Saturday, July 07, 2007


I thought maybe I would take the opportunity highlighted by Al Gore's End of the World Telethon to say something about the next election.

Today I was asked if I already knew who I would vote for in the upcoming presidential election. I said I did, and that all things being equal I would hope to get to vote for John Edwards. Then of course came an avalanche of caveats including that I could certainly change my mind between now and then. But the one thing that is clearest to me is that I will vote Democratic in order to try to swing the pendulum back the way it came. Of all the comments and stories we hear lately regarding the current administration and the coming election the one that has hit me the hardest was Justice Bryer saying: "It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much..." That said to me that whoever we elect, in the long haul we need them to be a Democrat (although I guess I might settle for an actual Republican, but I prefer the former).

Really though what I found most surprising is how much the question brought forth from me a sort of learned helplessness I seem to have regarding politics in general. I think even in these stressful times apathy runs high, and there's a part of me that believes even with an approval rating below 30% if George W. Bush could run again he would win again. Its about the choices we have. With the choices we get it isn't surprising that the kind of strategy that delivered for W works, and I guess I won't be surprised to see it work again when they get around to picking their new guy. I am a registered independent, and I will vote for whomever makes the best case, but truthfully all I hear from the current crop is noise. We get so bound up in the crap that there's nobody with a real vision.

I want so badly to be enthralled by a candidate's vision for our future.

To make the point I picked seven fairly well known candidates coming from the Democratic and Republican parties and grabbed the first heading on their websites under "issues." Here's what they think I care about the most:

  • Fighting Poverty
  • Strengthening the Middle Class
  • Restoring America's Moral Leadership in the World
  • Government Spending, Lower Taxes, and Economic Prosperity
  • Fiscal Discipline
  • Defeating the Jihadists
  • Energy and the Environment
Seven issues - for 7/7/7, get it? - and I should add that #1 neither I nor Firefox think "Jihadists" is a word and #2 most if not all of these issues appear not just on one site but on most. As far as I am concerned every single one of these things is noise; too small, too shortsighted, too easy.

Seven out of seven to be filed either under P for "pandering" or D for "duh."

I almost had my whole piece crushed by the very last page I chose to look at, a candidate who probably won't get through four primaries if they last that long. There it was: "Energy and the Environment," a chance that someone was really thinking ahead. Then I clicked it and the bullets are:
  • Reduce 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Dodd Plan will begin to turn back the clock on global climate change, safeguard our environment, and protect American health.
  • Enhance national security by eliminating our dependence on Middle East oil by 2015. We must end the cycle of fighting terrorists on one hand while financing their supporters on the other.
  • Strengthen our economy and create jobs. From our university labs to our farms, from manufacturing to our technology entrepreneurs, the Dodd Plan will create jobs across the economic spectrum.
So really it's a tacit nod to emissions and then two environmental goals that are really a defense and an business policy. So even this is more under the "pander" or the "duh" category.

I guess it isn't as bad as all that. Many of the candidates list many, many goals; but I think it is clear that most administrations barely achieve their top three let alone their top 20. For the most part, with the exception of Health Care (and a monumental but worthwhile "duh" for the "sanctity of life" - in this context meaning "don't torture people" if we have to have an election to sort that out we're in really, really bad shape), the seven issues above are the top three for all seven candidates I looked at.

I guess I should say who. I looked at Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

I am not feeling enthralled. I imagine many other people aren't either.

I guess I could get behind health care as a cause. It's got some momentum because of the movie. But there are two things even with this issue that bother me. First, it still isn't big enough. While guaranteeing accessible healthcare to everyone would be a good thing I think it's just a band-aid. We need to start talking about our need for health care and how we can change things on the demand side of the balance (something short of Logan's Run please, as I am well past "Last Day"). Second, I have a "fool me once" thing here. Years ago I stood in the rain in a school parking lot in Branford, Connecticut to vote for a candidate who's #1 campaign priority was health care. That man won and spent eight years as President. Little changed. This leads me to believe that even the health care debate is just the tip of an iceberg, there must be something bigger, more substantive underneath.

And so, much like picking sushi off the belt I've watched the candidates go by. I'm thinking really what I want is a spicy shrimp tempura roll but it isn't there and so I just grab another safe, easy, simple plate: tamago maybe - hard to screw that up. I'll probably get to vote for John Edwards, and if I do I sincerely hope he wins. But I am not enthralled.

What do I want to hear about? What is the political equivalent of my missing Maki? In case any of the other people on this page are listening here's an idea...

I would like to hear about sustainability, about fair trade, about transportation, about energy, education, and discovery. I want to hear about diversity in a context that does not include the concept of "tolerance." When I saw my Saturday School House Rock, "The Great American Melting Pot" it didn't talk about tolerating others. Check yourself:

Not one "tolerance."

I want to hear about education and health care without hearing about minimums, or about costs under the current structure. Really I don't want to hear about the current structure at all. The structure we're making all of our decisions based on comes from the 1950's. I think we've stretched 1950 just about as far as it will go.

Please won't someone tell me about 2050.

A 2050 where we have enough food for the whole world; food made of food and out of food our bodies want and need instead of the food we have or have gamed a way to profit from. A 2050 where its ok that some things are made in other countries because we have things we make here and the people who work there and the environment around them are not mistreated. A 2050 where we don't all need a car to be part of every single errand and where the price of every single thing isn't hostage to the cost of transport. A 2050 where anyone and everyone has a qualified doctor and any medication they need but also a 2050 where our food and our lifestyle don't cause us to all need so much of either, and a 2050 where health care workers are compensated without the drag of health care or insurance industry facilitation. A 2050 where education is treated as the foundation of everything and given the same investment one would make in the foundation of their home, church, or business. A 2050 where we understand that the smart money is looking toward 2100 and beyond rather than trying to squeeze every last cent out of 2049.

Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton, Mr. Dodd, whomever? You want my vote? Change your campaign from "CANDIDATE for 2008" to "A 2050 for us all."


David said...

Yes, ok, I see the energy goals I quoted above list 2050, but that 2050 is like an easy "I won't be there then" long time off to set a goal.

I mean, what do we no right now to set up 2050.

Josh said...

Your posts have been drawing a lot of my attention lately.

I'm curious, given your general dissatisfaction with the field... Where does your support for Edwards come from?
And as a follow up... how much "work" have you done in examining the candidates? How qualified do you think you are at this stage to judge their character and determine what type of President they will be?

These topics interest me, as I have been following the campaign extremely closely and I've been intrigued by certain aspects of the polling data.

I have my personal favorite, but rather than shilling for my guy here... I'd love to know why you are leaning towards Edwards.

David said...

I liked Edwards last time.

"work?" Very little. Just the regular reading I do and radio, so that's USA Today, ThinkProgress, NPR, and a little Rush, Beck, & Savage (god talk radio is bad).

My pick is unfortunately not about what kind of president they'd be. If I used that rubric I would pick George Carlin. It's more about my feeling that he is the only electable Democrat, and we need a Democrat to undo or balance as much of the last 8 years as possible.

That's sort of where I was coming from. It's a decision born out of learned helplessness, not out of anything positive.

Maybe I am the problem.

Miss Lineweight said...

"A 2050 where education is treated as the foundation of everything"
Glad someone else gets that.
This post was really interesting.....and I agree with a lot of it.