Sunday, September 21, 2008

How to Vote/How to Buy a Car

If you were buying a car, how would you go about it? Would you watch car company commercials - slick, black cars speeding into the night, or slinky-gowned women lying across hoods, or twenty-somethings, bounding over terrain and leaping out of their car, surfboards in hand?

Um, sure.

Like I'd just pick my fave commercial and then place my hard-earned bucks down and stay in debt for a few years based on 30 seconds of Madison Avenue bliss.

If you're like most of us, you're going to do the boring stuff like read Consumer Reports, go on Blue Book, visit your favorite car sites, maybe talk to your nephew who's an imports mechanic ("all I can say is, we get a heck of a lot of Mazdas in here..."). You might ask a neighbor how he likes his Ford Fusion if you were looking at a Ford Fusion, but you probably wouldn't get that Ford Fusion just because he did.

Why wouldn't you pick your President the same way?

Why can't we apply the principles to picking a President that we do to picking a car? After all, it's a huge investment. It's an investment for our country's future and in this day and age, it's an investment in our personal, financial stability, as well.

So, are you going to pick your President just because you like an ad, especially an ad that has the slant of the candidate's committee that's created that ad? Are you going to pick the President based on the fact that one of your favorite music or movie stars likes that person? Are you going to base your choice purely on the fact that your friend or your brother-in-law or your daughter likes this person?

Can't you think for yourself?

I bet you can.

You wouldn't buy a minivan if you were 21, straight out of college and living in Chicago, would you? You probably wouldn't buy a Miata if you were a soccer mom (even if you really, really wanted to). If you were all about being Green, buying an Escalade would probably not be your dream choice. Conversely, if you're a Detroit auto line worker, I'm not seeing you in a Prius any time soon.

Before you make this HUGE investment in your future, please, please look at the ISSUES. Read between the lines. Read news stories in the mainstream media. If there's a front page story on corrupt administration tied to one of the candidates, pay attention (unless that just doesn't bother you).

Need to register to vote? Go here.

Need information about Obama's plans? Go here.

Need information about McCain's plans? Go here.

Need information about Obama's voting record, biography, interest group support, etc.? Go here.
Need information about McCain's voting record, biography, interest group support, etc.? Go here. Project Vote Smart is a great source for reading "just the facts, Ma'am". It's a NON-PARTISAN, non-profit organization that has had diverse board members since its inception, including Presidents Ford and Carter, Senators McGovern and Goldwater, and even John McCain served on its board. This is an organization devoted to compiling voting records, doing fact-checking, etc. You can read all about their mission here. I felt this would be an excellent NON-PARTISAN education tool.

Need some comprehensive information on Sarah Palin's record as a leader? Go here.

Need Joe Biden's record? Go here.

If the economy has you worried, find out which candidate's tax plan actually will be better for your tax bracket. Make sure that you'll still have your medical insurance under your candidate's plan (you may not if you vote for McCain). If you have family in the military, make sure your candidate supported the GI Bill, a bill that provided education and health initiatives for returning Veterans (hint, Obama supported this bill, McCain did NOT).

If your ONLY issue is making abortion illegal, then McCain might be a better match.

But let's talk about abortion for a moment. I wouldn't have an abortion. Luckily for me, it's beyond the point that I have to worry about it. For the record, on a personal level, I don't think I could abort a child.

I did find it interesting, though, that Sarah Palin said she was proud that Bristol had made the "choice" to keep her child. Under Sarah Palin's leadership, if Sarah Palin had her druthers, no other woman's daughter would have that choice.

And for all my personal views on abortion, I do feel that women have to look at many issues when pregnant. I also feel that even if I were vehemently anti-abortion, it would still not be my only issue.

Is it yours? Is it really the ONLY issue?

As for my decision, I had to add up the pros and cons. Figure out what was most important to me and to my family. As an average, middle-class mom, I'm scared. I need my family to have health insurance, not just tax credits for health insurance. I need the actual insurance because we might not be covered otherwise (I have some medical issues, my husband has asthma, my son had some health issues when he was younger). Also, if health insurance was run by the insurance companies (as McCain would have it), they could allow buy-in costs to skyrocket beyond where they already are, (because he also believes in deregulation) and our family can't afford to pay more than we are paying now.

We can't afford more taxes, and since our family takes in less than $250,000/year, I know that my family is safer under Obama's plan than under McCain's plan. Since McCain will only provide major tax credits and cuts to the top 1% of the population, I know I can't afford him as President.

I know that I have many friends with children or spouses serving in the military. I've been hearing the horror stories about how their wounded veteran family members have been treated. I believe they deserve respect and benefits, and therefore, passage of the GI Bill was very important to me. The plans that Obama wants to enact for Veterans after he takes office are also in line with my thinking. McCain is more concerned with war costs; Obama with keeping Veterans' benefits and medical care once they return. I believe those who have fought for our country deserve the same benefits their parents did when they were in the military. Under the current administration, that has changed, and McCain would continue those changes saying we can't afford the care previously given to our Veterans.

Finding new sources of renewable energy is very important to me, because I can't afford current fuel prices. Off-shore drilling won't provide a permanent solution or even any relief for the next ten years. Since off-shore drilling is the main solution that Senator McCain offers, I have to go with Barack Obama's much more pragmatic and diversified energy plan.

How do I know all this about the two candidates? I read. A lot. I went here and here. I compared. I comparison-shopped. And since the economy, healthcare, education, Veteran's benefits, and ending the Iraq War in a timely manner are my main concerns, my Presidential choice was crystal clear.

Be an educated voter. Please.


Anonymous said...

I have a hard time understanding single issue voters; specifically, I have a hard time understanding folks who are so against legalized abortion that they vote against their economic interests. Ditto for those who are anti-gay marriage who do the same.

Personally, I have never had an abortion, but it would have been a top option back in the day. Now that I am, uh, spayed, it's not an issue, but I still wouldn't want someone forced to be an incubator.

I'm not gonna lie--economics is just about my top issue. I agree that we can't afford a ton more taxes, given that we also make less than $250k a year. I'm committed to voting against McCain for that reason.

Meg said...

Many great points, as always.

My neighbor is the head of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo. He is a pro-life Catholic for Obama. Soon he'll be publishing an essay on who the real pro-life candidate is. From a recent speech he gave, I can tell you that (when you look at the whole picture) he will say Obama.

I'll send you a link.

And don't forgot to vote early. ;)

Nick said...

Um... there are more than two candidates on the ballot. You pose a false choice between Obama and McCain.

Of course (based on your values) Obama is better than McCain. And maybe Obama is the best candidate for you given all the choices, but you don't indicate you've done the research and given the other candidates (McKinney, Nader, Barr, Baldwin) their due.

Anonymous said...

Excellent posts! I'm always trying to tell my students that they don't just need to vote but they need to be informed voters.

I truly don't understand one issue voters. Life is more complex than just one issue.

I also like I think it's fair and it presents misrepresentations and spin by both parties. I think being informed means more than just knowing about the "other" candidate. We also need to know the good, bad, and ugly about our own candidate.

Anonymous said...

I would say the same thing in my country...and I always have the same call, let us all be an educated voter! And we don't have to go far with buying cars, even when we buy shoes...we not only look for comfort...and we try to see all facets of it. :)

I always read your post and it makes me want to read more...know more...understand more...thanks for sharing!

anno said...

There you go again, encouraging people to think, to investigate the facts behind the media message... Excellent list of resources!

April said...


Jen said...

Patti, I don't understand one issue voters, either, but I personally know a number of them. It's a view I just can't understand.

Meg, I'm really looking forward to reading that article.

Nick, you've got a good point there, but some of the folks you mentioned aren't even on the ballot in Michigan. I've been doing data entry for hundreds and hundreds of phone and canvass surveys in the past couple of weeks, and of all of those responses only one response had the person even leaning towards someone who wasn't Obama or McCain. I WISH, actually, that we truly had more than a two-party system, but I feel that the reality is that we don't. I personally feel that Parliamentary systems and multi-party systems make for stronger democracies, but I see us a long, long way from that point. I appreciate your comments, and again, good point, but that's why I focused on those two candidates.

Dingo - DARN! I wish I'd thought to include GOOD POINT!

Thanks so much for your kind comments, Mariposa.

April and Anno, thanks.

thailandchani said...

This is all very good advice! It is important to look at all of the issues, not just our pet issues. Foreign policy is very important.. but so is domestic policy.


Nick said...


thanks for responding. Actually all 6 are on the Michigan ballot, (though not all 6 are on every state's ballot):

I guess, to me, your canvassing experience is all the more reason to discuss third parties. Despite the rhetoric, one vote won't be deciding, so why not support the policies you most believe in?

In any event, thank you for the blog. I very much enjoy reading it.

Jen said...

Chani, you know I keep finding things I forgot about. You know, I think, how important our international standing is to me, in terms of wanting us to stop being seen as the bullies of the world. I was trying to cover a lot of bases in this post, and I keep finding things I forgot.

Nick, I'll definitely check out the link. This has been such a hard thing for me because at the moment, I feel our system is so broken in general and I know third party candidates don't really stand a chance, but on the other hand, you're right that if we don't keep informed about ALL options, then we're cheating ourselves.

Jen said...

Oh! And thanks for the kind words about reading my blog.

charrette said...

Thank you for this rational, intelligent, well-thought-out approach to the coming election. I'm going to bookmark this so I can spend more time following the links and make a better-informed choice.

I agree with most of your issues and am leaning that direction.

painted maypole said...

excellent, excellent, excellent

submitting this for the just post roundtable

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jen great thoughtful post.

I don't understand single issue voters either. I look at the total picture then make my choice.

Anonymous said...

Darn, I thought you were going to say that I could kick some, erm.."tires"!.

Korie said...

To me, the people who don't look at the whole picture before voting are the same kind of people that refuse to buy foreign cars (we won't get into the fact that most of the parts for domestic cars are made outside of the US cause that's besides the point). Some people can't bring themselves to dismiss certain ideologies that are ingrained in them. Even if it means making choices that will hurt them.

As a woman who had the unfortunate experience of having to make "the choice" I am a fervent supporter of allowing women to stay in control of their bodies and their reproductive rights. But I also realize that is not the only issue to focus on in a presidential election.

Núria said...

He, he, you are getting really tough here Jen!
Thinking about things before acting is always a great advise :D

Goofball said...

wow....can any of your readers send this link to journalists and non-partisan websites, so this important post can get spread out even more!?

Jen said...

Charrette, I'm glad this might be useful to you!

PM - thanks so much! I'd like to know more about the just post roundtable - it sounds like something I should be reading.

NYC, that is where I am. It always seems odd to me, especially in that one area, because it doesn't make sense that unborn babies are a priority, but healthcare for our born children, children who are being killed during wars, etc., are less of a priority? Huh?

Maryann - if kicking the "tires" makes you feel better, go for it! ;-)

Lilac - I'm not sure if I was articulate enough, but that's exactly my point. It's easy for any of us to say what choice we might make unless we've actually been there.

Nuria, yes I am. ;-) I'm going to get lighter soon, but this post and the one about voting are two points I really, really wanted to make.

Goofball - feel free! I'm not sure where it might be sent, but if anyone can use it, they're welcome to, as long as they let me know. And thanks!

jennifer said...

You said it.
Excellent. Important and thoughful.

Unknown said...

Useful, practical, and personal. A wonderful example of civil discourse on politics!

Sarabeth said...

Nice links for information and very well put.

We've finally got our registration in. Those pesky hurricanes got in the way of more than normal business!

Flower Child said...

this is great! I'm pretty much set on my choice but it is good to have a place to point others who may still be on the fence

Jen said...

Jennifer and Greg, thanks for the kind words!

Sarabeth, I'm glad you're able to get more back to normal

I'm hoping it will be useful for things like that, FC.

Karen Olson said...

Here, here, Jen! Fantastic post.

and to Nick: Unfortunately, a vote for a third party candidate is really throwing your vote into a black hole. We're a two party nation, and while some third party candidates like Perot have proved interesting, they've never been able to make a dent.

Because this year is so so important, I think everyone would be best to look at the two major candidates, because one of them WILL be president and you might want to choose which one's policies appeal more to you.

Jen said...

Very good point, Karen. You said that perfectly.

Momisodes said...

Well said. Great post and analogy. I couldn't agree more that we MUST make an informed decision as voters. Thank you for all of those links.

Betsy said...

What a great post, Jen! Thank you! My mind was already made up a long time ago, but I'm realizing that there are some issues for which I'd like to have the candidates stances clarified. Thanks for the links-- looks like I've got some homework to do! :-)

nonizamboni said...

Wow! Someone with a brain who understands! Well written, insightful and full of links. Thanks. This is a pivital election and I stand by the button I saw earlier: 'pay attention. vote.'
Thanks for sharing!

Virtualsprite said...

Great post!

Alex Elliot said...

What a wealth of information! As always, great post and I like the you included sites for both sides.

Faye said...

Jen, thanks for a great post!!!

glamah16 said...

I'm going to repeat what the otheres say. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Wait, what? We're supposed to be SANE and REASONABLE when we vote? Geez. This is going to be my first Presidential election--I'm so excited. Don't worry; I'm researching all the propositions we'll be voting on here in California, too!

Betsy said...

I thought you might enjoy this post since it dovetails right into your message...


w said...

Very interesting post, I especially noticed this part of your post: "Can't you think for yourself?

I bet you can."

I think you hit the nail on its head here. Many people just want other people to think for them even if this means that their decisions are just being taken in an irresponsible way :(

Jyl @ MommyGossip said...

I love your post. Just saw a button that linked to your site from JenninHolland's site and clicked over.

I have been struggling with this election. Everyone has a side and tends to push it at you. I love that, even though you have made your decision, you are encouraging others to make an informed decision and providing objective information--just the facts--on both sides.

Thanks for dedicating a blog to this. While I, in the midst of my struggle, chose to post on a topic I don't even like: The Twilight Series, you grabble with the essentials. I appreciate that!

Glad to have discovered your blog.

Faye said...

This is too good to not share:

Living and being our democratic process is happening and only takes our choosing to make it happen for ourselves!

Jen said...

Sandy and Noni - thanks - what we all need to be is informed.

Betsy, the more I've read the clearer I've become. This is why I'm pushing for educated voters! (And heck, I might as well just admit it - I like folks to be educated, in general).

Virtual, Faye and Glamah - thank you

Alex, I wanted to reach out to all voters - my main point is please, please know who and what you're voting for.

Thisblog - yes, please research those - you have at least one very, very important one on the ballot. The same rights for everyone is another concept that I believe is of utmost importance!

Betsy - thanks - I loved the post and dropped a comment over there.

Good point, La Delirante - it seems in keeping with many of your posts, too.

Thanks for the kind and thoughtful words, JYL. I'll have to thank Jenn, too!

Faye, I'm crunched on some corrections this evening, but I'll definitely check it out tomorrow - thanks!

Liz Dwyer said...

AMEN! Enough with folks being sheeple! Independently do your research and find out what the truth is on your own. Love it! This is SUCH a great post.

Shayne said...

one of the best political post I have ever had the pleasure to read. Thank you and this needs to be posted on every blog and become a chain email and I am going to start that email now!!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post.

Anonymous said...

You are one amazing blogger Jen...a complete resource guide...thank you for your continued thoughtful enlightenment!

Anonymous said...

Jen, this is a great post. You are the master of resources! And I have such respect for the way you encourage people to think for themselves.