Sunday, June 08, 2008

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Normally I don't tell people in other countries how they should vote, since I find it somewhat unfitting that people that lives outside the borders presume to lectures people inside on how they should choose. This is the same reason why I don't vote in the Australian election, even though I am entitled to - I don't live there, so I don't think it's reasonable that I try to get a say in how the country is run.

There is one election that does affect us all though, as the last eight years have shown us. The US presidential election. This is why I and many other non-US people take a very active interest in it, since the result will have an effect on us.

I haven't commented more than briefly on the preliminaries, except to note my dislike of the Republican candidates, and my general approval of the Democratic candidates. Now, when they are over, and the two parties' candidates have been more or less chosen, I thought I should share my thoughts.

Politically, I am somewhat to the right of the progressive spectrum - pretty much what could be called a (Bill) Clinton Democrat. This means that politically, I am quite happy with the current Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, though I find his overt religious stance, and anti-free trade rhetorics, off-putting. The most positive I can say about his Republican counterpart, is that of the potential candidates, McCain was the least bat-shit insane and outright corrupt of the lot. Given the fact that McCain is prone to fits of rage, an panders to the worst sort of people for votes, that says something.

The Democratic preliminaries were tough, and there were many regrettable episodes of sexism and racism, which might still leave people enraged with one or the other of the Democrats. Some of this, might lead people to decide not to vote for Obama. If that's the case, I hope people will reconsider this. Obama, and his campaign, might have flaws, but looking at the voting records (and statements), there is to my mind no doubt that Obama would be a much better president than McCain. Not only for the current US citizens, but also for the future US citizens, and the world as a whole.

One of the recurrent themes of Obama's campaign, was change. And while the rhetorics were a bit empty on actual content, I think it's true. Obama does represent change, in many different ways.

While I might think he is too overtly religious for my taste, Obama has made clear that he thinks that religion should not drive politics, something which the current White House administration has allowed it to do. Some of the areas where this is relevant are the HIV/AIDS funding outside the US, abstinence-only sex-ed inside the US, the endorsement of Intelligent Design, and the attack on the right to choose. In all of these areas, Obama has explained how he thinks there should be a change.

Then there is the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I am unsure it would be a good idea to pull out the troops straight away, there is no doubt there are serious issues there. In both countries, the religious fanatics have been allowed to gain power, in effect giving the Taliban a recruitment base for future actions. In Afghanistan it's even worse in some ways, since the Taliban actually have the power of some of the country, and to some degree causes trouble for neighboring Pakistan. It's clear that the current situation cannot continue, and something has to change. In Afghanistan this can be done through the help of the US' NATO allies, who still have quite a number of troops there. This will take multi-national cooperation though, something which is unlikely to happen under the current administration, since it has made itself rather unpopular among many of those allies.

And there is of course, international law, which the US has been ignoring the last eight years, by, among other things, creating the entirely bogus term "unlawful enemy combatant", claiming that they are not covered by the Geneva Conventions, even though they plainly are. There is also the detainment of people at Guantanamo for years without any trials, sometimes while they are juvenile, often under torture. This flies in the face of everything the civilized world stands for, yet it still continues to happen. It's doubtful that it's ever going to happen, but rightfully, the current Bush administration should be tried for war crimes for that, as should the military leadership.
Obama has forcefully spoken out against torture, and has stated that this goes against what the US stands for. McCain used to do the same (a point of respect for many of us), but has now backed down on that stance.

McCain has made it clear that he will continue Bush's politics. Frankly, I doubt that the US, or the world for that matter, can afford four more years of the same.

The US debt is growing rapidly, even though it's already record high. Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan continues with no clear goal in sight, continuing to allow religious fanatics to gain power. The so-called "war on drugs" keeps an increasingly large percentage of the US population in jail, and even more disfranchised. There is no accountability, either for bad work (e.g. Katrina), carelessness (e.g. loss of millions of dollars in Iraq), or even accusations of outright fraud (e.g. Cheney). Torture and imprisonment continues at Guantanamo, without any ending in sight. Christian fundamentalists are increasingly gaining influence, not only in politics, but even in the US military.

I could continue, but I expect that you get the point. There is a huge difference between a Democratic presidency and a Republican presidency after the next election.

We need change, and given the US political system, the only way to get that is to vote, and to vote for Obama. Even if you dislike him after what he did during the preliminaries, or even if you think he is too far to the right, too religious, or whatever other reason you might dislike him, then vote for him.

Too much depends upon this.

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