Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One Progressive's Dilemma

I am not a Democrat. I'm not sure since we started this blog if that was clear or not. I'm certainly not a Republican and I have never voted for anyone with an "R" next to their name in my entire 20 years (holy crap!) of voting.

I am a liberal. Or a progressive. Or whatever word we use now that hasn't been successfully demonized by the right-wing attack machine. I'm sitting here right now wearing a red shirt with the words "Godless Liberal" emblazoned across the front.

But I am no water carrier for the Democratic Party. They have been a major source of disappointment in my lifetime and by the time I reached my mid-twenties I got sick of them winning my vote because they happened to suck a little less than the other guys. And they don't always suck that much less, John Murtha is just as corrupt, if not more so, than Tom Delay ever was.

I have continued to vote for many Democrats over the years, the ones I felt earned it. But I have not voted for the Democratic nominee for President since 1992. And yes, so you can get your fist-banging on the desk out of the way, I did vote for Nader in 2000. I know you're probably still mad at me for that. So is my wife. But I lived in a state Gore won, so get off me.

This year, what do I do? The idea of voting for someone who could be the first non-white person to ever be the President of our country is very exciting to me. The fact that it is someone who is smart and articulate makes it all the more appealing. With our relationships with, well, everyone else in the world in the crapper, he just might be what we need right now.

But does he deserve my vote?

My vote is all I've got, it belongs to me and no one else. (Something that has always made me angry about blaming Nader was the claim that those were "Gore's votes" that went to Nader instead. Bullshit, my vote belongs to me until I give it freely to a candidate. Gore didn't lose my vote because he never had it.)

I've never been disillusioned about Obama, he's a major party's politician and I've known for a long time that his claims about not taking any money from lobbyists or corporate interests is, at best, a major stretching of the truth. The two biggest recipients of donations form the health insurance industry this campaign cycle have been Clinton and Obama.

But I know that there are things that need to be done to win elections in this stupid money-driven system that we have. And I've been at the ready to finally vote Democratic again.

But now I'm not sure.

There are a lot of red flags that are making this 38 year-old hear the voice of his 24 year-old self screaming at him to consider what he's thinking about doing. (Something I wish would have happened to John Kerry four years ago, I could have voted for the Vietnam era Kerry, the one who asked Congress how they would ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake.)

Obama has spoken about expanding programs that give tax money to faith-based organizations and supported the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Washington DCs gun laws, among other things. And then he gave his full support to a $700 billion giveaway to Wall Street without once trying to propose something that helps the economy from the bottom up, a phrase that he has used a lot but seems to only mean giving people a little tax cut and nothing else.

Certainly his health care plan is not as horrifying as McCain's, but it still keeps the power in the insurance industry and gets us no closer to the universal coverage plan that the majority of Americans want.

I am going to be a father before this election happens. What do I want to be able to tell my daughter? That I was one of the ones who voted for the first black man to be elected President or that no matter what I stuck to my principles and voted my conscience?

I don't claim to have figured out the answer to that question yet.

Do I want john McCain to be President? Good god, no. The very thought of that is disturbing, and even worse is the thought of him dying in office and this country being taken over by the court jester.

Admittedly, I have the luxury to be able to consider this. Obama is in no danger of losing New York. I have never had that dilemma during my other presidential elections either, always living in a state that the Democrat wins (IL in '92, WA in '96, IL in '00, MA in '04, the one exception in all my voting-age years was when Daddy Bush won IL in '88, and I voted for Dukakis that time).

Would I be having this argument with myself if I lived in Ohio? I doubt it. I absolutely prefer Obama to be sworn-in on January 20th over the only other legitimate option.

I just don't know if I can go in to the booth and pull the lever for someone I am not convinced is not just as beholden to corporate interests as McCain, Clinton and Bush.

I'm not even sure how good my other options are this time. Nader went off the reservation years ago and it is now about his ego and not building a legit third party in America. The Green Party, who had a great candidate in David Cobb in 2004, have nominated that crazy Cynthia McKinney, who talks a good talk about the working class but has shown she thinks she's better than them.

I'm guessing my only other alternative is to write-in Dennis Kucinich.

But I'm ready to be convinced either way.

I'm ready for someone to have a go at talking me down, much like Rachel Maddow does on her new show. I've discovered that we've got some pretty thoughtful and smart readers in this little corner of the blog world we created here. So if anyone is up to the task...

But right now, I just don't know.


Verdant Earl said...

It's not just your dilemma. Many of us face the same things.

I'm a registered Democrat living in NY (all my life) and I haven't voted for a Democrat in the Presidential election since the firt time Clinton ran as well. All because I knew that the Dems were gonna carry NY anyway, so why not voice my opposition to the mainstream? Gore and Kerry were just not my ideal candidates. Neither is Obama for that matter.

The difference this time around, for me at least, has been the past 8 years of the Bush administration. I just have reached a point where I can't take it anymore. It needs to stop and McSame is looking worse and worse in my eyes as the election rolls on.

While I don't consider Obama to be the perfect Democratic or Liberal candidate, I think he is our nation's best chance at healing the wounds we've inflicted upon ourselves over the years.

I'm voting for Obama. And I'm waking up real early to do it. Even if I do live in NY State.

JJisafool said...

I understand how you feel, Deni. I identify myself as progressive, but I also have a vicious practical streak running through me that is willing to take small steps toward a larger goal.

I was registered Indy for years, and only changed when I wanted to vote in primaries. I am continually frustrated by the bumbling of the major party that is closest my heart, and disheartened by the lack of alternatives.

The thing is, Obama in the White House is the right step, and might help us move forward more truly-progressive candidates in state and local office. And if we get enough into the system, maybe a few can make it through without being corrupted and emerge with the credentials to be a viable national candidate.

I totally get the idealism of the value of your vote. But, I think sometimes when we grow up we have to sacrifice a bit of idealism for a greater good. And it doesn't have to be a slippery slope. It isn't vote for Obama and suddenly your subscribing to Lieberman's listserv. The sacrifice of idealism is only worthwhile if you continue fighting for the bigger goal.

I find this problem come up a lot as a father. You have to let your kid live in the world, and that will mean idealistic compromise. You can be an atheist iconoclast at home, and at some point your child meets a Christian friend and joining the friend in activities is more important than daddy's ideals. Or you can eat local, organic and vegan at home, and the kid ends up getting a Happy Meal at a sleepover.

Would you rather be the kind of father that tells the kid who to be friends with, or the kind that allows an exception to the ideals to allow the kid freedom to self-realize?

I may sound pedantic or condescending, and I don't mean to, but I also have part of me saying "Your ideals are bruised? Wear a helmet. Life is tough and this is war."

Because that is what it feels like to me. A war, and an Obama victory might not end it for our side, but a McCain victory damn sure would, because I don't think I could believe in a country that would elect that ticket.

Anonymous said...

nice post. i really hope Obama can talk you down. guess we'll see.

regardless of who wins, the dilemma i see is once the election is over, everyone will go back to whatever they were doing before they started paying attention...and will stop paying attention.

ok, not everyone. but what is needed is for everyone who's learning, discussing and taking action now to continue to do so after the election. we can't keep waiting for the media outlets to report on what decisions are being made on our behalf, after they've been made. we need to stay on top of things, watch for opportunities and spread the word when public comments are requested...and definitely make our voices heard when they are not being requested.

i've never been active in politics and it's only been in this last year or so that i've really taken the time to learn and understand how things seem to work or not. yes we rely on the media to inform us, and on the 'experts' and those we've elected to get the job done, but they won't do what we want/need without us...and will drop the ball or take advantage sadly when no one's looking.

this country is huge and has a lot of issues that could be resolved over time if the people pay attention, get involved and stay involved. in the same way corporations/producers change based on consumer demand, government has to change based on its citizens demands. doesn't it?

talking is a start, sharing ideas and information. there is so much potential now through the blog world and i was thinking just today, i really hope the SEI blog doesn't end when the election is over. everyone is busy, but everyone needs to include how their country is being managed as part of their busy-ness. and those who have more time or are C-SPAN and research addicts (like me) can take responsibility for helping those who are busier to stay on top of things.

once Obama is elected, government actions can't be viewed as an "us and them" thing... it is an "all of us" thing...we will be responsible for Obama succeeding or failing.

the end. :)

Anonymous said...

I would love to be able to talk you down, but it seems you've made up your mind, and so I'll save my words and energy for another issue with another person. It is nice, however, that you have the luxury to vote your conscience, having lived in states which usually go for dems. All my life I've voted Democrat and have lived in Red states, so it's a bit of a different perspective from my end. In '00 I voted Gore/Lieberman while living in Palm Beach County, Florida, and you know how that fiasco went. Time and time again, in my 20 years of eligibility, I have seen my vote being swallowed up by conservatives; I have seen the states in which I resided at those times categorically go Red. It never dissuaded me from voting, knowing full well what was going to happen. As you can imagine, it was difficult to stand in line to vote, already knowing that the conservative ticket snagged the electors. It felt very much futile at times.

I would say that it's admirable to be able to vote your conscience, knowing at least the guy/gal you DON'T want to take your state, won't. I am not in that position. I am ecstatic that for the first time since 1976 my state is actually a battleground state. At least there is that for me. There is a 49-49 split in North CArolina, and for the first time in my life I feel as if my vote might actually make a difference this cycle.

I cannot talk you down, but I ask that you consider giving your vote to the Democratic ticket, despite the support for this atrocious bailout. In '04 Kerry managed to get the youth to go out, only the Evangelicals reared their ugly heads and came full steam and en masse. I don't much trust polls. In my opinion, the Dem. ticket needs every single vote this cycle. I ask you re-consider your position and realize that some of us have been fighting for a meaningful voice in this flawed government for two decades.

Thanks, and see you guys tonight live-blogging.

Joe said...

Deni, you know I'm right there with you on not voting Democrat reflexively. I've voted Green whenever I had the luxury of it and, like J.J., only switched back to being a registered Dem this year to vote in the primary.

If there was a third-party candidate who came close to actually earning your vote, I'd urge you to go for it since, like you say, there's very little danger of Obama losing NY.

But, third-party-positive though I am, I'm not seeing anybody out there I like well enough to vote for over a man with whom I may not necessarily agree on every tiny thing, but who I think has the ability to lead the country back to a place where the world and many of our own citizens can believe in us again.

Also, I'm betting our kids aren't going to give a shit who we voted for. They'll be too busy mind-texting their friends in the Moon Colony.

anna said...

deni, i was born and raised in new york city. my first presidential election was 1992, and at that point you couldn't pay me enough money to vote for clinton. i've never voted for one of the big two. not only did i vote nader in 2000, i campaigned for him! but at that point i lived in kennedyland, aka massachusetts.

my partner hails from kansas, which left him far more disillusioned about politics than my NYC radical/union upbringing. it takes a lot for him to feel at all inspired by any of the candidates who make it to the big stage. kucinich was always our first choice.

i mention my partner only because he is pretty enamored of obama at this point. the speech he made after rev. wright round one impressed him. and both of us raised our fists in solidarity when we heard the much-maligned "guns and religion" spiel, because as kids of working-class upbringings, we knew what he meant. neither of us think he is perfect or infallible, but for whatever reason my partner finds him inspiring. i haven't seen him this involved in politics or civic life in all the time we've been together. if this geeky mutt from illinois can get my surly better half up off his ass to get involved, surely he's got promise.

for this reason, i feel compelled to cast my vote for barack.

i also no longer live in a democratic stronghold. the county where we reside in southern oregon tips republican (dubya carried it in 2000 and 2004), and we live in a tiny respite from the sea of mccain/palin lawn signs. for the first time, i feel an urge to vote for a dem just to whittle away at the repub lead, or knock it down altogether.

Deni said...

I will say that I am truly heartend by the response to this post.

Not only has everyone taken it seriously, but I feel like the readers of our blog understand what I'm going through.

I will say, something I should have pointed out when I wrote it, that I am more than pleased that the Dems actually nominated someone I can pause and think about for a change.

I do believe that the Democratic party nominated both the ideal and the practical candidate for the first time in years. (If they had been thinking practical back in 2004, we would be talking about a McCain vs. incumbant President Richard Gephardt right now)

Props to all that reponded so far, it is nice to hear that I'm not the only one who has had to dig down and think about what is going on right now, and how it effects how they vote.

I just got home from a bar down the street and I think I truly came within a few minutes of getting beat up by a weird liberatarian drunk guy who called me a "four-eyed cunt mother fucker" that I needed the heartening of people who actually think.

I'm truly inspired by the fact that on a site that I thought would be just a place for three liberal guys to blow off steam has drawn in such thoughtful people trying to communicate on an honest level.

Anonymous said...

I'm writing in Stephen Colbert. California is going to Obama anyway.

Anonymous said...

Those are all excellent responses and they have given me enhanced arguments for my mother who is hell bent on voting for McCain. But I like to think of it this way--may be simple, but yet oh so true--if McCain wins and then croaks, Sarah Palin will become Madame President. Could anything be scarier? Madame President Palin.

Deni said...

And by "my mother" Melissa means "our mother."

Glad they could help Sis, hopefully you'll talk some sense into her.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a letter to some of my family and friends after learning of comments such as, "I'm voting for McCain because I always vote Republican." It's too long to paste in comments, but I also posted it here:

An Open Letter to My Friends & Family

I'm not sure that it resonated with those that it was intended to reach but I feel better that I said something and am hoping some will at the very least consider their kids and grandkids.

It is very cool to read all these responses. Smart thoughtful people win the day! (and attract blog readership)

Anonymous said...

What excites me the most about Obama is his energy plan.

I do think it's optimistic to think we could be free of foreign oil in 10 years, but who in 1960 really thought we could make it to the moon in 9 years?

What excites me is his willingness to invest large tracts of greenbacks in green technologies.

Let's face it, the Big Three Automakers blew it big time in the hybrid tech race, and now we are lagging in one of the essential technologies of the future. It will create jobs, stimulate investment in new companies and help us to become a leader again in something other than gun related deaths and military spending. Maybe there could even be a clause that stipulates any company that excepts government help has to keep manufacturing in the US?

It may be oversimplifying it to say this policy alone is enough for me to vote for him, but it's damn close.

Don't jump dammit.