Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tonight's Debate.

Let's face it. If you're in Obama's camp, you're sure he won. (I am.) If you're in McCain's camp, you're exchanging high fives over how well he did.

The only people this debate mattered to are the undecideds. And I've just got one thing to say about the undecideds.

How pathetically clueless or apathetic do you have to be to be undecided at this point? Is there some nuance of a difference between the two that you need clarified? I'm not telling you who you need to support, but the differences are pretty clear by now. If we're waiting for people who are incapable of telling the difference to decide the election...I'm really scared.

So this is my request to the undecideds. Don't vote. Please. Don't. Vote. You're too stupid to decide an election. Just stay home on Election Day. I'm laying odds you can find a Honeymooners marathon somewhere on TV. Bang. Zoom. Alice. Yeah, that'll be fun.


vince said...

With all due respect, I must strongly disagree. Let's see if I can articulate why I think you're being way too harsh.

Take me, for example. I'm an independent, and on many levels neither of these candidates resonate with me. There are positions on both sides that I strongly have problems with, and there are bills, including the bailout bill (yes, fixes were/are needed, no, the current bill wasn't it, especially with all the pork added, but that's a side issue) that both of them voted for that I disagree with.

I am a person who is more fiscally conservative than either, and don't see how either of them can support the spending programs and tax cuts they each espouse without continued huge deficits. And neither have said much about critical issues like how we can revamp our tax system to make it simple and fair, our crumbling infrastructure, waste and lack of accountability at all levels of government, the petty bickering among our intelligence agencies that is sabotaging our ability to collect and analyze intelligence, etc.

Further, both candidates have supported and continue to support positions that give the federal government power over our lives that I strongly oppose. Some of these positions overlap, and some are unique to each candidate.

I don't think any of the debates added much information, other than neither candidate can seem to get their facts straight. And they're not debates in the true sense anyway.

So, for me, in some ways I feel that I will either be voting for the candidate who is least objectionable, or a third party candidate like Bob Barr.

I'm not apathetic - far from it. This is an important, even critical election. Even were it not, I take the exercise of my franchise seriously, and that means research and long, hard thought.

Clueless? Perhaps, but I'd like not to think so. What I am is frustrated with both major candidates when it comes to the issues and any realistic chance of making course corrections this country needs.

Am I leaning in a direction? Yes. Do either of the candidates hold positions I agree with? Yes. Do one of them annoy me more than the other? Yes.

But this election cries out so desperately, in my opinion, for a viable third party. And thus I struggle with my vote for President.

By the way, I have made my decision on state and local elections.

My two cents. Make of it what you will.

John the Scientist said...

I'm with Vince.

However, Nathan's right about the largest segement of undecideds, Vince. You and I are in the minority.

Nathan said...

Oh fine Vince,

Go and apply thought and reason to my knee-jerk, pull-it-out-of-my-ass pontificating. (I am, however sticking to my premise.)

vince said...

Go and apply thought and reason to my knee-jerk, pull-it-out-of-my-ass pontificating.

My pleasure :-)

Eric said...

Vince, John--you know I respect you guys, but I'm not sure I'm completely buying it. I understand that neither candidate is who you want, and that you don't want to commit to either candidate, and that whomever you're leaning towards you don't like... but Nathan's premise still holds. There's enough information already on the table, and has been for weeks (if not months) for both of you to decide how or if you're going to vote. I'm not saying I don't respect your grounds for holding your nose and closing your eyes when you vote, or that you shouldn't vote for a write in or third-party, or even that I wouldn't respect a principled decision to stay at home or toss a coin.

Okay, so Nathan was off and maybe out-of-line when he said "clueless" or "apathetic," because you clearly have clues and, if anything, care pretty damn strongly. But the only reason to be "undecided" is that you don't want to decide or that you're really "decided" and you just can't believe the choice you feel forced into. But then I have to wonder what the hell y'all are thinking in the rhetorical sense--that is, I understand the thought processes the two of you are describing, and I've been there in plenty of elections since I started voting nearly 20 years ago, but nonetheless, what the hell are you thinking? The differences are obvious, the issues are clear, and if neither candidate has been explicit about certain crucial policies or unrealistic about how they'll pay for others, their thought-processes, intellectual approaches, and basic philosophies are quite clear from how they've run their campaigns, who they've surrounded themselves with and selected as advisors and running mates, their distinctive rhetorical styles, etc. Nobody may know exactly how McCain or Obama would react to a Black Monday, Pearl Harbor, Cuban Missile Crisis or 9/11--but I think everybody in the country can make an educated guess (which may be wrong, of course, still...) and decide which one seems preferrable. You can oversimplify it to the "fighter pilot" aprroach versus the "law professor" approach if you'd like, but it's pretty clear now that the men have run their campaigns for better or worse with either a fighter pilot's reflexes or a law professor's contemplation; merely leaving the question of which one do you prefer all-in-all.

The apt cliche at this point would be "shit or get off the pot." I really don't think there are any good reasons for you to be undecided, even if it means you're voting against my guy. But hey, it's your right to do a coin toss in the booth on 11/4, if that's your pleasure.

John the Scientist said...

Eric on racial grounds alone - that Obama subjected his kids, one quarter white, to "Reverend" Wright, I will never vote for him. As a parent of inter-racial kids, and as someone who grew up in a black church (so I know there are other choices besides Wright, just not other choices that protect a half-black politician from charges of not being black enough) Obama disgusts me on a very personal, visceral level.

My indecision is whether I hold my nose and vote for the Constitution gutting author of McCain Feingold, or vote Libertarian despite that party's being in the grips of the Ayn Rand fan club.

neurondoc said...

My husband is now mostly-decided, and he may fall into the I-can't-believe-I'm-going-to-vote-for-that-guy category more than any other place. Weirdly, he has spent time convincing his family in Ohio to vote for Obama, although he has come around to the Obama camp only very recently. He is neither apathetic, nor clueless, but rather dismayed by both candidates and was trying to figure out if he was going to vote against one of them, for a write-in candidate (my suggestion of Lyndon LaRouche was not received in the spirit in which it was given), or actually FOR one of the candidates. I suspect that he is voting against McCain/Palin as much as anything at this point.

Vince -- love the picture. I will be giving a neuroanatomy lecture in the spring, and I plan to begin it with the Brainstem song from Pinky and the Brain. Neuroscience humor that makes me howl. (Okay, I'm pathetic, you can think it; just don't tell me.)


Eric said...

Well, see, John--in a sense you don't even count as "undecided" in the manner most people have been using the phrase. Barr isn't even in the debates, for-better-or worse.

There are rational reasons for voting for a third-party, such as improving the third party's ability to get matching public funds or to qualify for future ballots (check your state election laws). But we both know the Libertarians aren't going to win the Presidency, making that aspect of your vote a choice between McCain and, effectively speaking, nothing. If a vote for Barr will help keep third parties healthy, naturally that's one thing. And hey, it's your right to write in "Mickey Mouse" or "Heinlein's Dessicated Corpse" or a naughty word if you want to.

But as far as Nathan's post was concerned, you're not really undecided in the sense he clearly meant and the debate really couldn't mean anything to you as far as making up your mind is concerned. You seem to have clearly made up your mind you're not voting for Obama--decided. Your remaining choices are McCain and Barr--decided. A vote for Barr is at best an architectural vote for the future (i.e. it may matter in the future, but it's irrelevant in the immediate present) and at worst a futile symbolic gesture--decided.

(If I were conniving, I'd try to talk you into voting for Barr, essentially neutralizing your vote. But see, I'm a nice guy, and I do try to be fair.)

As I posted at my own blog this evening, my mind is not only made up but cast--I voted early tonight, and yes, I was proud to vote for the Senator from Illinois.

Do what you got to do, man.

vince said...

Eric, no matter what I do, I won't flip a coin.

My indecision doesn't come from feeling I don't have enough information. At this point, I seriously doubt that there is undiscovered information that would alter my viewpoints concerning the candidates. If a feeling that I don't have enough information were the cause of my indecision, then I would be more amenable to both Nathan and your viewpoints. I agree, there's more than enough information.

My indecision is in whether to vote for an actual candidate, or do what I number of people I know will be doing, which is writing in "none of the above" for president. I'm torn between being more pragmatic in my decision or voting how I actually feel. I mean, could you see millions of people voting "none of the above" and the signal that would send? Yet, there's no way that many people will vote to send that message, even if that's how they truly feel.

But I really don't have to make a final decision until the day I walk into the voting booth.

Natalie, I love Pinky and the Brain, and any instructor that would begin a class with any songs from the Animanics is an instructor that know that a a dose of humor helps their students absorb material better. So rather than believing you're pathetic, I believe you're way cool, and your students are very lucky to have you as their instructor.

vince said...

And Eric, I posted after your most recent post, so I know you get what I was saying.

Nathan said...

"...on racial grounds alone - that Obama subjected his kids, one quarter white, to "Reverend" Wright, I will never vote for him."


That's actually one aspect of that I haven't heard voiced and hadn't considered. I'm still voting for the guy, but...yeah that takes a big chunk of shiny off.

Eric said...

Nathan: whether John's observation takes the shiny off depends a great deal on how you see race and the racial history of America.

This is a bitter and complex matter. I respect John's position as a member of a multi-racial family. On the other hand, I think identifying Obama's children as "one-quarter" anything is a little off--I don't think John is being intentionally disingenuous, and I don't want to accuse him of that. But the racial politics and history of this country is that Obama's children would be identified as "black" in almost any time and place in America; even that assessment is complicated by the fact that racial identity in, for instance, Louisiana could get complicated by fractions. But as a generalization, the only ethnic group for whom fractional descent has had a long-standing and meaningful cultural and legal distinction has been among Native Americans.

I'll be honest, and maybe I've said this before: I do not find Reverend Wright's statements about race, religion and politics to as disturbing as his statements about HIV and public health, even when I disagree with him about race or politics. (That I disagree with any priest about religion should be a given.) If I had my druthers, I'd be thrilled if the Obamas were secular freethinkers of one stripe or another. Since they're not, I'm going to worry less about how he spends his Sundays and what his ex-pastor said than my general sense of how he'll lead the country.

For the record, I don't care that Palin is a Pentecostal or Biden a Catholic or McCain a whatever-the-hell-McCain is, either, as long as they keep it out of the White House if it comes to it. I think, for the record, that President McCain or President Biden would keep their churches out of public policy the way President Kennedy did and President Wilson did not; I don't trust a President Palin to do the same.

As you all know, I've already voted for Obama/Biden. Rev. Wright didn't enter my head and it doesn't bother me now.


Vince: I do get what you're saying, I just respectfully think it's About That Time. A principled vote for "none of the above" or a third party is clearly something I don't have a problem with: as I've explained at my blog, I voted for Nader in 2000 for reasons I stand behind even now, insofar as what I knew then (if I were to re-do it based on what I know now, sure, I'd have voted for Gore--just like a lot of Republicans).

The "undecideds" that the media are focusing on aren't, as far as I can tell, people who are rebelling against the options, which is what I think you and John are doing; they're people who are accepting the choice they have but won't pick one. I think there's a difference, and I think Nathan's original post applies to that, but I do apologize if I wasn't clear about all that.

Nathan said...


My response to John was a short way of saying that I take Obama at his word when he says he really didn't pay that much attention to Wright's rhetoric...and as a discerning adult I don't find it disingenuous that he'd be able to "cherry pick" from Wright's sermons. I also don't take issue with Wright's right to be angry...even if I do think he's a whackjob with a whole lot that he's reported to have said.

Bearing that in mind, now that I have it put in my face, I do have a problem with subjecting highly impressionable children (of any race or mixture), to the same kind of speech. They are, by definition, not capable of picking and choosing the portions of those sermons they should ignore, (assuming they didn't just sleep through them).

As I said, it won't make me change my vote and I still find him to be highly admirable...just now, there's a little bit of tarnish there for me. And that's OK too. I'm not looking for perfection.

And I can understand why it's more personal for John, though.

MWT said...

Well, if you're going to start considering his children, then you also have to start wondering whether the parents discuss with the children about what they're hearing to help them think critically about it and make informed opinions. Some parents do that; do the Obamas?

Nathan said...


Now we're getting into pure conjecture. I'd imagine like most parents, the depth of those discussions changes with the age of the children.

MWT said...

That's kind of my point. We don't know them or much at all about the specifics of the circumstances between the Obama family, Wright, and their chosen church. I'm not going to make judgements about whether they were right or wrong, and I don't see it as being very relevant to whether he can be a good president.

Nathan said...

OK, fine, I'll take it from both sides. On this question (the kids), I am going to judge...and I think he was taking his kids to that church when they were too young to be susceptible to explanations. Like I said, it's not changing my vote, but I'm not going to blindly absolve Obama of any and all sins.

I think he fucked up there.

Note: I think the speech he gave in explanation was about as eloquent and inspirational as you could have asked for...but it doesn't apply to small children.