Friday, September 12, 2008

Obama vs. McCain

I don't really care who you're voting for in November. What I want to know is why. Have you weighed the issues? Really? Or has your ability to make an informed decision been hijacked by partisan bias and seductive soundbites?

You see, there's a problem with today's American political system — there are only two viable political parties (despite the drop-in-the-bucket efforts of independents). This effectively frees the two opposing candidates from any real obligation to win over the American people. Instead, all a presidential candidate needs to do to succeed is turn the American people against his opponent. It's either/or, so the seemingly less evil candidate triumphs by default.

Since the candidates don't have to clearly outline their strengths, weaknesses, positions, or plans in an effort to win your vote (instead they'll use illogical promises and inspirational rhetoric to blow smoke up your backside), we're left to educate ourselves as best we can. Here, your sources matter. If you get your information exclusively from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News you're probably convinced that McCain can do no wrong and Barack Obama is a secret Muslim in league with terrorists. If you only watch John Stewart and MSNBC, you probably drank Obama's kool-aid months ago and think McCain is Bush the Third. A balanced diet is essential. If you don't listen to both sides you'll never see the bigger picture, never understand the nuances, and ultimately make an ill-informed, emotionally-charged decision that, post-election, will leave you with a smug grin and unrealistic, overoptimistic expectations (should your candidate win) or a bitter attitude and unfounded, apocalyptic thoughts (should he lose). The truth is, neither candidate is that bad ... and neither is that great. Don't take my word for it, though. Do your own research.

One great resource is The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President from HarperCollins. Browse the complete text or use the search tool to find a comprehensive rundown on McCain (pgs. 48 – 92), Obama (pgs. 281 – 326), and even Biden (pgs. 329 – 336). Palin, never a candidate for president, is mentioned just once in the section on Hillary (p. 227). Other great nonpartisan resources are USAVoter and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Bookmark them and return often. Then, check out these other sites for more information:

Learn about the Democrats
Learn about the Republicans
Learn about Obama
Learn about McCain
Learn about Biden
Learn about Palin
Overwhelmed? To help clarify things a little, often it's best to hear the candidates speak for themselves. If you haven't already, watch the videos from the civil forum on faith hosted by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (or read the transcripts — you can find a decent side-by-side comparison of the candidates answers here). Whatever you do, don't miss the presidential and vice-presidential debates (tip: keep an open mind as you listen, and don't listen to any pre- or post-debate commentary). Personally, I'm withholding a final voting decision until after I've heard McCain and Obama discuss the issues on live TV (here's the debate schedule; if you miss the live broadcasts, you should be able to find on-demand playback at the new website MyDebates). Finally, your most important resources are probably truth-sniffing sites like Snopes, FactCheck, and Regret the Error.

In the end, careful investigation (or a night spent watching Comedy Central shows on Hulu) will reveal that both McCain and Obama are flawed individuals with some flawed ideas. If you find yourself automatically rushing to "your candidate's" defense, fess up — you're biased. And before you become too critical of "the other candidate", please note that a careful look in the mirror (or a short conversation with an honest friend) will reveal that you're also imperfect. Surprise! We're all human. My point is, whatever your ideals, you'll need to compromise on some issues to endorse either candidate. And compromise in our democratic political system is okay; indeed, it's essential. There will never be a perfect candidate. It's up to us, to the best of our meager abilities, to determine who is best suited for the job. As you weigh the issues and sift through the propaganda, please exercise wisdom, discernment, and humility. And, always — always — consider the possibility that you're mistaken.


Heather Colletto said...

Mike, this is awesome! You're so darn smart and reasonable. I've loved discussing issues with you. We used to wonder what we'd talk about after wedding planning, and now we have our answer! :-)

Michael Colletto said...

In case you have trouble opening the .pdf versions of each party's 2008 platform, you can read these documents here as well:

2008 Democratic Platform:

2008 Republican Platform: