pro-life, but firmly against school vouchers. I tend to think that the biggest benefits we ever got out of the federal government are the surviving the Civil War, victory in WWII and post-war reconstruction of Germany and Japan, and the US highway system, in that order. Yet I favor a Colorado law making it illegal to pay any public school teach less than $130,000.

What party would you put me in?

I'm tired of the de facto two party system, the lack of transparency in Washington, and the alienation I feel with my federal public officials. At this point Obama, though undetailed in many of his policies, looks fresh and worth it; and McCain's maverick bucking of the grand old elephants is why I'm still engaged.

Sorry, Dave, Leslie goaded me into weighing in. It's her fault.


Chris said...

I agree that whether or not Obama truly is more liberal that Hillary is really not clear at this point. The fact is he is essentially a state senator with a couple off years in the US Senate. He has almost no background upon which to judge him. He is likely the least qualified presidential candidate in recent history.

I don't think anyone is going to find a political party that is going to be 100% in line with their stances on particular issues. The point is that just wishing that there were a party that fit your views is not going to make it so. Hoping to change the system without being invested in the sytem by joining one party or another is kind of like wishing I had more hair. It might make me feel better to rail against the inequities of life but it is not going to change anything. Like it or not the two party system is what we have and will continue to have. Not affiliating yourself with one or the other leaves you out of the process.

The important part of a presidential, or any election, is not the general election, it is the primaries. When you don't affiliate with a party and don't get to vote in primaries you're unlikely to be happy with the choices in the end.

dave said...

Chris and I hang out to much. He basically made the same point that I was going to.

I am sure my political persuasion came through in the post, but I was attempting to keep it to a minimum.

The fact is that I don’t agree with everything about the Republican Party, but on the margin I find more similarities with it than Democrats. In fact on most issues I have a lot more in common with Libertarians than Republicans (except for foreign policy), but I am realistic in knowing that except for a handful of Libertarians on local level none of them are going to have a presence on the national stage. So if I want to have a say in the process I need to align myself with a group that does stand a shot at being in charge. Even your man McCain who “is not a Democrat or a Republican” had to align himself with a party to get elected.

So I wouldn’t put you in any party. You need to decide that for yourself by determining what you value most and which party most accurately represents those values.

On the matter of the two party system, I agree it isn’t perfect, but like the Clinton and Obama debate at least you know what you’re getting before you vote. The system the UK uses has a lot of political parties and while your party may accurately represent your views, in order to gain control and elect PM it must make alliances/compromises with other parties. The alliances usually turnout 2 or 3 coalitions, making it a two party system also. In the US, unlike the UK, we make our alliances before an election instead of after.

TippettsFam said...

Chris' and Dave's point about approaching the two party system pragmatically is well made. But it shouldn't diminish my point. For many (I would venture most)independents, the reason not to register as a D or R is not because you havn't made your mind up about how you feel about the issues; it is because you really don't fit in either party, which tend to be dominated at election time by the extremes and not the center. So you usually end up behaving like Travis described earlier by switching party affiliation with each election to try and place your vote best. This usually means that you have to decide on one or more controlling issues to the exclusion of others or vote on a personality, since a party platform really has no gravity for you. Not ideal, to be sure, but it is a pragmatic way to have an effective vote and it tends to prompt the two parties to change to capture the decisive middle. For example, I think this election is forcing the critical mass of the Repubs away from the evangelical right, if ever so incrementally, and the Dems away from the religio-hostile intellectual establishment. Independents help redefine the two parties and prevent them from getting polarized and stuck in their thinking.

I think the most terrible threat to American politics right now is the polarizing and uncompromising aspect that has developed in the last 25 years. Independents who remain unaffiliated drive the parties towards consensus.