Tuesday, November 04, 2008

David's Picks

Some of you have been kind enough to ask how I'm voting this year and why. Here goes:

Yes, We Can: Barack Obama for President
Others have no doubt said it better but I have never seen a presidential candidate inspire so many people in my lifetime. My students are energized and my neighborhood is a sea of Obama signs. The campaign feels more like a movement than a campaign. Yet, I also cannot recall a campaign so organized or disciplined--an aspect which bodes well for an Obama Administration.

And the country badly needs that organization and inspiration to deal with the economic crisis at home, two wars abroad, and the continuing threat of terrorism. America has never been so isolated abroad--something I've seen vividly on my own travels and which would change rapidly as the election of Obama reminds our friends of why they admire and respect the values and the leadership of the United States.

More importantly, Obama has the temperament and the judgment to make for an outstanding president. He's thoughtful and smart enough to learn from his inevitable mistakes. His presidential campaign has visibly demonstrated that he knows how to run a large organization--and not let it run him.

His pragmatic approach combined with determination should allow us to make progress on a range of issues. Obama understands that our national security is linked to our energy policy and the environment. I have confidence that Obama will work to make education and health care more accessible to all Americans and not just wait for the benefits of recession to trickle down. And he'll continue to ask Americans for their help in improving our country--not just for their votes.

When the general election campaign started, I thought that America would have a spirited campaign focusing primarily on the issues between Barack Obama and John McCain. Like many Democrats, even if I didn't plan to vote for Senator McCain, I respected his service to our country and his courage not just as a soldier but in standing up to the Bush Administration on a number of issues, particularly the treatment of POWs.

I don't know what the Republican Party has done with that John McCain but I sure wish they'd bring him back. Throughout the campaign, Senator McCain has proclaimed himself a "maverick" even as he has embraced closely not just the Bush-Cheney record but their divisive tactics that fail to recognize that we can disagree on politics without losing our mutual respect and a sense of common destiny as Americans.

McCain's economic policy seems to consist wholly of reheating the failed Bush strategy of cutting taxes for the wealthy and running up massive deficits. McCain's slogan is "country first" and great strengths are supposedly leadership and experience. Yet he chose someone unprepared to assume office as his running mate and his major response to the economic crisis was to exploit it for political advantage.

Ultimately, McCain blinked as his "I shall go to Washington" strategy only highlighted his lack of ideas or engagement with the economy. In contrast, Obama remained calm even as he handled this tricky issue well and coolly faced down McCain's demand to cancel the presidential debate. While McCain looked erratic and unpredictable, Obama visibly demonstrated leadership and his ability to handle a tough situation with aplomb.

However, the worst aspect of the McCain campaign has been its reliance on the politics of demonization. The McCain campaign has oddly attacked Obama for being eloquent, having gained admission to prestigious schools, and having chosen public service--in other words for being an example of the American Dream at work and the success for which every parent hopes for their children.

Obama works to overcome divisions and proclaims that we don't live in red states or blue states but in the United States. McCain and Palin divide us as they talk about "real Americans" and caricature Obama as a socialist and terrorist. (Question: if Obama wins, is his victory a mandate for socialism and terrorism?)

As I wrote when I explained why I supported Barack Obama in the primary: "Americans love this country deeply and desperately want someone who can restore their faith in it and their government. Barack Obama can do that. Our nation's most successful self-made businesswoman, Oprah Winfrey, got it right when she said 'He's the One.'"

Congress: Bring Back Chris, Bring On Donna
Chris Van Hollen has been an outstanding representative, working his way up the congressional ladder and achieving a high degree of influence and effectiveness in an astonishingly short time. Despite being Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), he has maintained a strong presence in the Eighth District.

Democrats won most of the low-hanging fruit in 2006 when they took back the House, so taking over the DCCC for the 2008 was not an easy task. Thanks to excellent candidate recruitment and fundraising, Democrats are positioned to increase their majority approximately 25 to 30 seats--way up from the maximum of ten most pundits thought possible after 2006--and our congressman's influence--and thus ours--will only rise.

I don't live in Donna's district but it will be a welcome breadth of fresh air for the Fourth to have an outspoken representative focused on public policy and the needs of her district--not on corporate interests or local politics. She's already amping up the quality of representation in Maryland.

School Board: Laura Berthiaume in District 2
Adam Pagnucco has explained why it is Time to Get Rid of Steve Abrams--the last Republican serving at the county level in Montgomery County. Vote for Laura Berthiaume for more tolerant representation on the school board.

Chris Barclay is unopposed for an at-large seat and Phil Kauffman faces perennial candidate Tommy Le in District 2.

Question 1: Yes on Early Voting
A sensible reform which makes it easier to vote and helps avoid problems associated with record turnouts on Election Day.

Question 2: No on Slots
I'm not a diehard on either side of this debate but I'll be voting against slots. I outlined the arguments for and against slots sometime ago. The best arguments for slots remain that it would allow the State to capture money spent by Marylanders on slot machines in neighboring states and that the government shouldn't be in the business of regulating sin.

Nonetheless, I think it unwise for a high income, educated state like Maryland to be moving into a downmarket industry like slots. I also see no need for the State to hand out a few licenses--which might as well be to print money--to a few select individuals in order to subsidize the horse racing industry. It's a short-term fix for a budget crisis that our history suggests we'll likely regret over the long term.

Question A on Updating County Charter: Yes

Question B: Vote No on the latest version of the Ficker Amendment
Adam Pagnucco gives his reasons why. I'll just say that if Robin Ficker wants the Council to adopt different policies, he should convince us to change who we elect to office, not the County Charter.