Monday, October 29, 2012

One moderate evangelical's voting strategy

I'm an evangelical. Evangelicals generally vote conservative (apparently over 75% of white evangelicals say they're voting Republican this year, or so NPR news said this morning). I'm young, and last election I voted for Obama. That should make me liberal. I don't really know what I am, but I do have a general strategy for how I vote.

I've said it for years, the President is quite limited in the law and policy-making that he can do, and so he is nearly guaranteed not to fulfill all the promises they make on the campaign trail. They simply don't have the power. They have influence, but they don't make laws, congress does. On the other hand, our President has expansive powers in our foreign policy. They set the tone of the nation in international talks, they decide who we are friendly with, who we treat as enemies, how we direct our military, and what international problems we help with. (See: What the President can and cannot do.)

So, I have been saying for years that the candidates' foreign policy is the first thing we should look at, though not to the exclusion of other things. I yelled at the radio in affirmation when I was listening to this story recently and Michael Lewis (who shadowed Obama for a while to write about his life in the White House) when he commented and said that it was interesting to see the President nearly hamstrung, unable to anything on legislative dilemmas and yet given almost unlimited powers in foreign policy. Just so happens that since I grew up overseas and we're headed back, it's also more deeply personally important to me than to most other people.

And yet, other things do clearly matter, foreign policy just matters most to me in my vote for the President. This year as I've continued to dive deeply into questions of abortion and political policy it has played deeply into how I think about my vote.

The Unvarnished Truth:
I sat and stared at that screen with the Presidential candidate options for ages before I clicked my vote. Despite the fact that I (apparently unlike most people I know) truly like Obama, have been a huge fan of his in many areas, and love most of his foreign policy actions and philosophy (I know, you all think I'm crazy), the pro-life/pro-choice struggle has made this vote really hard for me. I ended up where I started out, ultimately because I don't see much hope that Romney actually cares or will move along a helpful, reasoned pro-life approach. Besides that, thanks to the electoral college and Texas being deep red, my vote will be counted for Romney regardless.

US Senate and Congress

This is where I might surprise some of you. Here I lean conservative. This is our legislative branch, they make our laws and policies, and a lot can change as they swing one way or the other. Obamacare is mostly attributed to Obama, but it was dramatically changed from his original proposal as it was modified and mangled in the process of getting through the Senate and the House. The budget is also dramatically modified each year before it makes it out approved.

On economic issues and general domestic policy, I want a little more fiscal and social conservatism, I'd like us to work harder to cut the deficit and balance the budget and protect civil liberties. So, I lean conservative, or want to.

The Unvarnished Truth:
Turns out the current Republican Texas candidate for the Senate race is Ted Cruz, a tea partier, and he leans WAY too far right for me. He's a little crazy and would probably simply contribute the stone-walling we've seen from tea partiers the last few years.  And thus.... I voted Libertarian.

My congressman seems like a nice enough guy, but he's been in for four terms and is running unopposed. Texas is so deeply red that a number of races had just one unopposed Republican. So much for my vote having a say!

State and City Politics

Whereas I agree with most Conservatives around me that a lot of our federal entitlement programs are draining money and are mismanaged because they are so big, I still think we need social support for people. I want it to come from the state and city government rather than the federal government. When politicians at the state level want to do away with most programs, well, then I think you can end up with under funded schools, increasingly desperate poor, etc. Especially here in Texas, where we have a healthier budget than most states but have leaned towards underfunding education and social support.  I swing further left on issues of immigration and education. So - here I lean "liberal", especially in a state where half the liberals look conservative compared to East Coast liberals!

The Unvarnished Truth:
It was incredibly hard to just a find a place that listed all the candidates that would be on my ballot on the city and state level, and in fact despite doing lots of research I was still surprised by some things in the voting box. I understand how people end up just voting party line. I had multiple races of unopposed Republicans. I didn't vote on the Railroad Commissioner because what do I care about the railroad? And then I found out that the Railroad Commissioner inexplicably runs our oil and gas policies. Hmm.

In any case, I voted! Have you?


Rach said...

Interesting juxtaposition. Your reasoning makes sense, though. The main reason I haven't voted in early voting yet is because I still want to look at all the state and local candidates and make a *somewhat* informed decision. All of the decisions get a little overwhelming.

Matt Shedd said...

Really interesting piece. I would actually add one important caveat to the role of president. In enforcing the laws that are established, he is often given great liberties in interpretation. The current state of our immigration policy does not remotely reflect the laws that are established, but are a reflection of how the president, and his policy chooses to enforce, and sometimes ignore, the laws. I find it interesting that you went Libertarian instead of tea party, considering Libertarians tend to be extremely conservative with the major exception being foreign policy.

Kacie said...

Yes, it does depend on the candidates and the race. In this case Ted Cruz is very conservative on many issues, and the libertarian perhaps less ridiculous than some other libertarians. At least... that's what I found in my research!

Irja MK said...

Helpful Kacie - like you friend Rach above, I find all the options confusing and overwhelming at times. Politics in general. i want to be an informed voter, but tend to get very procrastinated (it should totally be a word if it isn't) and keep pushing off research. It's helpful for me to have someone who's opinion I value give their opinion. :)

AHLondon said...

You should have asked. The League of Women Voters puts out a just-the-facts voters guide. Here's the main link. There is a Texas statewide guide and links for local guides.