More on elections
As I write this it is still up in the air who won the presidential election, however it looks promising for Bush. Which makes me very unhappy.
I am unhappy for a few reasons.
First, even if Kerry pulls out the political equivelant of the Boston Red Sox comeback and wins Ohio on the basis of provisional ballots (may be as many as 250,000 ballots which won't be counted for 11 days, plus military ballots that get counted in 10 days or so), he will have won the White House but lost the popular election.
Second, if Bush wins, we enter at least 2 and perhaps 4 years of Republican control of the executive, Senate, and House. With at least 1 and probably as many as 3 Supreme Court justices likely to resign (or more unfortunately die), a war in Iraq, and Republicans chomping at the bit to pass laws that will (I strongly feel) have the potential to ruin this country for decades if not longer - and certainly have a lasting impact for a very long time after these upcomming 4 years.
A few specifics:
- drilling in Alaska as well as refusal to look towards science in environmental matters especially global warming but also stem cell research etc. As a result, the world's environment and especially the US will be in worse shape in the future than it is now.
- a major increase in the influence (which scares and worries me) of fundementalist/ evangelical Christians on US public policy - in the US and abroad. From the "gag" rule around abortion tying the hands of NGO's around the globe from even mentioning abortion if they take US funds for family planning to judicial appointments to executive branch appoints (ala John Ashcroft).
- Tax policies that completely shift the burden from an attempt at balance to one where only work is taxed (generally speaking) and income from ownership (capital gains, dividends, etc) mostly not taxed - further shifting and expanding the divide in this country.
- Government spending (much of it pork) plus tax breaks etc which are mostly heavily focused on rewarding very large businesses (and only to a lesser extent small business). We are unlikely to see much reform here - and as deficits continue to grow innovation (which is the true engine of growth) will be restricted.
- Foreign policies that will continue to alienate and abuse friends and foes alike - from restrictive visa laws which reduce the number of students at universities to ongoing "go it alone" military policies (while not paying sufficient attention to real, pending threats to international security such as nuclear prolifferation, piracy, genocides (especially in Africa), etc)
- An overall moralistic tone from government appointees and elected officials alike with an assumption of some divine right as well as an inability to even acknowledge mistakes. I want a government that learns from mistakes and which is focused on using and supporting the best people - not on pushing a religious agenda.
Above all the countless ways in which I disagree with Bush and most of the Republicans on most issues a major concern for me is judicial appointments - especially the Supreme Court. Justices appointed for life will shape and influence the tenor of everything in the US for decades to come - if the court is stacked with right wing evangelical conservatives (though mostly "conservatives" in name only) much of the progress of the past century, as well as the direction I hope and think the country is moving towards will be put at serious risk From abortion rights to junk science.
More emotionally I feel that there is a large and to my mind scarily large part of the US voting population who are idiots. Not kind words perhaps but voting for George Bush is not something I understand other than there are a large number of people who are evangelical Christians - and frankly I wish I did not live in a country with them - and I fundementally think they are completely and utterly wrong, in nearly all respects, in how they view the world.
I respect many people of faith - but with a caveat - I do think that religious faith of all forms is a crutch, perhaps a valuable and useful crutch for many people, but a crutch nonetheless. Religion provides answers to complex problems and relieves individuals from a large number of choices and decisions. That said, I personally find that desire on most people's part to be a desire arising out of weakness and poor thinking. I am an existentialist, so for me choice and free personal choice is a core bedrock belief and issue. I hold decisions in great respect - but I think that the hypocricy of so many greatly weakens their moral position (though they seem many of them to have a belief that if they are "saved" then everything else they do is somewhat meaningless - look at the rates of divorce, drug abuse - especially of legal drugs etc.
I think we are also entering into a realm here in the US where there is a major divide between the Urban and the non-urban, between those who support and encourage diversity and those who find diversity (of any form) scary and risky. Between those who celebrate living close to each other, working near where we live and minimizing our impact on the environment (say be walking, cycling or taking public transit vs. driving) and those who drive sports cars, large trucks, or SUVs, live in "McMansions" and drive everywhere - living in communities with little to no diversity of any form (economic, racial, religious, sexual orientation).
My observation of my generation (I'm 30) and those who are younger than me is that we are increasingly open to diversity of all forms and that some of this attitude is even rubbing off the society as a whole. Interatial couples are not uncommon and cause little notice (at least in many parts of the country and even show up in movies and tv shows). Further, gays and lesbians once shocking and unmentionable in the context of national media are now quite common and even frequently appearing on national media (and even in case of shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy very successful ones).
In contrast to this, however, we are in a many channel media world (other than in radio where we are in a few channel world mostly) and with magazines and the Internet people around the country can easily live in a world of only those who hold views they also hold - which scares me.
(Watching ABC at the moment - Fareed Zakaria making a great point that the US is closer to Nigeria and Saudia Arabia than to the rest of the world - in terms of how many people here are ultra conservative religious folks)
If my worst fears do occur, I find myself giving serious consideration to what next steps can I take.
- can I do anything to defeat every Republican elected official in sight - luckily not many of them left here in Illinois, but what can I do to help defeat tons of them in the next interim elections at least giving the hope that a Democratic Senate (and/or House) might serve as a check to the worst impulses of the Bush administration
- what can I do to make sure that a non-Republican wins in 2008?
- Is there anything I can do to promote real, bipartisan, non-religious based legislation that could address the real issues facing the US (and the world) and also serve to check the Bush administration?
If not, do I want to remain here in the US and contribute, or do I want to seriously consider other options, at least for the next few years? (my girlfriend's current company is a Canadian bank, we've both talked about how we would like to live outside of the US and work sometime in our lives, perhaps the next few years would be the best time for us to do that).
Many commentors on TV have been noting that there is a divide between the religious and the secular in the US at the moment. I am firmly in the camp of secular - and I literally do not understand the mind of those who are religious. That said, there are plenty of religious people who do not support any of the Republican/Bush agenda - they reach a vitally different perspective on what aspects of their faith to emphasize and how to implement them into the world. My aunt, for example, who is a Catholic nun (for well over 35 years) has spent her life working on social justice issues around the world. Her focus of her faith is helping the poor and downtrodden - wherever in the world they are.
Very different from the evangelicals who seem to be focused on self-interest and on a narrow and highly specific view of what issues are important to them (i.e. abortion but not saving lives in Africa, being concerned about the death penalty or supporting research that can save 1000's of lives; or gay marriage but ignoring very high rates of divorce; tax cuts for the rich and corporations but ignoring issues of minimum wages or payroll taxes; etc.)
Anyway not going to be a good 4 years I suspect and my annoyance with the US Federal government which started 4 years ago appears to be doomed to continue for at least 2 more years and likley 4.