Can we get back to politics?
The election is one week away. I feel like I’ve been gas-lighted every single day for months on end, what with the blatant disregard for facts and reality permeating the media. This has been a nightmare and it can’t end soon enough. I’m worried, nervous, and bracing for the worst since the incoherent, fascist, supremely sexist, xenophobic, narcissist, with a rabid cult following has more than a 0% chance of winning. Yet, there’s nothing more for me to do: I’ve already voted, but I live in San Francisco so there’s not a lot of voter power to be had. The new senator from California is already guaranteed to be a Democrat, and barring extreme circumstances, Ms. Clinton is also pretty much guaranteed our 55 electoral votes. I just want everything to be okay.
One thing I’ve never really done is write down my positions on various issues. Thankfully in this day and age, there are tools to help consolidate opinions and point one in the direction of their ideal candidate. I recently did so myself, and this is what I believe:
Disclaimer: please don’t take offense at anything here. If you want to “correct” my opinion, please do so in a respectful, informative manner so that I may consider your position and perspective.
Let’s start with the fun stuff: social issues.
Should terminally ill patients be allowed to end their lives via assisted suicide?
Yes. I believe everyone should have personal freedom to do whatever they want with themselves, as long as it doesn’t harm others. Now I know the loved ones of someone who chooses to end their own suffering will have their own grief, but I don’t believe that should supersede one’s personal freedom.
What is your stance on abortion?
I am pro-choice. Again, I believe women should have personal freedom to do whatever they want with their own bodies. Then again, there’s another body involved here so this is my stance: I don’t believe “life begins at conception” insofar as I don’t believe life “begins” at all. Life continues, first as a part of the woman, and then as a fully separate human being beyond the point of viability, where it can survive outside of the mother. Before that time, the “baby” is a part of the mother and she is free to do with it as she chooses. From another perspective, abortion should absolutely not be criminalized. There are scenarios where a woman is either impregnated against her will, or the pregnancy can cause serious physical harm to her — nobody should be allowed to force these women to carry the baby to term. Abortion can be a tragic choice, to be sure, but that is for the woman to deal with as her own autonomous human being.
Do you support the legalization of same sex marriage?
Of course. Marriage should be (and is, as of last year) allowed between two consenting adults. There really aren’t any good reasons why this privilege should be allowed only for two people of the opposite sex.
Should health insurance providers be required to offer free birth control?
Yes. People are going to have sex — that’s a fact. If they are provided easy access to birth control, they can do it responsibly. I would go as far as to say it should be free even without health insurance, but that’s another issue.
Do you support the death penalty?
Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter how heinous a crime one has committed, they don’t deserve to die. That is uncivilized. Add in the factor of the potential for killing an innocent, and we’ve got an irreversible mistake. This isn’t the Dark Ages.
Should the government support a separation of church and state by removing references to God on money, federal buildings, and national monuments?
Yes. I’m not religious and I feel like I’m being forced to respect an idea I don’t believe in whenever anyone in government invokes God. The United States is not a Christian nation; it is welcoming of people of all creeds and ideologies, including those which have no gods. It looks as though we’re trending toward a more secular populace, so perhaps this issue will resolve itself.
Should a business be able to deny service to a customer if the request conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs?
Sure, they’re allowed to refuse business if they want. That’s less revenue for them and the possibility of public backlash, but I don’t want to prevent them from doing that.
Should women be allowed to wear a Niqāb, or face veil, to civic ceremonies?
Yeah. People should be allowed to wear whatever they want. Again, complete personal freedom as long as one isn’t harming others.
Should states be allowed to display the Confederate flag on government property?
No. The US government should not respect the flag of a nation that rebelled against it. Besides, it’s probably the wrong flag anyway.
Should businesses be required to have women on their board of directors?
No. Businesses should put the most qualified people on their boards, regardless of gender.
Should the government continue to fund Planned Parenthood?
Yes, Planned Parenthood provides valuable medical services for women. Without such services, women’s lives are inherently more at risk.
Should the military allow women to serve in combat roles?
Yes. Why the heck not?
Should “gender identity” be added to anti-discrimination laws?
Yes. Nobody should be discriminated against because of who they are, both on the inside and outside.
Alright, switching gears toward the environment. This should be easy:
Should the U.S. expand offshore oil drilling?
No. No more drilling please. Oil is the new coal and the energy economy needs to move forward into sustainable sources or it will die.
Should the government give tax credits and subsidies to the wind power industry?
Yes. Consider it a stimulus. It will jump start the industry and bring it closer to cost parity with conventional sources until the technology is cost competitive.
Do you support the use of hydraulic fracking to extract oil and natural gas resources?
No! Fracking poisons the water table and it’s causing earthquakes in Oklahoma. We don’t need to do this, people.
Should the government increase environmental regulations to prevent climate change?
Absolutely. Now, this is slightly out of our hands with China, Europe, and India producing carbon dioxide at similar rates to us, however we can certainly reduce our own emissions and use American influence and leadership to convince the rest of the world to follow suit.
The next section on the website are economic issues. This is probably my weakest area, and there are many questions on the site that I will omit here. I do certainly have some opinions though:
Should the government raise the federal minimum wage?
Yep, it’s too low. People shouldn’t have to work more than one job to make a livable wage.
Should the government use economic stimulus to aid the country during times of recession?
Yes. If you want to get the economy moving in times of recession, you must first “prime the pump,” as I was taught.
Should the U.S. raise or lower the tax rate for corporations?
Raise. Corporations making record profits should at the very least contribute back to society instead of using their surpluses on gluttonous executive bonuses.
Should the government make cuts to public spending in order to reduce the national debt?
No. The national debt isn’t all bad, but if we’re going to reduce it, there can be cuts from elsewhere.
Should employers be required to pay men and women the same salary for the same job?
Absolutely, with the caveat that salary should be based on qualifications, not gender. If a man and a woman are performing the same job, with similar levels of experience, ability, and seniority, then yes, they should be compensated more or less equally. The fact that a woman on average makes only about 80% what a man makes for an equal position is bullshit.
As stated, there are many more questions left off here, but I feel myself not authorized to really speak to them. That said, I’m moving on to domestic issues:
Do you support the Patriot Act?
No. I think giving the government the right to spy on anyone with only a suspicion of ties to terrorism is a severe violation of privacy and a dangerous precedent to set insofar as all citizens are concerned.
Do you support affirmative action programs?
Not really. I understand both sides here, but I’m leaning toward the idea that no one should be given an advantage solely because of their race. Those who are most qualified should be given what they’ve earned. The problem is, as a white man, my race has given me a clear advantage that I didn’t earn while minorities struggle against institutionalized racism — which AA is designed to fight against. It’s sort of a way to give a stimulus to traditionally discriminated-against races, however I believe there must be a better way to battle inequality than to mandate a certain ratio of diversity. I don’t know, this one is very tricky. Again, I’m not really in a position to talk about race and privilege, so I’ll just leave it there.
Should there be more restrictions on the current process of purchasing a gun?
100%. Guns are a scourge on our society, causing death and destruction that could so easily be prevented. I don’t oppose personal ownership of guns, but there’s an oft-forgotten term in the 2nd Amendment that needs to be adhered to just as strictly as the right to bear arms — “well-regulated.”
Are you in favor of decriminalizing drug use?
Yes. Prisons are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders, costing taxpayers money and disproportionately affecting minorites. Again, why shouldn’t people be allowed to use drugs as they wish, as long as they don’t hurt others? The government can legalize them, tax them, spend that money on strengthening the fundamentals of society (education, healthcare) while simultaneously decreasing the power of foreign cartels. On the other hand, some drugs may enable people to inflict harm upon others — alcohol included — so there must be strict regulations on their availability and use. I just think it’s stupid to arrest someone and throw them in prison because they did heroin once.
Should corporations and unions (Super PACs) be allowed to donate to political candidates?
No. Money is influence in government. Corporations with deep coffers are not prevented from buying politicians to suit their own interests, not necessarily the best interest of the country to which the politicians are sworn to serve.
Should there be term limits set for members of Congress?
I think so. Career politicians seems to spend more time fundraising and fighting to secure their seat than they actually do on governing. If a senator or congressperson has a finite amount of time to do what they would like for their constituents, I believe they’d try a lot harder to get it done.
Should the redrawing of Congressional districts be controlled by an independent, non-partisan commission?
Yes! Gerrymandering is an issue for both sides, effectively securing seats in Congress for the same party term after term. The only problem is getting Congress to cede that power away from themselves. I can’t see that happening.
Should internet service providers be allowed to speed up access to popular websites (that pay higher rates) at the expense of slowing down access to less popular websites (that pay lower rates)?
No. All websites should be given the same access, regardless of how much they pay or how much traffic they see. Net neutrality is necessary for the free exchange of information, an important aspect of democracy.
Should the U.S. government grant immunity to Edward Snowden?
Yeah. Whistle blowers provide an important service to the public, and they are protected by law. Besides, he’d do more good for us here than in exile.
Should the NSA be allowed to collect basic metadata of citizen’s phone calls such as numbers, timestamps, and call durations?
No. This is a violation of personal privacy. The illusion of security is not worth this.
Should the government raise the retirement age for Social Security?
I don’t think so. Not until life expectancies get significantly higher, at least.
Should people on the “no-fly list” be banned from purchasing guns and ammunition?
Yes, but my issue here is more with the no-fly list than gun control. They need to improve their accuracy and use of due process in determining who belongs on the list first.
Should the government be allowed to seize private property, with reasonable compensation, for public or civic use?
I’m not crazy about eminent domain. The only way I personally would give up my property to the government would be to be compensated well above market rate.
Should Apple unlock the iPhones of suspected terrorists for the FBI?
No. Apple is a private company with no obligation to subvert their own product’s security. If the government has the ability to unlock a suspected terrorist’s iPhone, there may be no way to stop them from doing the same to any private citizen.
Should the Senate hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee?
Yes. That’s their job. To argue that the people deserve a voice (aka, waiting for the next election) is a slap in the face to the majority of Americans who voted for President Obama. The Senate, however, only has a responsibility to “advise and consent” on nominees. If they refuse to, I would argue the President has the authority to appoint a nominee outright, though that’s more about executive power than the Senate.
Should local police increase surveillance and patrol of Muslim neighborhoods?
No! That’s racist and unconstitutional. Besides, for me, every single Muslim I’ve ever met has been an upstanding citizen. To do this is just wrong.
Domestic speed round, starting with healthcare:
Do you support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?
Yes, although it needs some tweaks. The most developed nations in the world have socialized healthcare. Why not us?
Do you support the legalization of Marijuana?
Yep. I don’t have any desire to use it myself, but it’s certainly not the demon it’s been made out to be historically. It’s less dangerous than alcohol and providing a legal way to distribute and use marijuana should both reduce the prison population, and bring in an abundance of tax revenue. It seems to be working out nicely in Colorado and Washington.
Should a photo ID be required to vote?
No, and not only that, every citizen should be automatically registered to vote when they become eligible.
Should the presidential debates include candidates with less than 15% of support in national polls?
No. There are a lot of oddballs out there. To give them a national platform is to distract from the serious candidates with the most likelihood of winning the presidency. While the debates this year have been a farce, ideally they should give the candidates a chance to address the specifics of their platform and inform voters. For this to matter to the public, they need to at least have a decent chance of becoming the president.
Should political candidates be required to release their recent tax returns to the public?
Yes. It is important to know where a candidate’s financial interests lie, including foreign parties to which they may be beholden.
Let’s go to education:
Do you support Common Core national standards?
No, because each individual is different. Personalized or specialized education would better benefit the student than forcing a common curriculum upon them. I just don’t know how we get from here to there.
Do you support increasing taxes for the rich in order to reduce interest rates for student loans?
ABSOLUTELY. The cost of higher education is too damn high. I went to a four-year university just to have a shot at a decent job, and I’m still paying off my loans 5 years after graduating. The rich don’t have to worry about financial security — the least they could do is contribute to the less fortunate in society so that we can improve our country from the bottom up.
Alright, here comes the big one — foreign policy. This is where I developed an interest in politics back in high school, and while I may not have solutions for the world, I do have many ideas:
Should the U.S. continue to support Israel?
Starting off right, I see. The unconditional support of Israel from our government makes me queasy. Israel is a manufactured country, a safe harbor for the Jews following the devastation of World War II. Do they deserve a homeland? I don’t see why not. What about the people who were already living there? I can’t in good conscience support a country who continues to unnecessarily oppress the people whose land they are encroaching upon. Oof. I guess we should support them in the event they’re attacked by our so called “enemies,” but I also believe they should be able to stand up for themselves. I don’t really know where I fall here. I just get the feeling that a lot of our support is religiously motivated and I couldn’t care less about that.
Should the U.S. remain in the United Nations?
Yeah, I don’t see why not. I also think that leaving the UN would leave the world worse off. It’s also, uh, headquartered here, so…
Should foreign terrorism suspects be given constitutional rights?
No, as they aren’t citizens of the United States. I do believe they should be treated with basic human decency though.
Should the military fly drones over foreign countries to gain intelligence and kill suspected terrorists?
I believe drone killings have more drawbacks than benefits with regard to fighting terrorism, so no. However, I have no problem gathering intelligence with drones. In fact, the fewer people we send into dangerous situations, the better.
Should the U.S. continue NSA surveillance of its allies?
Should the U.S. formally declare war on ISIS?
No. I believe doing so would add a level of legitimacy to their efforts, which should be shunned and disregarded. We can assist our allies in their fight, but I don’t think we should do much more than that.
Do you support President Obama’s move to lift the trade and travel embargo on Cuba?
Sure. The Cold War is over. I don’t really see what we have to lose here.
Should the US increase or decrease foreign aid spending?
Increase. We have a lot of money and I believe we should use it to help make the world a better place. As long as the money is going to the right people, we’re good.
Should the U.S. accept refugees from Syria?
Yes. These people are suffering and if we can provide them a home, we should. Remember, they’re running from our enemies too.
Should the U.S. prevent Russia from conducting airstrikes in Syria?
I don’t know. It’s in our self-interest to limit Russian influence in the area, but to what end? I wouldn’t risk crossing the line toward war with Russia. If we can convince them to stop with diplomacy, we should try that first.
Should the U.S. send ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS?
Maybe? I mean, I think the danger posed by ISIS has been overstated, but I can’t know that for sure. I’m not keen on getting involved in foreign wars so perhaps the only way I’d say yes is if we’re not alone in the fight.
Should the government increase or decrease military spending?
Decrease. I understand that our military is in some ways the world’s military, insofar as many of our allies keep their spending down with the thought that we will help protect them, but we spend a lot on the military. I’m sure there are things we can cut and still be a significant force in the world.
Should every 18 year old citizen be required to provide at least one year of military service?
No. I don’t want to be forced into danger or instructed to kill. Compulsory military service is a relic of a bygone era. Besides, we’ll have robots to man the front lines soon enough.
Should the U.S. overthrow President Assad of Syria?
What? No! We can’t just go into places and create a power vacuum whenever someone we don’t like is in charge. That’s gotten us into trouble pretty much every time we’ve done it.
Should the U.S. conduct military strikes against North Korea in order to destroy their long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities?
North Korea is a tough one. Their government seems hellbent on attacking us at some point, but they’ve proven no ability to do so just yet. They’re a severely underdeveloped nation and if we did conduct a military offensive, I have no doubt we could subdue them in short order. If it comes to that, we should strike only military targets with efficiency and precision — the people of North Korea deserve to be protected both from our military and their own government. That said, always, always, always every diplomatic effort first.
Should the U.S. close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
Yeah. Having an extra-judicial prison camp on basically foreign soil isn’t right.
Should the military be allowed to use enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to gain information from suspected terrorists?
No. ’nuff said.
Should the U.S. defend other NATO countries that maintain low military defense budgets relative to their GDP?
Yes, and this also ties into the military spending answer I gave above. We are obligated to honor NATO, lest we cause a shift in the global balance of power.
Should the U.S. provide military assistance to defend Ukraine from Russia?
We should do everything in our power to avoid armed conflict with Russia.
Should the U.S. provide military aid to Saudi Arabia during its conflict with Yemen?
No. Saudi Arabia can defend itself.
Phew. That was tougher than I thought. Only a few more categories left. Next, criminal issues:
Should prisons ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles?
Yes. While we’re at it, get rid of solitary confinement all together.
Should convicted felons have the right to vote?
Yes. I don’t agree with any measures that reduce the right to vote.
Should police officers be required to wear body cameras?
It shouldn’t have to come to this, but yes. As long as there is injustice in the system, we need a way to keep the police accountable for their actions.
Moving on to immigration, something that’s become significantly more personal to me over the last year:
Should children of illegal immigrants be granted legal citizenship?
I’m honestly not sure. Part of me leans toward the fact that they should need to apply just as their parents should, but the other half leans toward the idea that, if they’re born here, this is their home and they’re American. I’m torn. I think I have to side with the more humanitarian ideal and go with the latter.
Should illegal immigrants have access to government-subsidized healthcare?
If they pay into the system, they should reap its benefits. If not, no.
Should working illegal immigrants be given temporary amnesty?
I think so. People have reasons for wanting to escape their homeland. If they want to make a better life for themselves here, I don’t see why we shouldn’t help them try.
Should local law enforcement be allowed to detain illegal immigrants for minor crimes and transfer them to federal immigration authorities?
Depends on what you mean by “minor.” I don’t think an illegal immigrant should be deported if they’re caught shoplifting, but if they commit a felony, then by all means.
Should the U.S. increase restrictions on its current border security policy?
What more is there to do? Build a wall? I think we’re fine as is.
Should immigrants be required to learn English?
No. It would benefit them to do so, but if they don’t want to, that’s their prerogative.
Should the US increase or decrease the amount of temporary work visas given to high-skilled immigrant workers?
Should Muslim immigrants be banned from entering the country until the government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists?
No. This is unconstitutional. Immigration is already incredibly strict and our process will make sure that everyone is properly vetted. I mean, why would an immigrant go through a grueling possibly 2-year process just to come over, start trouble, and risk deportation? Come on.
Should the government fund space travel?
Should the federal government require children to be vaccinated for preventable diseases?
Yes. It is a matter of public health that we do as much as possible to prevent the spread of disease. Vaccines work because of herd immunity — if a few choose not to, they may cause great harm to society at large. Again, I believe in personal freedom, but not if your freedom will cause direct harm to others.
Should producers be required to label genetically engineered foods (GMOs)?
Yes. If a producer is genetically modifying their food, I believe we have a right to know that.
Do you support the use of nuclear energy?
Yes. Nuclear power is far safer than its reputation makes it seem. With advancements in safety, nuclear power could be a viable replacement for more dirty forms of generation. There are still risks of meltdown, as well as the need to dispose of waste, but I believe given significant interest in nuclear power, we could work to seriously mitigate these risks.
And that’s all I have to say about that. Obviously some of these beliefs are more rigid than others, though part of the reason I’m writing this down is so that I can revisit them at a later date to see how my views have evolved. Again, if you want to challenge me on any of these, feel free — just be respectful.
Per the site’s algorithm, I’m mostly aligned with Jill Stein. That’s all well and good, but I don’t believe she would make an effective politician. That’s why I voted for Hillary Clinton. Sure she’s got demons, but I think she’ll make a fantastic president. We’ve never really had anyone as qualified as she is, and if she’s pulled farther left by the progressive movement within the Democratic Party, I will be very happy.
Only one more week until, hopefully, that becomes a real possibility.