With less than a week to go, it’s been said that if you’re still not sure who to vote for, you’ve got commitment issues. Maybe so, but perhaps you’re like me in ’04, when frustration led me to literally cast a write-in ballot for “f— ‘em both”. Though I think the choices are of higher quality this time around, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve probably figured out that neither represents your values on every issue. So here’s a quick breakdown that may help, complete with a rough weighting of each issue’s practical importance.
Abortion: advantage McCain—Obama seems to be the more thoughtful of the two when it comes to abortion (admits he’s unsure when life begins), but as I’ve written before, his peculiar stance on partial birth abortion discredits his moral judgment. That said, the federal PBA ban has been upheld by the Supreme Court, so there’s little risk Obama could do much damage. McCain’s strengthened his rhetoric since securing the nomination, but has traditionally been quite pro-choice. While this is an issue with incredible emotional import, which candidate wins may have little bearing on policy.
Foreign Policy: advantage McCain—McCain has the the experience, the expertise, and most importantly the clout. Though I respect Obama’s idealism, I’m afraid Biden’s probably right—if he wins, some nutball will test him soon after inauguration. This doesn’t mean he wouldn’t rise to the occasion, but I’m much more comfortable with McCain in charge. Foreign policy is one area in which presidents exercise wide discretion, and with Iran rattling their saber and Russia on the upswing, this is an incredibly important issue.
Social Justice: advantage Obama—If progressive income taxes and estate taxes and educational benefits for the poor are socialist, so be it. As much as the dreaded s-word is hurled at Obama, you’d think McCarthy was advising McCain’s campaign. Nobody thinks straight welfare or handouts are justified, but workfare and well-deserved assistance is. Sure, the minimalist state would maximize efficiency, but we have other values to balance beyond GDP. Namely, securing our fellow citizens’ basic human dignity. Either candidate will need congressional cooperation to get anything done, but with our economy headed south, tax policy is especially important.
Healthcare: advantage Obama—Simply put, access to basic healthcare is a moral requirement of any just nation. Why? Because citizens can’t exercise any of their other cherished rights if their physical ailments go untreated. This doesn’t mean we have to follow Canada’s model. In fact, we probably shouldn’t. But it does mean something substantive is in order. McCain cares a little about healthcare, so I give him some credit, but he’s not committed enough. Obama on the other hand explicitly acknowledges healthcare as a human right. An issue in need of long overdue attention, this fundamental right is of moderate importance.
Immigration: Tie—This is one issue that’s been seriously neglected—all the rage in the primaries, but all but absent in the head-to-head debates. Of course, more pressing issues like energy and the economy take precedence, but you’d think they’d say something about immigration. However, as far as I can tell, there’s little real difference between the candidates’ approaches, so this marginally important issue is a tie.
Guns: advantage McCain—Obama’s sin: he supports a federal ban on concealed weapons. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he’s on record as saying “I am not in favor of concealed weapons… I think that creates a potential atmosphere where more innocent people could (get shot during) altercations.” But with intelligent policy and strict licensing procedures, it makes more sense to empower our trustworthy citizens than deny them the ability to fight back, at least until non-lethal technologies offer something with comperable stopping power, range, rapid fire ability and ease of operation. McCain gets only a C+ rating from the NRA, and given how extreme they can be, that’s probably just about right. Impressively though, according to CNN, both candidates “voted for a 2006 amendment prohibiting confiscation of firearms from private citizens, particularly during times of crisis or emergency.” That’s a good sign for both, but the edge goes to McCain. The gun lobby will likely keep either candidate in check, so this issue is only moderately important.
Economy: advantage ?—Though I’m slated to study macroeconomics within the next year, I won’t pretend to know which candidate is better suited to guide us out of the recession. Closer to the bottom than the top of the economic spectrum, from a purely self-interested position I think Obama would be better, but maybe McCain’s low tax trickle down approach is more sound long term. But I don’t know—I’m a political philosopher—research elsewhere for economic advice. This is of course HUGELY important. Too bad I don’t know more about it!
A few general things to consider:
- Intelligence: advantage Obama (former president of the Harvard Law Review, taught Constitutional law at Chicago University, obviously thoughtful in answering most questions)
- Fear Factor: advantage McCain (puttin’ the fear in bad men for decades)
- Potential: advantage Obama (younger, more vigorous)
- Stability: advantage McCain (sometimes more of the same is a good thing)
In the end, just who should you vote for? That, my friend, I leave to you. (No, “my friend” isn’t an implicit endorsement of McCain.) Though I’ve made up my own mind, it would run contrary to the mission of SocratesVotes to do your reasoning for you, though I’m more than happy to reason with you in the comments section. If you’re honest about their strengths and weaknesses, you have to admit it’s a fairly tough choice. So don’t feel bad if you’re still undecided—be proud.