I am an independent voter. A soccer mom in a swing state. My vote actually counts this year! And the phone is ringing off the hook with promises from both parties. The mailbox and front porch are stuffed with shiny leaflets. I am listening to NPR and reading my Newsweek cover-to-cover.
Yet, I find myself more and more confused as Election Day draws closer.
I don't know if any of you are feeling the same way, but I thought I would get some political advice from two of the smartest people I know.
Meet my brother, Micah, and his wife, Candice. They are beautiful, intelligent and intensely political. He tends to fall a little to the right and she is a bit more liberal, but neither are fanatical and I trust the two of them to help me see both sides of the election a little more clearly.
Do you see red like Micah? Or blue like Candice? (Or are you a little bit of a purple blur, like me?) Read on to see their thoughts on the presidential question...
#1--Candice, I know you have firmly decided on a candidate. Will you please tell us who, why and how you have been involved?
I am voting for Barack Obama. I first heard of him about five years ago when he was on Oprah. I know that sounds kind of silly, but I was really impressed by how eloquent and optimistic he was. I liked his enthusiasm about the opportunity we all have as Americans to make this country better. He said that he believes "the American people are decent people. They get confused sometimes because they get bad information or they're just busy and stressed and not paying attention. They've got their struggles and heartache, but they're basically good."
One year later, he spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I remember thinking, "I can't wait until this guy runs for President!" I wasn't sure about his stance on all of the issues, but I liked how he really wanted to elevate the conduct of our elected officials. He is also smart and humble. To me, the ability to recognize your weaknesses and utilize the expertise of well-trained advisors, along with having sound judgment is far more important than years and years of experience.
I also have opposed the war since it was first being discussed, and now that it has proven to be a complete and utter failure, I want to vote for whoever will end the madness the soonest. I want a president who sees his power as commander in chief as a tremendous responsibility, not the ability to throw the weight of the United States around the globe on a whim. Back in the primaries, Obama was ridiculed for saying that he would be willing to sit down with leaders of rogue nations like North Korea and discuss our differences. I say, it's far better to communicate and try to find common ground than jump head on into a war.
I have been volunteering for the Obama campaign ever since February. I was an Obama precinct captain at the caucus, an alternate at the Adams County Democratic convention, and I have gone door to door canvassing and made many phone calls. My volunteer work made me eligible to attend the final evening of the Democratic National Convention where I was able to witnesses Obama's acceptance speech. That was definitely a highlight of my life!
#2--Micah, have you selected a candidate, yet? What will weigh most heavily as you make your decision?
No. I am among the coveted undecided voters. When I am in the voting booth, I generally lean towards conservative candidates. However, this time around, I am disillusioned by the current administration and I am concerned that neither candidate can right the policies that I disagree with. My vote will ultimately go to the candidate that shows me his administration can best rectify the current economic disaster without raising my taxes.
#3--How have you educated yourself to vote responsibly? What news sources do you trust?
M: I try to stay on top of the current events by reading a few newspapers both locally and nationally. With my experience working in the news media, I do not trust any form of news reporting as they all love Obama. That said, I really liked to watch Tim Russert before he died and I find that I agree with George Will more times that not.
C: While I definitely believe that all voters have a responsibility to educate themselves about the issues, I also know that I don't have the time or the desire to read through the details of each candidate's platform. I primarily get my information from the Denver Post and MSNBC. I also listen to NPR on the radio. I know that the news media is often biased, but I just figure the best thing to do is to look to as many different sources as possible and make your judgment based on what you think sounds right.
#4--Much is made of vice-presidential picks. Do VP candidates affect your vote? Why or why not?
M: The VP candidates don't really affect my vote one way or the other. However, the selection process does indicate a candidate's judgment and strategy. I was disappointed that McCain selected Sarah Palin. I believe selecting Palin will prove to hurt his chances of winning the election. It reminds me of the selection of Dan Quayle as veep by GHWB. Like Quayle, Palin is not qualified to be a heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world. This choice shows me that McCain's strategy trumped his better judgment -- which is a shame with other solid candidates out there. Obama was smart to pick someone like Biden who has already been vetted and is not a controversial pick, except for the Hillary lovers out there.
C: Certainly the whole Sarah Palin phenomenon has brought the vice presidency into the forefront of this election. I haven't usually paid too close attention to vice presidential candidates because I frankly don't think the vice president wields a whole lot of power. However, this is an interesting situation when you have an older candidate who has had cancer and a vice presidential candidate who, in my opinion, is not at all qualified to step in if McCain were to be incapacitated. So, I definitely think that people need to take that into consideration when deciding who to vote for.
#5--In your opinion, what is our nation's greatest challenge? How can politicians make a difference? And what can ordinary citizens do to help?
M: The financial market meltdown and the nation's economy as a whole is the nation's greatest challenge. Both candidates understandably avoided this subject during the first presidential debate. The party of small government is making the decisions to take over financial institutions and take on their bad debt. It makes me sick to see the free markets run by a growing federal government.
To fix messes like this, politicians, once elected, need to get out of the "permanent campaign" mode and actually govern.
C: Boy, with the crazy banking crisis and the federal government's unprecedented bail-out package, I definitely think the economy is our country's biggest issue at the moment. I personally am not pointing my finger at Bush or any particular regulatory committee, because I think the U.S. economy is too big and complicated a machine to be influenced by any person or event. But certainly, whichever candidate is elected is going to have to have a team of extremely knowledgeable advisors to help guide us through this current challenge. I think what Franklin Roosevelt did during the Great Depression with creating jobs through the CCC and other work organizations was a daring, innovative way to combat the country's economic woes. I hope our next president is also willing to "think outside the box" and be brave enough to implement whatever strategies are necessary to help us avoid another economic crisis.
#6--How have you helped your children understand the political process? Do they have any insights?
C: Our kids have a limited understanding of the way our country's government works. I took my 10 and 8 year old daughters each on their own trip to Washington D.C. in the past two years, and that was a really fun, hands-on way to talk about the three branches of government.
My kids know that I am a strong supporter of Barack Obama (or "the rock" Obama, as my four-year-old calls him!), but sometimes they say they don't want him to win-- I think mostly to tease me! I hope that when they are old enough they will take an interest in the political process and want to vote in elections. But if they don't, that is their decision.
M: I try to provide my kids with an alternative to my wife's liberal point of view. The DNC was like Christmas around here. During the RNC, I had to explain to my family that we have a two-party system and that intelligent minds can disagree.
#7--Have you thought about what you will do if your candidate is defeated? How do you think disappointed voters can move past bitterness and get on with a new page in political history?
M: This election is not the choice between two evils. Both candidates have the potential to improve on the current administration's failures. Hopefully, all voters can unite behind their common ideals after the election and work to strengthen the nation. Besides, in four short years, we have the constitutional power to make a leadership change which is a testament to the greatness of our country.
C: I have already begun preparing myself if Obama isn't elected! I will be incredibly disappointed and I think the nation will be forfeiting a chance to have another truly great president. I think Obama has the potential to be one of the great ones, up there with Lincoln, FDR, and Kennedy.
But as one who voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry, I already am experienced in the disappointment of having my guy defeated!
At the end of the day, the United States of America is still the greatest country in the world. Whoever gets the chance to stand at the head of this great country has a tremendous responsibility and deserves all the respect that the office demands.
Well said. Thanks, guys! I still haven't decided...but this gives me a lot to think about.