(Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog here. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
Political issues that is! This post began its life as a comment posted over at Jim Brown’s Myspace1 blog, but as I started typing I got a little carried away (this can sometimes happen with me and politics) and it transformed into a big long post. But hey, more material for my shiny new blog.
What issues are important to me in the 2008 presidential election and who do I support? Currently I support and have donated money to Barack Obama’s campaign- and a group from the political discussion forum I frequent2 recently hitting our fundraising goal of $10,000. Now, only $50 of that was my contribution, but it’s still fun to be a part of that. Obama is not perfect however- he’s doing a good job of talking the talk, but walking the walk is going to be a long, hard road.
As a side note, I personally believe that if you want things to change that directly affect you, getting educated about local politics is the best way to do so, because while the president and congress get all the attention, the politics that really affect the average American go on right in your figurative backyard.3
Without further ado, the issues that matter to me in the upcoming election would be mostly the opposite of the Bush administration’s views- not just to be contrarian, they really do just fall on the other side of my views almost every single time, except for the philosophy of giving out tax breaks. They just happen to be distributing them in a way I don’t like.
It is important to me first of all to right the ship on our foreign policy, which has been a disaster, and end the politics of fear. Terrorism is a part of our world, and will continue to be that way for a long time- we cannot reduce our vigilance, but no ‘war on terror’ is going to address the root causes. I want a presidential administration that will do everything to keep us safe, but also set an example of not pandering to fear of terrorism to score political points. A president and administration that leads the country with confidence, not arrogance. One who can work within the boundaries of the law and civil rights, and restore Habeas Corpus4.
Of course, there’s Iraq. We’re in kind of a lose/lose situation here and it’s the guys on the ground and their families that are suffering right now. We need to start formulating a plan to get most American troops the hell out of there, but have forces nearby to assist in what the US Military is actually good at- striking quickly and with overwhelming force, rather than counterinsurgency. We cannot allow Iraq to become a new home base for terrorists (oh by the way the way Afghanistan is going we’re going to have to make that a priority there too). We need to have a plan in place for the huge refugee crisis that will result, but things are not going to magically get better. However, even if President Bush woke up tomorrow and had a change of heart and signed the order to withdraw, it’s still a long battle to be fought just to get all the troops out, not to mention the millions of tons of equipment that we can’t leave behind for insurgents and extremists to get their hands on. No matter what course of action we take as a country, it’s a long, long road ahead.5
Health care is another huge issue. Normally I’m for fiscal conservatism in the government, but the health care system in this country is approaching a crisis. Costs are skyrocketing every year with no end in sight, and no manner of band aid is going to stop it. We need a comprehensive solution involving a single payer system of health care to provide base (and especially preventative) care along with private insurers providing supplemental coverage. The costs reduced by a single payer basic system of healthcare would be enormous, so long as they can keep the bureaucracy in check, which is always one of the great challenges of large government programs. However, the longer we wait the bigger and more expensive this problem is going to become.6
On immigration I’m relatively ambivalent. Any large group of immigrants legal or not has faced a period of xenophobia and a backlash, and this wave will be no different- within a couple of generations they’ll assimilate and blend in and it’ll never be an issue again (until a new group of immigrants starts to flood in from somewhere else), that’s the great thing about America. Some effort does need to be made to at least come to a stopgap solution, however. These people add a lot of value to the economy and it would be hurt tremendously if the flow of migrant workers was suddenly halted. They are here illegally yes, but there needs to be some method maybe not of amnesty, but of at least opening a path to citizenship for people who just want to come here and work minimum wage and send that money back home, just like many other groups who came here before that a large amount of people in America are descended from. We do need to secure the border, but we need immigrant workers too more than most people realize.
On energy policy, we need to form both a pragmatic and hopeful solution. Oil is the biggest concern, as it is the cheapest way we have to easily have portable energy, and there isn’t a real replacement for that. We’re going to need to devote a lot of resources in this country and around the world to solving that problem, but given how infrastructure in America is built on the foundation of cheap oil, we’re the ones who need to take the lead, and fast. People also need to get over their fear of nuclear energy- it is by far the best option we have in the near term until solar, wind, and other new sources of power can be made effective, and we just don’t have the technology yet. Nuclear is here now, produces ridiculous amounts of energy, and modern nuclear power ironically releases less radiation into the environment than coal. Waste disposal is still a problem, but a much smaller one than not moving back towards modern nuclear energy soon. The Japanese7 and the French are absolutely killing us on this front- and if hypothetically some new battery technology is invented that allows for electric cars on the level of internal combustion ones today, where are we going to get the additional energy from? We have enough coal here in the US to last us a long, long time, but increasing usage is a bad idea, and not just because of pollution and climate change, which is an important issue to get on top of, but I’m not even going to bother getting into here.
My pie in the sky issue is ending the war on drugs8, one of the most wasteful programs in government. We waste so much money as a country investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating minor non-violent drug offenders in this country it’s offensive. I’m not much for drugs myself, because I know (and have seen) the destructive power they can have over people. But, no matter what you do, people are going to find a way to self medicate. You might as well de-criminalize it, regulate it heavily, and tax the hell out of it. Use a chunk of that tax revenue to fund programs to help people suffering from addiction. Prosecute violent offenders that are drug related just like you would other violent offenders that had nothing to do with drugs. Save billions of dollars, and cut out a huge reason for a black market and drug trade and all the violence that results from it to exist. Also, watch the Wire for a good dramatic representation of reasons that specifically is a good idea. That, and it’s the best show on tv by far.
There are many other issues I care about, but those are the big ones. In summary, no candidate is perfect, but the one most palatable to me is Barack and Roll Obama. Whoever is nominated, I hope it’s someone who will right the ship on foreign policy, roll back the authoritarianism, find a decent solution for health care, and generally be someone I can stand behind (Hillary does not fit into this category, even though I don’t find her too offensive policy wise, and I just plain don’t like John Edwards, he seems like too much of a pandering ass and not very genuine, but I would hold my nose and vote for him as well unless a Republican candidate surfaced more in line with my views, but right now this seems very unlikely). The rest would be a nice bonus, like reducing size of government and knocking off the nanny state crap. I plan on being wildly disappointed, but hey- I’m a political cynic.
Sometimes I flash back to just how much time I used to spend in the Something Awful Debate & Discussion forums every day, and man it was a LOT of time. These days my patience for the silliness of politics is very thin. (08/2013) ↩
This is very much still true. It’s also how we end up with a statehouse full of idiots and lunatics. But there are good people still doing great work on a local level, like my friend, former coworker, and current city county councilman Jeff Miller (08/2013) ↩
The Obama administration has been a mixed bag with this at best. In many ways they’ve doubled down on Bush era tactics in an unsettling way. (08/2013) ↩
This is also a mixed bag. Troops are almost completely out of Iraq but violence is exploding there again, but it gets no coverage because nobody likes to confront the evidence of just what a disaster the invasion was 10 years later. (08/2013) ↩
On the cusp of the affordable care act taking effect, it’s amazing that any steps were taken, but there’s still a long way to go on health care reform, who knows if anyone will be able to marshal the political will to continue reforms. The excahnges are a good start though, and the sooner we get employers out of the business of providing health care to employees the better off we’ll all be. Growing costs are still a huge issue though- although they have leveled off a bit according to recent data. (08/2013)↩
After Fukushima the likelihood of new nuclear plants is at near 0, even though it’s still the best compromise in terms of energy in the near term rather than burning the huge amounts of shale natural gas we have here in the U.S. The big problem with modern nuclear plants is they cost an incredible amount of money and time to get built in the first place. I’ve given up on that movement happening anytime in the near future.↩
Drug prohibition is still the biggest low hanging fruit we have in terms of domestic policy. Legalizing / decriminalizing marijuana use is gaining steam, but while there is a black market for any drug it’s going to create bad and counterintuitive incentives and continue to destroy poorer demographics.↩