My high school history teacher used to apply a heftily somber label to expressions of childish ignorance, frivolity or apathy. “You behave apolitically, dear”, she would disapprovingly utter to a pupil who did not know János Kádár from Gustav Husak or preferred watching Polish movie Sex-mission (Новые Амазонки) to the early Soviet foreign minister Chicherin’s biopic. (I recently made a play on this expression in my video address for her jubilee roast, which I am told elicited chuckles from a large number of my fellow alumni – all former recipients of the rebuke, no doubt.)
Fast forward twenty-some years, and “apolitical” very closely describes my attitudes towards the ongoing presidential campaign. No – it’s not ignorance on my part! I wish I was ignorant of the battle cries and ideological mud-slinging that currently takes place in both directions, left or right, but I am not. Instead, I find it really hard to take seriously.
Part of the reason is the customary realization that New Jersey, where my vote is counted even from overseas, is not a “battleground” state and will solidly vote Obama, no matter which lever I personally pull.
The bigger reason is that, being neither Republican nor Democrat and free of practically any ideological hang-up that characterizes either left or right, and knowing that I will not get my personal political views espoused by either of the candidates wholesale, I’ve long made up my mind on which candidate I’m going with. And no matter how much damning evidence there is on Obama’s faith or McCain marrying into money or Palin’s “scary” conservative views or Biden’s … hey, is he actually in this contest in some capacity?… I am decided and the noise just grates on my nerves.
My key political concerns are government size and taxes. I want the federal government to occupy itself only with tasks that cannot be dealt with on state and local levels, such as foreign policy, international trade, defense, but interfere little in individual private matters and areas such as education, healthcare, social programs, etc. I also do not believe that a high-earning individual should have a disproportionate tax levied on him.
On both of these points, I should be leaning McCain.
On the rest of political issues I side with Democrats more often than with the Republicans, even when my reasons for that are different than theirs. I am pro-choice, against death penalty, appalled by the attempts to teach creationism in schools, would applaud rolling back various “freedoms” originating with the Second Amendment, etc. But these get summarily outweighed by the two mentioned above.
You might say I am therefore prejudiced to vote Republican and you will be very close to the truth. Except, in the last two elections I did not vote for the Republican candidate. Bush-junior never looked to me particularly apt or suitable for the highest office in the land; I’d like to congratulate myself for foreseeing that his administration would end up one the most incompetent and horrendous in the history of the country, but truth be told, I just thought that he was not very bright, is all. In 2004, his opponent did enough to turn me off the idea of voting for him as well, so I left the presidential choice blank. In 2000, I actually voted for the then-future Nobel Prize winner, because in the absence of the executive check on the legislative branch (when both the Congress majority and the President come from the same side of the two-party system) – and vice versa – I saw potential ideologically-driven legislation as a greater evil than a President with staunch liberal views (whom I thought to be an ok presidential material on balance, despite his dance moves).
This year, the Democrats are sure to increase their majority in both the House and the Senate. But the staunchly liberal candidate would actually complete the single-party control of both government branches. This clinches the McCain candidacy for me. I view Obama in a largely positive light – and I think he would be a great leader – but he would have to run against someone less respectable to get my vote. No politician ever goes through a long career without making occasional bad choices, but McCain has done enough good things in his life to firmly tip the scales on the side of my respect for him.
Yet… I’ve lived the last two years abroad and I’ve seen first-hand the nosedive that American reputation took at the hands of the current administration. I do not know if somewhat uncharismatic McCain would be able to repair that; whereas Obama would generate near-universal goodwill towards the US the moment he was elected. For all the largely empty talk about “change” and “hope”, this change in attitude towards America would be an instant tangible…
Hey, maybe I do care. I just wish we could be done and over with the circus.
I started this post as a reflection on the excellent and detailed article by Jim Wright on which qualifications we should be looking for in a President. That I went on an entirely different tangent should not prevent you from reading Jim’s post.