California Ballot Analysis Part II: Federal Offices

This is the second of three posts that analyze all the choices on my sample ballot. This post looks at the Federal offices on the ballot. The previous post, “California Ballot Analysis Part I: The Propositions“, looked at the California propositions. The last post will look at the local offices and measures.

As I stated in the first post, On November 6, most of you will have the opportunity to vote. I hope you do so, and I hope you study and make intelligent decisions about which candidates and positions to support. This means supporting a candidate or position on the basis of your own research and the facts, not the pablum spewed by commercials nor the invective spewed on the Internet. I never have a problem with a political position arrived at honestly and based on facts. The same goes if you categorically reject the possibility of any new tax, or believe the government is always evil. I want discussions based in reality, not fantasy worlds. To that end, every year I go through my entire sample ballot and present you with my positions on everything. This allows me to research it all, present that research, and allow others to possible convince me to change my current position before the election.

So let’s look at the Federal offices:

President and Vice President

This is the biggie, so let’s start with the third-party candidates. They don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, but they can influence an election — often based on who they take votes away from. First, I think we can dismiss Rosanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan (Peace and Freedom). If for some reason she won, this country would truly be laughed at — in more ways that one. It is for this reason that I’m not even bothering to look into their issues. We’ve had enough trouble with actors as politicians — I’ve previously mentioned Fred Grandy, George Murphy, Ronnie Reagan, and Arnold Schwartznegger. Next time, Peace and Freedom, nominate someone with credibility.

The American Independent party is running Tom Hoefling and Robert Ornelas. Their platform states, “A Resolution affirming vital existing constitutional protections for the unalienable right to life of every innocent person, from the first moment of creation until natural death.”. Sorry. Such an unconditional position I cannot stomach.  They also want “a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and oppose all attempts everywhere to redefine marriage as being anything but what it has always been: the union of one man and one woman”. I’m sorry, I just can’t support these folks.

Of the third parties, that leaves the Greens and the Libertarians. The Greens are running Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. I like many of the ideas of the Green Party. However, I think a lot of them are idealist and pie in the sky, and would never get through a Congress dominated by the traditional parties. I also disagree with their cuts on the Defense budget. The issue is not the size of the Defense budget, but where and how it is spent. Simple cuts demonstrate simplistic thinking that defense is guards, guns, and gates. Much better is to direct Defense spending back into advance research and cyber-areas. I think their position on Defense, as well as some of their overly idealistic ideas loses them my vote.

What about the Libertarians? They are running Gary Johnson and James P. Gray. Gary Johnson should get the Ron Paul vote; if any candidate might gain enough votes to sink one side, it might be Johnson. Again, I like a number of his positions. However, I have a basic disagreement with the Libertarian approach of a minimal government: I believe it is a government’s responsibility to do good — in particular, to make life better for its citizens through its activities. I see words that make me think they want to return to the gold standard (a bad idea), abolish the IRS, eliminate “Obamacare”, and stop spending on transportation. Transportation infrastructure is what helps America work. Basically, the Libertarians cut Government too far back for my taste; as such, I don’t think I can hold with the Libertarian position.

So that leaves us with the major party candidates: Barack Obama/Joe Biden and Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan. First, let’s get it out of the way: Obama is not a Socialist. Read up on Socialism,  and it is pretty clear that is not the direction the country is moving. Obama is not a Muslim either, despite having a middle name of Hussain. He’s Christian. Obama is a citizen, and I believe his birth certificate is valid. Bring up any of that BS, and we won’t have a discussion.

I”ve studied Romney and Ryan’s positions a bit. I do not like their social positions: I support same-sex marriage. I believe women have the right to do what they want with their bodies. I’m very nervous when the positions of one religion get enshrined into law. I also disagree with the repeal of Obamacare — I think it is doing good and will do more good. I disagree with a voucher system for Medicare — I’m one of the folks that will be affected, being 52. I disagree with the increase in the Defense Budget Romney proposed, primarily because it’s going for the wrong things. I disagree on the notions of never raising taxes: I think we need a mixture of new revenue and government cutbacks. I also cannot support a candidate who keeps changing his positions during a single campaign. Romney seems to be doing that. I appreciate a candidate learning and changing their position, but they should be able to keep the same position during a single campaign, or at least publically admit they have changed their position from what they said during the primary.

But, you say, is the economy better under Obama? I think it is getting better. These things take time, and its hard to recover an economy when the Congress doesn’t go along with any proposals. We probably would have recovered faster had the stimulus been larger, but that didn’t happen — which led to slow growth. Congress has rejected attempts to raise revenue in a fair fashion; they have rejected job programs. They then publicly blame Obama because they didn’t do their job and find a workable compromise.

But, you say, Obama is too liberal. Actually… he’s not. The Obamacare that is rallied against is what was proposed by the Republicans in Mass. It was a compromise position (the Democrats really wanted single payer) that was crafted to get Republican votes, before the Republicans decided they would not do anything that would give the President a claimable victory. The Democrats never took that intransigent an attitude when Bush was in office. If you look at the legislation and positions taken by the Obama administration, they have been moderate and perhaps overly cautious. This has infuriated the far left side of the Democratic base, but Obama wanted the compromise. Still, everytime a compromise was arrived at, the Republican house (often led by folks like Paul Ryan) moved the goal post.

This does highlight one of Obama’s failings: He hasn’t been able to use the power of personality to convince the House to go along with him. But, you say, shouldn’t this mean someone else should get a try. Perhaps, but I don’t believe Romney would have any more luck with a Democratic senate. Romney recently has been espousing moderate positions he never took during the primary; the Republican base would try to push through the conservative positions… which would be soundly rejected by the Senate. We need to figure out how to get past this intense partisanship. Back in 2008, I believe it was due to bad blood between the Clintons and the Bushes (which is why I supported Obama over Clinton). Nowadays, I think it is just a bad habit and misunderstood patriotism… and a side effect of the Internet amplifying the extreme voices. America was built on compromise from our start (don’t believe me — go see “1776” — it’s at Cabrillo at the end of October).

In general, I like what Obama has tried to do. He has been advised well. He has made mistakes — as have all Presidents — and has hopefully learned from those mistakes. But I think his approach is the right one, and I’m willing to leave the country under his leadership for four more years.

So, how am I going to vote? If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m squarely in the Barack Obama camp.

Conclusion: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

United States Senator

For this office, we have two candidates: Dianne Feinstein (D) and Elizabeth Emken (R). Emken wants to repeal Obamacare, was against the stimulus, wants to bring back a Bracero program, wants no new taxes, is anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage. Basically, the Republicans opted not to run a candidate that would be viable in California. There’s only one clear choice.

Conclusion: Dianne Feinstein.

United States Representative

In our district, the 30th, we have an interesting battle: two incumbent Democratic congressmen, both good men: Howard Berman vs. Brad Sherman. In reality, either would be great. Right now, I’m leaning towards Howard Berman, primarily because he has the seniority, and in the senate, seniority means power.  However, I’m open to an argument as to why one is better than the other.

Looking at endorsements: both have gotten good endorsements. Berman seems to have the support of most papers, the governor, both California senators, other senators from both parties, members of congress, and loads of leaders. Sherman has Bill Clinton, a number of other members of congress, the Lt. Governor, and lots of Democratic groups and unions. I think Berman’s endorsements are slightly stronger; I hope the Republican endorsements mean he can work more on bipartisanship.

On the issues, Berman and Sherman are very similar. Neither of them talk much about their position regarding the Department of Defense and Cybersecurity. Berman does have an active history in Intellectual Property (which is not a surprise, as he was representing Hollywood), but Sherman is taking similar positions.

The new district configuration was created by redistricting, and ended up putting two strong Democratic candidates against each other. We’ll be served well if either wins — and yes, this is a case of Congress is bad, but my congresscritter is good (and that’s true for our previous congresscritter, Henry Waxman,  as well). I’m on Berman’s side primarily because of seniority and bipartisan endorsements, but this is a real coin toss.

Current Position: Leaning towards Howard Berman.

What’s Next?

The third post in this series will look at the state legislative positions, the one county position, and the three county measures.

ETA: (Part III: State and Local Offices, Local Measures)