Wednesday, January 09, 2008

what are you looking for?

Yesterday a friend of mine complained to me that he wanted to vote for Obama over Clinton but he felt Clinton had more specific proposals, more details. This meme seems to be fairly widespread, and I wonder sometimes how deep our desire for details really goes. Do you really have a detailed and wonkish set of policy criteria, and does your vote go, therefore, to the candidate whose positions match up most neatly with yours? It seems to me that other factors have to not only come into play but even be decisive. Here's a quote that I quite agree with - it's from an anonymous reader on Andrew Sullivan's blog The Daily Dish.
You’re right to note that Obama, too, "has plans," but frankly, when it comes to electing a president, I don’t care so much about that. Congress will have a legislative agenda, and they will (or they won’t) implement it. The president’s agenda too often is set by someone else, like al-Qaeda. And when that time comes, I want a measured, principled, reflective president with a rigorous intellect who will capably work with people on either side of the aisle to ensure that the right decisions are made. What I don't want is a partisan warrior for whom political power and public service have become all but indistinguishable. That’s why I’m backing Obama. It’s also why I’ll make McCain the first Republican ever to get my presidential vote if the race comes down to him and Senator Clinton.
Speaking personally, I'm thinking that choosing a candidate is not entirely a rational process. Which is not to say that I don't subject my political choices to reasoned analysis, I do. Reason helps me construct a map, chart a course, weigh alternative routes, but the non-reasoning part of me has a large say in picking the target destination. The heart wants what it wants. When a candidate or a politician or anyone for that matter succeeds in kindling a non-rational connection with me, it can in many cases trumps policy positions. It has something to do with identification and with intuitions of what is truly good. I'm not suggesting that this is a reliable process, quite the contrary, it feels a bit risky to me. Nevertheless, I am not inclined to act contrary to such promptings when I feel them. That's one of my rules in life, find out if what you feel is real. Obama is someone I'm going to give a chance to disappoint me. I've already sent my first donation.
Which is not to say every election presents an opportunity to fall in love with someone. Sometimes it not about love, it's just about living together.
And then there's this comment from my father in a recent email.
I guess you could say that I have persuaded myself that if Hillary or Obama is elected I will not move to Ireland or Australia.
I know you're reading this, dad, so let me just say that Ireland's gain would be America's loss.


Blogger Erin said...

Since my man dropped out this morning (Bill Richardson), I am now leaning toward Obama. I like what you said about giving him a chance to make you fall in love. That's how I feel. I hope this next prez works out!

6:16 PM  

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