Serial Bus

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If I were an American, I’d vote for….

with 4 comments

Elections are due this Tuesday in the US. Since I have been following the trajectories of Obama and McCain campaigns since they emerged as favorites in the run-ups to the nominations, I am somewhat informed about what they represent and promise. That said, I wonder who I’d have voted for, had I been an American citizen.

If the entire world could vote, Obama would apparently win with a landslide, as per the statistics of the Economist’s Global Electoral College which also suggests that 87% of Indians would vote for Obama. My father told me that Indians favor Obama because he is rumored to always carry a small idol of Lord Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-god. That does not do it for me. With or without my biases, I do not find either Obama or McCain a clear winner of my vote.

My decision is based on two criteria: the individual and the message. The two are inter-twined yet they are separate.

McCain comes across as an experienced, courageous and empathetic person. Of his 7 kids, 3 are adopted including Bridget, who Cindy brought home from a Bangladeshi orphanage; for me, this is an unmistakable proof of McCain’s warmth as a person. Although much has been said of his ‘valor’ and being a ‘maverick’, the words associate with him for good reasons. I also remember the days of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries when he was the underdog – everyone including the GOP had written him off (some of his staff had deserted him and he had little campaign money) but McCain rebounded and how. Such determination (this was his second nomination bid) really inspires respect. That said, I remain confounded by his choice of Sarah Palin – playing to the conservative gallery is not a good judgment since the VP office needs more gravitas.

Obama is calm, youthful and energising. Obama’s victory would also be hugely symbolic; the first non-white Presidency of the world’s most powerful nation reprsents a watershed in America’s chequered history and improves its standing in an increasingly multi-cultural US and internationally. In many respects, it will truly reflect ‘change’ and ‘hope’, two words that Obama has come to identify with, although he uses them in a different context. His personal story is also inspiring, in that it includes a brave single mother, doting maternal grandparents, Hawaii, Indonesia, identity struggle (from ‘Barry’ to ‘Barack’), economic hardship and authorship of 2 best-selling books. His lack of experience is a non-issue for me because leadership is not about experience, its about temperament and its about an ability to get specialists to swear by you. Obama is more presidential in his manner and commands respect of people that ordinary people revere (like Warren Buffett, Paul Volcker, Oprah, Colin Powell, Bill Maher and the Hollywood set).

So, judging them just by their personalities, I would support Obama as he is a few notches more-suited than McCain in today’s world. But, my faith in Obama is a bit shaken when I focus on ‘verbal’ and disregard the ‘visual’ and ‘vocal’. And, I say only a bit because of the very weird divide in the philosophies of the Republican and Democratic parties in the US.

The conservative-liberal identities of the Republican and Democratic parties are somewhat paradoxical. I fully support Democratic stance on values and foreign policy. They side with individual rights (pro-choice), believe in evolution, seem to appreciate diversity more, do not come across as elitist, are not hawkish on the international stage and preach dialogue. But, when it comes to their policy prescriptions, they are strangely anti-laissez faire. For example, some of Obama’s positions that I wince at are:

  • Education: Against education vouchers that give choice to families
  • Energy: Supportive of higher subsidies for ethanol and biofuels responsible for higher food prices
  • Taxes: Raise corporate tax rate and capital gains tax
  • Healthcare: Mandates and prefers employer-provided health insurance
  • International Trade: Rails against outsourcing and NAFTA

Obama’s rhetoric against oil companies and banks is telling of his negative attitude towards enterprise in general and his penchant for regulation. He throws in his lot with Average Joes and Janes, and in doing so, casts successful businesses (real creators of employment and wealth) as villains. This smells of a Big Brother approach to the economy which is a reversal of the much-vaunted free-market led growth that, together with a non-negotiable recognition of freedom, defines US as a country. Obama’s idea of ‘spreading the wealth’ (rightly attacked by McCain as resembling socialism) does upset the ranks of several people like me who see this as ideologically backward and crassly populistic.

The Republican philosophy on all these issues is more sensible and rooted in pragmatism. The only time I loved Sarah Palin was when she said, ‘Individuals make better decisions than government’. I adored McCain when he said during the final debate, ‘This really gets down to the fundamental difference in our philosophies….Senator Obama wants government to do the job. I want, Joe, you to do the job.’

So, in the end, the decision is difficult. The question really is which criterion (amongst personality, values and policy) weighs more for me. Given my belief that every candidate, once sworn in, moves towards the centre (from left or light leanings), I am willing to believe that there is a natural hedge against any rash, unpragmatic policy recommendations. Plus, passing legislation is not a President’s job; I should be more concerned about a potential Democrat majority in the House and Senate that would ensure easy passage of favored legislation.

However, the personality and values criteria, in that order, are critical for a successful presidency in my view because the President conducts foreign policy, looks after federal administration and appoints judges. On these criteria, Obama and Democrats score higher and consequentially, they get my non-existent vote.

Unless of course, you consider Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party………


Written by serialbus

November 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template if you need any assistance customizing it let me know!

    Mike Harmon

    November 1, 2008 at 8:45 pm

  2. […] If I were an American, I’d vote for…. So, judging them just by their personalities, I would support Obama as he is a few notches more-suited than McCain in today’s world. But, my faith in Obama is a bit shaken when I focus on ‘verbal’ and disregard the ‘visual’ and ‘vocal’. … […]

  3. Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

    Tom Humes

    November 1, 2008 at 8:51 pm

  4. Good post… My non-existent vote also will go for Obama.

    When we put everything in perspective Obama comes across as the better candidate, but when we think more about our individual issues (less taxes, personal choices) then McCain is the one. I guess Obama really requires everyone to make sacrifices – like paying more taxes when u can afford, reducing energy wastage, less consumption and indirectly spreading the wealth – for the betterment of the society we live in and securing the future generations…


    November 11, 2008 at 10:00 am

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