Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Choosing between Clinton and Obama

The policy difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—the difference in what they would attempt to accomplish in office—is negligible. Both would pull us out of Iraq only very, very slowly (too bad). Neither is in favor of extending "marriage," by that name, to same-sex couples (too bad). Both kowtow to the ethanol lobby (too bad), though Obama bends over further. Neither one would normalize relations with Cuba (too bad), though Clinton is slightly more reactionary about the island. Both believe there is hope for Iran and North Korea, but neither would move the U.S. toward a two-China policy. And on and on and yes, I have checked out all their position papers. The Washington Post seems to think they can be distinguished from each other, based on the less than 10 percent of their Senate votes that differ, but I consider them all very fine points.

The difference between them in political service is also negligible. I might give Obama a little more credit, for a longer time served in elected office (but then, those are state years, not federal years). But as I've said before, I consider Clinton's time on public policy matters before the Senate to be worth about the same as Obama's time on public policy matters before he was elected in Illinois.

Clinton has more experience in election campaigns and with the media. Obama is the better public speaker.

Both are lawyers, with similar educations and some time in pro bono or community work (counting First Lady duties here as similar to nonprofit efforts).

Both can get very, very proposal-wonky. Both have been begged by their campaigns not to go off on geeky, detailed, white-paper answers in their personal appearances. Obama took this advice earlier than Clinton did, but both now are "working the house" in about the same way, which is heavy on inspiration and light on perspiration. (You can win the White House on strength of personality without knowing much about which policy lever moves what social measure—see Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush Jr. You can also win if you have both sufficient personality and wonky goodness—see Bill Clinton. You cannot win by being adept with policy detail if people don't find you personally appealing—examples too numerous to give here—unless the opposition has a candidate who violates these rules even more drastically—see Nixon.)

No president will "change the way business is done in Washington". I'm not voting based on any (empty) hope that a candidate will work some miracle on our political system.

Obama is more electable, by a little. Many, many more people hate Clinton—nationwide, in key markets, and in the media—and baggage matters. But Obama's youth and "inexperience" and middle name and more will provide plenty of general-election ammunition.

Neither has served in the military. Neither has been divorced, neither has been charged with infidelity or (sanely) with corruption, neither has been homeless or unemployed, and so on.

So what the hell is there to choose by? Policy, experience, and electability are, separately and collectively, a wash.

Of course, Obama is black and Clinton is a woman. Both have faced obstacles as a result of these characteristics. Racism is less acceptable than sexism in America, but I can't even begin to estimate which of those is more extensive or has more of an impact on its victims.

Also, they have different personal styles. Obama is well known for seeking compromise; Clinton is well known for not giving in on political positions. Obama is well known for speaking softly in private, attempting to bring opponents together and to have good relations on all sides; Clinton is well know for being abrasive even to her allies.

In the end, those are the two areas that distinguish these politicians the most. I'm not making my choice based on race or sex, though I know that others will. (And as a white male, even if I wanted to make one or both of those my criteria, it would be a horrible idea to say so out loud.)

I hope Obama wins. I believe he would be listened to by more people, on both sides of the aisle and in all houses, than Clinton would. I don't believe that he would accomplish a long list of things that she wouldn't, or that our politics would suddenly become a lot more civil, or that the nation would take better care of its citizens. I do believe that, on balance, all of those areas would be a little better as a result of Obama's personal and political styles than they would from Clinton's.

That's my take on why to vote for one or the other. It's just my words, no practical effect; I had already voted for Dennis Kucinich when he dropped out, and my second option would have been Bill Richardson. The post below this one looks at the horse-race aspect of why or the other will actually be the nominee.

Edits: The list of policy topics above is, necessary, short; and so it inevitably omits an issue that is, for someone somewhere, the only thing they decide on: abortion, the death penalty, the environment, and so on. This post was not an attempt at an exhaustive comparison of their positions, so don't go off on me for those omissions.


At Sunday, 20 April, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely put. You always did have a way with words.

Another Reformed Bethany Baptist Reaganite

At Wednesday, 07 May, 2008, Blogger the RaptorMage said...

I can of course only guess who that Anonymous might be -- there aren't many ex-Bethany members who would find me and still know my name. But regardless of who, it really warms my heart to think that I'm not the only person who sees themselves as "reformed" out of that world.

Thanks for commenting.

At Friday, 09 May, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll give you a few clues that should narrow it down. Here's the first, which should narrow it down to 9: Tucson. (I suppose that actually narrows it down to 11, but seriously, what are the odds that Duane and his wife have become thoughtful democrats?) I can only remember four or five names, how about you?

One of the Top Ten

At Saturday, 10 May, 2008, Anonymous Jim-Bob Burgess said...

And I of course don't know who Anonymous is since we intersect from different parts of our lives. I stop here today since Steve Emmert has referred to you in a Diplomacy game web posting, specifically regarding the story of the bunniah, you recall it of course?

On Hillary and Obama, you seem to remain prescient so far, although it is beginning to look like Obama MIGHT wrap it up before the convention, but just as likely not. I still actually would prefer that Hillary won, but don't really see that much difference between them. You've noted the main REAL issues. The question I have about Obama specific to what you said is whether he can listen and govern or whether he will get himself in trouble on the "leadership" and reacting to "new events" problems. Hillary, of course, has identified JUST this issue with the famous 3AM phone calls. Obama is best when he can listen, talk, engage in conversation and then prepare a response. He is in fact brilliant at this. He is not good off-the-cuff. Does that matter? Opinion, not fact. I think it does, but I'd still vote for him over McCain and wonder if there is any there there on the worry about attracting each other's voters to McCain.

Cheers, Pete,


At Thursday, 22 May, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks for all the great info. I was browsing through a bunch of political websites and blogs (mostly liberal ones) and I came across your blog and find it to be very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like huff post, and other news sites like politico. Do you know of any that cover politics and the environment? I saw which has mostly environmental info but some politics. I took’s carbon calculator ( I was pretty easy to use (and it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any other blogs you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites or any ones with green info?

At Sunday, 07 September, 2008, Blogger the RaptorMage said...

I've been scolded for not posting my guess. I'm very sorry; this blog is usually one of the first things I shed when time gets tight in my life or when things stress me out, and I've had both this summer.

The prime suspect for ARBBR has to be Rich Miller. (If so: Rich, it's really good to hear from you.)

I'm very, very poor at maintaining relationships; I sometimes feel that, if the child I once was was living today, I'd be diagnosed with Asperger's. I miss so many people I was once close to.

At Friday, 12 September, 2008, Blogger Rich said...

And since my latest comment was on a different post, I just now saw your comment on THIS post. Perhaps one day we'll be threaded properly.

Your guess is indeed correct. For your prize, you get a no-expenses-paid vacation to Wasilla, Alaska, to visit the Wasilla Assembly of God for a trip down Memory Lane, with side trips down Fundamentalist Alley, Crazy Ass Belief Blvd., and My Way Or The High Way. Should you survive the trip without slitting your wrists, I'll even buy you lunch when you get back.



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