Several columnists, bloggers, and analysts have said that eventually the presidential campaign will get back to the issues. I hope so because frankly, I’m sick to death of personal attacks not only between candidates, but between friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, and even between spouses. There is no doubt that this is the most emotionally charged presidential election of my (relatively short) lifetime—and with good reason. Still, it’s frustrating to have to sift through thousands of web sites, news articles, blog comments, and goodness forbid, even YouTube, to figure out where the candidates actually stand on the issues. I admit that I’m guilty as anybody of getting too emotionally involved. But that doesn’t change the fact that this election is about issues first and foremost. It’s time to turn to those. There isn’t much time left before we will all (I hope) be placing our votes. We have a responsibility to do this based on knowledge of all the issues—not just the one we care most about.
Still, the reality is that this election is polarized in such a way that it is personal. The personal nature of the election has highlighted a few of the best qualities of the USA—and some of the worst. Even as we pride ourselves on being a nation of diversity, equality, and freedom, we feel the need to continually categorize and divide ourselves into superficial groups that are far more complicated than we want to acknowledge.
Now don’t get me wrong here—I’m not saying that it isn’t important to recognize that history will be made no matter who wins. Nor am I saying that there are not differences between some sets and subsets of the American population. Rather, I’m saying that by voting a particular way only because of that one consequence rejects the very ideas of equality and diversity. Similarly, if we vote a particular way only because we belong to one group or another—minority or not, educated or not, female or not, Christian or not, Republican or Democrat or Other, rural or urban, environmentalist or hunter or both (yes, they do exist)—we rely on visual representations that may or may not be in our best interest. We need to know what we’re voting for.
If we truly believe that race or gender should not keep someone from the White House, we must also believe that neither race nor gender are an absolute qualification to get into the White House. The wrong representation of us is worse than no representation at all. First, there is no guarantee that our ideas are the same simply because we share a similar circumstance, or that our definition of what is right or fair is going to be the same as theirs. Second, when we vote without having some understanding of the majority of the issues facing our nation, we risk hurting not only ourselves, but everyone else too. A vote based on the hope that a single shared circumstance—whatever that might be—will lead to precisely the same results we’d hoped to see ten years ago is not only uninformed, it’s selfish. This cannot be about Us vs. Them anymore. We cannot ignore issues like war, the economy, education, global warming, poverty, civil rights, or the health care crisis.
Do you know where your candidates stand? Here’s a good place to start:
And don’t rule out some other independent, nonpartisan organizations that can help:
My favorite first (although they havent’ gotten to some of the allegations I’m interested in hearing about):
(Nonpartisan center that researches politically-relevant issues like whether John McCain and Barack Obama are U.S. Citizens [they both are], whether their plans will raise or lower taxes [depends on which population you’re talking about], and who’s lying or stretching the truth in their political speeches [pretty much everybody])
(Note: I’ve linked to the side-by-side answers as McCain’s appeared today. I encourage everyone to read both.)
(nonpartisan analysis of the health care plans)
More links to come.