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Mpls, MN, United States

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dear Undecided Voter

Dear Undecided Voter,

My first political memory is watching Michael Dukakis debate George Bush. At eight years old, I thought Dukakis had a cooler name and better hair, but that didn't sway my parents. Dukakis was a Democrat--and I got the impression from my conservative, Christian, parents that there was something vaguely sinister about that.

These days, though, a lot of Republicans (including my parents--hi, Mom and Dad!) are realizing that their party has failed them. It has failed to live up to its promises of small government and fiscal conservatism. The recent financial crisis has thrown this into sharp relief, making it even more obvious that our country is in deep trouble, and that promises we'd been given are growing increasingly thin.

This election is about the future of our country and the world, which is why it's critical that we all understand the issues at stake and make sure we inform ourselves, engage in thoughtful conversation with those around us, and refuse to be swayed by incendiary or fear-mongering rhetoric from either side.

(Speaking of "sides," it's clear that our two-party system is broken. Not only does it limit the options of citizens to elect the officials who could best serve the entire country, it facilitates the use of particularly divisive issues for political gain, at the expense of citizens distracted from the more important issues for the country.)

There are unmistakably some issues on which Americans disagree. On the whole, however, I believe that what we all want is to be safe, to be free, and to be provided certain services in exchange for our tax dollars. We want to be able to earn money, and spend it as we like. We want government to stay out of our way when possible, but be there to help us when we can't help ourselves. We want to think of our country as essentially decent, moral, and worthy of respect.

It's clear to me that in the pursuit of those goals, there are certain overarching issues that deserve our attention:

  • We must stop the damage we're doing to our planet, and work to repair what we've already done. Like it or not, we all have to live here, and we all have to share. If we allow the earth to become uninhabitable, nothing else will matter.
  • We must repair our relationships in the worldwide community. When the U.S. is liked and respected by its global neighbors, it is safer and more financially secure.
  • We must respect and protect all human life, not just the unborn, just the insured, just the wealthy, or just the (legal) American citizens.
  • We must be responsible with our country's wealth and resources. The tax dollars required of us should return to enrich our lives and to make our country the place we want to believe it to be.
I believe that our government, which we expect to meet these needs, has deeply disappointed us over the past eight years. Under George W. Bush and the Republicans, the environment has suffered desperately. The current administration has overseen a decline in the U.S.'s standing worldwide, squandering widespread international goodwill following the attacks of September 11; entering an unpopular, expensive, and little-supported war in Iraq; and continuing to issue bellicose rhetoric that has many worried about another war we can't afford. For running such an aggressively "pro-life" campaign, the administration has demonstrated little concern for the lives of groups from Iraqi civilians to the uninsured in the U.S. Finally, for a party that has long claimed to stand for "small government," the Republicans and the Bush administration have presided over a huge federal spending increase, not to mention an astronomically expensive war and reductions in our civil liberties.

To his credit, John McCain has attempted to distance himself from George W. Bush. But believing that John McCain best represents the change that even he admits we need after the current administration requires more faith than I can muster.

So why, in this crucial and wide-reaching election, is Barack Obama the best choice for America?
  • He represents real, definitive change: there is no confusion with George W. Bush and his failed policies or "more of the same"
  • He is a powerfully inspiring figure; at a time when many are losing faith in the government and in America's promise, Obama reminds us that individual citizens can make a difference, and help create a world that's better for all of us
  • He is an intelligent diplomat whose thoughtfulness and judgment suggest that he won't rush into any wars or conflicts, and will work to effectively get us out of the current ones; he is not one to even joke about "bomb, bomb, bomb[ing] Iran"
  • He understands that although sometimes government spending is necessary to fix a broken system, poor people and the middle class are suffering and could benefit from paying less tax. (I, pretty much everyone I know, and even Joe The Plumber, would pay less tax under Obama than under McCain)
  • His careful choice of a qualified, experienced running mate to advise and support him, as well as his management of his campaign and finances during two hard-fought years, indicate the organization and intelligence he would bring to the White House
  • His policies indicate that he respects life outside of, and not only inside, the womb; see healthcare, the Iraq war, and support for families, among others. Although he stated last night that "Nobody is pro-abortion," and emphasizes the importance of education and family involvement to eliminate unwanted pregnancies, he is a supporter of a woman's right to real reproductive choice.
I'm a bit reluctant to criticize the Republican presidential ticket, especially on personal issues, because the Obama campaign has been about issues rather than negativity, and, after all, McCain and Palin are a former prisoner of war and decorated veteran and a hardworking, high-achieving mother!

However, it does bother me that McCain crashed four Navy planes, at least one of them due exclusively to pilot error; it demonstrates recklessness. It bothers me that when he returned home from being a POW, to find his first wife disfigured from a near-fatal car accident, he began having affairs with other women before finally divorcing her in order to marry a much younger beer heiress (to whom he lied about his own age); it shows dishonesty, disloyalty, and a lack of honor. It bothers me that his campaign has been so negative that even Karl Rove has said his ads have gone "too far." It bothers me that at last night's debates (which found him repeating his lies about Obama's tax and healthcare plans) , he defended these malicious attacks by saying it was Obama's fault for not having town hall meetings with him!

Perhaps most disturbingly, it bothers me that a 72-year old man whose melanoma has returned three times and who the AP reports has a one-in-four chance of not surviving a second term, selected as his running mate a woman with a scant year and a half of experience as governor and, according to presidential scholars, likely the least experienced VP candidate in history. She's certainly confident and attractive, but has a disastrous environmental record and what can best be called a dearth of knowledge of foreign policy and current affairs (she speaks for herself in the Gibson and Couric interviews). In choosing her, McCain may have energized his campaign and a segment of his base, but was not putting country first.

Do I believe Obama is perfect? I do not. Do I believe that for people across the U.S., from bike-riding tree-huggers like me to disappointed former-Republican fiscal conservatives, Obama is the leader we need to clean up the mess of the past eight years, and to lead us confidently through the next eight, with foresight, judgement, and responsibility? I absolutely do.

And, Undecided Voter, I hope you do too. But, as LeVar Burton used to say, "You don't have to take my word for it!" (or, for that matter, the word of 61 Nobel laureates). Although there's plenty of disinformation floating about, the facts are out there, and there's still plenty of time to make a thoughtful, informed decision.

(For some comic relief, check out the video Mandy posted of tonight's festivities at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner!)


I Hope So said...

love love LOVE this. i have to go but will probably come back later :)

nmrboy said...

this is excellent; thank you. i fear, though, that forming a reasonable, thoughtful argument such as this will be dismissed as 'intellectual' and thus not representative of our dear friend joe the plumber. but i applaud your effort, and for providing a feast of links to justify your point of view. of course, you can prove anything with facts...


Larissa said...

Great post Ceri. I think it was very well written; conversational, yet thoughtful. I agree with most of your reasoning, I have just come to a different conclusion about which candidate will do what America needs.

Curly Sue said...

Well done, Ceri. I agree with nmrboy, though, that the whole appeal of the McCain/Bush camps is that intellectual, well-reasoned, and thoughtful consideration is "elitist" and probably a little Commie-socialist-leftist.

The McCain/Bushies *like* the fact that their candidates are ignorant, impulsive, and uneducated because that means that the candidates are just like their supporters. ("Hey, she's a mom! I'm a mom! I'm voting for Sarah 'cause she's a mom!")