30 Days of Bloggery: Rocking the Vote
It's weird indeed to watch the 2008 presidential elections unfold from overseas. I'm still registered to vote in California, and will be making my opinion count, but I'm kind of out of the fray. The Iowa caucuses have always struck me as a bizarre and outmoded tradition that get far more ink than it should - a few thousand people in an odd ritual getting a mighty big say in choosing presidential nominees. If I were in charge I'd rotate the caucuses and primaries every four years so a true cross-section of America gets its vote, but America is mighty attached to its traditions so that won't happen anytime soon.
Anyway, I've been following this rather wide-open 2008 race and mulling over the candidates. I'm pretty much left of center, and when it comes to the issues, in every presidential election I've voted in since 1992 I've gone for the Dems. But picking a president, silly as it may be, is as much about personality as it is about platforms. Here's my totally unscientific, gut-feeling and admittedly idiosyncratic take on the major players.
Mike Huckabee scares the bejeezus out of me (pun intended), frankly. He's a media-savvy version of Pat Robertson, basically, and the kind of zombie-eyed faith-propelled conservative I've always felt would be a disaster as president. He's managed to play his cuddly side up for the cameras but I find Huckabee dangerously ignorant and unqualified. It looks like he's already hitting a backlash with his bizarre "I'm pulling this ad because I have honor but I'm going to show it to all you media folks in a press conference" move. I imagine he's just a flavor-of-the-month, and he's likely to flame out hard and fast even if he does well in Iowa.
The only candidate worse than Huckabee would be Rudy Giuliani, who's been riding 9/11 so hard he makes George W. Bush look like a patchouli-smelling hippie. (I absolutely love Joe Biden's comment about him: "there's only three things he mentions in a sentence: A noun and a verb and 9/11.") His hard-ass style may impress the yokels, but it worries me deeply that we might elect a man who's even less flexible than Bush about the realities of the world, and I find it vaguely repulsive he's running so hard on the good deeds of 9/11. He's more socially liberal than some Republicans, true, but there's something kinda dangerous about the man I can't put my finger on. I don't trust him.
Mitt Romney is a man with nice hair in a suit to me, and I hear he's a Mormon. That's about all I know about him. Yet if pressed I'd say he might well be the nominee for the Republicans. Just a feeling I've got.
If I voted for a Republican, it'd probably be John McCain, who I admire greatly on a personal level for surviving being a POW for five years, and for a willingness to admit his mind changes. He's got firm principles even if I don't agree with a lot of them, and I admit his reputation as a bit of a maverick is appealing to me. I'd be "happy" if he were the nominee but think the fringe conservatives will never let it happen.
If the Republicans tend to be balding white guys in suits, I find there's a lot of talent in the Dems race that hasn't even gotten a chance to shine - Joe Biden, for instance - but it's really down to Clinton, Edwards and Obama. I think it's actually a very good field of candidates even if they're all a bit flawed.
I like John Edwards quite a lot and think he could be an effective president. I admire his populist tactics even if it's just a campaign strategy (few people are even talking about poverty in the U.S.). Perhaps this former lawyer can come off a bit slick, but I admired his 2004 campaign and feel he could be a very good president. If Obama and Clinton slaughter each other, he could well be a consensus nominee.
As for Hillary Clinton – well, I'm OK if she's elected president, but quite frankly, I have intangible reservations about her. I haven't really got a sense as to WHY she wants to be president, and while I was a big fan of Bill, I don't think name recognition alone is enough to choose her. I'm wary of the presidency becoming a dynasty of Bushes and Clintons, too. If she's the nominee, I'll vote for her I imagine, and I will be pleased America finally joins places like New Zealand in having elected a female leader. I think she'd make a fine president but I worry her tendency to play the middle-of-the-road means we'd just get someone afraid to make major changes.
Which leaves me with Barack Obama, who's the horse I'm most likely to back in 2008. Sure, he's young and relatively inexperienced, but I have to say some of our best presidents have been ones who've come on board with less experience (Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Kennedy, Clinton) than the lifetime Washingtonians. I really enjoyed his autobiography "Dreams From My Father" and thought I saw a man in those pages of solid principle yet a flexible nature, which is kind of what I like in a president. Someone who's willing to admit he doesn't know everything and yet possesses a kind of confident power. I admit it's not the most scientific way to pick a president, but I'm a reading kind of fellow, and at the moment when I ship my ballot back to California I'm likely to tick off Obama and hope for the best.