Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rockin' The Vote

Today is an historic day for this country. We’re going to elect a new President and, for once, people actually care who it’s going to be. Now, I don’t tend to get political on this blog. Reading through posts from the past five years you can see that I tend to concentrate on movies, music and interesting stories from my life. In other words, bullshit. My opinion on a David Byrne concert isn’t going to change the world.

However, I feel we’re at a critical point in our nation’s history. I remember being at a used clothing store* and watching George W. Bush being sworn in as President in 2000. Many of us in the group were dismayed that this idiot was going to lead us over the next four years. We also felt bitter toward him and his “associates”# hijacking the election and installing him in power. I was no fan of Al Gore – I felt then, as I do now, that he’s a pompous windbag who only ran for President because he was Vice President for eight years and felt like that was the next logical step – but that didn’t mean I thought he should lose to a man who couldn’t pronounce the word “nuclear.” However, I couldn’t complain loudly, because I did not vote in that election.

Yes, I never voted. I’m not proud of that fact. In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running, there was a surge among people my age to vote for him. And he was an exciting candidate and I would have voted for him if I had bothered to get off my fat ass and register. But I didn’t, for reasons that are both believable (How do you vote when you’re at college? Remember, this was pre-Internet and the information just wasn’t easily available.) and idiotic (Why should I vote for anyone when I can go to Best Buy instead?). I remember my girlfriend at the time and I getting into a fight because I wouldn’t register. Now I agree with her. I was an idiot.

After 2000, I swore never to miss a Presidential election again. As I was watching the inauguration, I realized it was too damn important to skip. So I registered. And in 2004, I voted for the first time. Of course, the candidates were awful. On the Republican side we had Alfred E. Newman running for his second term, on the Democratic side, we had John Kerry. Could there have been a worse choice in 2004 than John Kerry? The man didn’t even seem that interested in running. He always looked sleepy to me, like he had just woken up from a nap and still wasn’t sure if he was dreaming. Still, he was loads better than the alternative. So I voted for John Kerry.

John Kerry didn’t win.

Instead, running on a platform of fear (Gay marriage!! Terrorism!!! Taxes!!!!!!!) Bush won again. Thankfully, his Presidency was doomed from the start, only receiving 51% of the vote or some close margin like that. Of course, this didn’t stop him from declaring that the American public had issued a mandate saying that we wanted him in office. 51% is not a mandate, it’s a photo-finish. But then came Katrina. And the never-ending Iraq War. And the economy collapse. And all of a sudden people realized, hey, maybe George Bush isn’t such a great leader after all. It took them eight years, but they finally realized it.

Which brings us to today. This morning I awoke at 6:30 and, after a shower, drove to my polling place. And I waited in line for 45 minutes to cast my vote. And I cast my vote for Barack Obama.

Obama’s campaign has not been a perfect one. His ideas seem somewhat vague to me, but at least he’s thinking outside the box. I’m sick to death of his e-mails begging me for campaign money. And this week I’ve received at least six calls a day from his volunteers, reminding me to get out and vote. Team Obama, I get it. There’s no need to beat it into my skull.

I tend to lean left and I don’t disguise that fact. I believe that gay people should have equal rights and the right to get married if they would like. I believe that people should be helped every once in awhile from their government if they truly need it. I believe in paying taxes because I like things like roads and schools and a military that has the funds to defend us. I believe in a woman’s right to choose whether or not she can have an abortion. And I believe that religion is a personal choice that people have the freedom to pursue and that it does not belong anywhere near anything government-related.

That being said, I also believe that strictly voting Democrat is a mistake. There are some moderate Republicans I’ve followed in the past and even some I wholeheartedly endorsed this morning^. I vote for the candidate I believe can best do the job, not by some strict party line. But I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for John McCain.

McCain ran in 2000 and looked to be a pretty good choice, even better than Al Gore. But then he was basically assassinated by Bush and his bullies and had to withdraw from the race. Had that John McCain ran this year, I might have even voted for him. But something happened to McCain in the past eight years. He turned into a mean, old man. A mean, old man who had no clue what he wanted and was terribly out of touch with the people of America.

What the hell was that “Anyone who makes $250,000 a year is middle class” crap about? And the whole “I think I have eight houses, I need to check with my accountant” stuff? And what was with saying America’s economy was alright only to turn around hours later and attempt to suspend his campaign because he felt the American economy was in trouble? (And where were all those people who said Kerry was a notorious flip-flopper when all this was going down?) If the past eight years have taught us anything, it’s that electing someone who comes from money is not a good idea, because they’ll put their interests ahead of yours.

McCain also lost me on his choice of a running mate. Choosing Sarah Palin was a calculated, stupid move that never worked for him, especially once she opened her mouth and began making foolish statements. The woman seriously frightens me. She likes to shoot animals for fun. She believes that firing her former brother-in-law from his police position is OK because, you know, he divorced her sister. She believes in censorship. She also apparently believes that winking and waving can get you out of any mess. Sadly, a lot of people fell for her cuteness. The other day at the gym, I overheard two women talking about her and that they planned to vote for McCain simply because they thought Palin was “adorable.” I bit my tongue.

Choosing Palin also highlighted McCain’s weakness in decision making. Before selecting her as his running mate, he kept hammering away at Obama’s (perceived) lack of experience. So I’m concerned that he chose someone who has even less experience than Obama to be his running mate on the ticket. We’re talking about a person who could potentially become the leader of our country. This is not something you do on a whim. (Again, those people calling for Kerry’s flip-flopping head were nowhere in sight.) What happens when he has to make a decision on whether to, say, invade Iran? Will he think it though or just go with the first idea that comes into his head?

And what was with McCain trying to tear Obama down by continually referencing Bill Ayers? McCain’s not exactly Mr. Squeaky Clean. Anyone remember the Keating Five? They’re both politicians; I’m sure they’ve both had to work with associates that aren’t the nicest of people. Sadly, that’s how you get elected to the presidency these days. It just seemed like a big “Pot Meet Kettle” moment for me and the fact that McCain wouldn’t drop it just seemed desperate. If that’s the only thing he can use to tear Obama down, then that’s pretty sad.

There’s also a stupid superficial reason I don’t want McCain as President. For the past twenty years, we’ve had either a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. It’s time for some new blood and, sorry, but McCain’s 72 year-old platelets just aren’t going to cut it. He feels like the old regime and we need some freshness.

So that’s why I couldn’t vote for McCain. Those are my personal reasons and they’re reasons I thought long and hard about. And whether or not you agree with what I’ve written, please, get out there and vote today. You still have a few hours left. And if you’re not registered, then do that the next chance you get. Because what makes this country great is that everyone has a voice+ and we all have an opportunity to use it. So think about who you want to see in power and vote. It’s your civic duty.

I’m off my soapbox now. The next post will probably be about movies or music.

*I was volunteering at the time through a group called Indiana Ambassadors. It was an interesting year of volunteering, but it was all pre-blog so there’s not really a document of it.

#I’m being nice.

^Mitch Daniels, I’m looking at you. You did a great job the past four years. And I like Daylight Savings Time!

+Well, until the Electoral College comes into play, that is.