Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Politics

I've always found politics fascinating, but I've never had the stomach to be a true junkie. I care more about policy outcomes than I do about the political game, which is probably what led me to get a degree in public policy, and perhaps what caused me to become disillusioned and jump ship to the private sector upon graduation.

I call myself a slightly left-of-center moderate. I'm not a polarizer. I try to appreciate nuggets of wisdom in all parts of the political spectrum. I believe in multi-partisanship, and squirmed when I read the Daily Kos extolling the virtues of the populist Dean approach over the centrist DLC approach to building and sustaining a Democrat majority. But I squirm even more when I even think about Karl Rove, so I guess that makes me left-of-center, if my viscera are any guide.

Why left-of-center philosophically? I'm an environmentalist. I believe in a foreign policy based on diplomacy and coalitions, rather than saber rattling and going-it-alone. I want to live in a society where children and youth have equal access to quality health care and education and where there is some kind of economic safety net for all citizens. I don't have a problem with paying a bit more in taxes to achieve worthy policy goals.

Why not all-the-way left? I guess I'm a Clintonian when it comes to welfare. The lefty in me values fairness and a helping hand for those in need, while the amateur economist in me wants to avoid creating incentives for depending on public handouts. I support free trade. If workers get displaced through outsourcing, the answer is more training - and maybe relocation assistance - not trade barriers (although I'm willing to accept trade barriers as a response to other countries' unfair trade practices).

I hate the polarizing issues that seem to hijack political primaries with simplistic declarations and do not contribute to sophisticated solutions. For example, setting a deadline for the pullout of troops from Iraq is not realistic. A desired outcome should be defined, and the withdrawal of troops should be tied to that. Worse than that, political rhetoric can be dominated by fringe issues whose supporters are paranoid of the slippery slope: guns and abortion come to mind. I call them fringe issues - to the irritation of many people, I know - because they are not as important as finding a solution to Social Security and Medicare solvency. They are about rights, which are fundamental to society, but there are easy solutions, if the zealots would just set aside their paranoia. What's so terrible about reaffirming the right for a person to keep a handgun at home or go hunting with a rifle, while requiring adequate background checks and prohibiting the personal possession of automatic weapons? What's so terrible about reaffirming the right for a woman to have an abortion early in her pregnancy, or when her health is in jeopardy, but drawing the line at the point where the fetus would be viable outside the womb (premature babies are surving at something like 26 weeks these days)? The vast majority of Americans would support both these positions, and yet extremists pull political rhetoric in their direction.

It's presidential politics season, and I haven't found a candidate that I like - Obama comes closest, but I worry about his lack of executive experience. I'll keep looking. I'll be intrigued if January finds us without strong, clearcut candidates, opening a door for Bloomberg to throw in his hat.

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