On voting for change.

In every election I throw my vote away vote for change by voting for the person who most closely resembles my political ideology, which has thus far always been the Libertarian candidate. It doesn’t much matter that I’m not helping influence the decision between the two major/viable candidates, because they are always so much the same. This year I’ve been especially amazed by the degree to which people have played up the “change” that’s coming to Washington.

It’s a great story, but I don’t believe it holds up to scrutiny. At least, this is what I know:

On gay marriage:
Both Barack Obama and John McCain share the view that lesbian/gay couples should not be allowed to call themselves married. Neither of them voted for the Federal Marriage Ammendment (so either would have been a “change” from Bush’s stance at least slightly) but neither of the candidates supports gay marriage. They all (Bush included) support civil unions.

On warrentless wiretapping:
The Bush administration rightly took a ton of criticism for this. Obama initially came out and said “no more” if you elect him. 6 months later he went on to support a wiretapping bill.

On the war:
This was the big issue – the one where Obama and Bush/McCain were supposed to be drastically different. McCain had once said that he’s okay with having troops there 100 years from now and took a lot of flak for that, including some pretty funny YouTube videos. In context, he wasn’t talking about a 100 year war, but about having troops stationed there as they are in other countries. He went on to claim that the war could be won by 2013. Hiliary Clinton had quoted a similar target during the debates. Obama said that we will have most troops out of Iraq within 16 months and McCain went on to agree that 16 months was a “good timetable.”

Now Obama has chosen Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State. Clinton, of course, was who Obama had argued was too pro-War to defeat McCain in a general election. There’s some speculation now that Obama is going to keep Bush’s defense secretary Robert Gates. Talk of the “16 month” timeline is already being replaced with phrases like “sensible withdrawal.” Looking over that, you have to ask… what’s the big change?

On immigration:
Spend more money on walls, fine illegal immigrants, and give them a path to citizenship. The Obama immigration plan and the Bush-backed and McCain-influenced Immigration Reform Act (which didn’t pass) aren’t fundamentally different. I don’t see where the change is here. Obama talks about how we need a lot of immigration changes, but so did Bush… and they talk about wanting to change the same things. To the disappointment of the Republican base, and seemingly ignored by the Democrats, both Bush and McCain are proponents of so-called “amnesty” to illegal immigrants, and favor a path to citizenship. A traditionally liberal position.

On the bailout:
Bush supported it. McCain voted for it. Obama voted for it. And even though they flew to the congressional hearing in private jets, you can bet the automakers are going to be able to squeeze bailout money out of congress, regardless of who’s president.

On drilling:
The “drill baby drill” chant was heard at the Republican National Convention. Early in the campaign, Obama was staunchly opposed to opening up more offshore areas to drilling. As time passed, he and McCain came closer and closer together, and Obama was ok with drilling offshore. Both candidates opposed drilling in ANWR, supported tapping into strategic reserves to lower prices, supported using nuclear power as part of their plans, support “clean coal”, and supported legislation to cap carbon emissions. Their energy plans differ on details, no doubt, but the big difference is… where?

On dumb vice presidents:
It took Palin 5 colleges before she graduating. Biden finished 76th out of a class of 85 including a plagiarism incident. Both parties this year offered us vice presidential candidates without a lot of academic success. I suppose it’s better than the Bush-Kerry decision 4 years ago.

On gun rights:
Of all of the Repbulicans who had run for president, I don’t know who the NRA would have disliked more than McCain. During the primaries, gun rights where one area where he was shelled by the likes of Mike Huckabee. Both Obama and McCain took a moderate-to-liberal stance on gun control.

So, are the candidates different? Of course. Pick an issue and you can dig up some differences. Health care is a fairly major one, although people seem to forget about Bush’s Prescription Drug bill, which was obviously a large spending effort in favor of government-sponsored medicine (something traditionally supported by Democrats). Bush also raised the minimum wage much to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives. The differences, while present, are in my opinion far overstated. Given the down economy, I’ll be curious to see if, in fact, Obama does anything about the Bush tax cuts aside from letting them run out on their own timetable (Bush had made them temporary). It’s another big issue on paper which, in practice, may not materialize.

The next year could be interesting, but I think what will be most surprising to people isn’t how much things change, but how little.

6 thoughts on “On voting for change.

  1. Pingback: The Buzz » Blog Archive » Captain’S Log » on Voting For Change. - Personal Web Log of Tom Lianza

  2. I’m optimistic that things will be better than with Bush, at least in terms of having some respect for our country’s president (even if I don’t agree with him on many things) …

    Of course, you’re spot on that both these guys (and their parties) are much closer politically than they’d have you believe. Apparently, socialism lies somewhere between 35% and 40% marginal tax rate.

  3. All else being equal, I too prefer having a president who’s a good speaker and gives the illusion of competence.

    I think all of the political parties know what America, on average, will vote for and the main two run on that (except third parties who are less likely to compromise their ideology). It makes me wonder if a president’s stated stance on issues is even relevant. Maybe they *should* be chosen based on character traits instead. It’s your only clue as to how they might behave when in office.

  4. Maybe they *should* be chosen based on character traits instead. It’s your only clue as to how they might behave when in office.

    You might be correct. Bush was one extreme, it will be interesting to compare and contrast with Obama.

  5. I took a LOT of shit for voting Libertarian. Aside from being enraged that people told me I was throwing away my vote, I too responded with pointing out the similarities in the candidates, or the way that Obama’s policies were directly contrary to that of the person who was yelling at me.

    I, too, believe that there will be remarkably little change with Obama in office.

    As an aside, I wonder why so many people want to point to Bush as this single person who drove the country into the ground – as much power as the President has, where the fuck was every other elected official for the past 8 years? The President can really influence the direction of the country but there are a few hundred elected people who could really do that too.

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