Thursday, November 01, 2012

a vote-related thought

On weekdays, I work from 3:30PM to around 9:30PM. This means that, on Election Day Tuesday next week, I'll be at work when the results (well, most of the results) come in. I imagine that our supervisors might announce the lucky winner; either that, or we tutors, with our smart phones and iPads and other electronic gewgaws, will find out the news for ourselves.

I tweeted this on October 12:

So! Who's in for a harsh dose of reality on November 6? I've seen bluster on both sides, but only one side has threatened riots. Very petty.

Petty, indeed. The liberals love to demand civil discourse, then someone like Michael Moore comes along and makes an ad in which characters threaten to "cock punch" Mitt Romney. This doesn't increase my respect for liberals.

Both sides have been making the case for their guy. Personally, I find an Obama reelection very hard to justify. The man has made a hash of the economy (look at gas prices and job numbers), has butchered foreign policy (Benghazi, and a suspicious lack of news coverage about the circumstances of an ambassador's death), and has done everything in his power to expand the government's power. All of this sits ill with me. I want Obama out.

At the same time, I'm no fan of Mitt Romney. He's socially conservative, whereas I am not. The man isn't as fast on his feet, intellectually, as Bill Clinton was in his prime. He's too protean for me to get a proper read on his character and political principles. He's also an experienced businessman, which to my mind automatically makes him suspect: successful businessmen have a strong Machiavellian streak, and businessmen vying for the White House tend to reduce running a country to mere economics.

So-- for whom am I voting? I'm not telling. But I know I'll be voting my conscience.



Surprises Aplenty said...

Completely off-topic:

What's your vote on Niven's latest Ringworld book?

It's more than I want to spend at this time but Ringworld and Footfall blew my mind when I read them. After books like those, I might be able to excuse a little senility (as we've discussed in the past) in Niven.

SJHoneywell said...

Job numbers have increased, point of fact. Gas prices are high, but were also high in 2008 (I remember paying $4.50 at the pump in 2008--I used it in my classes).

For me, though, it comes down to one question. Can I look a woman in the eye and tell her that my tax return is more important to me than her rights to control her own body?

Kevin Kim said...


I didn't even know Niven had produced a new book! Yeah, I recall not liking Ringworld Throne, which I began reading and never finished. (Never got past the first 20 or 30 pages, really...)


About those gas prices...

About those jobs...

I completely agree re: Romney's stance on social policy (reproductive rights, gay marriage, etc.). That creeps me out.

SJHoneywell said...

So, when gas prices hit $4.50 in the last year of Bush's second term, I was told over and over by conservatives that the president doesn't affect gas prices and has no say on them--which I pretty much believe. With gas prices here at $3.35-$3.50 a gallon...suddenly it's Obama's fault? Which is it?

That prices were lower in 2009 doesn't change the fact that I paid over $4.00/gallon through the summer of 2008.

Romney's social policies are so reprehensible that no economic miracle he could provide would be worth it. My daughters deserve better.

Kevin Kim said...

I think the "contradiction" is predicated on the false assumption that "Republicans" are a monolithic group. Otherwise, one could uncharitably accuse liberals of similar self-contradictions, e.g.,
(1) do they consider the GOP to be the party of the rich, or the party of the bitter, gun-clinging, Jesus-chanting hillbillies? Make up your minds, guys!

(2) Or whatever happened to 1960s anti-government radicalism ("Trust no one over 30," "Stick it to the Man"), now replaced by pro-government, pro-welfare-state attitudes?

(3) And why do liberal proponents of free speech as a cherished value routinely attack conservative speakers on college campuses, charging the podium and tearing away microphones, or just standing and shouting the speaker down?

(4) Or how is it that postmodernists in academe tend to skew left, but at the same time decry any notion of "progress" as an oppressive, "totalizing metanarrative" fabricated by "the West"? Aren't leftists supposed to be progressives?

That said, I'll grant there's an overall inconsistency in Republican viewpoints. But by the same token, inconsistencies exist on the Democrat side as well. My view is fairly cynical: both sides have dirty hands; both sides lie and cheat; neither side can pass itself off as the nobler with a straight face.

Regarding Romney's backwards stance on social policy: how realistic is it to think that he could overturn the social evolution of the past 50-75 years? The uproar would be frightening, and the consequences to the GOP's electoral future would be devastating. I think your daughters have nothing to fear. If Mr. Magic Underpants is elected, he won't be allowed to invade American uteruses. After all, if he tries that, we need only remember that Honeywell Kills People.

SJHoneywell said...

"I think the "contradiction" is predicated on the false assumption that "Republicans" are a monolithic group. Otherwise, one could uncharitably accuse liberals of similar self-contradictions"

As in

"The liberals love to demand civil discourse, then someone like Michael Moore comes along and makes an ad in which characters threaten to "cock punch" Mitt Romney. This doesn't increase my respect for liberals."

Hey, I'm very much a social liberal-pinko. Guilty as charged. Michael Moore doesn't speak for me, and I've never asked him to--and yet you've used his actions to, like it or not, judge me. Moore's statement above should affect your opinion of Moore, not of a "monolithic group."

As for Romney, there's a lot he can do to upset social evolution. A couple of Supreme Court justice appointments, and Roe v. Wade is gone. A lot of that social evolution is pretty precarious, and many of the people he's put himself in bed with will demand of him, and refusing social rights and equality for a lot of marginalized groups will be high on that list.

Kevin Kim said...

Ha ha-- well said! I should take my own advice...none of which changes the fact that the conservatives/gas prices argument exhibits the same fallacy of generalization.

So-- rhetorical parity it is, then! I'll agree not to use Moore to judge you, and you agree not to apply a few anecdotal data points to a larger argument about conservatives in general. Deal?

I suppose that, if I were to make some sort of general argument, it would probably be in terms of philosophy or ideology. I tilt moderately leftward when it comes to social policy, and moderately rightward on economic, foreign, and military policy. I think the notion of a welfare state is untenable, given how that paradigm has worked in more overtly leftist countries-- lazy, shiftless workers in France who demonstrate at the drop of a hat (despite a 35-hour work week and 5 weeks' vacation per year), the depressed economies of Cuba, North Korea, et al. Comprehensive central planning doesn't work-- period. History has shown this again and again.

I'm of the "fish proverb" school: give a man a fish and you've fed him for a day; teach him to fish and you've fed him for life. The idea, of course, is to get a needy person on his feet and self-sufficient. As a moral issue, it's a question of human dignity; a culture of handouts is little different from a culture of slavery. Citizens are reduced to being pigs at the trough.

In all, I think the conservatives have a more accurate view of human nature, and how to manage it, than do the liberals. Conservatives see human nature as fallen, imperfect, and most important, not perfectible. Free-market capitalism and federalism are predicated on a recognition of this less-than-noble nature. Idealism is a necessary component of society, of course; I'd never want to dispense with the liberal worldview, since that's how society evolves and avoids stultification. But pragmatism has its place, and is a form of tough-love compassion besides. The healthiest society, in my opinion, exhibits a dynamic tension between these two tendencies-- the pragmatic and the idealistic. Move too far in the airy-fairy utopian direction and you get Pol Pot or Hitler or Stalin: failed attempts at social/cultural engineering.

As for economics: I'm not totally against regulating the economy to a very modest extent. Unchecked capitalism can lead to monopolies, which are just as constricting as over-regulation by the federal government. But the market should be as free as possible, left to its own devices, and it's obvious that in the current climate, what with gargantuan stimulus and bailout projects that have gone nowhere and produced nothing (I know, I know-- the other side sees this differently), that government intervention by the current administration has gone way too far.

Sharing is a virtue. Stopping to help someone in need is a virtue. But so are hard work and (here I echo De Niro's Al Capone) individual achievement. Dynamic tension is the ideal state for the state, and right now, I think we've slid too far to the left on many crucial metrics. That imbalance needs to be redressed.

(For what it's worth, I don't blame only Obama for the leftward slide. Dubya was no conservative: he increased the power of the federal government when he created an entirely new branch of it-- Homeland Security-- and mucked with the economy, especially in his dealings with prescription drug companies and drug prices.)

For all the above reasons, I can't see myself voting for four more years of the status quo. I also find it hard to pull the lever (or push the touch screen) for the other guy.