Thursday, October 23, 2008

Selection Criteria

Elections are funny things. As a geek and part time policy wonk, I am fascinated by what criteria people use to select candidates to vote for. Maybe it is just that elections amplify and bring out both the best and the worst of people. Preconceived notions and hidden fears are out on public display.

Especially interesting are the disconnects between a stated belief or position and the way that someone votes: Easy example: A liberal pro-choice woman voting for McCain / Palin. What in the world is happening there? It is the campaigns stated positions that they are anti-liberal, and that most women's issues such as choice they are against. What is going on there? I have only theories, as I can not get into their heads, but I have heard that it is more important for some to vote for a woman, even if she is not a woman who will share their values.

No Race

Then there is the whole issue of race. From a scientific point of view, race is largely meaningless unless one is interested in a few adaptations such as skin that became darker to deal with stronger sunlight, or some such. There is no significant difference inside the human genome from one ethic group to another, and often less difference can be found between groups as inside a single group. All can have children together. All are the same race where it matters.

Someone on the radio recently asked the question of race that I found interesting food for thought: Why it someone who is ethnically white who is married to someone who is ethnically black having black children? Is the white ethnicity really that weak? Ditto White/insert-ethnic-group-here always ends up as the inserted ethnic group, unless they can "pass" as being Caucasian?. The fact that they call it "passing" speaks volumes. White appears to be the most easily diluted ethnicity there is. All of this was asked tongue in cheek, but I think it highlights the absurdity of the whole position. As noted in the previous paragraph, all are actually the same race, so the constant distinction is one of no technical meaning but unfortunately has had huge historical consequence.

Science does not seem to enter the equation. It is about emotion and prejudice, not rational thought. What are my prejudices?

Party Party

Another way of cutting this thought-pie is the two party system we have here in the States. Are there really only two dominant schools of thought in this country? Answer is of course no, and the fight in this, as every election, is over the small 'i' independent voter. I am one such.

I am not utterly happy with my choices this year, as every year. Neither candidate represents the entire body of my personal school of thought. That could only be true if we were all the same, and all like me (or me like the monotype). Every election we hear about having to choose between the lessor of two evils rather than being able to vote for someone more closely aligned with our own personal criteria. In this, the so called European Socialist systems that have elected parliaments are more democratic than we are. The coalitions are built at a different level. Add in our electoral college where so far four times in history the person without the majority of the votes was seated in the White House. The polling on the current election has made it appear that the Republican party is trying to make it five times, having already ceded the popular vote.

The path to this electoral college win lies through working in many subtle and non-subtle ways that the current Democrat candidate is somehow unfit for office, and that the lack of fitness is based on bigotry, prejudice, and stereotypes. There are code words meant to elicit unthinking, irrational responses from the so called "low information voter". These voters are appealed to as being the only true Americans, based on geography. They actually appeal to someones pride based on them not knowing much.

Single Issue

There is such a thing as a single issue voter. This person feels so strongly about one issue that so defines their life and their identity that whichever candidate is closest to them on this one issue, they have their vote, no matter what else is happening around them. Going back to the liberal woman I mentioned above, a vote for Palin, a woman, being more important than anything else going on around them perhaps.

I don't get it. If I were a single issue voter, I could not support Obama because of his FISA vote. I am still quite upset with him about it in fact. As recent news about what the folks in the spying posts are doing with the spying data has proved, it was and is a bad decision. FISA as currently constituted is bad law, and I think it is unconstitutional, even though a professor of Constitutional law voted for it. I would have expected a man who taught Constitutional law for 12 years to know better. If McCain had voted the other way... against FISA, I would have a harder time choosing who to vote for now.

Crossing the Line

I am not a single issue voter though, so it was not all I had to consider. Another is that as a husband and father of a girl, I am concerned about women's treatment and rights. At first blush, that would have made Palin a plus, but her positions are so anti-women that it was not one for very long.

Then there is this: McNasty

I don't really care about sexual affairs of politicians. I know many that say that having an affair proves they are unfit for office because they can not stay true to their spouse. Inability to keep their word in their private relationship maps to a liar in public. I say "Meh". Every relationship is different, they all have their own rules, and there is such a thing as an open marriage. Unless one is actually in the relationship, there is no way to know what the affair means about the people involved. In this day and age, whether some like it or not, sexual fidelity does not have to map to morality. Call me unprurient (tm), but I don't actually want to know enough about the people involved in them to be able to choose which it is on a case by case basis. It is their personal and private affair. I don't like FISA because of issues exactly like this. I don't want to know, and no one else not directly involved should want to either.

I can not however tolerate a man calling his wife either a B***h or to me far worse a C**t. That crosses a line for me. This is not prudery or lack or worldliness on my part. Verbiage like that shows me what the speaker of such foulness thinks about women in general, and that means they are not someone I trust with policy about women. It crosses over into other areas: It matters not which area. I don't trust them any more. This then I suppose is a reverse single issue vote or non-vote. In the lesser of two evils race, the man who did not insult... and in fact appears to deeply respect his wife... wins. They respectful one either gets my vote or I don't vote, but I can not vote for the man who dropped the C bomb on their wife.

That is one of my prejudices.

Small i

Is not voting really an option? No. In many cases, not voting is in fact voting for the one you do *not* want in office. Many voter suppression campaigns are based on this: Depress the opposition vote so that all of the votes on your side of the issue carry more weight. Like it or not, not choosing and expressing that choice with a vote is probably what someone someplace wants you to so.

I am a small "i" independent, which probably means that the big two political parties are either gunning for my vote or trying to figure out how to keep me from being interested in voting at all. I do not understand why my personal politics are not those of a national party, since they are, to my way of thinking, very well thought out and rational. :)

I am a pay-as-you-go, fiscal small "c" conservative. I do not like debt, either personally or nationally. I know there are times when debt is required, but one of the things that utterly disgusted me was the debate we were having in this country in the late 1990's about what to do with the budget surplus. Seems so long ago now. We had Trillions in accumulated debt, but there were those who wanted to give the surplus budget money back as rebates and tax cuts... before paying back the debt! I like the idea of tax cuts. Who likes taxes? but pay what we all owe first. We have to do it as individuals. I expect the same fiscal responsibility from the government.

At the same time I am socially liberal, and that is how I self-identify if asked, mostly because "liberal" has been made into such a dirty word that I enjoy the shock value if nothing else. I reside in Texas. Say no more.

When John Adams talked about "liberal values", it turns out he was talking a great deal about the values I am talking about here. So, I guess that makes me a tax 'n spend liberal, because the opposite seems to be don't tax and still spend. Spend. SPEND. Spend without income to cover it.


It was easy to choice this year. The FISA thing has meant I have given little money. My enthusiasm is tempered, but it is not a hard choice. Seemed like no choice at all. But what got me thinking about all this was reading a blog post from a liberal friend of mine, who is also a small 'i' independent, who if voting for the other team. We started in the same place it seemed, and arrived at two different destinations.

As I soon hope to hear Zachary Quinto say: "Fascinating"

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