I'm rather sad to admit that this is the first time that I have been politically motivated enough to participate in a presidential primary election. Of course I have voted before but the primary process has usually been completed before voting began in WA, the state where I grew up. It was not only the historic nature of the candidates that attracted me to the process, but the essential differences in direction placed before our country. People who will tell me that they either "Like them both" or "Don't really like either or them" in reference to the two major party candidates astound me. I certainly couldn't care less whether you like John McCain or not, but you must understand that there are major philosophical differences between him and Barack Obama.
That is one of the major problems with the political process, namely that people have become so apathetic towards politics (and politicians) in general that they cannot see the ramifications of their ballot choice. Take the election of 2004 for example. By then it was fairly clear that the Iraq War was not about to end anytime soon, civil liberties had begun to be rolled back especially for combatants, deception and manipulation was everywhere. Along comes a Democratic candidate with little charisma, some Washington clout and he loses. Sure voter fraud in Ohio is one thing, but what made those millions of Americans think to themselves, "Eh, Kerry is just as bad as Bush." I guess the mentality of 'the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't' had settled in, but it is entirely something else when that particular 'Devil' has the option of going to war and revoking Habeas Corpus.
Just imagine the differences between the two nominees for this fall and on top of that factor in the political philosophies of each. John McCain is not an evil person, he is not a neocon(servative), he does not hold reactionary views on certain topics (i.e. a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage), or many of the other aspects of the Bush administration that so many find repulsive. The main safety pin holding him to his would-be predecessor is the Iraq War. I will be the first to admit that the current POTUS and VPOTUS are certainly wrong and morally reprehensible when it comes to their dealing (and fraudulent beginning) of the war. Now I cannot say whether or not Sen. McCain would have gone to war in the first place, but my instincts say that he probably would not have, at least not for the same reasons that the Bush Administration had employed. The main difference now is that the country is becoming more and more adamant about bringing the troops home from overseas.
As a radically liberal Democrat, sometimes it pains me to admit that the language used by my party about the withdrawal has been so Americentric. I agree with the position that the troops need to come home immediately, but not necessarily for the reasons given. Any political stump speech invariably hold the phrase "blank check to the Iraqi government" as a motivation for bringing our military forces home. Sometimes I wonder if politicians remember that it was the American force that put that government into place initially. If anyone is to blame for the impotence of the Iraqi governmental structure, it is us. Think about it, if the Americans (and British for that matter) really wanted access to oil revenue from a "free" Iraq, they could not put a powerful Prime Minister into place who might deny them that access. Instead they installed a puppet regime that would allow them access and also allows the Democratic party to beat up on someone who is trying to do the impossible. Why don't Democrats vocalize the fact that the war is killing innocent Iraqis, costing billions of American dollars, virtually annihilating any sense of Iraqi infastructure, and harming American troops? That would be enough to make me realize that at least something different has to be done in place of our continued strategy of "blow it up, rebuild it, blow it up again." The language of blaming the Iraqi government for the failings of the American foregin policy simply baffles me. Sure it is politically expedient to blame Nuri al-Malaki for George Bush's failings, but is it accurate? We destroy thousands of buildings, roads, bridges, and kill hundreds of thousands and suddenly the fault is on the Iraqis for not trying hard enough to calm their people down? Can anyone remember that it took the American colonists from 1776 until 1789 to ratify our Constitution? And that was without the British standing on every streetcorner brandishing their rifles. Sure the analogy doesn't fit, but the point is this, you cannot blame Iraqis for being angry at their invadors, President Bush himself admitted that one. When violence begets violence it doesn't matter whether or not the American were the one who destroyed the market or bombed the Mosque, the citizenry of Iraq will continue to resent American presence in Iraq until our soldiers exchange their rifles for rice bags; their weapons for water. Of course that doesn't make the best political point, but neither does the truth, that you cannot ravage someone's country and then blame the ensuing chaos of them.
The other major policy shared by Sen. McCain and Pres. Bush is the economy. More than anything, this may destroy Sen. McCain's chances in the fall. If things begin to turn around again then he may have a chance, but the unpopular war coupled with the recession spells trouble for the incumbent party. Tax cuts for the wealthy have somehow morphed from completely insane to the law of the land. Anyone who seeks to reverse them is painted as a tax collector, tax and spend liberal, etc. Somehow I don't think that those arguments will be especially persuasive, but they may be in some areas.
Of course there are other differences between Sens. Obama and McCain namely healthcare, education, the environment, and foreign policy in places other than Iraq. Closing Guantanamo Bay, revamping the healthcare system, reworking No Child Left Behind, refusing to drill for oil in environmentally dangerous places, talking to leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and others are all important aspects of the Democratic platform. So when someone tells me that there is basically no difference between the two of them, I have plenty to argue.
The Presidential race may overshadow some other important races as well. 35 Senate seats and every seat in the House of Representatives is up for reelection this year. As many of us know, the legislature is often more important than the Executive and it is easily overlooked when the White House is in play. There are options for Democrats to pick up at least 1 and perhaps as many as 4 or 5 Senate seats this year. There is a list of the incumbent Senators up for reelection this year at the bottom of the page. Don't overlook the importance of those numbers because the closer we get to 66 Senators, the closer we get to actually getting something accomplished during the Obama administration.
Report back for other posts about the most vulnerable Senators and how the races are shaping up around the country.