I would characterize myself politically as a complex mix of socially liberal and economically conservative. I try to keep my exact positions non-partisan and evaluate each policy situation case-by-case. I admire the social left for its heart, but don’t think they usually go about achieving their goals in the most efficient way. The government (at all scales) certainly has a role to play in raising the quality of life for everyone, but frequently oversteps its bounds.
Conversely, I admire the fiscal conservatives for their bottom-up, laissez-faire thinking, but dislike their frequent unwillingness to acknowledge the potential catastrophic failure modes of an unregulated, pure free market. My libertarian streak comes from an economic respect for the individual, my liberal streak comes from my social respect for the individual. You can see my theme here: individualism.
However, on the other end, when you mix liberal-minded economics with conservative-minded social ideas, you get the worst possible combination of effects. And this is the current embarrassing state of the Republican party: big spenders with an ideological social agenda. McCain’s disastrous choice for VP, Governor Palin, confirms this madness. This is the most dangerous choice possible for someone like me. Don’t be fooled, modern Republicans in Washington are NOT conservative, nor “right of center.” They are currently somewhere off-axis in a sickly combination deep in the fascist or populist domains (it is hard to tell sometimes). Lincoln, Eisenhower, and even Nixon would not recognize the modern GOP and its current ideological framework. But, like most modern people, true traditional Conservatives want to cheer for a “team” and most have been duped into carrying a banner under the “Republican” moniker.
The biggest mistake made by the GOP was the unholy alliance with the anti-intellectual and delusional religious-right back in the 80s under Reagan. Palin embodies this Faustian handshake. As one small example, anyone who claims creationism should be taught in school along side (or in place of) evolution, as Palin does, has some serious intellectual shortcomings — or, at the very best, some clinical cognitive dissonance. Her denial of global warming (as at least a partly manmade phenomenon), running against evidence and the current scientific consensus, is also as delusional as the 911 deniers. These issues alone should disqualify her from serving in ANY leadership capacity. To my ears, she might as well claim “Santaclausology” should be taught in chemistry and physics classes. “Teach the controversy: Santa Claus or quantum mechanics.” If that seems non-sequitur, that’s how closely related creationism and evolution are. In saner times, such a person would be rightfully called a crank or crackpot. But today, because the crackpot voting pool is large enough, such an ill-informed position is actually regarded as a selling point amongst many modern Republicans. Anti-intellectual absurdity at its very worst.
The Democrats have similar problems, but their pathology isn’t so much with their philosophy but rather with methodology. Yes, many Democrats want the government to solve all their problems and believe that some vague notion of “social programs” will cure everything. The left also tends to be wrought with overly-idealized “perfect world” thinking, sometimes bordering on the magical. This is their version of the delusional religious nuts. But whose delusional idealology would you rather have running the country? One group who wants to have a state of peace where we all live together in relative social harmony? Or another one that literally believes an Iron Age creation myth as strongly as the best scientific theories available? Pick your poison, but I’m pretty much ok with an overly idealistic desire for social harmony.
After hearing his amazing speech last week, my vote will unquestioningly go with Obama. He appealed to both my socially liberal and fiscally conservative brain. He appealed to my individualism, my intellectualism, and to my heart.
I have come to realize the irony that the traditional values of the GOP are currently encoded under modern Democratic party as embodied by Obama. This sounds like a crazy thing to say given that Obama is considered amongst the most liberal Democrats around. But it just goes to show how violently off-axes we are politically. In Obama, intellectualism and individualism are respected. A healthy desire for change exists as well as a desire to reduce government interference and to build individual responsibility. There is a desire to decrease Government regulation of innovative business practices while increasing corporate responsibility to public (and economic) safety. There is an honest desire to engage the world in non-unilateral diplomacy. These ideals are the very embodiment of old-school conservatism.
Although Obama’s speech had me sit up with pleasant surprise, I will admit that both the Democratic and Republican parties are ideological train-wrecks. Their parties have become mindless dogmas and most problems that face us cannot be solved with a robotic left-right-only mindset. However, it is clear to me that, as a candidate, Obama has his priorities straight. Until this week, I was largely apathetic about the election. Admittedly, I would have probably voted for Obama anyway, but I thought I could have lived with either one: McCain for his experience or Obama for his vision. But with the choice of the anti-science ideologue Palin, McCain alienated me. He isn’t the candidate I thought he was. With his speech, Obama surprised me and reached out to me, proving he was more than I thought he was.
Yes, Yes, I know that what a candidate says and what they do (or will do) are not necessarily the same things. I also know that the VP choice is largely a stage show and convention/election season is ripe for overblown rhetoric. However, the VP choice is a metaphor for the first executive decision. If Obama’s “lack of experience” led him to Biden and McCain’s “vast experience” led him to Palin, then perhaps McCain’s experience isn’t so important after all. Certainly for moderates like myself, Palin sends the wrong message.