Friday, August 10, 2012

Why a Real Independent Hasn't Decided Yet

There are a lot of partisans out there who are continually amazed when I tell them I haven’t yet decided who to vote for yet.  Mostly they can’t conceive of anyone not voting for their guy.  They made up their mind the second there was only one candidate with an “R” or a “D” after his name.  They have a habit of assuming I’meither stupid or indecisive. Occasionally, they perceive it as a form of arrogance, as if I relish the fact that I will be one of the few who truly decides the election.  They just don’t understand non-partisan voting.  It’s about who screws up my life the least.

Neither candidate is particularly impressive.  The president’s results are lukewarm, at best.  Admittedly, he inherited a handful of trouble, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have done better.  The other seems the better one to produce jobs and spur economic growth (he used to do it for a living, sort of), but he has some serious communication issues.

If neither is an obvious winner, how do I decide?  Campaign commercials are…not the way.  Every campaign commercial these days is a pack of lies, or at best half-truths. Even the ones that are approved by the candidates.  I found it strangely comforting when the candidates were required to approve their own commercials verbally.  Even the most powerful men in the world can be forced to jump through regulatory hoops. I once thought that would make a difference and result in more honest ads.  But even the ones they approve seem like brazen political hackery.

Lately, there have been several dubious ads, such as Romney killing a woman with cancer by taking away her insurance when her husband lost his job and Obama claiming that no one builds their own business. Except that the woman lost her insurance when she lost her job, not when her husband lost his and that Obama was talking about roads and infrastructure.  Fortunately,facts are unnecessary to the country’s political operatives.  Context is for wusses.  They gleefully chop up sound bites and feed them into the boob tube for all to see. Then pundits repeat the pre-chewed nonsense for all to hear.

I could always go see a candidate at a campaign stop.  If I could find parking.  Screw that. So I’m forced to watch the highlights of the campaign on the news.  Sadly, these highlights are just as mangled as the campaign ads.  So that’s no help whatsoever.  Woe is me, what to do?

At this point, I’ll wait for the debates.  Two titans will face off in the field of honor and one will be found worthy and the other will be found wanting.  If only. More than likely, two old guys will wonk out for a few hours, and one will be found slightly less wanting than the other.  I won’t pretend that I’ll see the unvarnished truth; I know how much prep goes into these debates.  But at least I can see everything, and not have to deal with some sound-bite, chop-job ad or news report.  Hopefully that’ll be enough to make a decision.

I’ll be looking for two things: economic policy and foreign policy.  Economic policy is more immediately important, but the stakes are lower.  When economic policy fails, people are unemployed.  That’s not fun; I’ve been there twice.  But when foreign policy fails, wars start.  Romney is stronger on the economy, but his foreign policy is disturbingly hawkish.  I’ve had enough of that for the time being.  The president is stronger on foreign policy, but hasn’t produced economic results.  So the decision will ultimately be about who is more likely to make the economy grow without starting any more wars.  We’ll see how that works out.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter that much who wins.  Despite what the pundits say, the fate of the country isn’t on the line, because the president doesn’t decide that.  Not by himself, anyway.  The government’s impact on my life is minor to moderate.  It paid for my education (and now I pay interest for it) and it provided unemployment payments.  It also takes taxes from me, so I don’t feel like I owe it anything for the loans and unemployment checks.  Most of what I have came from my own hard work.  And the direction of Americais determined primarily by the work of ordinary Americans.  Good governments can accentuate that, and bad ones can detract from that.  It is very unlikely that one will be so bad that it destroys that.

Even if the person we elect is truly horrible, I’ll keep in mind that the vote is the weakest weapon in the arsenal of democracy.  If the president does something I don’t like,I can get out in the street, write a congressman, sign petitions, or even blather on endlessly on a blog.  I can give a president power with a vote, but I can take it away if he annoys me.  I don’t have to wait for the next election; I just have to make noise.  So I’ll see who does best in the debates and vote for that guy. And if I guess wrong, I’ll start raising hell.

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