Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Choice ...

So there have been all sorts of charges leveled at Barack Obama. That he was born in Kenya (the latest I have heard), that he is a secret communist or fascist, that he learned about politics in some fashion from one (or more) of maybe a dozen shadowy figures; William Ayres, Jeremiah Wright, or several other names I have heard in passing. The he wants to take money from the rich and give it to the poor (that accusation may have more traction). I wonder if it is all just because he is black. Obama seems to be doing much better than John Kerry was at this point. The American people seemed fed up with George Bush in 2004, but John Kerry seemed no better than a conventional choice, and in fact turned out to be something of weenie. In my opinion Barack Obama is also something of a weenie, but he wears it better. Obama comes off as a faculty member who has spent a lot of time trying pro bono cases, and has actually seen enough poverty to be able to think of it both in particular and make some generalizations. He also seems like a politician, in his way just as sharp as Sarah Palin but also able to hold his own (so to speak) with the likes of Daniel Moynihan. Could Obama be a communist? I suppose it could have been something that interested him in his youth, I really don’t know. But Obama seems to want to be President, seems very ambitious. I can’t believe any serious candidate for President would actually believe he could turn the United States into a communist nation. Obama has already promised to tax the rich and borrow from our future to put more money into the hands of both the poor and the middle class. So he would accomplish some symbolic wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor, and I am sure that would be satisfying to him.

And on the note I want to look at the Choice. I haven’t said anything about John McCain yet in part because no charges have been leveled against him apart from the obvious. He’s old. He’s temperamental. He’s become somewhat erratic, as evidenced in the debates and his appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday (whether you think he is erratic might be a matter of personal perspective, after all, all politicians answer the questions they want to, not the questions their asked). His choice of running mates raises questions. But the most important thing about John McCain to me is that if elected he will face an opposition Congress. Most of McCain’s promises will be DOA in the Congress. McCain’s promise to eliminate earmarks will be defeated by veto proof majorities on spending bills (the one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on, spending on themselves). If the Democrats don’t get 60 seats in the Senate the Republicans will continue to block a lot of legislation (this is true no matter who gets elected). So the country will drift along, with out any serious policy initiatives, much like the last eight years. Maybe there will be some peripheral stuff on education or immigration. Maybe.

If Obama is elected, his presidency will be affected by that 60 seat factor in the Senate. If the Democrats have 56 seats in the Senate, things are likely to proceed as they have, with Republicans blocking many measures. If they are closer, at 58 or 59 seats, then we will see what kind of arm twister Obama is, how good he is at influencing public opinion on specific issues, and using it to bring pressure to bear. He may have a shot at making Chuck Hegal or Olympia Snowe (or both) the de facto 60th Democrat. Possibly even Arlen Specter may be persuaded to vote with the Democrats, although he is a lot more conservative than people think. Obama may get parts of his agenda passed in this case.

If the Democrats do get 60 seats in the Senate, we should expect to see most or all of Obama’s agenda come into law. If well organized, and if the parts that create infrastructure jobs are set up first, they may have a good effect on the economy. If it were up to me, Obama could skip parts of the middle class tax cut, but it isn’t up to me. The only question is how far Democrats would go in their legislative spree. They’ve been frustrated for 16 years, so they may be out of practice, but I suspect they might instead try to make up for lost time. It’s not the laws like new CAFÉ standards or laws expanding the powers of unions to organize I would mind. It would be new spending initiatives that would bother me. I worry that Obama would feel obliged to sign everything, since after all it would be coming from his party. He might need to throw an elbow early on, veto a piece of legislation, just to get a point across. Unfortunately I doubt he would.

So that is the Choice, in my estimate. Our one little vote each of us has will probably not make any real difference. But the election will likely be close (I think, despite some of the polls), so we probably should get out their and vote our conscience.

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