Which candidate is for you? A nifty voting tool that goes in the right direction but falls short.

My mom sent me a link to a nifty voting tool that claims to match you with a candidate that share's your views. (It looks like a legit local news website.)

Now, I really like this idea, but I'm concerned about at least two issues that are missing. To me, one of the most important issues is the extent to which the executive branch of government has extended it's powers and ignored the checks and balances from the other branches. The next President should be one who works diligently to dismantle the structures put in place by this administration - and the sooner this happens, the easier it will be to accomplish.

The other huge issue that is not listed is the issue of the Patriot Act and Guantanomo Bay. I personally would strongly favor a candidate who owns up to the fact that 9-11 could have been prevented using the tools we had at the time, and that new invasive laws and freedom-eroding statutes were not necessary and need to be repealed. (It's unfortunate that Congress cannot make such a bold statement and actually act. But it's not clear to me that most Americans are even aware of the Patriot Act, or even if they are, if they have thought through it's startling implications.)

Of course, what's bound to be a huge issue is our stance toward Iran, and that's not in the quiz either.

This quiz inspired me to consider an important question: what should we really do about Iraq? I know in my heart we should leave because we went in for the wrong reasons (Iraq never posed a threat to the US, never) - but to paraphrase Colin Powell, "we broke it" so shouldn't we do what we can to fix it before we go? Are we able to fix it? What does "fixing it" even mean? Does anyone in power or out of it have any ideas on what the US needs to do in specific terms? The quiz gives 6 possible answers about Iraq:

  • Decentralize Iraq by dividing it into regions of separate governments.
  • Draw down the U.S. troops and decentralize Iraq by dividing it into regions of separate governments.
  • I favor immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops.
  • There should be a timetable for the removal of U.S. troops.
  • We are going to be in Iraq for a long time, as a support force for the Iraqi government and forces.
  • U.S. forces need to stay in Iraq for as long as it takes for Iraqi forces to take over.

Most of these are meaningless, of course. The "timetable" solution is especially empty.

To truly reverse our actions we'd have to resurrect Sadam (and thousands of others) from the dead. To maintain Iraq's borders it apparently needs a strongman dictator. It's sad, but true.

But does this help us achieve our tacit goal of energy-security? Perhaps. Does this help us achieve our tacit goal of being within easy striking distance of a newly nuclear Iran? Probably not.

But as Gary Kasparov said so shrewdly on Bill Maher the other day, the US used to be a beacon of hope and freedom - but now has become just another country wielding "Democracy" as a tool for it's own self-interest. This, more than anything, needs to change, and should be at the forefront of this election. We Americans are good people - idealistic, hard-working, intelligent, creative, honest, and tough. Common sense has been a watchword for us since time immemoral. We hate red tape, we are mistrustful of those who wish to concentrate power and wield it over us, we know the risks of being a do-gooder, and the risks of doing nothing.

I don't think we've changed all that much - but we are a distracted people. Our relative wealth distracts us - we are distracted by consumption of goods and information. To reinstate the draft would be a badly needed wake-up call. To make the effects of war felt by everyone would be a wake-up call. The current administration has done an amazing job isolating the effects of war from the population at large - the effects are boiled down to a few impersonal numbers. A few thousand Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and billions upon billions of dollars. A news item about yet another road-side bomb going off in Baghdad. But there's no food rationing. There's no fear of being drafted. And so there are no protests. No one really cares in their heart about the war(s) (there's one in Afghanistan too, remember!)

Of course a big part of the problem is waiting for the right president to be elected! The right person getting the job would be a tremendous boon to be sure, but we as individuals can do our part. We can speak our minds fearlessly and passionately. We can help to wake up our fellow citizens from their sleep. We can encourage dialogue that is incisive and intelligent, rather than one that appeals to the least-common-denominator. Do not fear serious discussion with friends and neighbors. Talk politics with those at the coffee shop. On your front porch. With people at work. Even a few moments a day thinking about something other than Paris Hilton or the latest consumption craze is progress.

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