Election 2008: So Many Choices, Not Many Standouts

    Forget everything you know about politics for a second. Forget about the
    agendas, the scandals and the parties. Forget about who’s an elephant, an ass
    or a fence-sitter.

    In my world there are three kinds of political people: There are the
    confident, bordering on headstrong; there are the apathetic; and then there are
    those like me — yearning to boldly declare my convictions and join my
    respective groupies, but still skeptical about where I stand. And more
    importantly, with whom.

    Since early January, when the 2008 presidential candidates began declaring
    their intent to run for office, America’s political arena has been ablaze with
    excitement. Everywhere I turn there is a budding campaign issue, a fresh
    slogan, a seductive promise.

    Through it all, I’ve watched eagerly as the presidential candidates
    gathered at the debates, each armed with a bag of tricks, ready to throw the
    best punch for a shot at victory. But amid the bustle of campaign activity and
    the hope of impending political reform, I must admit: I’m lost. The last nine
    months have turned me into a political wallflower — something with which I’m
    entirely unfamiliar.

    When President George W. Bush won his second election in 2004, I was
    crushed. Despite desperately wanting to partake in the election, at the time I
    was still a year shy of voting age. And as such was forced to stand by
    indefensibly as he miraculously won another term. I spent the next three years
    itching to vote so I could bring some fresh light to a dismal administration.

    To say that I was anxious for the primaries and the commencement of
    another election season would be a gross understatement. But now, as America
    fast approaches the wake of what many — demonstrated by poll after poll — consider the worst presidency in American
    history, my feelings about voting have surprisingly changed. It’s no longer the
    patriotic form of participation I imagined, but rather an ominous
    responsibility I feel ill-equipped to assume.

    Looking at this bleak platform of candidates, I’m determined, and almost
    frantic, to discover a gem among them and attach myself to that particular
    presidential hopeful. But despite my efforts to look past each candidate’s
    quirks and shortcomings, not one has earned my affection.

    In fact, the more I study their campaigns, the more disenchanted I become
    with their messages, and the more I come to understand those urging former Vice
    President Al Gore to run for office.

    Take, for example, democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Born to a
    Methodist family in Illinois, the cutthroat New York senator promises to put up
    a definite fight, but her rough edges make her an unrelateable candidate that
    is hard to pin down.

    On the one hand, her apparent ferocity is commendable and appealing, but
    she often appears to shrink from convictions after they become troublesome. Her
    infamous fight for health care reform as former first lady and her prior
    support for the Iraq War resolution are perfect examples; when popularity
    dwindled on both issues, Clinton quickly jumped ship.

    For candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the problem is not so much a
    dubious track record, but rather, the absence of one. Should I take his
    opposition to the Iraq War, his efforts to end genocide in Darfur and his
    promise to fill the cracks in America’s education system as sufficient evidence
    of his ability? Should I vote for him in spite of his inexperience or because
    of it?

    Then there is the typical array of classic republican candidates to choose
    from, all committed to tax cuts, scandals, the war on terrorism, revamping —
    or abolishing — Social Security and
    patrolling the border. Given my liberal tendencies, this type of political
    conservativism just doesn’t appeal to me.

    There is, however, one “republican” who does stand out — hopeless Ron Paul. Apart from his outspoken
    noninterventionist beliefs, his commitment to freedom and his endorsement of
    free trade, which alone might be enough to lure me in, many of Paul’s proposed
    remedies are so far-fetched you almost wonder if he’s serious.

    For instance, he advocates the abolition of the Federal Reserve, the
    Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, the Department of
    Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the
    Department of Energy.

    So while he may call himself a republican, this former libertarian has no
    more in common with the GOP than Clinton does. Despite his grandpa-like
    charisma, the giggling and the mockery Paul has received from fellow
    republicans indicate it’s unlikely he will earn his party’s nomination. I’m
    left wondering whether he’s worth my time at all, or just a lost cause in this
    political rat race.

    At this point it’s impossible to tell.

    Needless to say I can’t promise that I know who I’ll be voting come
    primaries. In fact, I find myself wishing I were more of an extremist — more
    like the confident or the apathetic, for whom the choice is easy. For now
    though, I’ll go on politically confused as I hash out the pros and cons of each
    presidential wannabe.

    I can, however, promise you one thing — no matter who I pick, my choice
    will be an educated one.

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