I'm the kind of person who is both blessed and cursed to nearly always see both sides, so this exhausting campaign has given me a good case of whiplash. Between the presidential election and the gay marriage fight in California, politics have never penetrated as far into my heart and mind as they have during this weird, stressful year of 2008, and frankly I'm ready to be done with it, at least for a while. (And I must disclose that I did not get around to voting this year—I tried to do early voting one time, but the line was too long.)
At this point in my life, I find myself leaning more Democrat in some of my basic philosophies, and here's why: I've spoken before of my midlife crisis, which has largely involved coming to terms with the fact that I'm a functional person but not a successful person. I define functionality as being able to hold down middle-class jobs, pay bills, keep a household running, parent children, etc. I define success as having the drive and the intelligence to come up with a vision and execute it well enough to see rich financial returns, and I think good luck and timing play a big role in success as well.
With its emphasis on free-market capitalism, Republicanism seems to be the party of those who are successful or expect that they may someday become successful. On the other hand, the Democrat approach seems to focus more on making life better for the vast majority of us who concede that we are merely functional at best. I suppose Mormons like Republicanism because it seems to champion economic free agency, but I don't think it jives with the scriptures, which are full of admonitions to take care of the poor, be wary of wealth, and share and share alike. Yes, I know that when the government tries to provide too much social relief, it can become corrupt and unhealthy. I am totally against a dole, but I think anyone who is willing to work should be kept gainfully employed and, if necessary, assisted economically to enjoy a reasonable minimum standard of living.
Some years ago, I read a study about the relationship between income and happiness that made a big impact on me. Basically, the income we earn up until about $40,000 a year makes a huge impact on our happiness, because this income meets our basic needs. However, the income we earn beyond $40,000 makes increasingly less difference to our happiness.
I don't believe wealth should be totally equalized, but I'm attracted to the idea of establishing a baseline income level and then taxing the rich as much as needed to bring the working poor up to that level. I think the minimum wage should be raised as much as possible for adult workers, and then the government should facilitate making up income shortfalls for those who are working, if needed. I don't think anybody's first $40,000 of income should be taxed at all. And I think that everyone in America should be guaranteed quality healthcare, even if it means that the overall quality goes down a little.
I'm willing to work for my living, but I continually feel like I'm only one layoff away from experiencing serious economic hardship, especially if a long time passes before I can find another job or if my replacement job pays significantly less income. I want to live in a society where I can feel confident that as long as I'm willing to work, I can enjoy a reasonably secure, comfortable lifestyle. I fear becoming part of the working poor who don't make enough to cover reasonable expenses, including affordable health care, and I think the Democratic approach is a better safeguard against that than the Republican.
It seems like the main way that our nation has tried to improve people's lifestyles in recent decades is by making it too easy for us to go into debt, but of course that can't go on forever and is already biting us in the butt. I don't want outright communism or socialism, and I believe in private enterprise, but I think one of the government's main roles should be to keep things on a reasonably even keel economically, so the poor don't get poorer and the rich don't get richer at the expense of the poor and the functional middle class, which is what's been happening increasingly. I understand that the Democrats are the ones behind the deregulation that led to our current credit crisis, so they certainly don't have all the answers.
As far as war, I believe the government's main role is to defend our nation, but I think the real key is to stay as self-sufficient as possible, rather than getting ourselves addicted to foreign oil and then sending over troops to meddle in the Middle East. I don't think we should give aid to other countries unless we have a surplus in our own country, and I don't think we should be getting into preemptive wars or covert machinations to influence geopolitics. When dictators arise and start attacking other countries, and those victim countries ask for our help as in World War II, then yeah, we should help to the degree that we're able. We should focus on protecting our homeland from terrorists, not trying to weed them out in foreign lands. Personally, I suspect that our current biggest national defense problem is the fact that we're so indebted to China—I think this could easily end badly if China takes any steps that further harm our economy.
As far as moral issues, I know that Democratic liberalness on things like abortion and gay rights drives many Mormons to side with the Republicans. As for me, I lean libertarian as far as letting people do what they want as long as they don't directly infringe on the rights of others, and I think the Democrats are closer to preserving free agency in that way, although perhaps too many people are drawn to the Democrats simply because they like the permissiveness. As far as abortion, I don't think it infringes on other people's rights because, while biological life obviously begins at conception, I don't think spiritual life begins until much later—in fact, I think that aborted and miscarried and stillborn babies do not have human spirits permanently attached to them, and so these casualties just represent wasted baby flesh, not someone's mortal probation cut short.
I think gay couples should have civil rights, but sacred, godlike marriage should not be redefined, otherwise we're saying that we think God could be gay and still be God, which is ridiculous, especially for any so-called Mormon who purports to understand anything about our theology. However, I'm not sure I'm prepared to let this one issue overshadow Democratic economic strengths. Anyway, I think an issue like homo marriage should be left up to the people on a state-by-state basis, and if the majority becomes spiritually blind and godless enough to accept gay marriage, then they should get what they deserve, in terms of the consequences that will follow. I fully support the LDS Church's efforts to help the people of California think through the gay marriage issue and make the best choice—I would have been appalled if the Church had stood by and said nothing on this issue in such an important state. On the other hand, I fear that the success of Prop 8—assuming it passes, which it looks like it will at this writing, about 10:00 p.m. Mountain on Election Day—may bring a backlash against Mormons from those in favor of gay marriage, with some deep resentments that may come to fruition sooner or later. On the whole, though, I hope God will bless California for holding the line against this terrible perversion, at least for a few more years—again, assuming it passes.
So if I had voted, I'm about 90 percent sure I would have voted for Obama, even though I think he represents somewhat of a gamble and I have no idea where our country will end up under his leadership. Still, it feels to me like Obama is the right person for the job at the right time, at least in comparison to McCain and the Republicans, who have fouled things up so much during the Bush years. However, if I ever write a best-selling book and make a million bucks, I'll probably move over to the Republican side because I'll want to control all my own money. I could see myself selfishly thinking, "I'll help the poor when I'm damn well ready and on my own terms, probably through hiring them at minimum wage to clean my house and do my yard."