calm down, people
Lord of mercy, the internets are mad at me. I had no idea any of you cared so much about my personal political preferences. Is this what it's like to be a swing-state voter? I don't really feel like I need to justify myself (this is a silly blog that 200 people read, for goodness sakes), but I was trained in debate, so it's an instinct to respond.
Let's consider a few points:
- I am not a Democrat. I lean liberal, but I am a moderate, independent voter. I have never been a member of any political party, and I almost always vote a split ticket. I have never voted in a primary election, precisely because I don't want to be a member of a party. (There was a Texas Democrat bumper sticker on my car for a year or two, but that was primarily just to be obnoxious concerning the 2004 election.) The Republican party scares me, but the Democrats strike me as often irrational and a little bit silly. That I am even planning to vote in the primary this year is a big deal for me, because it means I have to commit to being on their mailing list for the next four years.
- I NEVER SAID that a high level of enthusiasm among young people about the campaign or candidates is a bad thing. Do not accuse me of that. I teach hundreds of apathetic college students about our government every year. I spent a significant percentage of class time trying to convince my students that voting is worth their trouble. I am not one to discount the importance of their involvement in the political process, and I am glad that a higher-than-average number of young adults seem to be interested this year.
- I also NEVER SAID that I would not support a candidate because he/she inspired young people.
- What I did say is that I do not like being accosted while I'm chatting with a friend. If I say, "no, thank-you" when someone offers me a flier, it means that I want to save a tree, or that I already know about the event in question, or that I'm doing something else at the moment. I do not appreciate being delivered long lectures on the subject of how my undecided status means that I'm not fully participating in democracy, or that not voting for Hillary is a betrayal of feminism, or that Obama is the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ himself (or at least of Robert F. Kennedy).
- I know exactly what is at stake in this election, which is why I take this decision seriously.
- I do think Obama has good judgment on foreign affairs issues. And I appreciate Obama's work on the Congo legislation. But I also think there are some things that can only be learned through experience. And I don't want the office of the vice presidency continuing to be more active than it's supposed to be.
- As much as I think the Iraq war was a mistake (and it should be noted that, like Obama, I thought it was a mistake before it started), we're stuck there. That's why they call it a quagmire. Obama can't win the nomination without saying that he's going to get us out of there within sixteen months. I also think he knows that that it is virtually impossible for us to pull out in a responsible way. Iraq is not ready to govern itself because Iraq cannot secure its own territory. Setting a date for American troop withdrawal in late 2009 creates a classic exit dilemma. If we do that, extremists only have an incentive to stockpile weapons and wait for chaos to begin. Again, I think Obama knows this. The challenge of finding a way to exit the country that won't result in civil war and attempts at ethnic cleansing is immense. I want a candidate who will be honest about that challenge.
- I teach my students that nobody changes Washington. Any president who goes there with a promise of change learns very quickly that he or she is going to have to fight 535 other egotistical, power-hungry politicians to get anything done. The culture there is what it is. This is true by design. The founders set up our system to make it impossible for anybody to accomplish an agenda without considerable trouble. They wanted to encourage compromise, so they structured our government to force ambitious people to compete with one another. Because of that, no individual or group can really change the way things work in D.C. Believing this to be true does not make me cynical or lacking in hope. It makes me a realist.
- When I heard Obama speak at the DNC in 2004, I thought, "I'd like to vote for him someday." I really do like him. I would love to see an African-American become president. It would do so much to help our standing in the world, and it would show that the promise of America is open to everybody.
- I don't think that's enough of a reason to vote for anybody.
There. You can hate me if you want. The beauty of America is that we all get to think what we want to think and say what we want to say. Having lived in countries where that is not the case, I am profoundly grateful for the fact that we can disagree.