Thinking about the upcoming election: Are there substantial differences between the candidates? (Part I)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Though I'm not an American and hence I can't vote down here, one of the topics that gets talked about most in our home is whether there really are substantive differences between John McCain and Barrack Obama.  Actually, with A.M. working on a M.A. in poli-sci and me being the ex-NDP policy wonk and general political geek that I am we talk about politics quite a lot in general.  Yet, that said, it seems that the question regarding whether there are any concrete differences between Obama and McCain is a topic that comes up time and time again.  So I figured, "Hey, this'll make a great blog topic".  So without further ado....

Okay, first it seems that the most obvious area that we might find potential differences between the Democratic and the Republican candidates is in regards to the Iraq war.  In their speeches, they profess very different positions regarding the war.  Obama has, without waiver, taken the position that he would, as expeditiously as possible, withdraw American forces from Iraq after his election as president.  McCain, on the other hand, has repeatedly said things like "the US will be in Iraq for 100 years".

However, is this really a meaty difference or just a rhetorical difference?  Now I don't want to suggest that Obama is being dishonest, I do think he is sincere in his desire to end US involvement in Iraq as soon as possible.  I actually had the opportunity to see him speak at the University of Cincinnati and he strikes me as an ernest sort of guy.  Yet, I doubt whether it will be in fact possible to completely disentangle the US from the quagmire that is Iraq any time soon.  I wonder, even if the Commander and Chief of the US forces were inclined to pull the troops out of Iraq, would it be possible to pull those troops out any time soon and manage to avert disaster?  Now, some folks might be inclined to say "yes" or be inclined to say "well that's the business of the Iraqis" but I'm not as sure that either statement holds.  Granted, it might be the case that the US presence in Iraq is what's driving the continuing violence and perhaps it might be the case that really it is the Iraqis responsibility to build a stable society but I don't want to accept either claim as an assumption and I simply lack the information to draw any further conclusions regarding these issues.

Another area that one might find a difference between the two candidates is in regards to environmental policy.  Now, on this issue I must beg some ignorance, while I'm fairly well versed in US environmental policy, I don't really know what planks Obama has adopted in his environmental platform.  However, that said, I'm actually fairly optimistic regarding the future of US environmental policy.  This is for two reasons.  First, while I'm ignorant on Obama's views regarding the environment, I think it's safe to assume that he is at least, in some general sense, in favor of greener policies.  Second, John McCain, in a manner which is unusual for Republicans, actually has a pretty solid history of being pro-environment.  Indeed, I was quite surprised to discover that McCain is one of the US senators that has demonstrated the most support for legislation aimed at protecting the environment.  So it seems that while environmental concerns are generally a reason to vote Democratic rather than Republican, in this case it's less of a deciding factor.

So what does that leave as potential differences between Obama and McCain?  In regards to social issues, I think both are insufficiently liberal really to impress me.  Until one of them endorses the institution of same-sex marriage that is identical to the sort of marriage currently available to straight folks, a single-payer publicly funded healthcare insurance that is mandatory for all US residents, is unabashedly in favor of keeping abortions legal even in in cases where the women are motivated by nothing but caprice, is anti-death penalty, pro-social welfare for even people who are just being lazy, and is willing to give up the notion that people can in fact pull themselves up by their bootstraps (which is a ridiculous notion if you ask me, I mean just think about the analogy, you cannot fucking pull yourself up with your bootstraps, if you fell down and started pulling on your bootstraps you'd just writhe around on the ground like some idiot having a seizure) then really it make no difference to me.

However, given that this post is turning into the endless wall of text, I'll stop now and see what you folks all think about the above.  Later, I'll continue on and further discuss what I think about the potential differences, or lack thereof, between the two presidential candidates.


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