Voting…the great equalizer

Thought I’d throw my two cents in on the upcoming presidential election. These are my views and my views only.

Most of us will never achieve the power and clout that will make us major players in this world or country. We won’t be big movers or shakers, we won’t be able to provide thousands or millions of dollars to lobbyists or organizations to make sure that our interests are being protected.

But we do have one thing that, on one day, counts just as much as George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, John McCain or anyone else in our country who’s allowed to vote does: Our Vote. No one can cast more than one vote (at least not legally), so on Election Day our actions count just as much as the next person’s. In this democracy that is the United States of America, the election process truly is the great equalizer. No one’s vote counts any more than anyone else’s.

But we each have to vote so that our opinion counts.

Special-interest groups will spend millions of dollars trying to sway voters to cast ballots their way, but that’s all they can do: try. In the end, they cannot force us to vote a certain way. We can vote however we want and keep our decisions to ourselves.

That said, I do have a few thoughts and opinions to share with you, based on my own, admittedly limited observations on life. And if you don’t agree, that’s fine. It’s your vote, you can do whatever you want with it.

THE ECONOMY

I’m concerned about the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor in this country. We hear about it all the time: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. (The person who most effectively brought this to my attention was Bill Bradley, way back in the 2000 Democratic primaries. I supported Bradley, who eventually lost to Al Gore.)

I thought growing up that being in the middle class meant you were doing pretty well, that you had a pretty good life. Well, that’s not happening. Many in the middle class are struggling, living paycheck to paycheck. One major health issue and you could be deep in the red, maybe even bankrupt.

It should be our government’s job to keep people from falling into this situation. Our government should be protecting us, helping us achieve success. I’m sure there are many different approaches toward making this happen. On one end we have the “trickle-down” economics, in which people at the top tiers of the economy get most of the money, and it then will trickle down to the rest of society, like water making its way down steps.

That’s what’s been happening, but the results are far from what was intended. Any trickle-down effect is far short of anything where the rest of society can benefit.

I recall thinking at earlier times in my life that I wouldn’t want to be taxed more if I were rich and successful, and I believe this is still a sentiment among many voters, that they don’t want to be taxed more if they do turn things around in their lives, but therein lies the problem. The system as it’s currently set up won’t even give you a chance at success, so you’re living a dream and a lie.

I also recall during my freshman year of high school a teacher mentioning how much late-night TV hosts earn. This was in 1989, and the number seemed ludicrously high to us students. We thought, “well, he should be well-off and happy about how much he earns, right?” No, our teacher said. His message to us was that no matter how much you earn or make, you will always want more. That’s just human nature.

And that’s why we’re at the point we’re at. The rich are getting richer, and they want to keep the money, at the rest of the population’s expense. The current economic crisis reflects this mindset. Wall Street was not regulated, and its players were allowed to do business in such a way that they could overinflate their numbers and make money quickly on the short term. No one thought about the long-term effects, and now we’re all paying for it. 

We need to change the system so that everyone gets a fair chance to succeed and be able to live a good, steady life. (Conservatives label this socialism, but that’s inaccurate. People should have the opportunity to achieve whatever they define as success, rather than everyone having to live with the same amount of “success,” as socialism would call for.)

But we should not live in a situation where one’s success depends on another’s suffering, which is where we are right now. We’ve got to level the playing field.

I realize that there will be those who will take advantage of such a system so that they won’t do any work and can still live comfortably. But there can be ways to minimize that and penalize such people. Right now we’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, where the richest are taking advantage of the system. And this hurts so many more people.

ABORTION

I don’t like it. I wish the option to have an abortion didn’t have to exist. But I think the best way to prevent anyone from having to make such a tough decision is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. That means sex education and advocating the use of protection. Yes, abstinence is ideal, but we’re human, far from ideal. So we need to offer whatever we can to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.

I would like to say I’m pro-life, but to me that also means providing all the help and assistance to help the babies and their families succeed, even after they’re born. And right now our country is a failure in this regard. A pro-life law right now would mean that the child and family would be left to struggle on their own, abandoned by the society that forced them to have the child. This scenario is incredibly shameful but true in many cases, and that’s why I am pro choice unless those laws governing what happens after birth get changed as well. It’s the lesser of two evils.

THE WAR ON TERROR

After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush’s initial actions had me rooting for him. Standing at Ground Zero with rescue workers, megaphone in hand, saying that “I can hear you” to the workers and to the American people, I thought that as horrific as this event was, it also might have been the catalyst to turn a man who at the time seemed to be taking a lot of vacations in his first year as president into the man who could bring our country together and lead it into this new, terrifying world.

For the first few months, I cheered him on as he ordered attacks on Afghanistan and began the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But then I heard about how the hunt was being outsourced to local militia, and the efforts eventually went stagnant.

Even worse, I began to hear the drumbeat about attacking Iraq.

When I first heard about it, I could sense that it was inevitable, that Bush wanted to go after Saddam Hussein. And the man I had been supporting and hoping would rise to new levels of leadership sank deep into a pit, taking our country, its resources and its emotions down with him.

Now, the Iraq War has no end, with no definition of what “victory” or even “completion” means. We’ve spent so much money there that could have done so much for our own country that is now in a financial and political crisis. And Bush’s vision, actions and policies have pitted the United States against the rest of the world, and U.S. citizens against each other.

NOW WHAT?

So the election is a few days away and we can choose between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Initially, I didn’t want either of them. I supported Bill Richardson. I liked his qualifications, specifically his executive experience as governor of New Mexico, his foreign policy experience as our United Nations ambassador and his experience dealing with the energy situation as the secretary of energy. These were qualifications I thought Obama lacked. And although I am disappointed Richardson failed in his attempt, I have grown to admire Obama, who will receive my vote on Nov. 4.

Maybe it’s because of Obama’s vision for the country and what it can be; that’s a vision I agree with. I don’t know if he’s got the experience and detailed qualifications to be as good a president as he says, but he’s shown an even keel and temperament during this election that I admire. That temperament, combined with his vision, are what won me over.

McCain was my top choice on the Republican side, and I do recall wondering if I would have a tough time choosing if he became the GOP nominee. But he’s become such a different person than the candidate I initially admired, changing his tactics and messages so many times along the campaign.

Experience has taken a back seat in this campaign for me. Obama makes a strong argument in that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have tons of experience, yet they played major roles in guiding this country to its sorry state.

I have heard the saying that sometimes you want to hire someone based on attitude and aptitude over experience. The experience you can learn on the job. The attitude and aptitude, those don’t change.

Another reason I’m voting for Obama is his minority background. I’m in the minority too. And I know that the percentage of minorities in this country is continually growing, so I think it makes sense that its leader should reflect that population and their collective mindset. (I supported Richardson for the same reason.)

But don’t think that I’m supporting Obama, or supported Richardson, only because of the minority aspect. I respect both these men and what they stand for. I’ve also been disappointed in some of their actions along the way: I was disheartened to hear that Richardson is a fan of SUVs. I felt a bit let down when Obama went back on his word to accept public campaign financing, and I’m tired of hearing about the McCain-George Bush connection.

However, I also find myself agreeing with Obama’s decision to not use public financing, because it makes sense for his campaign; his fundraising advantage is a big reason he currently has the lead, according to polls. And I do agree that the argument portraying McCain as an extension of Bush’s policies is a valid one. McCain only perpetuated this notion by filling his campaign staff with the same people who advised Bush.

Obama has proven he’s a master tactician when it comes to his campaign. He stuck with the main theme of hope and change, and his plans for the country have stayed consistent throughout the campaign. If he brings the same mindset and effort into the Oval Office, he’ll do a very good job.

Regarding his “elitist” label, remember that Obama grew up in a very modest, even unfortunate situation, and has since worked his way up the ladder, to the point where he’s on the verge of becoming our next president. McCain was born into a family of considerable wealth and status, and has lived a life of relative entitlement. He also left his first wife for a richer one.

One thing I’m very impressed with about Obama is his hugely successful grassroots fundraising network, based on thousands, probably millions of people donating relatively small amounts of money, not a handful of special-interest groups throwing big chunks of cash at him and expecting favors in return. This vast network of individual supporters and donors, to me, says that he really is the People’s Candidate, reflecting the People’s Values and sharing the People’s Concerns.

As for the whole “talking with terrorists” issue, weren’t we all taught in grade school that instead of fighting, you should instead try and talk things out rather than just continually fight and try to outdo each other? In the grown-up world, that would mean ongoing and escalating wars, which I do not want for me or my future children and grandchildren.

I think that a federal government that is controlled by one party will get a lot of things done. Depending on your views, you may not like what they get done, but they will accomplish things. Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress got a lot done those first six years of his presidency: They started unnecessary wars, drained our collective national budget and divided this country. The last two years, with a Democratic-controlled Congress (but not enough control to prevent filibusters), has more or less been a standoff that results in nothing getting done. With a Democratic president and larger Democratic majorities in Congress, a lot will get done, and I’m excited about that.

We’ve got to change the way things are going; each candidate has at least said that much. I’ve offered my thoughts on how I feel and what I’m going to do, and on Nov. 4 I’m going to act accordingly. My vote will count just as much as anyone else’s out there, and so will yours. Maybe that’s an empowering thought, maybe not.

But along with voting, I’ve felt compelled to write this. I don’t know if what I’ve written will change the minds of anyone who reads it, but I’ve at least said my peace. Thanks for reading.

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~ by davidllee on October 29, 2008.

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