First, let’s knock out the junk that invarably clutters a campaign.
Things that Don’t Matter
The War–going into Iraq was a choice. Getting out of the war is fairly straight forward. 1) establish security, 2) build up local government, 3) turn control over to the locals, 4) leave. Right now we’re between #2 and #3. It’s unlikely that McCain or Obama will be able to do anything to change those dynamics. Expect both to talk differently, but ultimately do the same thing.
The Economy–the President has little influence on the economy. Much of the economy is driven by fear/greed/global economic cycles that the U.S. government can do little about. In the short term, much of what little the U.S. government can do is done through the Federal Reserve Board. Members are appointed by the president, but in recent years the Fed has become largely a non-political institution. (Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan served both Republican and Democratic Presidents) I would be surprised if either Obama or McCain replace Mr. Bernanke. In the long term the President has some effect by influencing the legislative branch which does play a significant (long term) role by defining business law/oversight and controlling the US budget. But at best the President is no more than a small minority shareholder in someone else’s show.
Moral Positions–our Federal government fragments power in such a way that any one branch of government can easily check the aspirations of any of the other branches. It makes our government maddeningly slow to act, but also prevents a president from imposing extreme positions–for example prohibiting abortion in the cases of rape and incest–on an disagreeing population.
Issues that Would Matter if I had the Gift of Prophesy
Military vs. Domestic Spending: The rhetoric indicates that after the Iraq withdraw Obama would invest the “peace dividend” in beefed up domestic/foreign aid spending. McCain would re-invest the savings in military. Here’s where the gift of prophecy comes in–no one knows who is going to attack next. Historically large armies prevent expensive wars. (That’s how Switzerland and Sweden stayed out of WWII) Bin Laden’s Sept 11 attack is no exception–he’d been watching the US for years and had become convinced the US was a “paper tiger”. Is there another Bin Laden out there we need to intimidate? Who knows.
Health Care: The system we have is a nightmare. My typical medical bill comes with a 25% to 50% “network discount” because I have health insurance provided by my employer. If I was part of the working poor I would get NO DISCOUNT. (It’s against the law for health care providers to offer a cash discount, but are required by insurance companies to offer people with insurance major discounts) In short the working poor not only don’t get help from insurance, they pay a total bill that’s 25% to 50% more than the combined bill paid by richer American’s and their health insurance companies. Another example–if someone is born with a chronic medical condition they can be deemed “uninsurable” and can not purchase private health insurance. In other forms of insurance the buyer has a choice–at least in part. If I drive fast and dangerously I’d better be prepared to pay high auto insurance. If I choose to live in a flood plain–I’d better buy flood insurance. But if I choose to be born? People who fall into that unfortunate category must either hold onto a job or pay the “poor tax” on the uninsured. A fair nationwide plan is appealing. However, considering the “success” of large government projects–Katrina, rebuilding Iraq, veteran’s health care, etc, I have little faith that the federal government has the capacity to successfully administer an effective and fair nationwide healthcare plan. I would be overjoyed if the next president could accomplish as much as simply convincing Congress to create fair laws that even the playing field so that the uninsured are no longer paying more than the insured.
Finaly, why I Support McCain
Sarah Palin. It’s not just Sarah, but what it says about McCain’s ability to build a diverse/quality executive team.
1) She is a Governor–By picking Palin McCain emphasised that his own vast legislative experience needed to be augmented by someone with executive experience. Obama’s selection of Biden is disappointing at best (suggests his limited legislative experience is not sufficient) and downright bad at worst.
2) She is a Woman–she epitomizes the values the feminist movement taught America. Her grit and determination are inspiring.
3) Efficiency–she’s one of the (very) few politicians that’s successfully taken on government corruption. In an age where the dominant political strategy is to build coalitions of special interests her re-occurring theme is that the people’s money should be spent on projects the people want. That’s refreshing. (Her 80% approval rating is phenomenal)
Lastly–with the house/senate Democratic (and unlikely to change) I fear the loss of Gridlock. Gridlock is good. Gridlock makes people stop and think of creative solutions that satisfy not only their constituents, but their opponents constituents. Gridlock favors America. You won’t hear this from any candidate’s lips– but I’ll say it: Vote for gridlock!
Jeff Staddon is an independent voter who has voted for both Democratic and Republican candidates in the past.