As Political A Post As You Are Likely To See

I am a conservative and I will be voting for Barack Obama. Here’s why (sanitized behind a cut-line so as not to get in the way of your zombies and warhammer posts!):

Foreign Policy: I admit it – I’m a foreign policy wonk and history nutter. I have a bit more of an interest in such things than most, which does shade how I view the various candidates, and also means I have a bit more authority (even if self-granted) to comment on this than other issues.

John McCain would, at first blush, appear to have the more serious foreign policy credentials. However, almost every statement he has made on foreign policy issues has been reckless and, well, ignorant. His constant attacks on Barack Obama’s willing to “meet with dictators without preconditions” is silly. Of course one would hope America deals with our enemies using diplomacy.  That is, after all, how countries interact. It does not mean going off to Teheran hat in hand hoping for a “peace in our time” speech (and it wasn’t what Obama meant when he gave the quote that McCain has been hammering on since), but it does mean challenging those who oppose American interests with every tool in the US arsenal, not simply that of the gun.

And speaking of the gun, America has been far too inclined to use it this past decade. Whether or not the invasion of Iraq was justified (I don’t believe it was; neither does Obama), the fact remains that the war being fought there now is *not* a “war on terror” or a “war on al’Qaeda” (nor was it when we invaded, something Republicans consistently conflate), but a civil war between ethnic groups within Iraq. This is not a war American lives should be be shed for, and our troops must be withdrawn with all due possible haste. Obama has promised to do this, and McCain has mocked those (including the bipartisan Iraq Study Group) which insisted on this, calling them “defeatists” and accused them of demanding America’s “surrender”. Yet given the overstretch our military is suffering, keeping our military engaged in Iraq, in a war we have zero vital interests in other than national ego, those who insist on our remaining in Iraq do America harm. On this issue alone, a vote for Obama over McCain is a necessity.

On other issues, both candidates tend to agree: a stronger intervention in Afghanistan (whose rehabilitation is in America’s interests), challenging Iran and using American influence to halt its nuclear weapons development, and a careful eye on Pakistan and Russia. It does bear noting that an Obama presidency would find it far easier to achieve these goals, simply because the Bush administration has burned so many bridges among our putative allies in blind pursuit of unilateral goals. McCain, by contrast, seems willing to continue this pattern (most notably more willing to insult Spain, a NATO member state and key ally, rather than admit he had confused President Zapatero of Spain with President Calderon of Mexico during an interview).

Given Obama’s thin resume, It was his job this campaign to convince the voters that he is capable of handling America’s foreign policy requirements; he has done so admirably.

The Economy: We are in the early stages of a recession. Arguing over whether it is due to Republican deregulation or Democratic mortgage law manipulation is a sideshow at this point; the clear duty of the next President will be to propose budgets that have some hope of minimizing the damage. Paradoxically for those of us who have lived through the 1970s and 1980s, the Democrats are now the party of fiscal responsibility, while the Republicans, in their last decade of power, have shown a complete inability to control spending, while enacting fiscally irresponsible tax cuts aimed at the wealthy top 1% or less of society.

McCain has recently hammered Obama as something of a socialist (ironic given the Bush adminstration’s effective nationalization of the mortgage and banking industries) for advocating “redistribution of wealth”. This is specious. Taxation by its nature is redistributive; any alternatives (such as flat tax or sales VAT schemes) would unfairly burden precisely the segment of society that can least afford it. The argument is not over whether taxation itself is welcome; John McCain is far from a libertarian, and his attempting to make that argument is absurd. The argument is simply over how that burden will be distributed – in effect whether the tax burden will be redistributed to the wealthy or the poor. Most fair people, regardless of their political leaning, would argue the former. This is why we have a progressive tax system, after all.

The problem then is not the nature of taxation, but its application or lack thereof. P J O’Rourke, in one of his breezy travelogue/political diatribes, looked at the essentially libertarian government of Hong Kong (pre-Chinese takeover) and noted that for government to truly get itself out of the way actually requires a lot of effort. For government to be invisible, it must be effective – and that requires funding. By contrast, the Federal government this past decade has been anything but. FEMA’s fumbling response to Katrina should be uppermost in everyone’s minds, but that is not the only example – our highway system is collapsing (sometimes literally), and our health care system is in a state of siege. The few things our government SHOULD be involving itself in, it is failing at. Some of this is a failure of leadership and priority, but much of this is also due to a simple lack of funding. Before all else, our government must simply do its job, and part of that is in enacting budgets that are balanced and realistic. A balanced budget will also help shore up our collapsed currency, and restore some confidence to the global economy.

Again, Obama is the more serious candidate here. Neither Obama nor McCain have promised balanced budgets (which is probably for the best given a recessionary economy) but Obama’s proposals are better thought out than McCain’s, who relies on railing against congressional earmarks, which while good theatre are a small fraction of the Federal budget.

This is not to say that there are not many issues that I disagree with Obama on in terms of economic policy. Simply put, I am a fiscal conservative and Obama is a classical liberal. Yet, ironically, he still is the more attractive choice for fiscal conservatives, if for no other reason then because he is the one candidate apparently capable of using a calculator, which says more to the bankruptcy of Republican thought than anything else.

Culture, Palin, and thought: The last point is something that the Republican party has to face if it will survive the next decade: among many other ill-concieved decisions, in embracing Sarah Palin and the social conservatism that she represents, the Republican party has made itself the standard bearer for anti-intellectualism.

Sarah Palin, as best as anyone can tell, has no opinions. On anything. In her few unscripted interviews, she has been unable to answer such simple questions as what newspaper she reads in the morning. Her one policy speech has been to support care for disabled children, which while certainly something that we should do as a society as a general rule, is to put it mildly not chief among the issues facing us as a nation. Yet Palin’s, and McCain’s response to the very simple questions raised by Palin’s lack of intellectual curiosity is to attack those who ask the questions, and moreover, to attack the very question itself. “Joe Sixpack” or “Joe the Plumber” wouldn’t ask if Sarah Palin has a foreign policy beyond a woolly grasp of geography.

Instead they would go to political gatherings strongly, horribly reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Nuremburg rallies to rail at their enemies for being terrorists and socialists and Arabs and the other. Literally. Raising the Republican bogeymen, much as Jews were for the Nazis – no actual meaning, simply the other to scare the faithful with in lieu of an actual reasonable dialogue. This is not merely troubling. It is deeply frightening for anyone with a sense of history, and the Republican campaign has been extremely irresponsible in its prosceution of the campaign and its consequent corrosion of the national dialogue. I disagree with many people politically – this does not mean they are Insert-scary-meaningless-word-here.

This is not occurring in a vacuum. It is part of a pattern shown by today’s Republican leaders and the current Administration – a lack of respect for dissent, an all too easy appeal to fear and the other – sadly made all too easy, and all too quickly exploited, by the 9/11 attacks. If you ask many people today if Saddam Hussein bore responsibility for 9/11, many would say yes. Our government, in this as in so many other ways, has simply failed us. It has devolved to primitive threats of fear and anti-intellectual rejection of reason, something cheered on by the shock-talk conservative partisan media. And we see its application in the McCain campaign and its apparent existence in a strange time continuum where William Ayers is responsible for the stock market collapse and Barack Obama is an Arab terrorist.

This must be confronted. It must be rejected. We as Americans are simply better than this, and we must show this, cleanly and clearly. The appeals to fear and horror must be rejected.

And I have faith, given all of the above, that in a week they will be.