An appalling number of voters are making uninformed choices this year. Many people are voting based on whose image they prefer, rather than what that person might do if elected president. As an informed voter, this concerns me; I'd hate to see my vote drowned out American Idol-style by those who think a certain candidate "looks cute." But not to worry, devoted citizens. I'm here to quash all of those myths you've been told and help you make an informed choice in the election, even if it isn't for the candidate I endorse (did I mention I support Barack Obama?).
1. John McCain is a dirty liberal who will stab his party in the back. If John McCain is a liberal, then I can't even begin to imagine what someone like Mitt Romney was. McCain agrees with the party's conservative base on most critical, platform-defining issues. He's been an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq since the get-go. He's been behind the surge - almost alone on that point - from its inception. He's pro-life, and he's all about small government. The issues he's clashed with the party on have mostly been about finance reform. He's been in favor of responsible fiscal spending, which isn't too far out of line with Republican doctrine. Lately, he's come under fire about immigration reform - his policy of providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants was widely labeled as "amnesty" - but this isn't a departure from Republican policy so much as a departure from ultraconservative party leadership. (It's not saying much if the complaint is that you're less conservative than Dick Cheney. That's akin to being not quite as good at basketball as LeBron James.) He'd be a conservative president. In fact, he'd probably conduct his administration similar to a third Bush term. He'd appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. He'd promote responsible government spending. Most of his opposition comes from big names like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who are notoriously extremely conservative. Some sense of context is useful here.
2. Hillary Clinton is evil, and if elected president she will eat babies. I'm exaggerating for effect, obviously, but there's a widespread conception that she's a horrible person and needs to be kept out of the White House at any cost. I've never understood why this perception exists. People say she's ambitious, and she probably is, but that's a common characteristic of anyone aspiring to the presidency. It's more likely that the reason Americans are so split on her is because she's very liberal, which leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Republicans in general. Moderate, centrist candidates will attract more people, and thus appear less divisive. That's why the 2004 elections were so divided - Bush represented the far right, while Kerry represented the far left. A centrist candidate would have gone far to bridge that gap. (Just one more reason to vote for Obama. Even if he isn't moderate in actuality, the perception of it is enough to overcome any divisiveness.)
3. Hillary Clinton's campaign is dead after losing seven straight contests in a week. Hurting, yes, but far from dead. Even after losing seven states in a row, she still only narrowly trails Obama in overall delegate totals. She's projected to win big states like Texas and Ohio, which should add some energy to her campaign in March. Numerically, she's still very much in this campaign. Of course, the perception that her campaign is in its death throes could change the results of those states, but that still remains to be seen.
This is going to be a crucially important election for this country. Our foreign relations are strained near to the breaking point after eight years of cowboy diplomacy. Your vote will make an impact this year. (I say that because I'm keenly aware that most of my readers are younger. This is probably the first election for many of you.) Go out and get informed. Make a rational choice. And while it doesn't have to agree with mine, I'd certainly be really happy if you would vote for Barack Obama. He can do a lot for this country that others can't. More on that later, perhaps.