February 3, 2008

The decision is yours! The decision is yours!

Filed under: Laws and Sausages — tomemos @ 12:59 pm

I’ve been a registered California voter since the 2000 election. Living in the most populous state in the union should make a guy feel pretty influential in an election, but because Iowans are so much more important than we are, I’ve never had the chance to vote in a meaningful presidential primary; by the time it gets to us, it’s all over. This year, for the first time in my adult life, a Californian can make a difference in the primary, and what a difference: we’re the crown jewel of OMFG Tuesday, and the race is too close to call. So who am I voting for?

I have no idea.

Voting in the general election is like being a vegetarian in a standard American restaurant: the decision is quick because the options are limited. I didn’t necessarily feel like voting for Kerry in 2004, but it was that or go hungry. It turns out that voting in a primary is like going to a vegetarian restaurant, and in both cases I’m not prepared to deal with even the concept of choices: even though, in this case, there are only two options, I find myself totally paralyzed.

Luckily, I have an easy forum for people to tell me what to do: this blog. I’ll tell you what I’ve got so far, and I hope you’ll weigh in with some ways to make this decision easier. Here’s how I see it:

Opportunity to elect the first female president: Attractive.
Opportunity to elect the first black president: Attractive.

Opportunity to nominate someone who has weathered the right-wing attack machine: Attractive.
Clinton’s connections to a corrupt, entrenched centrist Democrat establishment (personified by Mark Penn, say): Unattractive.
The dynasty thing: Totally indifferent.

Opportunity to take a bold new direction by nominating a candidate with an attractive message and without serious baggage: Attractive.
Thought of nominating an unknown quantity in an election with such high stakes: Unattractive.

Obama’s health care plan in comparison to Clinton’s: Unattractive; equivocal.
Clinton’s stance on immigration in comparison to Obama’s: Unattractive; equivocal.
Other decisive policy differences: N/A

Clinton’s vote for the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq: Unattractive.
Clinton’s refusal to call that vote a mistake: Unattractive.
Clinton’s vote for the Kyl-Lieberman Resolution calling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist organization”: Unattractive.
Mitigating factors: Hardly any.
Indications that Obama has his own history of equivocation: Troubling.

Opportunity to take part in historic grassroots movement of young, progressive voters: Attractive.
Sense that we should all calm down about this guy, because he might be a big disappointment: Pervasive.

Obama’s charisma and dry wit: Attractive.
Arguments that Obama is the candidate, at long last, that the right wing will not attack with undiluted vehemence and nastiness: Unpersuasive.

Frank Rich’s uncritical pro-Obama hackery: Extremely unattractive.
Maureen Dowd’s petty anti-Clinton mudslinging: Extremely unattractive.
Commentators on the left, whom I will not name, who have argued that Clinton should not be nominated because she somehow radiates pure insincerity and unlikability, comments that are hard to attribute to anything but sexism: Extremely unattractive.
Chance to prove them all wrong by electing Clinton: Extremely attractive.
Sense that spite may not be a good enough reason to vote for someone: Grudging.

Chances, in my view, that the victorious candidate will put aside bad blood and pick the other as a running mate, creating a no-white-males ticket: Nil.

* * *

So what do you think? Whom do I vote for? You have 48 hours; after that, I’m going to the polls and I’m following my gut. Which is the last thing anyone should want.

(I also don’t know how to vote on the Indian Gaming Compacts, but that’s a list for another time.)



  1. Regarding healthcare, I’ve read that it doesn’t matter who we vote for because none of the new plans will have any effect on the problem anyway. But at least Obama won’t deport immigrants for drug possession.

    So if we can’t help everyone, we might as well help immigrants.

    I realize I sound very confident when I reduce my line of thinking to a hundred word comment, but I also have no idea who I’m going to vote for on Tuesday.

    Comment by girldetective — February 3, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  2. I think that neither one is particularly progressive — whichever one got elected to the presidency would need the left to ride hard on them to make sure they don’t “triangulate” ever further to the right, but that’s more an indication of how our work will only _start_ after the election, not in the primaries.

    That said, I voted for Obama, because I don’t trust the staff and party leaders who are connected to Clinton, and I really dislike the idea of the presidency going Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton like that.

    And the TA union, along with my local paper, and I believe, the League of Women Voters, all recommend to vote No on the gaming initiatives, for a variety of reasons.

    Comment by Sisyphus — February 3, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  3. I’m voting for Obama. Although if it’s true that the race is neck and neck, that means Obama’s got the momentum (whatever that means) since before south carolina, Clinton was leading in California by something like 10 points. Please vote for Obama. All your worries about electability are sort of a catch-22 – he can only prove his electability by, well, getting elected. Which he did in two hard-fought primaries where he put up with Clinton machine mud-slinging that, frankly, rivals the Right’s (as an aside, trying to marginalize Obama as just the “black candidate” by comparing his South Carolina win to Jesse Jackson’s was just beyond the pale – no pun intended – given how Clinton has benefited politically from his close relationship to African American communities). If he wins hard-fought primaries as a candidate for the nomination, that demonstrates his ability to do so as the nominee.

    Uggh, I could keep going on, but I won’t. please vote for Obama. Please.

    Comment by Brandon — February 3, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

  4. To me, it’s the war. Hillary, like many other Democrats, supported the
    war in the belief that it would be easy and over with quickly and then
    they’d look bad if they’d opposed it.
    You cannot cast a vote on war out of political calculation and
    expedience. You are either a principled person or you are not. I am very glad to finally have an opportunity to make my California primary vote mean something – Barack Obama

    Comment by tom — February 3, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  5. Brandon, I think I gave a mistaken impression: while electability is part of what I mean in my concerns about “an unknown quantity” and the possibility that he might be “a big disappointment,” the risk doesn’t disappear if he’s elected. I’ve heard the argument that the new young voters who’ve come out for Obama will be disillusioned and angry if Clinton wins; well, how do you think they’re going to feel if Obama wins and doesn’t end up being the progressive dynamo they think he is? I know that this amounts to “the devil I know beats the devil I don’t,” which is a cynical doctrine, and I’m not convinced by it yet. But it is part of my thinking.

    I’m familiar with Clinton’s Jesse Jackson comments, thanks largely to Bela Tarr at Days of Industry, and I honestly think they’ve been blown out of proportion. Maybe I’m missing something—I’ve said before that neutrality isn’t necessarily a position of clarity—but from my perspective, how bad could it be when someone had to explain to me what was supposed to be bad about it? I wasn’t bothered by Obama’s “You’re likable enough, Hillary” either, and I agree with what’s been said before: that so much attention is being paid to the little stuff because there aren’t enough substantive differences between the candidates. All I know is, people who think the Clinton campaign is engaging in intolerable mudslinging should not turn on the TV or open a newspaper for the next few months, because once we’re past the primaries it is going to get way, way worse than that.

    Finally, while I agree that Obama will have proven a lot if he wins the nomination, the unelectable candidates that have somehow gotten nominated—Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry—make me think we shouldn’t take this principle too far.
    * * *
    Tom, you make a good point. Clinton’s bet-hedging support for the war, like Kerry’s, makes it hard to support her statesmanship, and the pressures that led her to vote yes are only intensified if she becomes president. If I end up voting for Obama, those votes will be a huge part of it.
    * * *
    Sisyphus, on the gaming compacts: I initially wasn’t convinced by the union argument, but after talking with a union organizer (Petitpoussin, as it happens) I understand the problem and am ready to vote no all down the line.

    Comment by tomemos — February 3, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

  6. i’m for obama for lots of reasons, but i’ll limit myself here to the one that i think should be most persuasive to an undecided voter: i think obama will win a general election; i think clinton almost certainly cannot.

    john mccain may be less horrifying than some, but this is the man who sang “bombbombbomb, bombbomb iran.” if the democrats commit political suicide (one that feels, to me, horribly obvious), the faint hope that these primaries has stirred will be quashed. and i may never come out from under my bed.

    Comment by anna — February 3, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

  7. I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible. Aside from the more prevalent arguments surrounding race and gender, experience and unity I would like to point you towards leadership style and the candidates’ very different approaches to foreign policy.

    Going on track record it is apparent that the two have very different leadership styles. Whereas Clinton has demonstrated a confident top-down style Obama has openly invited robust debate and transparent round table discussions. This, to me, is important to consider when many criticisms of Obama are based on the ‘poetry versus prose’ arguments. Obama is committed to inclusion and engagement. I believe this is the thread that not only runs through his rhetoric but is spun right through both his domestic and foreign policy, which brings me to my next point.

    This is where I feel the two candidates most differ. As a legislator Clinton has proven to be very hawkish and even hitching her wagon to the bellicosity of the current administration by voting for Kyl-Lieberman. It is often argued that this vote and her one on Iraq were based on political expediency. I feel this argument is irrelevant. If indeed it was expediency with one eye on a presidential campaign then I believe there are decisions of such magnitude that cannot be hedged based on personal ambition. On the hand if her record is consistent with her principles then I thinks it bides badly for the future. Conversely Obama has talked of direct conversation with enemy leaders. This approach is labeled naive but recent history suggests that conflict resolution is most achievable through direct discourse.

    Ultimately, the reason I support Obama is not because I am a progressive or feel he represents my values best but because I believe strongly in the democratic process of government and I firmly believe that Barack Obama is committed to strengthening and expanding these processes to more Americans.


    Comment by oddlyamerican — February 4, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  8. Oh yeah, even a successful Obama presidency is bound to disappoint the true believers. But at this point, I’ll take the more-likely progressive I don’t know, than the Clinton I do.

    Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether Obama would be subject to the same Right-wing slander machine, and I still remain skeptical. 1) No Karl Rove. 2) Michelle Malkin and Coulter will of course be slandering him – unless he’s running against McCain, which I’ll get to in a second – but I don’t think such smear campaigns will get as much traction this go round. That’s to say, of course he’ll be smeared, I just doubt it will be very effective especially if 3) he’s running against John McCain whom most of the Republican establishment loathe (I like to think of him as their Lieberman).

    Comment by Brandon — February 4, 2008 @ 11:14 am

  9. Tomemos, I’m with you entirely on the undecided thing (which I guess means that I’m living in a split household!) I’d articulate my reasons, but you already did that with your convenient list, so I’ll just say that I’m feeling like one of those neurotic romantic comedy characters who makes a pro/con list trying to decide which “special someone” to go for and then rips it up and waits for fate to take its course. What I’m now wishing I’d done is switch party allegiances and vote for Romney, since I’m convinced that either Democrat will have a better chance against him than McCain, but alas it’s too late . . . sigh. Is Kucinich still on the ballot? Maybe I *heart* him. . .

    Comment by Leila — February 4, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  10. Leila– Tragically, Kucinich is not still on the ballot. I was going to vote for him, then I was maybe going to vote for Edwards, and now I’m somewhat grudgingly going to vote for Obama, mostly because of the war issue for the reasons that have already been given above.

    Comment by uncomplicatedly — February 4, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  11. Well, technically he’s still on the ballot—they all are, at least on the California ballot—he’s just not in the race anymore. Which needn’t affect your decision; a friend of a friend is apparently still voting for Edwards, and Kucinich is one candidate who isn’t really less electable out of the race than in it.

    Comment by tomemos — February 4, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  12. One more thing — Tom & others, allow me to suggest taking a look at I came across it recently & it’s been helpful; it’s a site that catalogs votes and public statements for every candidate on every issue in a helpfully bullshit-free manner, and appears on cursory investigation to actually be non-partisan.

    Comment by uncomplicatedly — February 4, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  13. Oh good Tomemos, you already answered with ‘they’re still on the ballot, do what you feel!’ Poor Kucinich. He would have bee our first vegan president!

    As for me, I was there at 7:01am casting my vote for Girlfriend (we’re cool like that). But I’ll be pounding the pavement for whoever gets the nomination.

    Comment by petitpoussin — February 5, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  14. […] of Super Tuesday. (Tomemos did so; you can read his excellent post on informed indecision here, and the afterword on voting Obama here. Also, look for my upcoming post “Oilmen vs. […]

    Pingback by Obama vs. Clinton: Long-Term Thoughts About Change in America « The Kugelmass Episodes — February 7, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

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