There were some interesting items on the ballot this year, aside from the one that everyone's been talking about:
- Measure 58, which would prevent teaching students in a language other than English for more than two years. That's a horrible idea! I think that bilingual immersion education is a great idea—in fact, I would love it if all students were educated in bilingual classrooms. And what happens to the students who don't pick up English in two years? No education for them? Bad idea.
- Measure 26-95, which would allocate over a third of a billion dollars for Portland Community College. I voted yes on this one. I'm generally pretty fiscally conservative, and this was by far the largest single price tag on the ballot. However, I think that education is vitally important, both for society and for business, and there seems to be a lack of good education in the Portland area. PCC seems to be doing a good job now, so I'm hopeful that they will be able to use additional funds effectively.
- Measures 57 and 61, which are both "tough on crime" bills. Both would institute mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes, and measure 61 would spend a bunch of money to build new prisons. Measure 57 requires addiction treatment for some offenders, which I think is a great idea. While we do need to lock up some people, I think that the "Department of Corrections" should do more correcting and less carcel-ing. I also think that it's better to let judges decide sentences depending on circumstances, rather than require them to issue one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentences. Finally, I don't think that it's worth diverting the government's resources away from education and healthcare to fund more prisons. Interestingly, if both of these measures pass, then only measure 57 will be enacted. Some people who aren't fans of either one are voting for measure 57, just because they think it is the lesser of two evils. I decided that I want no evil, so I voted against both.
- Several positions (mostly for county judges) that looked like this: "(Position): Vote for one: (1) Person A. (2) Other: __________". Those ones were easy.
I ended up voting for five democrats, three republicans, and a guy from the Pacific Green Party.
One of the republicans I voted for was Gordon Smith, the incumbent senator. I've been really impressed with his moderate, bipartisan record in Congress. It's too bad there aren't more politicians like him.
One of those democrats is probably the one that you're wondering about: I voted for Obama. (I know, I know! Heresy! A BYU student voted for Obama!) Here's some of my reasoning:
- I've been appalled at the lack of fiscal restraint that has swept over the Republican party during the last several years, and I think that they deserve a slap on the wrist.
- I don't think that Sarah Palin is prepared to hold high office, despite her popular looks. Can you imagine her negotiating with Vladimir Putin? It wouldn't be pretty. There's a non-zero chance that McCain will die during his term, and the thought of President Palin doesn't leave a good feeling in my stomach.
- Obama seems to genuinely care about improving life for common Americans. While I'm economically pretty conservative, I'm rather socially liberal, so Obama and I agree on many issues.
- Obama will do great things for our international relations. Bush and Cheney have been an absolute disaster, and we need someone who can restore our good name in the world. When I was in Europe this summer, every European I asked supported Obama. The rest of the world cares a lot about this election. They want to like the United States, but we haven't given them many reasons to do so for the past few years. Our actions have spurred anti-Americanism across the globe. I think terrorism is largely a boogeyman that has been blown out of proportion, but if we want to reduce our risk to terrorism, I think it's more valuable to quit making everyone mad than to send our military around harassing everyone we don't like.
- I'm impressed with his energy policy, despite his stance on ethanol (see below). Energy is going to become a huge issue—perhaps the issue—over the next decade, and Obama has a much better plan than McCain to deal with it. I like the idea of an Apollo-like program to catalyze the nation into solving this immense problem, because private industry doesn't seem to be doing enough. The space program resulted in huge advantages to our economy, and I think that a similar energy-related program will also pay off.
- I think that Obama takes a more reasoned approach to decision making. I'm a fan of leaders who think.
- I think that Obama is a good person with good intentions.
- He wants government to solve a lot of society's problems. I think there's a legitimate role for government, but I think his idea of its role is bigger than mine.
- Having a democratic president and a democratic congress produces too little governmental friction. The idea of separation of powers runs deep in American government for good reason. I would prefer to have a little more tension between the executive and the legislative branches.
- He supports ethanol, perhaps because he's from corn-rich Illinois. That's a bad idea for many reasons. It's not sustainable, it increases food prices, and the subsidies for it cause problems for agricultural exports and imports in developing countries.
- He lied about fundraising for his campaign. He told McCain that if McCain accepted public funding, Obama would too. McCain went ahead with public funding, and Obama went back on his word. He's since been able to outspend McCain by immense margins. Not cool.
Although I didn't get an "I Voted" sticker, thanks to the magic of technology, I'm now able to self-issue myself a virtual one:
I voted... and you should, too!