Monday, October 27, 2008

Event: Information. Where to Get It and How to Use It.


Information on National and Local Races.


This website is a great, nonpartisan tool; it contains each candidates' statements of their own positions. Input your address and zip code and it will tell you which races are contested in the executive and legislative branches. Illinois residents can learn about their judicial candidates here.

Michigan voters should also consult the well-edited and comprehensive League of Women Voters guide.

Newspaper endorsements can be great as well. They have the benefit of knowing both the candidates and their immediate public thoroughly. Still, take a few minutes to scrutinize how they back up their assessments. Many editorial boards have at least a subtle partisan bent; it is telling this cycle that so many Republican-leaning rags have voiced support for Obama.

I personally, believe that it is very telling when a candidate won't provide a direct statement to surveys such as these; this is as close as we can get to direct, concise policy statements. It speaks volumes for a candidate to remain silent.

Additionally, each candidate deserves scrutiny on the basis of not only the particular office and policy positions they will hold, but on the political baggage they will bring to the position. Don't get me wrong; personality is important in any elected office. But in positions of national prominence, such as countrywide, congressional, or statewide posts, we should consider very carefully what a candidate's affiliations are, where their campaign money comes from, and who they are likely to appoint. These are at least as important as how likeable or reliable or even responsible the candidate is.

More locally, a small number of votes are more likely to make a big difference, and the cost of campaigning is low enough that it doesn't require candidates to take as many favors with strings attached. Often at this level personality is more important and party affiliation is less. Judicial races, city/township/town/village and county positions, school board governorships and so forth are all ideal for independent votes. They can give third parties and independent candidates a chance to assert and argue for their platforms without undermining a progressive coalition nationally, and liberation of such votes from compromise reduces the level of unnecessary baggage politicians tend to pick up early in their careers.

If you want to cast a protest vote in a national level race (I will be doing so, voting Green for Illinois' 9th congressional district), that can be effective, but please do so in an uncompetitive race. We need to acquire a large Democratic majority in this cycle.

If you consider yourself Independent, but want to vote Republican in a national level race, I urge you to consider very carefully why you are doing so. Parties change with time, and the last twenty years has made the Republican Party into a much uglier and more unfriendly entity than it has been in decades. These are not the Republicans who will cut your taxes or help small businesses, and they are certainly not the Republicans who will keep government out of your dining room and bedroom. Policy-wise, Eisenhower has more in common with Clinton and Obama than with Bush or McCain, and Gerald Ford spent the last several years of his life appalled at the behavior of his own party's leadership. An Independent who believes that extremes in government are destructive, and that policy-decision dictated by ideology and not a sober assessment of human nature and the world is an independent that should vote for Democrats this cycle.

Finally, it is a truism that when one party dominates government, it leads to a mess. However, the Republican party has pushed the U.S. so far to the right, and has drawn so much of the left towards center, that we need a Democratic supermajority in the senate and a large majority in the House to pass the needed changes. We will have to hold these Democrats accountable and make sure that they behave responsibly and answer to their constituencies, but there is a lack of both credibility and policy soundness in the Republican Party that cannot enjoy rational and reasoned discourse.

This doesn't mean that we should call off discourse; conversation with friends and enemies is essential, to paraphrase one of our presidential candidates in a different context.

But we shold be honest in confronting politicians and their organizations for what they are and how they have behaved.

The Republican Party does not deserved to be called sound or responsible this decade.

It deserves to be treated for the radical, reactionary, xenophobic position it has staked out in the world.

In this election, in national races, we need to look to the Democratic Party for leadership.

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