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.