In the 2008 presidential election I’m going to be voting for Barack Obama. That’s probably not a surprise to people who know me, but I feel the need to explain that position.
I’ve been contemplating this post for some time. Should I even write it? As a person who makes a living writing for a faith-based market (for the most part), it’s some what dangerous to talk about politics. There’s a very real possibility that people won’t hire me because of my political views. It’s happened for much lesser reasons.
But I guess because of that rationale I feel compelled to give a defense for why I’m voting for Barack Obama. I’d rather someone understand my reasoning and still reject me than reject me based on an assumption from something random like a Twitter post.
I think this will be the first time I’ve ever publicly blogged about who I’m voting for. The above rationale is part of the reason, but I’ve also never cared that much about politics. Part of the reason why I’m doing it this year is because of how important the times are. That’s said every year (I said it last election), but this election is historic on several fronts.
I’m not going to load this post up with links and sources. Perhaps I should, but writing this is going to be grueling enough. I don’t have time to track down all the links. My arguments have come from watching the debates, listening to the candidates, following the campaigns and reading fact check sites. That said, feel free to call me on facts that I get wrong.
I’d also like to remind people of the importance of disagreeing well. How we disagree perhaps says more about our character than what we agree on.
Let’s get right to it. Abortion is perhaps the biggest hurdle Christians face when it comes to supporting Barack Obama. I don’t like Obama’s stance on abortion. However, three things give me pause:
- For the first time ever the Democratic Party is not simply pro-choice. One of the goals of their platform is reducing the number of abortions. That’s a goal everyone can agree on, and one we should all be pursuing. This strikes me as a much more realistic and attainable goal than the Republican approach of overturning Roe vs. Wade.
- I think the Christian strategy of fighting abortion through legislation is a failure. By solely focusing on the political battle, I think Christians have made this a horribly polarizing issue and have failed to make any real gains in reducing the number of abortions. It’s been an all or nothing strategy, and so far we’ve got nothing. At this point I’d rather see small gains in reducing the number of abortions, even if it means abortion remains legal. I think the church needs to take the abortion battle away from politics and bring it into real life. That’s the only place our grace, mercy and love will make a difference.
- I don’t buy the arguments that Obama is somehow pro-abortion. Nobody is pro-abortion. I accept his explanation of his Illinois Senate votes that seem to upset so many pro-life voters. Frankly, I think Obama is doing more to find middle ground on this issue that John McCain is.
I’m certainly not the only one who thinks this way about abortion:
In general I find that the Republican Party is pro-life only when it comes to abortion. And that’s not good enough.
Whew. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.
Economy, Taxes & Stuff
Anyone who read my disagree well post and took the quiz will know that I came down pretty close to socialism (and no, it’s not a bad word). On economic policies I think those who can afford more of the burden should shoulder more of the burden. I don’t think giving tax cuts to the wealthy is a way to help the middle and lower class. I think the Clinton years (which is similar to what Obama’s tax plan would return us to) are a good example of economic prosperity with higher taxes on the rich. Likewise, I think regulation is important. Our current economy seems proof enough of that.
This is an issue that I’ve seen little progress in debating. People seem to come down on one side or the other, and no amount of bickering seems to change minds. So take it or leave it. You either like the Bush policies (especially on taxes it’s clear that McCain is following the Bush example) or you don’t.
Defense, Terrorism & Foreign Relations
This is another issue where McCain seems to thoroughly follow Bush. I think the last eight years have been a foreign relations nightmare. Instead of a beacon of hope and light the U.S. has become a worldwide bully. We were misled into the war in Iraq and we’ve lost focus on the war against terrorism (and let’s be clear: terrorism in Iraq is a monster we created).
With John McCain I see more of the same. He was right about the surge (for now; I think it’s dangerous to tie political success to what happens on the ground—if Osama Bin Laden is ever caught it’s going to have very little to do with who is president at the time), but he was also wrong about the Iraq/9-11 connection and was wrong about Iraq not distracting from Afghanistan.
For whatever inexperience Barack Obama has, I think he has a much more reasoned, considered and sane approach to foreign policy. I think we have to sit down with our enemies and try diplomacy before resorting to destruction (bickering over preconditions aside). It’s working in Libya and I think it can work elsewhere. Even the Bush administration seems to be realizing this now, too little too late.
Certainly there are other issues to consider. Energy, education, the environment. I won’t go into great detail here, but again and again I find myself siding with Obama over McCain. Drill, baby, drill is not a solution.
Character & Temperament
Finally, when it comes to who I think has the character and temperament to be president, it’s hands down Obama. He has a vision and the calm, reasoned temperament to get there. What he lacks in experience he makes up for with a level-headed approach.
By way of contrast, John McCain seems erratic and reactionary. The negative tone of his campaign, suspending his campaign to “help” the bailout, his VP choice, even his slogans of “country first” and “maverick” seem disingenuous (for some one who rails against cronyism, I find it remarkable that his military advancement came primarily thanks to his family name). The man is certainly a hero who deserves our respect. But I don’t think the John McCain of 2008 is the same as the John McCain of 2000 who earned the respect of so many moderates.
And in what has to be the lowest priority and the stupidest reason to want to vote for somebody—I like Barack Obama. The man is a charismatic speaker. While that alone doesn’t qualify him for the presidency, it certainly helps. I find him inspiring.
In my previous presidential elections (which would only be two) I never really liked the person I ultimately voted for. And looking back at previous presidents I don’t see many that I genuinely like (though it’s fair to say my sense of history is pretty short-sighted). Actually liking a presidential candidate, never mind agreeing with him on the issues, is a welcome change.
Part of the reason I felt compelled to write this post is because of all the insanity flying around as the election looms closer and closer. The fear-mongering and hatred is unreal. It probably happens every election, but it seems over the top this year. I don’t know if it’s due to race, religion, ideology or all three, but it’s kind of frightening. I think America is better than that.
In many cases I think this election has little to do with hope or a maverick, but it has everything to do with the opposing ideologies of Republicans and Democrats. If you like George W. Bush and you’ve enjoyed the last eight years then your choice should be pretty clear. If you disagree with those Republican policies, then your choice is also pretty clear. Throw in a maverick or hope and change, a woman VP or a black President, it doesn’t change the underlying issues.
That’s my admittedly biased rationale for supporting Barack Obama. Wherever you land, I hope we can disagree well. Now go vote.
(and hopefully I can shut up about politics for a while)