Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Michigan Primary update

Well, I’ve had several blog posts in my head for the last few weeks, but not much time to let them out! So, I’m taking a break from my thesis work to post an update on the primary last week.

I voted in the democratic primary and I finally picked who to vote for though I would be thrilled with either of the main democratic candidates.

I really considered voting in the republican primary instead, but when I looked at the issues that each candidate addressed, the majority of the issues that the republicans were concerned with are just not that important to me. I really do not care about “2nd amendment rights” (the right to bear arms) and if I did, it would definitely be towards more gun control, not more gun freedom. I don’t agree with many of the candidates positions on immigration (I think we need a more humane and realistic policy, not a more militaristic one). I don’t think “global terrorism” is really as significant a threat as many of them portray, necessitating an aggressive military solution. I don’t really agree with most of the conservative economic policies. And I don’t think the best way to deal with abortion is to just ban it. Most of the issues facing our society are very complex and when I explore the underlying issues, I just don’t think that most of the republican positions address them in the best way.

In a lot of fundamental ways, we just don’t speak the same language. I am way more concerned about fighting poverty, racism and injustice, about protecting the environment, about working for a society in which all people can live a whole and healthy live without leaving the most vulnerable people behind, about making sure that all people have access to quality education and health care. I am strongly opposed to the war we’re fighting in Iraq. I am tired of the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy where no one can really hear or understand each other (I think the most effective way to reduce abortion in our country is to address the underlying issues so that our girls and women are not in a position where they feel like abortion is their only option.)

Anyway, back to the primary. I think the whole primary situation marginalized a lot of voters in my community. My community is mostly African-American and a lot of people were really excited about the possibility of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate. But then they had no voice in determining who their candidate would be. I think a lot of people will be frustrated if he loses, knowing that their ability to vote for him might have made a difference. In addition, in a place where most people don’t have access to private transportation, many people work several jobs trying to make ends meet and it’s not exactly a great idea to be out walking after dark, the costs to voting were just too high for a lot of people when the returns were so little. Given all that, would you wander out in the snow to vote for candidates that didn’t seem to care about you, knowing that your vote probably wouldn’t count anyway?

A very interesting and informative part of the whole thing for me was the exit polls. On the democratic exit poll, they asked who you voted for and then who you would have voted for if all the candidates had been on the ballot. It was really interesting to see the breakdown by gender and race on who people voted for and who they would have voted for. The most interesting (and frustrating) part, though, was seeing the difference between the republican and democratic exit polls.

I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and guessing that the questions were so different because they couldn’t correlate democratic responses with the candidate voted for, so they didn’t bother to ask, but having studied social science research and being not your typical democrat, the polls seemed so biased and I felt totally ignored. For example, on both polls, they asked what the voter thought the most important issue was, but the choices on each poll were totally different! When you write the choices in a survey, if you don’t get the right range of options, you don’t find out what people really think. A biased poll will yield inaccurate results. Then on the republican exit poll, they asked lots of questions about religion and church attendance, but not a thing on the democratic poll! I did take a look at the Nevada polls, which were more complete, and there were still big differences between them. The republican polls got into much more detail about religion and I really felt excluded as a strongly Christian democrat. Do they really think that all evangelical Christians are republicans!? I felt like I was being stereotyped and ignored as a non-republican.

The thing that really gets me, though, is that all the democratic candidates are on the Florida ballot! What’s up with that?

But what’s done is done. Maybe as a country we’ll rethink how we do primary elections. I know my vote will count in November. I just pray that our next president will be able to unite the country behind a progressive agenda and that we’ll be able to work together for a better, more just and more whole society.

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