Friday, November 02, 2012

I'm voting for.......

Just for my own enjoyment, what follows are my thoughts about the 2012 Presidential election. I wrote a similar post about the 2008 election that you can read here.

2012 is yet another election where our two party system has delivered us two lame choices. One candidate was a 1-term governor of a nothing-special state and his most recent political accomplishment was coming in a distant second to John McCain in the 2008 Republican primaries. The other candidate’s performance as President has been so underwhelming that his campaign ads only come in two flavors: either “I’ve got a plan,” or “the other candidate is really bad, and he’ll do bad things to you.”

(Sorry, Mr. President. You lose the right to campaign on your plan for the future when you haven’t even had a budget passed in most of your term, even when your party controlled both houses of Congress. If you can’t get a budget passed through a Congress you control, why should I believe you will get a series of legislative initiatives through a divided Congress?)

We’ve got two really bad choices, making the election a choice of the lesser of two evils. (Seriously. I can understand if you want to vote for your candidate because he’s not the other guy, who is way worse. I cannot understand anyone, though, who thinks their candidate is actually doing a good job, or going to do a good job. Anyone who thinks Obama is an effective, positive leader has been asleep the last four years, and anyone who thinks Romney isn’t a neocon and a repeat of Bush #43 isn’t paying attention.)

But rather than pointing out each candidates’ flaws (which might take up all of the space on the internet, though I do recommend reading this), I’ll illustrate how I arrived at my choice by describing my ideal candidate, and picking the one that comes closest.

In my opinion, the ideal Presidential candidate is:

-Constructive, and practically principled. My ideal candidate holds clear positions, but is willing to work with, or to do the deal with the other party that gets 70% of what the leader wants, rather than viewing any compromise as a loss. My ideal candidate also doesn’t demonize the other party or any group on the other side of an issue.

-Extremely limited in the application of the US military.  My perfect candidate would get the US out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and reduce American military commitments around the globe. Why, for example, are there still ~100,000 US troops in Europe 23 years after the Cold War and 67 years after the end of WWII?

-Socially quiet. I’m interested in “hiring” a commander-in-chief to execute the policies to improve the country, not to be our conscience-in-chief. On most any social issue our country is split roughly 50/50 (example: abortion). For any President then, imposing social policies is inherently a losing proposition – half of the population is likely in violent disagreement to a given policy. Let social policies work through other channels – state legislatures, for example. (I realize the concept of the socially quiet candidate is a bit na├»ve, but a real leader knows that there are three ways to make change happen, and brute force (i.e. driving a social change through legislation) is the least effective.)

-Fiscally prudent. I still don’t understand why the most prosperous nation on the planet is also the biggest debtor on the planet.  A balanced budget (or something a few trillion dollars closer) should be a central tenet.

-Unequivocally for free trade.

-Against any internet regulation. 

-Consitutionally limited. Once – just once – I’d like to hear a candidate say that something is a problem best addressed by something other than the Federal government. One great place to start: education.

In short, my ideal candidate is a Jeffersonian Democrat. Too bad they went out of style in the Democratic party decades ago. (Jeffersonian Democrats might even be extinct – I can’t think of any Democrats who would qualify.)

Grading both Obama and Romney against my wish list is depressing. Romney comes out at a slight advantage, largely because in some dimensions he’s an unknown, whereas we know how bad Obama is in a given dimension.  

There is one person on the ballot who scores fairly well versus my criteria: Paul Ryan. He’s demonstrated that he’s practically principled in his legislative efforts with Sen. Wyden (D) in health care, he’s certainly fiscally prudent, a free trader, and many of his positions are driven by an interest in limited government. He also is NOT loud or widely known for his stance on social issues.

Unfortunately, though, Ryan is only one the ballot as VP, but I’ll credit Romney with a bit of Ryan’s halo.

Also on the subject of VP, Joe Biden to me is a walking disaster. I don’t agree with his policies, but I am even more alarmed by his utter lack of principles (remember his theft of Neil Kinnock’speeches?), impact (he's been a Senator or VP for the last 39 years - can you name one thing he's done?) or frankly brains. Where are the people who slammed Bush #43 for umm, stupidity, when Joe Biden is a heart beat away from the Presidency, and IMHO a bigger moron? (And a crook, if the stories I’ve heard are even half-true.)

So, comparing Obama and Romney gives a slight advantage to Romney, but mostly because of Paul Ryan.  Really, though, the Presidential candidate that I most connect with this year is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Unfortunately, he has no chance of winning.

I’m certainly willing to cast my vote for a lost cause, but I live in Virginia – a swing state with a very tight race. It's a tight race in Virginia, with the leader changing daily. State polls show everything from a 5 point Romney lead to a 4 point Obama lead in Virginia, so the only conclusion that I can reach is that it is a very close race. I like the notion that I am going to cast the deciding vote.

The last presidential election was a choice between two mediocre candidates. This election is a contest to decide which Harvard grad will do the least bad job of running enormous deficits. Neither choice is appealing for that reason, and I’m not hopeful that much will change.

But it is very likely that the next four years will see multiple appointments to the Supreme Court, and the next President will have a chance to significantly alter the demeanor of the Court.

Obama has already appointed two Supreme Court Justices (Kagan and Sotomayor), neither is considered moderate. I’m not a legal scholar, but my views are best characterized as a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, with a limitation on government power and against judicial activism. (I’m a believer in the now-radical position that the legislative branch is responsible for writing the law, not the judicial branch.)

So, only because of the Supreme Court impact of this election and a small Paul Ryan halo, I tepidly endorse Mitt Romney for President. If he wins, though, I won’t be celebrating. Instead I’ll be laughing about how the most powerful man on the planet wears magic underwear.

(Polls here in Virginia open in four days, so there’s still time for you to change my mind – leave me a message to set me straight.)


1 comment:

Kevin said...

Vote for Johnson (that's what I did). Supposedly something about 5% of the vote gets the party in the next election's debates. Just something I heard. I wasn't going to vote for president at all...

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