Friday, August 29, 2008

Another Crappy Election

Now we know who all the candidates are, and they all suck.

We've got McCain, a "national greatness" conservative. That means that he doesn't mind expanding government power if it means it makes the country "greater". That means trampling on the First Amendment in the service of campaign finance reform, threatening, invading, and occupying foreign countries, curtailing our civil liberties, and doing little to curtail government spending (I can identify a lot of spending I'd like to cut, but $10 billion in earmarks isn't going to do it).

His Vice Presidential candidate is a mess, too. Sarah Palin is claiming credit for helping get rid of the bridge to nowhere, but that is at least partially dishonest. She is governor of a state with 670,000 people, about the size of Memphis or Baltimore or Austin. Prior to that she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 8500. I don't see how McCain can criticize Obama's experience after this without being laughed at; the president-in-waiting is way out of her league. She also wants creationism taught alongside science in schools (can I have my favorite creation myth taught, too?), and is perhaps unclear on what it is a Vice President does (in her defense, the answer to that question is usually "not much", which raises the interesting question of "who would want to be Vice President anyway?").

Obama used to be an interesting candidate. Now he seems more like a conventional politician. He used to be somewhat open to the idea of marijuana decriminalization; it's not clear if he is backpedaling away from that (I view "I accidentally raised my hand" somewhat skeptically), and has picked a zealous drug warrior as his VP. He reversed his position on FISA. His health care reform is likely to be very expensive (McCain's is not perfect, either, but I suppose neither plan is likely to actually happen). His instincts were correct on Iraq, but that hasn't stopped him from doing his own sabre-rattling (A side note: Obama has been criticized for predicting that "the surge" would not work, and for failing to recognize that it has. It's not actually clear, however, that the surge is the cause of Iraq's slightly calmer streets. It could just be the segregation of Sunnis and Shiites into separate enclaves--ethnic cleansing of a sort.). Obama's best quality is that it is not very painful to listen to him talk. Given that any president can only accomplish so much, and we have to listen to them talk a lot regardless of how little they accomplish, this perk is not inconsequential. Bush bumbled through speeches, but McCain manages to sound both patronizing and boring. Having a president who speaks eloquently while accomplishing nothing might be the best we could hope for.

Biden, as I mentioned before, is a drug warrior. He's also pretty interventionist (although not necessarily warlike) in terms of foreign policy. Just as Palin was surely cynically chosen to appeal to women (and possibly Hillary Clinton supporters), Biden was cynically chosen to address criticism of Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. That's how these things work, though--politicians are pursuing their vote-maximizing strategies (except for the third parties; heaven knows what they're trying to maximize). Biden also has a history of sticking his foot in his mouth, which makes both VP picks seem pretty risky to me.

Usually I vote Libertarian, or not at all. This year, however, the Libertarian is former Republican Bob Barr. Barr claims to have changed his views since his culture-warrior days (back when he said Wiccans shouldn't be able to be Wiccans while serving in the military). He now favors drug legalization, and has even worked with the ACLU on some civil rights issues. Assuming this story is true, Barr might even win Texas if these things were run fairly (i.e., not for the exclusive benefit of the two major parties--which means the Democrats and Republicans will, of course, get a pass). Still, I'm not sure I can bring myself to vote for him. Perhaps it's an irrational grudge; surely he's not pretending to be a libertarian. But voting for Barr would feel so weird--like if Jesse Helms had recanted his former racist statements before he died and said he was now an open-minded, color-blind citizen of the world. Would you believe him? I would have a hard time, especially if he were up for reelection.

So yet another terrible election arrives, yet it's worse than usual because I'm not sure I can even bring myself to throw away my vote on the Libertarian this time. Maybe I'll just stay home. My vote won't affect the outcome, anyway.

3 comments:

Ian McMeans said...

I liked this: http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/how_stupid.pdf

Tries to figure out what heuristics people use to choose voters.

Mike Hammock said...

That was pretty interesting! Thanks for the link. I find it amazing, however, that the author does not cite Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter, and shows no signs of being aware of it.

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