A Look at the Primary Candidates

Super Tuesday today. Did you vote? I haven’t talked much about the primary race. The point of my blog is to discuss principles, not politics per se. But today, why not? Here’s my take on the current field.

It should come as no surprise that I am not particularly fond of any of the Republican candidates. I’ve come to the conclusion that Mitt Romney is probably the worst of the bunch. His economic views clearly and unsurprisingly favor the interests of executives over workers. From defending the spurious War on Terror and even the use of torture, to engaging in religious discrimination against Muslims, to blurring the Church-State division in his ballyhooed speech, to his “plague” of illegal immigration, to misrepresenting the doctrine of our faith, I find Mitt’s campaign embarrassing. Some claim he hasn’t truly drunk the conservative kool-aid, but is merely pandering to the base of his party in an effort to win. In my opinion, neither possibility impresses me.

I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries. At the time, I was impressed by his integrity. He recognized the corruption which tends to become rampant when big money becomes entrenched in electoral politics. He fought against pork from both parties. He understood the need to protect the public from corporate interests. He seemed to take environmental issues seriously. He spoke out against the way the agenda religious right dominated the Republican party. His conduct since 2000 is less admirable. I was disenchanted when he chose to kiss Jerry Falwell’s signet and by his shamelessly grandstanding 2004 Republican convention speech. Absolutely nauseated by the belligerence that has marked the U.S. political landscape since 9/11, I find the strong hawkishness of his foreign policy views very tiresome (however, Bob Scheer strongly insisted on the most recent Left, Right, and Center that McCain had done more than any other individual to tame defense spending and prevent even more rampant militarism over the past few decades). All in all, I’m no longer so convinced of his maverick integrity as I once was.

For much of his campaign, Huckabee was probably the least odious of the leading Republicans. He seems to take social justice more seriously than most Republicans. His talk of a more “humble” foreign policy sounds closer to a moral international road. I warmed to his candidacy. Then he had to go all Pat Robertson in his campaign, talking about amending the Constitution to fit God’s standard. Sigh.

For what it’s worth, I could be reasonably happy with Ron Paul. I’m not a libertarian, but I think radical libertarianism would be a lot better than the current corporatism and militarism suffusing the Right. Too bad Paul forgets that libertarianism includes support for the Church-State separation and reduced government interference in social issues.

Then there is the Democratic side. The candidate I truly want is Dennis Kucinich. This is a man who stands for strong liberal principles, and who has a long record of integrity. Alas, he is no longer an option. Watching his vain efforts only reconfirms my belief in the need for multiple parties and my 2000 support for Ralph Nader. Kucinich’s campaigns the past couple elections prove that it is impossible for liberals to get traction in the Democratic party. As long as they work within the party, they will be marginalized and ignored, their perspective unheard. By running outside the two-party system, Nader was able to make a liberal agenda part of the national discussion.

The Democratic race is a historic race, which will end with either our first woman nominee or our first black nominee for president in any major party. But just because either candidate would be historic does not mean that either one would be equally acceptable. I want real change in Washington. Clinton is tightly bound to corporate America. She has proven herself just as willing to play the hawk as any Republican. She never hesitated to believe the lies about Iraq while it was politically expedient to do so, and continues to adopt a conservative tough cop attitude towards Iran. For crying out loud, Ann Coulter has insisted she might endorse Clinton. Does this sound like change to you? Yes, a Clinton administration would be better than what we have now. But let us not kid ourselves—that is not a high bar. With ever escalating world tensions, a precarious economy, and a society increasingly stratified between those who have raked in the rewards of our economic structures and those who are bear the costs, we need something more than a return to the Nineties, a time when the president from the putatively liberal party frequently compromised the public interest for the sake of corporate patronage.

That leaves Obama. I’ve tried to avoid getting caught up in the Obama hype. There has been no doubt since I first heard him speak during the 2004 Democratic Convention that this is a dynamic speaker, a man with incredible charisma. But I’m wary. Bill Clinton was a charmer as well (remember the sax on Arsenio?). It takes more than charm to make a great leader. Do his words mean anything, or are they simply empty promises? Will he stand for the convictions of which he speaks? When he talks about bringing people together, does he truly mean developing a shared vision, or is he talking about polling and triangulating to determine the most politically opportune path? His short political career cuts both ways; we don’t see any real skeletons in his closet, but neither do we see proof of his commitment to principle.

Ultimately, I have to trust my instincts. I get the sense that Obama is sincere, and while his platform is not as liberal as I’d like, he represents the best chance for a move toward a morally sound platform of any of the candidates.

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14 Responses to “A Look at the Primary Candidates”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I really liked Kucinich’s ideas too – I do think his presence allowed some of those issues to come to the table in the last few years. I think he has been able to pull the party a bit farther left (not as far as I’d like though)…. I ended up voting for Obama too. I think Obama would do a good job and I think another Clinton in the White House does not mean progress. (between the Bush regime and the Clinton regime, other nations are wondering how we can call this a democracy) I think we need a new leader and new direction.
    My view of the Republican candidates: I’d take any of them over GWB! I noted that all 3 major R candidates seem more, um, centrist, on certain issues. (trying to all look like a genuine conservative but patchy records) Maybe that party is moving left too?? what do you think?

  2. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I voted for Obama as well, for the same reasons. I think the potential upside is huge. I see no need as of yet to compare him to Bill Clinton; we knew about quite a few skeletons in the closet when we elected him, and as you mention, Obama looks to be a man without any known vices (aside from smoking, which he has spoken very frankly about and making a public attempt to quit).

    I’m not particularly a fan of Romney, but I’m getting a little tired of liberals pointing out a supposed contrast between “those who rake in the rewards and those who bear the costs,” as if workers are stuck in a time and place where they have no opportunity to get ahead. I admit bias on this, and I am coming at it as a small business owner, where you likely have in mind the more sinister “evil corporations”. Even so, as much as there is wrong with corporate America, those at the top have much to lose, and not all corporations, or even the majority, fit the stereotypes.

    I also have mixed feelings on multiple parties. Leaning libertarian on a number of issues, I have had your same exasperated feelings when there are only two points of view represented. But looking at the Parliamentary style of government in other countries, it may not be a good change. If you think we’re gridlocked, look at Italy, for example.

    I have to toot McCain’s horn a little bit. I’m not supporting him for President, mostly because he’s a career Senator and I’m pretty anti-incumbent, but the man does have integrity. There is no reason for him to be hawkish on the war other than he believes in it, and I strongly feel that if he’d been our Commander-in-Chief during the past seven years, he would have been far more prepared, far more diplomatic, and run a much more competent war, without the embarrassing rhetoric of the Bush Administration.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Aaron, I don’t think all corporations are evil (only the big exploitive ones). Some businesses give employees excellent opportunities. But the tax law has tilted towards big business for the last few decades, not to mention many local laws and codes.
    I think that the current USA income gap/inflation over the last 30 years speaks for itself regarding “those who rake in the rewards and those who bear the costs”. I don’t blame the small business owners for this, as they too have often fell victim to the mega-corporations. We need more small, successful businesses to keep the economy vibrant, unique and responsive to local needs/markets.
    And yes, McCain would have handled things better than Bush has, no doubt.

  4. cynthia Says:

    I am in the great state of Idaho, it was pretty great to have Obama come to Boise and the turn out was great. Although I wasn’t there in person I was able to watch him on t.v., he was originally supposed to go to Utah but because of Pres. Hinkley passing, out of respect he chose to go to Idaho instead.
    What an impact he made of the voting that happenend last night. The greater majority of democrats voted for Obama, I attended my first democratic caucus and I have to say it was great. To be in the same room as many democrats and liberals was invigorating. I have promised myself that I will attend more functions where I can meet and mingle with more than just my conservative republican husband.
    Like you it was hard to choose someone with the same ideals as me, and I did vote for Obama. I sure wish that Dennis was still in the running. It seems to me that LDS people are voting for Romney because he is LDS also, when they really don’t look at him and his views and take that in effect when casting their votes. I do not want him representing me as an LDS person or as President of the U.S.

  5. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Jennifer, tax law does provide a lot of loopholes for corporations. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. If I’m providing a ton of jobs, and having to be responsible for a slough of other things, there ought to be rewards from that. I’m not sure people can appreciate how hard it is to run a successful business, no matter what the size, especially when they are being taxed to death. And I don’t know why people are so angry about the growing gap. The poor are much better off than they ever have been before, but they complain because the rich have continued to get richer at a faster pace. I don’t discount their struggles (and in fact my business is just now starting to really provide a living), but it seems that in this country a lot of our complaints are that we can’t afford to go out to eat seafood, or get cable, when so many in other countries are having their families slaughtered and there is nothing to eat. If you want to move ahead, there is more opportunity to do so than one person can possibly get involved in. Opportunity is everywhere. Four years ago while finishing up at USU, or even two years ago, I would have never considered being self-employed (in fact, I would have run away from it), but I really don’t believe that anyone is locked into a life of poverty in this country. It takes a major shift in thinking and certainly as followers of Christ we can and must do better to help people in need, but most often it’s our own attitudes, self-deceptions, and pessimism that prevents us from being our best.

  6. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Jennifer, I wish Kucinich had been able to influence his party and bring liberal issues to the table. But I really don’t think he was very successful. The supposedly MSM almost completely ignored him. He was never really covered by any mainstream news organization nad he got hardly any time at the debates (when he was allowed to participate at all). The mainstream of the Democratic party was able to essentially ignore him, unlike Ralph in 2000. It isn’t Kucinich’s fault, but he was almost entirely impotent in the campaign.

    Have the Republicans become more centrist? The Time article to which I linked on the page about Romney’s concession suggests they have. But I’m cautious about believing their more centrist talk. I remember a lot of talk from Bush during 2000 about his “compassionate conservatism,” and look how he governed.

    And you’re right, Jennifer, its pretty funny how often the small businesses on which corporations routinely stomp are sympathetic to the corporations. Is it the Stockholm Syndrome, or is it that they hope to grow up to be just like them?

    Aaron, I agree that there is no reason to believe Obama is like B. Clinton; I was just urging caution by raising a similar trait (charisma).

    There are plenty of other Parliamentary systems which have much less gridlock than Italy.

    I have in mind several posts regarding the serious moral and social consequences of corporate capitalism, as well as the rising inequity between those at the top and everyone else (of course, I have thirty or forty posts in the que, and a real life to boot, so be patient;). For now, I’ll say only These: while in theory there is opportunity for anyone to get ahead, the reality is far from ideal—and defending inequity on that theory of opportunity is suspiciously remniscent of the conservative criticism of Social Justice. Secondly, you readily admit that those at the top benefit more than those at the bottom (“the rich have continued to get richer at a faster pace”). How can it possibly be considered just for those who contribute the most (blood, sweat, tears, and even lives) benefit the least from the fruits of their labors? Without question, an unethical situation. Are corporations sinister? They may not nefariously want to hurt you and I, but their goal is not our well being; rather their one and only goal, based on their very structure is to increase profits by any and all means possible. That means that what is good for them will be at odds with what is good for society, and so their should be some oversight and accountability to keep their destructive power in check.

    Good to hear from you, Cynthia, and I’m so glad to hear that you were able to participate in the caucus! Sounds like it was a great experience, and I’m glad you were able to network with some like-minded people. I hope you can continue. And I agree with you entirely about Romney.

  7. jennifer Says:

    Yeah, Derek, talk is cheap – we’ll have to see the walk regarding “centerist” Republicans. I know a lot of conservatives are upset about the primaries and are threatening to either “stay home in November” or “move to Canada if Hillary gets elected” (my personal favorite threat ; – )

    Aaron – you don’t understand why people are so angry about the wage gap???????? Look at 30 year or 40 year trends for:
    worker wages (fairly stagnant)
    benefits/pensions (hard to find, not stable)
    tax law changes (favoring large corp. at everyone’s expense)
    CEO/upper management compensation (up from 40% to 400% of typical worker’s wages)
    cost of housing (up astronomically)
    cost of health care ( ” ” ” “)
    cost of transportation (up a 300 to 500% easily)
    cost of college education (spiraling in similar fashion)

    Opportunities just ain’t what they used to be when you study the larger trends for American families. The seeming state of well-being for the poorer classes is largely due to a) easier credit, which was formerly only available to the financially well-established and b) various safety-nets which aid the most vulnerable. It is NOT because of their paychecks. Minimum wage has gone from about $3.25 in 1983 to a whopping $5.75 or whatever it is now, and has kept wages artificially low. The influx of immigrant labor has also kept wages low, as we all know. See Derek’s post on capitalism and labor for more about this.

    Aaron, I’m glad that your business is going better this year and I wish you every success. We too have a small business and it has struggled. But things tax laws are really stacked against individuals and small business owners, due to large corporations paying only a tiny fraction of taxes they used to pay a few decades back (not to mention large corp. abilities to influence local codes and other laws in their own favor)…

  8. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Bingo, Jennifer. Real wages (ie, adjusted for inflation) for the average person have declined for years, while executive pay has skyrocketed. And the big corporations supposedly being “taxed to death” are in reality getting all sorts of subsidies and tax breaks–subsidies and breaks your local small businesses don’t have the leverage to get. The deck is stacked decidedly in favor of those who already have–a situation completely opposite of the call to care for the least of these.

  9. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Whoa there, horsey. I remember you (Jennifer) talking once or twice of some of your family’s struggles, and I was afraid I might step on your toes. I’m not saying all is right; just that there is so much opportunity out there. And no, I don’t want to grow up to be like Wal-Mart or any of the other slimy ones, just in case your comment about small businesses defending the big boys was directed at me. Look at some other statistics: home ownership is at an all-time high, small businesses are thriving (despite what many naysayers will tell you, they don’t all get put out of business; those who do often refuse to change with technological advances and other business trends). And most statistics will show that the working poor have a better life than they did 25 years ago. And not many adults are working for minimum wage, so that argument just doesn’t fly. Wendy’s in Kaysville is starting kids out at over $7 an hour, for goodness’ sake. Most of the people making minimum wage don’t need a living wage, and it’s not government’s job to say how much I can pay some 14-year-old or anyone else.

    I wish you good luck too, and hope business is spectacular for you. Out of curiosity, what do you do?

  10. Cameron Says:

    The top 1% of Americans earn 19% of the total income, but pay 36.9% of the total tax. In contrast, the bottom 50% earn 13.4% of the income and pay only 3.3% of the total tax.

    The top 0.1% of US earners make 9.1% of the country’s total income. However, they pay 17.4% of the total taxes.

    This, according to the Treasury Department.

  11. jennifer Says:

    True, few adults do minimum wage jobs, but you can see that the min. wage stagnation keeps everything else stagnant too, ditto the immigration problem??

    Home ownership is high, yes, but that goes back to the availability of credit I mentioned before. I think that the working poor are saddled with more debt than 25 years ago, often from predatory lenders. I’m not sure that means that they are better off. They just have better living conditions. Their economic situation may be more precarious or less stable. Many of them borrow money for basic living essentials such as food and gasoline.

    No, Aaron, I can’t picture you becoming one of the culprits in the big corporate world. Small business owners are not to blame in this.
    My husband’s line of work is obscure professional skilled labor -he works full time (but for a small family run business that offers no benefits, but because it’s a specialized industry with few competitors). His self-employment portion allows him to subcontract and freelance the same services using his own equipment for friends, students and colleagues. We both do other part time self-employment work aside from that, which we have claimed on taxes for many years. Between all of it, we earned maybe an extra $9000 dollars last year, which is a lot of money for us.

    You’re not stepping on toes, but thanks for the consideration. I’ll let you know if you do 😉 I don’t have grand financial plans for my family – I want basics and to do worthwhile work in the meantime.

  12. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I should clarify, Derek was actually the one who made the comment about small businesses feeling the need to defend corporations, not you. I am comfortable in my own skin and feel no need to defend evil (which I know exists in some of the big corporations). I just know how hard a game business is, and get a little tired of people who act as if the wealthy have all been handed everything and must be slimy because they are protecting their money. I have a real problem with the waste that goes on in government, and acting as if it’s actually their money. That’s all.

  13. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Cameron, the only issue of taxation we mentioned regarded corporate taxes, not personal. But a progressive tax rate is entirely just.

    Aaron, Home ownership is indeed up. The average debt to savings ratio has boomed over the past few decades as well. And I recall hearing something about this subprime lending problem lately. Hmmm…

    Thriving is a very questionable term to use in regards to small businesses, but that too will eventually be the subject of a post, as is the life of the working poor.

    If you feel no need to defend the evil which exists in many, many corporations, of which we hear more evidence each and every day, then why persist in doing so? Again, the one and only concern of corporations is maximization of profit. That alone should give us reason for suspicion and caution in dealing with them. Put their enormous resources into the equation, and it is imperative that we use the power of our servant, the government, to restrain them.

  14. Aaron Orgill Says:

    You’re combining two very distinct issues here. I am not persisting in defending evil, I am questioning people’s idea of what is “fair” to pay in taxes. Yes, be suspicious and cautious in dealing with corporations. But don’t give me this crap about how they don’t pay enough taxes. Cameron gave some very telling statistics. But with many on the left, it will never be enough. They expect the big dogs to pay more and more, and like it. That is a separate issue from the evils we see from a number of them. Most of them do serve a public need. Even Wal-Mart, which I absolutely hate.

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