The time has come once again for election projection/coverage/news to dominate the television channels I watch, the newspapers I read and the conversations I overhear. Elections are tomorrow. Fantastic. Suffice it to say that I do not consider this to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Disclaimer: if this seems disjointed at times, I apologize. I've been working on this post off and on for a while; hopefully it doesn't show.
My frustration with and general dislike of our political system is well documented (if you know me well, that is). I consider politicians to be sleazy salesmen of a product that does nothing but dig a deeper hole than we already find ourselves living in. The irony is that my frustration towards the system (as a whole) and its participants (by and large) leads members of either "wing" (some of whom I am aware read this blog, and to them no offense is aimed) to believe that I am a lackey for the other end of the political spectrum. No joke: some of my more conservative-Christian-right wing-Republican friends/acquaintances believe that I am a crazy liberal, while many of my liberal-Democrat-left wing-Bush hating friends label me as a hopeless right winger. This fact makes me laugh to no end. Oh, lest I forget, some of my Libertarian buddies find me far too big government for their tastes (more on that later). Regardless of who you ask, the same point resonates: rhetorictocrats (copyright to Xander) of every political persuasion view me as too far one way or the other to fit with their party...and fortuitously enough, I agree. Let's dive a little deeper.
Good ol' GOP, "the party of no". Meh. Media criticism aside, what issues are important to the Republican party? (Disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert on every issue. But I do have opinions, and that's the purpose here.) It seems like the issues and topics that the majority of Republicans care about most are the following: abortion, gay marriage, taxation, size of government, defense and environmental protections (or lack thereof). The two topics which seem to carry the most weight (by far) and create a prevalence of single issue voters are abortion and gay marriage.
In fact, the prevalence of single issue voters within the political right leads me directly in the opposite direction. Why allow a single issue (or two, or three) to dictate your voting habits? The odds are quite large that current laws with regards to abortion and gay marriage are unlikely to change; why not use your vote to find leaders you agree with on more pressing issues, such as defense spending, health care or tax rates for the middle and upper classes? But instead many Republicans vote (and even identify themselves) as single issue voters. Go figure.
Anyway, back to the specific issues.
First, abortion: many voters within the political right happen to be fundamentalist Christians, which leads to a strong moral opposition to the idea of abortion. While I do not fall under the fundamentalist umbrella (that is a conversation all to itself), I do have a moral opposition to abortion. A strong one, in fact. However, I disagree that the solution is to make abortion illegal. Rather, better educational opportunities and focus on family growth will lead to less abortions and a healthier society. Like we saw with prohibition in the 1920s, making something illegal doesn't make it go away. And besides, there are some scenarios (such as a woman who became pregnant after being raped or engaging in incest, or a situation where the life of the mother is in danger) in which I could not in good conscience make abortion illegal. Do I think it is abhorrent and terrible? Yes. I am in favor of limiting late term abortions as much as possible. If a consensus can be reached in the larger community about when life begins, I believe abortion can be limited to before that moment. While I believe that life begins at conception, that is not a belief I can force on others. Legislating morality is not the answer - which means that the core of the Republican party and I do not agree.
When it comes to economic issues, I find myself in many cases agreeing with the hard right. I would prefer that tax reductions be the catalyst to stimulate economic growth rather than government spending. I am a huge proponent of the free market and believe that a freer market produces greater market efficiency, but I understand the need for regulation to ensure that those in positions of economic power do not take advantage of the market as a whole (such as Enron, Bernie Madoff, et cetera). Let me take a break from the economy for a moment; I'll talk further about these issues below.
Gay marriage? I respond by asking a simple question: why not? The most interesting aspect of the gay marriage debate to me is the fact that most of the people against allowing it support full and equal civil right for gays in the form of civil unions...in the end, the argument comes completely for the sake of the "M" word. Bizarre. If you couldn't tell, I disagree with the notion that a single word is reason enough to hold back equal rights from a group of American citizens. Liberty and justice for all...except people different from me. That's how the Pledge goes, right? And unfortunately, often this stance on gay marriage is accompanied by a general hatred/dislike of the homosexual community...something that is blatantly unacceptable for a party that is dominated by religious fundamentalists.
Here is a short list of a few issues where I am in (general) agreement with most Republicans: the death penalty, gun control, the focus on building small businesses. I'll dive into these later. Now on to the enemy of the GOP: liberalism and it's champion, the Democrats. Hooray.
If the GOP is the party of no, does that make Democrats the party of yes? Perhaps. But often the things the left says yes to are things we as a country and as individuals simply do not need. However, the left is much more understanding of people and welcoming of diversity than the right, and the way the left approaches social issues reminds me a great deal of my own views. This section will be more general with regards to the issues I have already discussed, and details will be focused among other issues.
As I said before, I abhor abortion. Its existence is a black eye on modern society...but I don't think we can make it completely illegal. Does this make me pro-choice? I guess so, and therefore relatively liberal on the issue. Strangely enough, I am in favor of the death penalty as well...something I hold in common with many so called "pro-lifers" among the political right. I've never understood how a pro-life individual could choose one life over another - child or criminal - and while I value human life greatly, I don't believe (as I stated earlier) that legislating morality (abortion) or removing the ultimate deterrent (capital punishment) is the answer. I respect the fact that many people disagree with me, and in fact I likely agree morally with nearly all pro-lifers. My difference is one of government and legality, not preserving life and morality.
I also recognize and understand the need for a welfare system in this country to support those who cannot support themselves. Certainly there are those who take advantage of the system (as with any system), but the goal should be to shore up the cracks in it rather than seeking to remove it altogether. It always strikes my fancy when wealthy, upper class Americans start complaining that the system is working against them and that it is unfair for their tax dollars to go to help people less fortunate than them. Nevermind their advantageous backgrounds and the many breaks that have been given to them; I always laugh when hyper-conservative anti-welfare individuals begin chirping about "fairness". Its a term that they likely know very little about. If you couldn't tell, once again I fall on the liberal half of an issue. If conservatives would donate money to those in need, perhaps we could do without the welfare system. Admittedly, welfare is merely a band-aid covering a broken system. Yet for all their talk about replacing welfare with charity, I see little evidence of this actually happening. I wish that the Republican Party's arguments concerning welfare held up and that their solutions worked. Unfortunately, I see nothing to convince me that their answer is the right one; instead, welfare seems to be the only viable (while flawed) option to solve a systemic problem of poverty that pervades our society.
Hopefully I have made clear my unwillingness to be a part of either major political party. I refuse to even consider myself as conservative or liberal - moderate fits me best, in nearly every way possible. However, I do deviate from the political center in one important category: size of government. As time has gone on (especially in the last few years), our government has consistently grown larger and larger, spiraling out control with regards to spending, regulating and other action.
The bailouts (supported by both parties) were somewhat necessary, but not to the extent that they were passed. As has been noted in the past, those in Washington make sure to never let a good crisis go to waste. I could have done without cash for clunkers - all that program did was take car sales from Q3 and Q4 and move them to Q1 and Q2, rather than actually generating new sales (its more complicated than this, but you get the general idea). Can we please privatize social security? Say it with me: small government, small government, small government.
We require government intervention in order for our society to remain workable. Without taxation, the government could not provide us with defense, infrastructure, etc. The "TEA Party" individuals crack me up, failing to realize that we live in a country that taxes far less than in Europe or Canada, for example. Do you want highways and police officers to exist? Then stop complaining about being taxed. We can discuss the method of taxation - I am a major proponent of the Fair Tax system myself - but to simply cry foul about being taxed is absurd. Moving on. If there had been more stringent regulation on the financial industry, crises such as the Madoff scandal and the sub-prime mess wouldn't have happened. We need the government to act as a watchdog to protect investors and private citizens. I want market efficiency as much as anyone, and I agree/understand than regulation necessarily removes some measure of that efficiency, yet the benefits of (some) regulation greatly outweigh cons, as the dangers we expose ourselves to in an unregulated market can be immense and crippling.
To sum it up, I find myself leaning toward the Libertarian value of small government, but there are so many exceptions that I cannot commit to that party either. Some measure of regulation is necessary, and many Libertarians reject that premise. Fair enough, but it prevents me from calling them my own.
So, Where Do I Fall?
As I said before, I maintain a centrist political position, while leaning toward smaller government. I have provided a visual representation of where I exist on the political spectrum below. This came as a result of taking the political spectrum test over at www.politicalcompass.org; I highly recommend that anyone and everyone take the test and see where they fall. If nothing else, it's an interesting series of questions that will certainly make you think.
Regardless, politics as they exist today bother me to no end. I cannot wait for this political season to come to an end, and I am continually searching for a way to merge my own beliefs with the options presented by the current system. This is not an easy task, and is one that has me currently and constantly searching for a solution. Game on, Washington. Game on.
And so on...