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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calling All Candidates: My 12 Issues

I voted Republican in 2004 and Democrat in 2006. It's safe to say, my vote for 2008 is officially up for grabs. I'm sure the Democrats will disappoint me in many ways over the next 2 years. But are the Republicans actually capable of producing a candidate who will speak to the independent voice of millions of frustrated Americans? I don't know.

Since my pals here at TPS no longer consider me a conservative, I've been working to find a new label for my ideology. Without the grounding of a political party, it's not a simple matter. But after some reflection I think I'm best described as a Social Conservative, a Fiscal Moderate, and an America Firster on issues of foreign policy. No wonder I voted for Pat Buchanan for president back in 2000!

However, I hope not to "throw away" my vote again in 2008. Naturally, Iraq was the primary issue for me during the 2006 election. But beyond that, I've made a list of the 12 broad issues that currently matter most to me. And I'm looking for someone who echoes my beliefs in as many of these 12 areas as possible. So here they are, in alphabetical order, all you potential candidates!

Budget Deficit -- A balanced budget is an important indication to me that the government is playing by the same rules I'm forced to deal with. If our budget is not balanced, we better be fighting another full-blown world war or tackling a great depression. Fortunately, neither has been the case during the Bush administration. And yet the GOP Congress has produced years of record setting budget deficits. This issue gets me so fired up that I would accept tax increases I'd otherwise oppose if we cannot control spending and pork.

Capital Punishment -- I believe some crimes are so heinous that society much protect itself by swiftly and harshly taking the life of the perpetrator. Not only do I believe it is a deterrent, but it's also simple justice. And victims have a right to that. Prison is frankly not a punishment for people like Charles Manson or Eric Rudolph. It's actually a twisted form of nirvana to them in many ways. For those who ground their opposition in the New Testament, I would ask for the instances where Jesus himself protested his own death penalty. Jesus came to save our souls, not reform our penal system, even when it wrongfully took his own life. I personally would include murder, rape, and child molestation on the list of crimes to be eligible for the death penalty. I strongly believe that if we carried out swift justice in large numbers, violent crime would fall. Since this has never before been truly tested (in modern, 1st world times), I don't want to hear how it doesn't work.

Energy Policy -- I thought by electing two oil men to the highest offices in the land, the United States would at least benefit through the formation of a comprehensive national energy policy. Once again, such hope for our 43rd president proved foolish. Though Bush rails against our "addiction to oil," his administration has seen the price of a gallon of gas go from near $1 per gallon back in 2001 to near $3 per gallon by 2006. Does the open market have a say? Sure. But since when does the biggest and strongest federal government in history have no say on the market? Actually, Iraq proves that we do by having greatly increased tension in the oil rich Middle East. If only it truly had been a war for oil! Simple question: in a period where the GOP controlled the Presidency, the Congress, and a majority of Governorships and State Houses, why were no new power plants (nuclear or otherwise) green lighted?

Fair Trade -- Sure, I love those cheap prices on junk from China at Wal-Mart. And I drive a Toyota too and find the reliability second to none. But I also realize the great costs our new economy has produced. The shift to a service based economy isn't an entirely bad thing. But the abandonment of our ability to produce products is. Because in time services can be outsourcing too. Think about that the next time you call your airline and you can't understand the representative's thick Pakistani accent. A healthy economy strikes a balance between services and products. The United States no longer can do this. And sadly it will be nations like China and India who benefit at our expense. There's your new superpowers for the 22nd century and unfair trade in the 21st century will have been the root cause.

Gun Rights -- I believe the 2nd amendment guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to keep, bear, and use firearms. I think the world would be a safer place if criminals weren't the only ones armed. And I'm pleased to see how many states now issue carry permits so that people may take the protection of their families seriously. I know I took a risk here by putting my lot with the Democrats in 2006. But I'm hoping the conservative "blue dog" Democrats have been strengthened enough that they will block any possible encroachment on the rights of gun owners.

Health Care -- I have come full circle on this issue. Back in 1993, I opposed the Clinton administration's plan for universal health care, as did most Americans. But after seeing our health care system hemorrhage for a decade, I think the time has come for reform. And I think the only way to do it is to create a system of shared responsibility between the public and private sector. Give people a choice, but guarantee the right to stay healthy. Thankfully, we already do this for children and the elderly. But if we don't find a way to do it for all, the government will pay more in the end anyway though Medicare, Medicaid, and prescription drugs.

Illegal Immigration -- Stop it now and send those here illegally back home. I would build a militarized wall on our southern border and would even consider one on our northern border too. Sure, fences are never the ideal solution. But ask any homeowner -- sometimes they prove to be necessary. And they usually do make for better neighbors in the end. I also think the unquestioned notion that America has a need for low-paid, seasonal workers is bull. Let the market bear what it will for such jobs. And if they prove to be jobs Americans won't do indeed, than the rate of compensation will have to rise. People will then be lining up to fill out applications and the problem is solved. Why should fruit companies and the like not play by the same rules as every other American business does?

Minimum Wage -- In theory, I oppose a national minimum wage. I'd much prefer each state setting its own minimum wage as it sees fit. And 24 states have currently chosen to do this and set their minimum wages above the federal mandate of $5.15 per hour. But if we are going to have a federal minimum wage, why is it so out of touch with reality? Nobody can live on that kind of money. So either get rid of it and let the states handle the issue or make it based in the reality of 2006. I'd say $7 or so per hour is realistic, especially if this economy is as strong as I'm told.

Prayer in Schools -- If Congress can open each day with a prayer, why do we not show the same care to our young school children? I believe public schools should be allowed to foster time for prayer each day, whether it is done through silent individual prayer or by public shared faith. No child should be punished because they rely on the public school system. At the same time, I freely admit that no one should be forced to participate, just as no Congressman is forced to pay attention when the chaplain reads a prayer to a nearly empty chamber. We're a nation of faith, and that is a very different notion than being a nation of an established religion. Only the latter is forbidden by the Constitution, and prayer in schools deals only with the former idea.

Pro Life -- I'm against abortion. I'm fine with exceptions for the legitimate health of the mother. I'm also ok with "morning after" type pills. But after 3 kids of my own and viewing countless ultrasounds at nearly every stage of pregnancy, any procedure to destroy a fertilized egg beyond a few days after conception is infanticide to me. At the very least, I wish the court-created federal right to privacy that allows for guaranteed access to abortion coast-to-coast was abolished. Return the controversial issue to the states and let them enforce the will of their citizens.

Strengthened Military -- The legacy of Donald Rumsfeld's time at the Pentagon is to ask more of the military by giving them less. What crap! I was really stunned when a Republican president (in the wake of 9/11 no less) supported another harsh round of base closures after Bill Clinton already subjected our military to two of them. I'd like the see both the size of our military and the compensation given to them increased. I'd re-open the bases that have been closed all around America and send the clear message to foreign terrorists and rogue states alike that we're stronger than ever in our Fortress America.

Term Limits -- Perhaps the simplest, and yet the most critical issue on my list. Because if Congressional term limits were a reality, I think we'd have more politicians who might have the balls and the accountability to advocate such hot-button issues as these. And if our branches of government are truly to be equal, then what's good for the president should be good for Congress too. I'd set limits of 6 consecutive terms in the House and 2 consecutive terms in the Senate. I think 12 years in Washington is more than enough to require a permanent trip home to clean the stink out of the politician. And if voters really want to send them back in 2 years after a good trip to the dry cleaners, then so be it.

In summation, I'd score it: 5 issues lean Republican, 4 issues lean Democrat, and 3 issues are currently party neutral (budget deficit, strengthened military, term limits). Whaddya think?