This blog began as a personal, fun project to help me lay out my thoughts on the 2012 presidential campaign. It turned into a lot of research and an understanding that no matter how much time you have on your hands, it is not possible to do a thorough job of researching all the issues. That’s obvious but there’s nothing like reality hitting you in the face to make it sink in. It is also the reason politicians use sound bites that sort of mimic part of the truth but are never completely truthful. They rely on the fact that there is too much to check and analyze and use the sound bites as short hand for very complex issues they never really address.
So how does one decide? I propose a three-part analysis. I began with a list of issues and intended to compare each candidate’s positions on that list. That is helpful but not sufficient. It is based on the assumption that all important aspects of the decision can be quantified in some way. Nope. This is real life.
We can also look at the candidates’ broad directions. In this election, that would mean socialism/responsive government versus corporate control of government/individual freedom. You get to choose which part of each pair based on your preferences.
The third part is character. Do you trust the candidates? That is, trust them to behave in a way that is best for the country and lead at least generally in the direction they ran on? We elect a president, not a dictator. They do not have the power to do many of the things they claim in their campaigns. They have to manage the relationships with Congress, the public and other countries but they cannot single-handedly end a recession, repeal legislation they don’t like or create world peace. It is their character that predicts how they will manage these relationships and what they will do when the glow of the campaign and election are over and the frustration of real governing hits.
Economy – deficit – jobs: Marginal win to Romney if he uses his positions as a starting point and negotiates toward the center. Reducing taxes does not create jobs but the tax code needs to be restructured. I trust him to at least broach that topic. Also because he has developed a plan (that won’t work as written) to reduce the long-term debt. At least he has one.
Foreign Policy: Marginal victory to Obama based on experience and results.
Healthcare: ObamaCare has significant flaws but I think the right approach is to fix the flaws instead of trying to start from scratch. I don’t believe a Republican administration would initiate a healthcare bill. Advantage, Obama.
Education: Draw. Both talk a lot about the importance of education but I don’t understand either of their positions very well.
Supreme Court: Wow. Big deal. There could be up to three appointments in the next term. I’d rather have liberal justices. They are less likely to take rights away from us. They are much more likely to create new ones like Miranda that protect individual rights, even if we think they go too far. Conservative courts are more likely to create rights for non-voting, non-citizen, non-entities that may not even pay taxes (Citizen’s United). CU has the effect of increasing corporate rights at the expense of diminishing individual rights. I’d rather keep or extend my individual rights. Big business, big labor and big government have enough power.
Social policy, Science, Environment, Energy: I’ll put these together because as a group they have the same answer. Obama wins. The Republicans have become the anti-science party. We can’t create world-class education policies with a government that chooses which scientific theories they will believe. The Republicans’ don’t want the government choosing winners and losers in industry but they have no problem choosing winners and losers in the most open and free market in the world – thought and experiment, i.e., science. The environment and how we balance it with energy policy relies as much on unbiased science as it does on public policy. If there is going to be an imbalance, it needs to be on the side of the environment because we only have one. Still, there needs to a working acknowledgement that both are important and need to coexist. No environment, no energy!
Direction – Philosophy
This is actually fairly easy. I’ve said before that the president is a very caring guy but put too much into his signature legislation. He should have angered more of his base! He recognizes that the debt needs to be fixed but doesn’t seem to see it as a very high priority. It needs a long-term plan and there is no reason he can’t push a short-term stimulus in the context of a long-term deficit reduction plan. He needs to be forthcoming on entitlements. Romney wins the direction points for me.
The character issue then is when things begin to break down, which way will the president jump? Will he lean toward the center or collapse on his base? We know Obama angered a lot of his base by not pushing for a larger stimulus, not having a “public option” in ObamaCare and not getting out of Afghanistan faster. He has a track record. Romney has been the Massachusetts Moderate, the Severe Conservative and in the recent debates has become Moderate Mitt again. His track record looks like seeking what he needs at the time to get what he wants. That works pretty well in business – you get rewarded for making your boss look good (or at least making him think you did) or for making the shareholders wealthier quarter over quarter. It is largely short-term perceptions that get you ahead. In politics, it leaves the electorate confused about who you are and what you will do when the congressional sausage factory hits the fan.
There is another character issue in this race that is equally important to me. That’s the character of the Republican House. Did the Republicans sandbag Obama in the first two years? They were very public about it in the second two. If so, then they deliberately gave the Democrats a free hand to construct policies without restriction. If they had tried to cooperate instead of obstructing, they may have been able to come up with some compromises that made the stimulus and ObamaCare better bills. If they were obstructing merely to make him look bad, I cannot give my vote to their representative. I won’t have my vote hijacked by Congress because they think it won’t matter, that everyone will forget.
Those are my factors and my process. If there are any undecided’s reading this, maybe it will give you a process for your decision.