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Semiformalishmaybe

2010 Elections

My research and selections on the upcoming 2010 elections, but first a restatement of how I think about voting and how I vote.

Like many socialists, I am not committed to democracy under the current system - I don't believe our democracy or our educational system are up to the task of making good decisions through polling the demos, and the types of candidates that normally make it into office only rarely have the expertise, at least for many types of positions, to do a top-notch job - to the extent that they are dependent on a popularity contest, we lose out on people who are less charismatic but more skilled. Similarly, Americans have an occasional tradition of populism that opposes intellect and expertise. The two roles that democracy does do according to what democracy structurally aims for are deciding which values go into governance and cutting down policies that are terrible enough to be highly and immediately visible. The first function is sometimes questionable, the latter insufficient to handle subtle/fine issues or those that require some kind of temporal reasoning. Fortunately, our governmental system is designed with some of these concerns in mind, insulating some parts of the government (particularly the judiciary) from politics to some extent. All this understood, improving on a modern representative democracy is not any easy task. Were the opportunity for revolution to somehow fall into my hands in a way that I thought might lead to something better, I would take it. Until then, I will vote - it is a lever, I can theoretically make a difference (even if some kinds of change are difficult at best) by turning it the right way, and by communicating/discussing with others, en masse we have some limited ability to steer things.

I agree with some other socialists I've met that the act of voting does not commit me in any way to either the United States or its current form of democracy. Likewise, I do not hold with any implied commitment to abide by rule of law in voting (as some people suggest people who vote should as a "rule of the game") - I will continue to use the calculus of judging the acceptability of laws and the risks/costs of breaking them. I disagree with some other socialists in that I believe that principlism in voting is naïve - voting is not a sacred duty to vote directly for whom we believe is the best candidate - it's a lever which we should pull in the direction that gives us the best probability/result value. To do otherwise is to fail to do the best we can by our values. To make this more concrete, given a three way race between a socialist with my exact values/philosophy, a democrat, and a republican, with the person like me likely to get 1% of the votes and the other two in a near-even split, I would vote for whichever of the other two were somewhat closer to me, because to do otherwise would, under the voting system we use, be a waste of the opportunity and fail to enact my values.

Note as well that this is a pretty easy election for research - any endorsement by Palin, the Tea Party movements, or the US Chamber of Commerce for someone makes it very very unlikely I'd vote for them. I would consider voting for non-populist non-theocratic non-libertarian Republicans, or Democrats, and I would happily vote for Greens if I thought they could win. I would be delighted were there socialist candidates that seemed both sane and electable.

Moving on to the candidates/positions up for grabs (for those who like to do their own research, caution, Spoilers ahead!):

  • United States Senate - Joe Sestak (D) versus Pat Toomey (R) - Toomey seems to have almost no issue policies in common with me - environment, fiscal policy, gay rights. His opposition to earmarks is commendable though. He's endorsed by some of those metioned above, disqualifying him for my vote. Sestak supported healthcare reform, seems to support placing marijuana as a per-state matter (I would prefer it be nationally permitted without states having the right to prohibit it, as I believe alcohol should be, but his position is better than the status quo by my metric), supports strengthening unions, and has a decent environmental record. Result: Sestak (D)
  • United States House of Representatives - Mike Doyle (D) versus Melissa Haluszczak (R) versus Ed Bortz (G)
    • Doyle (D) - Reasonably committed to healthcare, has a remarkably informed and nice set of tech/IP policies, has taken some unusual but other worthwhile positions (Autism, Darfur, etc), seems reasonable on gay rights. For a Democrat, he's surprisingly likable.
    • Haluszczak (R) - Strictly in the conservative-freemarket-populist line on healthcare (gah!), anti-gay-rights (gah), aims for lower/flatter taxes (gah), and is against environemntal responsibility. Absolutely will not get my vote.
    • Bortz (G) - Supports truly Universal Healthcare, which is good. Supports a shorter work week, which is good. Opposes bailouts and deregulation - this is a nuanced issue - I like the direction of his long-term preferred policies, but believe if implemented in response to the crisis the result would've been dire. Still, acceptable. Supports Gay marriage, which is good. Promotes election reform. His foreign policy wrt Afghanistan strikes me as ill-considered. Overall, I like Bortz. I would like to vote for him if he had a chance to be elected.
    • Result: Doyle (D)
  • Governor of Pennsylvania - Dan Onarato (D) versus Tom Corbett (R)
    • Dan Onarato (D) - Reasonable on environment, moderate on labour issues, moderate on healthcare. Hard to tell much about his policies.
    • Tom Corbett (R) - Legal challenge to healthcare reform (otherwise reasonable, although the focus on tort reform suggests he's following party lines rather than thinking). Looks decent on energy and environment. Actually not a bad candidate.
    • Result: Onarato (D) (but I don't mind Corbett much even if he buys a bit into his party's crazy)
  • Ballot Measure - PA Constitutional Convention - I don't know enough of what this would mean - it's too open-ended. Will need to look at this further.

There we go. Pretty simple.

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