Late to the Game? A Guide for Undecideds

As the presidential race draws nearer, more and more people are vocal about the issues and their selected candidates. This is no surprise. The stakes are high in this election: two different platforms on the wars abroad, immigration, fiscal decisions, and of course the traditional moral values that will determine the swing of the Supreme Court, such as abortion rights and privacy laws. Although this din of seemingly fanatical voices is typical, is it helpful? Sadly, no, and it would do you no good to turn to these noises as you ruminate over which candidate to support.

If you are one of those people still wading through the nightmarish amount of articles and videos of the two candidates trying to make some decisions, take your time. It’s an important one, and you still have a handful of weeks to make the decision. In the meantime, here are some pointers:

1. EARLY BIRD SPECIAL. Watch some of the early primary debates that host both John McCain and Barack Obama. Full videos of these debates can be found at YouDecide2008.com. In both the Republican and Democratic primary debates, both John McCain and Barack Obama were not the front-runners, and thus had more flexibility when it came to offering their views.

2. RESUME MATERIAL. Each candidate will try to dazzle you with different aspects of their life and accomplishments. While these are pertinent, it is more germane to look over each of the candidates’ voting records. Unlike Governors, the best way to assess Obama and McCain is through their own legislation and decisions over others’ legislation. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are senators, and each have over 10 years of service as congressmen. For quick look at Barack Obama’s legislative stances, visit OntheIssues-Obama. For a quick look at John McCain’s, visit OntheIssues-McCain.

3. BI-POLAR DISORDER. Be wary of any information that is framed in a highly emotional manner. Issues tend to become emotional for people, but this is not necessary. Special interest groups tend to play up emotions in order to scare voters toward one candidate or another. Examples of these will surface in short television ads as the election date gets closer. If you get hit with a bolt of emotion, remind yourself that fear is not the best method of selecting someone to lead our country. The best way to carefully and adequately traverse the ocean of articles is to keep a clear head.

4. BEWARE OF INFOTAINMENT. Carefully avoid TV, newspaper or Internet ads that seek to denigrate either candidate. This goes for political organizations as well as radio hosts, such as MoveOn.org, Air America, and Rush Limbaugh. Look more for information that explains and clarifies a candidates position. Most negative ads tend to distend or fabricate the opponent’s platform. If you are unsure about a rumor, check them out with organizations that are vested in bi-partisan vetting, such as FactCheck.org.

5. AVOID THE YEAH-BUT PEOPLE. “Yeah-But” people come in all colors and all shapes– and often like to knock on your door close to election time. If you have any contrary position to theirs, you’ll inevitably hear a “yeah-but.” Assess a friend or colleague’s position before listening to their political advice. If s/he appears unable to praise both candidates on different issues, chances are you are speaking to a jaded individual who might pass along information, but in a lop-sided manner. If you wish to listen to “Yeah-But” people, listen to them in a room in which there are “Yeah-Buts” who support the opposite candidate. One excellent location for this on the Internet is YouDecide2008.com, which has both liberal and conservative commentators.

Both candidates see the value in going beyond the typical politicking that usually engulfs the country near election time. Perhaps one of the turning points in the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s career was when he delivered his speech “The Audacity of Hope” at the Democratic National Convention in July, 2004. In what has become one of his now famous slogans, he argued that the United States is not a grouping of “red” states and “blue” states, but rather “united” states. This idea is also strongly supported by the Republican candidate John McCain, whose notorious maverick status allows him to cut through partisan lines. What both of these candidates are arguing for– and desiring to be seen as– are people above the political fray. Can the candidates’ constituents strive for the same? Unfortunately no, and this proves to be the same for pundits and journalists alike. The closer we get to election, the harder is will be to find non-partisan or objective-leaning reporting.

But do not lose heart! In the end, what is most important is to vote. It can be a hassle, and for some, overwhelming, but it is also an incredibly empowering experience. If the last two elections have not shown already, a few votes does make difference.

November 4th is just around the corner, so make sure you mark your calendar– and if you are not sure you can be at your voting location, sign up to vote absentee in your respective state. Until then, happy hunting.

  • Christopher Schwinger

    Don’t forget third party candidates!

  • Thank you for mentioning that Christopher… You are absolutely right.

  • Dreadsen

    Christopher Schwinger

    have you heard that the 3rd party candidates may have their own debate among themselves?

  • I am a liberal, rationalist Muslim from India. I always looked up to America to lead humanity into a more civilized world. For some years, however, I have felt disillusioned and disturbed by the American government policies.

    I once again hope, in the context of ensuing Presidential elections, for the return of my confidence. This piece explains that hope. Perhaps you may find it worth circulating or publishing as an open letter or otherwise.

    M Hasan Jowher

    AN OPEN LETTER TO AMERICAN FRIENDS
    FROM AN INDIAN MUSLIM
    By M Hasan Jowher
    Dear Fellow Americans

    This comes to you from a rationalist Muslim of India and is about your Presidential candidates.

    Thank you America for your numerous gifts to earth. Your medicines saved numerous precious lives, your inventions made our life comfortable. American explorations from the sub-atomic to supra-galactic broadened our understanding of life, its origin and perhaps direction. And above all we thank you for proclaiming the dignity of human race and liberty and equality of all humans on earth. Without you this world would have been badly impoverished.

    As a curious middle class Muslim in the far off India I grew up admiring your heroism, sportsmanship and adventures, science and technology, struggles and compassion. I marveled at your fine democratic spirit and institutions. Although culturally very different, I instinctively aligned myself with your travails and lapped up your icons. For most of mankind you became the ultimate dreamland.

    That sadly is past. Alas! the famed American spirit, too, seems to have fallen prey to the vagaries of history. May I present another side of the reality?

    Your successive governments’ foreign policies, particularly during the Bush regime, have shown utter contempt for the weak and vulnerable. The state of America has seldom been so despised as in the last 7 years, worldwide. Virtually righting the might you have adopted disturbing double standards conveniently overlooking stark truths.

    You virtually coined the phrase Islamic Terrorism popularizing the notion that Muslims are by default terrorists. Undoubtedly 9/11 was an act of terrorism and must be punished. But reckon who killed more humans in history. Muslims? Consider the massacre of Jews in Germany, the carnage of innocents on both sides in the two world wars including in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the numerous third world wars including the Indo-Pakistan confrontation resulting from the legacy of Western colonialism.

    Picture these victims: mothers feeding babies, patients inside hospitals, revelers in wedding processions, peasants at work in agricultural farms and workers in medicine factories.. all killed by your im-‘precision’ bombing in Sudan, Afghanistan and now in Iraq. These were about as innocent as those in WTC. The victims, not the killers here happened to be Muslims.

    When your foreign policy pampers Muslim despots, Emirs, Sheikhs and kings – for your oil needs – and helps them suppress the people’s struggles for freedom, liberty and democracy, why does your sense of democracy not militate?

    Would you like a Muslim ruler to impose his values upon you and your country and, if you disobey, be punished and called aggressors, militants, terrorists? Hasn’t George Bush done just that in Iraq? In simple language America is aggressor and the Iraqis are fighting for their freedom from occupation.

    You lost billions in this needless war brining your economy and that of nearly the entire world to catastrophe.

    Your government has fed you on familiar diet: homeland security, chasing the enemy, preempting terrorism, democratizing [Islamic] dictatorships et al. But, sorry, today America has more enemies than before, that despite your mighty arsenal you live in greater danger than ever before. Anyone who pushes people to suicides lives dangerously.

    Haven’t some of you somehow developed a jaundiced, self-centered world-view? Liberty, democracy, freedom and rule of law for yourselves at home, injustice, aggression for others outside? Your soldiers are liberators and heroes; theirs jihadis, militants, aggressors, fanatics!

    To know how the world regards your foreign policy, you don’t need global referendum; the UN General Assembly proceedings, despite the stifling pressure exerted by your government through puppet regimes and leaders, suffice. How come the heirs to the heroes of liberty came to condone such plain indignity?

    Most of humanity sympathized with you for 9/11. Even after blatant aggression in Iraq most people – including Muslims – distinguish the state from the ordinary American. By re-electing Mr Bush, however, you endorsed his policy of murder and aggression. Would you then not be liable to retaliation from his victims? Some don’t believe America has the sole monopoly of murder. By electing McCain you will be repeating this error.

    We respect you because of what you gave, not for your power of killing. We count upon you to free earthlings of disease, deflect asteroids heading toward earth, not to police the earth and dictate your values on our lives. We want to love you, not fear. We adore those of you that show concern, understanding and reconciliation, not those calling for confrontation, subjugation, destruction. If this madness continues, humanity loses, peace perishes, innocents fall, undoing all the good your forefathers did.

    Barak Obama who? I don’t know more than what your TV channels told. Bush I do. John McCain, though a respectable person, appears unmistakably as George’s extension. One is an unknown face, another certain extension of your insensitivity. The world wants you to send Barak to the White House. In one stroke you would have firmly demonstrated your commitment to racial and regional equality, equal opportunity for all and fairness of judgment.

    But what right do I have to muddle in your politics? The same as you have in Iraq, Pakistan, Korea, Iran, Libya, and a dozen other countries. And, your President matters to us all. Indeed, to some of us he matters more than ours, for good or for bad.

    I absolutely dislike Osama Bin Laden and his ilk because they killed innocent Americans; they are against science, reason, modernity, secularism. But in all fairness – like many Americans – I see merit in his grievances. Remember he had started on your approved model: clean-shaven, trousers and jackets, a degree in economics, dances in Beirut.. But your insensitivity let him down, denied him justice. And the Jihadis won. Your political hegemony fanned his religious extremism. Your injustice made the monster you now find him. You partnered him in repelling invading Soviets in Afghanistan. He partnered with the Baathis in fighting your invasion of Iraq, the Talibaans in Afghanistan and the Mullahs in Pakistan!

    As truth seekers can you not see the man’s commitment to his cause, sacrifices and character? What if you catch and kill him? You will have unwittingly made him a martyr. Then you lose, he wins more. And the Muslim world that has erroneously come to see him as its champion hates you more, giving birth to myriad mini-Osamas. They cannot destroy you; but they surely will irritate you to no end.

    Instead, through reasoned fairness that has been your historic weapon, deflect his argument, his case. Reach out, as you once did, with truth, compassion, equality and dignity for your allies and your perceived enemies alike, including Muslim nations. After you have substantially neutralized Osama’s impact, go for him and let the international law take its course. For this the Muslims will forgive Barak Obama more easily than they will John McCain.

    One more reason we admired you was your rationality, your spirit of inquiry and scientific temper. Sadly your current President epitomizes superstition and irrationality. John McCain may be a shade better but here again Obama looks far fitter.

    Yes, the Jihadi’s method is violent and I believe will betray their cause. But can you cure the ailments by treating merely the symptoms? Gandhi, Mandela and Dalai Lama have a message for you: truth, understanding and reconciliation. Show more respect to what other people think of you, for in our interlinked world this matters sometimes even more than what you think of yourselves. As Barak said we want to see your power of example, not the example of your power.

    You have an opportunity this November of asserting the original and forgotten Americanism. Peace on earth also happens to hinge on your decision.

    The author runs a voluntary organization, SPRAT, to further human rights and may be reached at mhj@mysprat.org
    M H Jowher
    President, SPRAT
    Society for Promoting Rationality, Rajnagar Complex, Narayan Nagar Road, Paldi, AHMEDABAD 380 007, Gujarat, India
    Tel 079-266 236 55 / 66 / 77 info@mysprat.org Web: http://www.sprat.in

  • Deb

    Maybe the world thinks we would be better with Obama but almost half of the Americans don’t believe so. John McCain is not George Bush anymore than Obama is a radical muslim, which has been mentioned a number of times. McCain is not a racist. McCain and his wife adopted a young black girl from Bangledish. Unfortuanately Obama and his campaign keep bringing up race. His wife has made it clear how she feels about white people and Obama himself called his grandmother a typical white woman. My vote goes to the person who I believe will do what is right for this country and not parade himself around to other countries like a movie star.

  • Babs

    Would you believe that almost 1/3 of the hits Obama’s website gets comes from overseas? True, I looked it up myself on whois.com’s data bases. This was a couple of months ago after his big world tour.

    I’m betting more than half of the American’s don’t believe it. I think these last 18 days people are going to put aside the rhetoric and stump speeches and ask themselves quietly which of the candidates they truly TRUST with not just the economy, but their lives and the lives of their children. McCain will win when they do.

  • It is quite incredible here in Thailand. Nearly every person I have talked to (close to a hundred now concerning this topic) have told me they like Obama. This comes from taxi drivers, students, teachers, waiters– mostly blue collar individuals. When I ask why, most of them say they like Obama’s rhetoric, his stance on the war in Iraq, and feel he is aroomyen (cool headed) versus McCain, who they feel is aroomrawn (hot headed).

    There are also quite a bit of expats living around the world, and I believe the majority of them are interested in hearing about (and supporting) Obama. I found this to be a similar scenario in China, and I believe most other countries will have this mentality as well.

  • Babs

    That would coincide with the figures I saw, Michael. Of course, we could engage in a debate over cultural preferences for days, couldn’t we?