After reading all of the comments on my post the other day, Can't We Agree to Disagree?, it's clear most of us feel strongly about this election and its outcome.
Shauna made a really interesting comment when she speculated that Americans may not be as far apart as we may think. She said:
"From what I've read in the paper, poll after poll shows that most Americans support the platform and ideas of the Democratic party (when they are presented as ideas and not linked to Democrats). So most of us are in general agreement about what we want for the country."
I think there's something to that point. The words "Democrat" and "liberal" have had such negative connotations for so many for such a long time that I think people often refuse to hear or consider anything coming from that camp.
I found an interesting website, called MyElectionChoices and I can't vouch for how recently it's been updated, but it does provide a fair measure for how much you agree with each candidate on the issues. There is a long list of topics ranging from the 2nd Amendment/Gun Control, Abortion, Education, the Environment and Energy, Iraq, Social Security, Stem Cell Research, the War on Terror and the Department of Homeland Security and a number of others. There are 4-6 statements listed for each topic and you select each statement that you agree with. Each statement was made by either Senator McCain or Senator Obama. The survey keeps a running tally of how many of each candidate's statements you're in agreement with.
My survey results indicate I agree with 40 of Barack Obama's statements and 22 of John McCain's. That doesn't surprise me. Keep in mind, there is a limited set of specific quotes, so this merely provides a very high level indication of how aligned you are with each candidate's statements on each issue.
To learn more about what each candidate says on the issues, Barack Obama's Blueprint for America is here and John McCain's webpage on the issues is here. Another useful resource I've found to compare the candidates is the On the Issues website. It provides specific quotes and voting records. You can find Barack Obama on the issues and John McCain on the issues.
If all things were equal, determining where the candidates stand on the issues would be enough to base a decision on. But all things aren't equal and there are potentially dozens of other factors to look at and those factors will be different for each of us. We're all different and some people base their voting decisions on a single issue or a personal value.
For me, where the candidates stand on the issues determines at least 55% of my decision. Other factors include:
1. Education and intelligence. In the arena of world leaders, I believe our President is daily being asked to engage in a battle of wits. My opinion is that it's best if he's armed. Regular "folks" are great, people you'd like to have a beer with are great, but I don't want someone who's just average responsible for our national security. I'm in favor of electing leaders who are the best and the brightest. It is significant to me that Barack Obama attended Columbia and went on to Harvard Law School. It is significant to me that he was President of Harvard Law Review and that prior to becoming a US Senator, he taught Constitutional Law. It tells me he has a very grounded understanding of our government.
2. How does the rest of the world see the candidates? Prior to both conventions this summer, the BBC commissioned a poll in 22 countries to assess whether US relations with the world would improve, stay the same or deteriorate under Barack Obama or under John McCain. The results indicate almost unilaterally that the world view of the United States and our relationships with the countries surveyed would improve under an Obama Presidency. Some people may not consider this pertinent to their decision making, but for me, it's very important.
3. How does the candidate come across during interviews? When a candidate is interviewed, and particularly when the interviewer is tough or adversarial, we get a good indication of how well the candidate responds under pressure and we have an excellent of idea of how well versed he is on the issues and how well he responds to opposing views. Presidents frequently take private meetings with heads of state and need to be capable of doing so without advisors. Presidents should be accessible to the Washington Press Corps and should be able to appropriately answer difficult questions.
Barack Obama appeared in a multi-part interview with Bill O"Reilly on Fox News in early September. Watch Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 and analyze how you think Obama does. O'Reilly hits just about every hot button issue, so there are some great insights here.
John McCain also appeared in a multi-part interview with Bill O'Reilly back in May. Although O'Reilly obviously has a conservative bias, I thought it was important to show McCain with the same interviewer, addressing the same issues. Watch Part 1, 2, and 3. Since the O'Reilly interview is six months old, I'm including links from his appearance Friday on The View. Here are Parts 1, 2 and 3. Admittedly, sitting on that couch would be a bit overwhelming, but I think some important things come out here.
Obama and McCain are who I'm focused on, but with the possibility that a President can die or resign, the VP candidates warrant attention too.
Here's an interview with Joe Biden on CSPAN from August, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, here is the ABC interview of Sarah Palin by Charlie Gibson. Here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
4. What are the candidate's religious views? With each subsequent election, religion seems to play a greater part. I want a candidate who believes in maintaining the separation of church and state.
5. How consistent is the candidate's stated vision with his actions? I can allow some leeway in the case of a candidate who alters his original position over time, based on new information or changes in circumstance, but I am suspicious of sudden reversals that appear to be entirely motivated by politics.
6. What does the candidate's choice of a running mate indicate about him?
7. The supreme court is comprised of seven appointees by Republican administrations and two from Democratic administrations. The party that gets in office will likely have the opportunity to make an appointment that could lead to reversals of prior decisions, Roe v. Wade being the most likely.
8. Does the candidate's race matter? Does his age?
9. Does the candidate appear to have the knowledge, intellect, experience and judgment to be President?
10. Does he have integrity and honor and truly want the best for this country? Does he make you feel confident, or does he make you feel uneasy? This question is one that comes down strictly to personal gut feel, but our intuition about who the person really is may be the most powerful part of our decision.
If you decide to check out MyElectionChoices, let me know if your answers surprise you. Which of these questions are important to you? Are there factors you'd add or take away from this list? Do you have issues that are "deal breakers"? What about the negative ads? I'm turned off by those who initiate them, not by their targets. Do you have a decision making process? What do you base your choice on?
For non-American visitors, who would you like to see us elect, based on what you've seen?