Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Democratic Debates

Some Notes on the Presidential Election

As most of you are aware, I am something of a political junkie, and I follow both American and Canadian politics very closely. Throughout the upcoming primaries, I will be posting occasionally on some thoughts about the debates, the results, and making notes along the campaign trail. Feel free to weigh into the discussion. I believe this is an important upcoming election, especially in how the new president will set the tone for the country.

For those wondering about my political background and bias, let me be upfront. I am a libertarian and social activist. I have voted for all three Canadian parties, from right to left, at one time or another. I believe in smaller governments, I am socially conservative, but also believe in non-invasive social activism. (I know that sounds unworkable, but there you have it.) Canadians generally lean to the left of Americans; even the most conservative of Canadians would probably be considered moderate Democrats.

The most annoying thing about politicians, about the way our political system is set up, is that it is difficult to be honest. People kill you when you're honest. This is why politicians must spin. I hear people complaining about the 'liars' they have elected all the time. This is ridiculous, because any candidate who is truly honest and open will never win an election. That is the unfortunate truth.

Being a politician, a good one, is something of an art. To be able to balance ideas, show leadership, appeal to the voter, and manage an important elected office, is a difficult, difficult task, and our politicians are often not given the credit for what they do.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts about the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire:

1-Too many irrelevant politicians. Why do so many of these guys, like Gravel from Alaska, even bother.

2-They say that organization and money are what makes the difference. Only in the top tier. The separation between these candidates is clear after a very short time. (It's been reflected in the polls) Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and occasionally, Richardson. (Too often though, he just looks like he is trying too hard)

3- Chris Dodd will never win, but his intelligence is quickly obvious. I liked his answer about how we should deal with the rising price of gas and the dependency on oil

4- Edwards has really impressed me, he is measured and patient and non-aggressive towards his colleagues. I like how he has articulated his differences. He sounds very Clinton-ish tonight. (This is a good thing) Interesting how he keeps referring to "Senator" Obama and "Hillary." There is some definite tension between Edwards and Clinton. And despite his early jabs at both Obama and Clinton, Edwards is showing a great deal of respect for Obama. I can see an Obama-Edwards ticket.

5-Obama is clearly the gold standard. He sounds compassionate and presidential, the type of person who is able to command others without raising his voice. He is also articulate, and thoughtful. He is winning this debate. So far.

6- A note about Clinton. I can really understand why some people like her. She's smart, has showed some humour, and she's the kind of politician you would want working on an important issue because of her fearlessness and intelligence. But there is something about her that makes you think twice about voting for her... perhaps it is her inability to apologize and tendency to waffle on political ideology.

NOTE: Some people have asked me why I would post, on what is essentially a website about faith, thoughts on the election. "Jesus changes hearts, and that's all we need to worry about, right?" Well, no. The individualized notion of salvation is relatively new, and a product of post-enlightenment thought. The Romans did not kill Jesus merely because of prophecy. Yes, He fulfilled prophecy, but he was also politically dangerous. Look at the trial process, at how Herod and Pilate both try to escape the political ramifications of dealing with this popular Rabbi. Look at the comments shouted by the mob that finally lead Pilate to hand Jesus over to the religious leaders.

Political involvement is important for every Christian. Unfortunately, the Right has emphasized two polarizing issues, gay marriage and abortion, and effectively left the most important ones -- like social justice and poverty -- behind. As Christians, we need to ask ourselves what needs fixing in our society, who would Jesus gravitate towards. We need only to read the gospels to understand who it was that mattered to him, the ones who society effectively left behind. Widows, prostitutes, the poor, those without a voice. It is not acceptable for us to claim, "I don't like politics". We do not have to follow it as closely as others do, but we have a responsibility to understand enough so that we use our vote and our voice to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.


-More thoughts to come on the Republican Debate to come...