Sunday, May 11, 2008

Making a choice had never been so complicated

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, May 11, 2008

May 4. In less than 48 hours the polls open for the much anticipated Democrat Presidential Primary. As has been pointed out endlessly, Hoosier votes count in this one.

Although I am not a lifelong Indiana resident (this is my ninth Presidential vote, fifth in Indiana), I have lived in states that had late primaries, so I am used to having my choices for the November ballot selected by others. That fact never bothered me. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my business. The eventual nominee has never been my primary choice. In the past I would naively cast a vote for a candidate who could not win the nomination hoping to influence the platform. As I said, “naive.” Were I still so na├»ve I would ask for a Republican ballot and vote for Ron Paul.

As I write this I do not know who I am going to vote for. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I’d probably just flip a coin the morning of the election. I mean, why not? The policy differences between the two Democrat hopefuls are slight. My list of pros and cons for each candidate balance each other out, closer than the Guam caucuses.

The narrow test of who is offering “me” the best deal, has never been my test. No, I embraced those high school citizenship classes too eagerly, I really think we should be choosing who is best for the nation, and what is best for the nation is not necessarily always the best for me. At the same time, the historic and sociological implications of this election are not lost on me. In one sense, any vote contributes to an historic outcome. We are either going to elect the first African American, the first woman, or the oldest to the Presidency. One the other hand, I’d like to contribute, to be part of, in my small way, the historic outcome. Hence, I want to vote for the eventual winner.

Normally, endorsements mean nothing to me. I think they say more about the endorser than it does the endorsee. Endorsers are more odds makers than anything else; until Lee Hamilton endorsed Sen. Obama. That endorsement made me pause. Never before has any endorsement had such an impact on me.

I think Sen. Obama is what I want our president to be. I like his current advertisement where he characterizes Washington as unwilling to take on the hard questions and solve them, instead opting for political gimmicks like the gas tax holiday proposed by Sens. McCain and Clinton. At the same time, Sen. Clinton is a fighter and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. I understand that is part of why Republicans best Democrats because Democrats are often too idealistic. “Too idealistic” or “unrealistic’ is what many see in Sen. Obama. I share some of that skepticism, too. Argh!!!

Election day. As I drove into Roselawn Cemetery to vote early this morning, I thought to myself, “how fitting for what has become a “grave” decision for me.” I had an easier time proposing marriage! When asked which ballot I wanted, I replied “Demopublican or Republicrat.” I was told they would have those in November but right now, only the donkey or elephant. Along with everyone else, I asked for a Democrat ballot. I took my ballot over to the little stand and there it was, the “choice.” I quickly ran through the others races and in a minute or so am back to the “choice.”

I noticed others come in and get out pretty quick, while I stared and pondered the “choice.” I began to worry that there might be a time limit on how long I could stare at my ballot.

Finally I made a choice. I decided to pretend that Indiana was the first primary; that the previous elections had not happened. Who would I vote for if I got to be one of the first to make a choice instead of one of the last. And sure enough, as my past favorites end up, I voted for the Indiana loser (though, strangely, Sen. Obama seemed to win Tuesday overall--his narrow defeat in Indiana viewed as something of a win.) Democrat politics are more complicated than Republican politics; though 24% of Republicans still voted against Sen McCain.

I thought both Democrat victory speeches Tuesday night went a long way toward building a united front for the eventual Democrat nominee. I hope Indiana doubles the number voting in the November election.

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