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There are likely registered Democrats who believe there is no point in voting in the primary election this year (many may have already missed their chance regardless). Although at least two individuals - Darcy Richardson and Aldous C. Tyler had declared their intention to run against Barack Obama as the Democrat on the Presidential ticket in November, neither individual has made much headway getting their names on the ballot (Tyler has also suspended his campaign and endorsed Richardson).

Given that it is seemingly a foregone conclusion that Obama will be the nominee for the general election, why should any registered Democrat show up to vote on primary day? Simple: there is always more going on at the polls than the Presidential election. Head on over to SmartVoter.org and enter your address and zip code into the "Find Your Own Election" section on the main page. If your primary hasn't already occurred, you may find yourself surprised by how much there is to vote on that doesn't concern the Presidential election. For one, there may be contested primaries for local and state races. Are there any ballot initiatives to vote on? If you don't say yay or nay at your polling place, you may not get to grumble that your borough increased the millage rate on your property taxes to fund a new water treatment plant without asking you first - maybe they did and your "kept your mouth shut," so to speak.

Obviously, I can't speak for every town in the nation, but I can make some remarks about what I see on Pennsylvania's Democratic ballot for the state's primary on April 24th. The presidential slot is unsurprising: Barack Obama is the only individual in that slot. However, for Democrats who wish to vote against Obama, all is not lost. Pennsylvania allow write ins; as such, if you want to write in Darcy Richardson or even "none of the above" you are well within your rights to do so. Furthermore, the presidential primary is a "beauty contest" in Pennsylvania. It is not the vote for president that matters in the primary, but the vote for pledged delegates headed to the Democratic Convention. In 2008, I voted for pledged delegates assigned to Hillary Clinton, leaving the remaining spaces blank rather than filling any of them with delegates pledged to Barack Obama. In 2012, one is allowed to do something similar if one wishes to vote against the incumbent; while there likely won't be any pledged delegates for anyone other than Obama, there may be uncommitted delegates who are not assigned to a particular candidate. You can vote for these uncommitted delegates or simply write in "none of the above" again.

Meanwhile, I've found some other interesting things on my sample ballot. Statewide, Joseph John Vodvarka, who attempted to run against Joe Sestak in 2010 but failed to gather enough signatures in his petition to get on the ballot, is running again to be the Democratic senator representing Pennsylvania. This time he has managed to get on the ballot and he is facing incumbent Bob Casey Jr., who defeated Rick Santorum in 2006 by a landslide. My prediction is that Vodvarka will be easily crushed by Casey in the primary, despite many liberals (myself included) wanting to see someone better than Casey in that seat. However, it is quite damning to someone's campaign when their website won't load - at least it wouldn't when I attempted to visit it - your mileage may vary.

Speaking of the failures of websites run by campaign underdogs, Janis C. Brooks' website is hosted by GoDaddy. Brooks is running against incumbent Mike Doyle for Pennsylvania's 14th Congressional District. Based on what is written on the website, she is positioning herself to the left of Doyle, who himself is considered pretty far to the left. However, what is written is wanting in regards to the meat of policy and I feel it shows a lack of political awareness to try and mount a campaign as a liberal Democrat on a website which is hosted by GoDaddy.

Dissatisfied? Write in "none of the above" - it may not flush the candidates from the polls and force new ones to run, but it does have to be tallied by the board of elections. In the words of [livejournal.com profile] mokie: "The point is the right to make your voice heard, not to be herded." To me that means not missing any election and not letting anyone bully you into voting because of some assumption of "inevitability."

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American Extremists - Pragmatic
Four years is not a long time. I remember the election season of 2008. In the beginning it was exciting. Fatigued by eight years of so-called "compassionate conservatism" under the regime of Bush the younger, I was ready for some drastic changes in government. As campaign season swung into full gear, the Democratic Party presented two candidates who could have made history: Hillary Clinton would have been the first female President of the United States while Barack Obama would be the first mixed-race individual to occupy the White House. In this the chance to sweep away the sins of the former administration took on an added glow. It didn't take long for that shine to dull as the campaign for the Democratic nominee for President quickly turned ugly.

In the beginning I really didn't have any negative feelings about Barack Obama. If anything, he came off as yet another politician angling for some exposure who, as of that time and place, was out of his depth. Throwing my support behind Hillary Clinton was an easy decision. I, and those like me who made the decision, became privy to more vitriol and derision than any voter should ever have to endure in what we call civilized society.

The more research I did on Obama, the less I liked him as a candidate. However, Obama's failings as a potential president paled in comparison to the cult of personality which was developing around him. His supporters treated him with a reverence undeserving of any politician; the media followed suit, abandoning all pretense of objectivity. Allegedly liberal and progressive website and 'blogs began targeting and shutting out voices of dissent. To be a Hillary Clinton supporter was to be wandering around alone in the desert - or so they wanted you to believe.

Even more unsettling was how the Democratic National Committee was doing some decidedly undemocratic things which were to the benefit of the Obama campaign. Convention delegates from Michigan were arbitrarily reassigned so as to be committed to Obama, negating the actual poll results for that state's primary. When the convention did roll around, the fact that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote among registered Democrats was irrelevant. The deck had been stacked for Obama and Clinton conceded as the DNC pushed him over the finish line.

I was stunned. What the Republicans had done to Al Gore and the American voter in 2000 when Bush was selected, the Democrats had done to one of their own. All illusions shattered, any claim the Democrats had to the moral high ground was lost.

As the focus of Election 2008 turned to Obama versus McCain, I found that I no longer had any passion for a Democratic victory in the November. Obama's candidacy was tainted - if he didn't have the character to win the nomination fairly, how would he comport himself as President? The Obama fan base, energized by their victory did not make matters easier. Their primary argument consisted of, "you're a registered Democrat - you have to vote for Obama." If one dared point out flaws or positional inconsistencies regarding their candidate, the response generally went along the lines of the standard, "well, the other side is worse, so are you really going to let them win" if you were lucky or, if the Obama supporter wished to go nuclear the accusation of racism was leveled. All sanity had simply quit the room, so to speak.

I watched the candidates debate, even going to a couple of parties hosted by the local Democratic organizers to try and get a feel for why Obama was such an object of their adoration. I never could into the same mindset as the people who were already hooked on Obama. The tipping point came for me when I realized, while watching Obama and McCain "debating" one another, that both men were saying essentially the same thing. The words were different, the delivery honed for each candidate's respective base, but the message was the same. These two men were saying the same thing: "vote for me, I will maintain the status quo." Obama was a Republican masquerading as a Democrat while at least McCain was honest about his true party affiliation.

The Democratic Party had told me that they didn't want my vote. I obliged and pulled the lever for John McCain.

Four years later Obama has not given me any truly compelling reason to believe I was wrong in voting against him. Guantanamo Bay is still open and running. American troops are still in Afghanistan. The economy is still tanking for the 99%. And the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration, health care reform is little more than a wet and sloppy thousand page word-kiss for the health insurance industry; funny how it took a so-called "Democrat" to pass Republican legislation on a national level. Because what they now derisively refer to as Obamacare is really Romneycare.

I've come to see voting as an exercise in measured reactions. I never expect a candidate to match my personal positions 100% or even 75%, but is it too much to ask for a public servant to actually account for and act in accordance to what the American people need? The politics of lesser-evilism is becoming more and more of a dead-end street as the metrics for what is "evil" continues to shift. It's become a game of ratios. An example: if it came down to Barack Obama versus Rick Santorum, I would hold my nose and vote for Obama - not because I think Obama deserves my vote but because in the game of ratios, Santorum triggers my personal threshold of "must block from power at all costs." I feel the same way about Ron Paul, if you're curious.

However, when it comes to a race of Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, I just kind of shrug. Neither one of these men represents me, so why should I vote for either one? I've become one of those people the partisans love to hate: the independent voter. The Democrats think they have me because I'm registered to that party. The Republicans think they might be able to woo me because I criticize Obama (word to the wise: I criticize Obama because he isn't liberal enough, not because he isn't libertarian enough). Truth be told, I'm at peace with the fact that come November, I'm likely voting "third" party or writing in "none of the above." It wouldn't be the first time I've done it and doubt it will be the last.

I know the backlash and derision will come my way for not falling into line and supporting the legacy party duopoly. The Kossacks are already sharpening their pointing fingers to shame those of us who won't vote for Obama. I welcome their hatred and venom. I'm ready to ignore the guilt trips. I'm ready to ignore the name-calling. I'm ready to ignore the accusations of irrationality and the jeers that I'm wasting my vote (ah, but it is mine to waste, is it not?). I'm ready to draw strength from the pain of independence.

It was all thrown at me in 2008 and it's all going to get thrown at me again in 2012. Do you really think what didn't work then will work now?

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While most people are focused on the Super Bowl this weekend, I'm not interested in football or the commercials surrounding the game. Thus, I thought this would be an opportune time for what some might call self-flagellation: doing a high level dissection of the claimed positions of those who aim to occupy the White House.

"Why would you do that," you may ask, "when we all know that it's going to be Barack Obama versus Romney/Gingrich/Paul/Santorum?" Good question - and one which reveals one of the main problems with the system of elections in the United States: the reinforcement of the duopoly. With every election cycle the United States swings a pendulum and it is only a matter or time before it goes one way or the other. However, the thing about a pendulum is - for better or worse - it can only go so far one way or the other. So, as the Republicans move rightward to become not a conservative party, but an actively regressive party the Democrats follow along, eschewing their former progressive glory for policies which more reflect maintaining the status quo (i.e.: Republicanism during the Eisenhower era).

It should come as no surprise that political parties change over time. Over 200 years ago, the Democrats and Republicans were a single party: the Democratic-Republican Party. Their main rivals were The Whigs. In fact, for quite some time the Republicans were what we'd now refer to as a "third party" until The Whigs ingloriously imploded with an absurd strategy of running four Presidential candidates simultaneously, thus allowing the Republican Party to rise up to fill the void.

Anyone who tells you that you only have two choices at the polls this November is only partially correct. While the system is set up to maintain the duopoly, there is always this third option: refuse to engage the "system" how they want you to engage it. There are historical precedents for great changes being made and such change can still be achieved, but it won't be easy and it won't happen in the near future. When a critical mass of the populace accepts the pain of independence that's when things change. It only takes for people to cease fearing being "outsiders" for the outside to become inside.

But I digress...let's get back to the business of dissecting the positions of the would-be Presidents. For this exercise I'm digging up every candidate I can find who has officially declared his or her candidacy. To try and simplify matters, I'll be commenting on four main policy areas: Economy, Environment, Foreign Policy and Social Justice. It's not a great amount of detail, but it's enough to get a basic taste (and let's face it: who wants more when most candidates leave a horrible aftertaste). So, without further ado, here are the tables of the candidates:

Democratic Party

Candidate

Positions


Economy

Environment

Foreign Policy

Social Justice

Barack ObamaBarack Obama

Argues that free-trade agreements are necessary for the health of the economy. Claims that tax cuts encourage small business growth as well as stimulating manufacturing (particularly for "green" industries).

The pertinent section of Obama's website is entitled "Energy and the Environment" which is apt given that all of the President's environmental initiatives are tied towards energy independence and investing in "green" energy alternatives.

Under the section titled "National Security" Obama trumpets his success in bringing home American troops from Iraq. However, he makes no mention of bringing them home from Afghanistan. Also missing is his braggadocio over killing Osama bin-Laden which was so prevalent during the State of the Union address. Unsurprisingly however, his veiled nod to the possibility of war with Iran during that same address is also absent.

Trumpets the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as well as his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, however makes no claim that his stance on gay marriage has evolved into something sentient and his administration's treatment of women in his employ (i.e.: Elizabeth Warren) is - to be polite - less than stellar.

Darcy RichardsonDarcy Richardson

Proposes a second stimulus package to jump-start the American economy as well as a moratorium on home foreclosures. Also proposes a federal work program similar to The New Deal.

Few concrete positions stated, save for stridently opposing Keystone XL.

"A Richardson Administration will...bring an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan while fighting for a drastic 33% to 50% reduction in military spending."

Criticises the Obama administration for caving "in the face of Republican opposition when it came to naming and fighting for Elizabeth Warren’s nomination to head the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

Aldous C. TylerAldous C. Tyler

States that the war-based economic model is unsustainable. Would target bailouts directly to people in need, not corporations. Supports an FDR style public-works program akin to The New Deal to combat unemployment.

"We support science-based policies to curb and mitigate the effects of climate change; carbon taxes on fossil fuels to reflect true environmental costs; elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, waste incineration, and biofuels; clean fuel mandates; adoption of energy efficiency standards that reduce energy demand economy-wide; building an efficient low-cost public transportation system; adoption of a national zero waste policy.

A sustainable society needs clean, green jobs based on renewable energy, energy conservation, organic agriculture, local food production/distribution, mass transit, waste management/recycling, and similar practices that sustain the environment."

"We call for the complete and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and all other regional conflicts; the immediate dissolution of private security contracts for these conflicts, and the immediate cessation of payments to private contractors who are in any way associated with these conflicts."

Under the heading of "Human Rights/Civil Liberties," Aldous calls for a repeal of the PATRIOT Act, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the restoration of habeas corpus.

Green Party

Candidate

Positions


Economy

Environment

Foreign Policy

Social Justice

Roseanne BarrRoseanne Barr

No positions stated on campaign website.

Jill SteinJill Stein

All four of the umbrella issues above are addressed via Stein's "Green New Deal." Basically, what Stein is proposing is a massively updated and expanded version of FDR's original New Deal with a particular focus on economic justice, expanding the social safety net and protecting the environment. Perhaps implying a philosophy that everything connected and in contrast to legacy party candidates, Stein does not pander when presenting her platform by breaking it down into bite-sized pieces; you have to read the whole thing.

Justice Party

Candidate

Positions


Economy

Environment

Foreign Policy

Social Justice

Rocky AndersonRocky Anderson

Places the lion's share of the blame for the current economic crises on the Federal Reserve. However, instead of calling to end the Fed, proposes that the organisation be subject to checks and balances similar to those imposed on braches of government. In being more effectively regulated itself, Anderson argues that the Fed be a more effective regulatory agency. Aside from that Anderson calls for fiscal responsibility by raising taxes on the rich to support social programs, arguing that draconian cuts to such programs leave us unable to compete as a nation.

No specific position stated.

"The U.S. needs to be engaged internationally, but in a constructive manner -- quite the opposite of our nation's conduct, particularly since 9/11. We should make clear what the U.S. once made clear (but has apparently forgotten or ignored) in the Kellogg-Briand Pact (and again at the Nuremberg Tribunal, then again in the U.N. Charter): wars of aggression (attacks on other nations that have not attacked the U.S. or which are not about to attack the U.S.) are illegal and strictly prohibited. Also, all wars since WWII have been in violation of the War Powers Clause of our Constitution."

States that the decision to have an abortion "should be between a woman, her doctor, and anyone else she wants to have involved." Supports full marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

Republican Party

Candidate

Positions


Economy

Environment

Foreign Policy

Social Justice

Newt GingrichNewt Gingrich

Favors drastically reducing corporate taxes and implementing a flat income tax of 15%. Also blames "excessive regulation" for destroying businesses and would roll back such in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Gives a passing nod to "clean energy" after many column inches dedicated to opening up land for more shale extraction and offshore drilling.

Nothing specific which would set Gingrich apart from George W. Bush. Succinctly: stay the course.

Gingrich has the same stance on fetuses and the elderly: life is sacred and only God gets to decide when it ends. Furthermore, completely ignoring the First Amendment, he thinks that religious expression in the public square needs special protection.

Ron PaulRon Paul

Wants to require Congress to pass a balanced budget each year. Blames the Federal Reserve for most of the nation's economic woes; would audit it and regardless the results of the audit, he would abolish it. Would eliminate most income and property taxes.

Would eliminate the EPA and lift "government roadblocks" on coal and nuclear power.

Would bring all American troops home immediately and return to a policy of non-intervention.

Stringently anti-choice, Paul would call for an immediate repeal of Roe vs. Wade, thus leaving the legality of abortion as a patchwork state by state toss of the coin. On the topic of illegal immigration, Paul would come down hard on illegal immigrants, going so far as to strip away the citizenship of their children born in the United States.

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney

"Mitt Romney will rebuild the foundations of the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation. His plan seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs. It seeks to increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility. It relinquishes power to the states instead of claiming to have the solution to every problem."

No position stated.

"Our country today faces a bewildering array of threats and opportunities. As president, Mitt Romney will safeguard America and secure our country’s interests and most cherished ideals. The unifying thread of his national security strategy is American strength. When America is strong, the world is safer. It is only American power—conceived in the broadest terms—that can provide the foundation for an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies."

No position stated.

Rick SantorumRick Santorum

Believes in "spending cuts and entitlement reform." To wit, Social Security, Welfare and so-called "Obamacare" are all on the chopping block.

Suspects Iran of being on the brink of developing nuclear weapons with the intent of destroying Israel and western civilization. Wants to work with Israel to determine "a proper military response" to the situation.

Vehemently against abortion and even contraception; opposed to gay marriage, recently comparing it to polygamy. Once compared homosexuality to bestiality, which earned Santorum much backlash from the GLBT community.

And there it is, all ten candidates for President stacked up against one another. Obviously this is in no way an in-depth look at all of them and much policy nuance is missing. However, one gets the basic idea. I'm sure that if I decide to compile another chart like this as the campaign season evolves there will be plenty of changes.

Right now I just want someone to buy me a conciliatory drink for visiting all of those Republican websites in my meager attempt to appear somewhat objective.

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Election season in the United States has become like the worst, most commercialized aspects of Christmas: it starts way too early and lasts way too long. Campaigning for position of the Republican presidential nominee began in the middle of 2011, which is utterly ridiculous. Of course, the reason for this was that Iowa moved their caucus up to the first week of January, naturally pushing the campaigning up as well. Watching this mess, I thought, "wouldn't it be nice if it were illegal for campaigns to last longer than a year?" This led down the slippery slope to all of the other things wrong with the electoral system in the United States. Thus, here's how I'd run things:

Read more... )

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Seth Warren

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