MAJORITY OPINION by Christensen, joined by Randazza, Warrington, Papantoniou, and Harbin:
Here at the Legal Satyricon, we are a veritable Breakfast Club of registered voters – a Republican, three Democrats, two Independents – united together in this election year by the Bush administration’s efforts to define us by a term that has, sadly, become synonymous with the vast majority of Americans: “them” (as opposed to “us” – the financial and political elite to which the Bush administration owes not only its existence, but also its legacy).
We are only slightly less united in our endorsement of a presidential candidate. The majority of Satyriconistas endorse Barack Obama for president, for the reasons set out below. Brother Blevins remains devoted to Bob Barr, a position we respect, if not on the merits, at a minimum for his integrity in voting his heart and mind.
We have debated, discussed and toiled over the endorsement we make here for your, we hope, heartfelt consideration. Neither Senator Obama nor the Democratic Party is perfect, and we each have concerns and quarrels with some aspects of Obama’s current political platform. But our reasons for endorsing him go beyond both political agenda and opposition politics.
We have each been drinking the “Got Hope” kool-aid – and the hopes we invest in Senator Obama are more than just for economic recovery, better access to health care, and reigning in the war-machine. We hope for a presidency imbued with intellectual rigor and a thoughtful approach to governance. Despite the claims of both campaigns, we are not so naïve as to believe that either candidate “has the answers” in pocket, ready to be implemented on day one. The problems placed at the doorstep of the next president are complex, and will require big thinkers, with both the will and the ability to do the heavy lifting we so desperately need.
What we have seen over the last eight years from the Republican Party does not suggest either the presence of the intellectual prowess we seek, or any interest in using it were it available. Far from being an administration of “limited government,” the Bush white house has overseen the amass of a nearly half-trillion dollar national deficit, an almost complete repudiation of civil liberties at the hands of government intrusion, and an ill-conceived foreign policy the ramifications of which will not be fully understood for generations. There is an air of entitlement among the powerful and privileged, one that threatens the most basic principles underlying our nation.
Several of us would have enthusiastically backed the McCain of 2000 to take on these tremendous problems. Not so with the McCain of 2008. In addition to erratic campaign strategy, and unsavory campaign ads, his position on many of the issues inspires neither confidence nor allegiance. For example, on the question of government spending, McCain proposes a blanket spending freeze regardless of the consequences. This is not thoughtful leadership. It is a bumper-sticker approach to the crisis, aimed at getting votes rather than solving problems. So too is his choice of Sarah Palin for the VP slot – a decision that strikes us as not only reckless, but also the result of fundamental poor judgment. Palin is simply not a serious candidate in her own right, and the thinly veiled attempt to “woo” women voters lacks integrity and bespeaks a will to win, but not a will to lead.
In contrast, Senator Obama has placed the concept of leadership at the center of his campaign. The most tangible evidence of this is in how he has in fact inspired each of us to think about civic responsibility and our own roles in the political landscape. To examine our own contributions, and to be thoughtful about our own choices. This was not the case in the last election. The pull to vote for Obama because he’s “not McCain/Bush” is a strong one – and we recognize that Obama has moved us past voting against a candidate. We are moved to support Barack Obama, whoever the competition may be.
We choose Obama because he is very, very smart. In the words of the Rednecks For Obama, we believe Obama is “pretty near the smartest guy who’s ever run for president.” And we think smart matters. A lot. We believe that the labels of “intelligent” and “highly educated” should not be seen as scarlet letters – as the McCain campaign suggests. We want the smartest person in the room to lead us, and Obama’s intellect and inspiration seem to grow geometrically. We have confidence that he will surround himself with those who are similarly intelligent and inspired.
We choose Obama because we believe ideas matter. In politics, people can be grouped into one of two categories: those for whom the individual is bigger than the ideas, and those for whom the ideas are bigger than the individual. We believe Obama is the latter. As have been all of our nation’s greatest leaders – JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others. This country was founded not upon a cult of personality, title or inheritance, but upon ideas. Ideas that form our nation’s soul, expressed in the words of the Constitution. More than any other candidate on the field (including Bob Barr), we believe that Senator Obama will uphold the Constitution – both in its words and in its spirit. As an adjunct professor of Constitutional law, Obama has spent time considering what concepts like “free speech” and “privacy” really mean, both as ideals and in practice. McCain, during his career as a Senator, has approached the Constitution as a political tool to be wielded to achieve political goals – whatever the harm to our national principles. We believe Obama understands that constitutional principles are living principles that must be understood, deeply, to be implemented.
We choose Obama because we do not see him as a man intoxicated by power. We believe that Obama’s rise to the national stage is the result of the work that he has done, and not a matter of design. His community organizing efforts, derided by Sarah Palin, show a man who is so committed to public service that he gave up the opportunity to cash in on his Ivy league law degree, and instead chose to improve the lives of people less fortunate than himself. Obama’s commitment to public service is not a mere stepping stone in his plan for power – it is the natural progression of a world view that understands that the fate of one of us is intertwined with the fates of us all. Obama stands for what America could be — a nation governed by ideas and hope and a commitment to one another, not in spite of our differences, but in celebration of those differences.
McCain advances unqualified certainty as the emblem of strength. We have had too much certainty these last eight years, and we have seen just how dangerous stubbornness can be when supported by unchecked power. Obama advances the concepts of excellence, inquiry and aspiration – characteristics upon which real strength is built. Power must be tempered by reason, and Obama is the only candidate for president who has demonstrated a commitment to applying reason to the task of governing, and the intellectual tools necessary for success.
It is for these reasons that the Legal Satyricon endorses Barack Obama for President of the United States.
DISSENT by Jonathon Blevins
I respectfully and fully dissent from my fellow Satyriconistas. I endorse Bob Barr for President of the United States.
The Presidential race forces the citizenry to acknowledge international and domestic issues. It forces the citizenry to face their individual beliefs, values, and understanding of the issues. However, the importance of the race ends at the impact on the citizens. The Constitution expressing denies the President unilateral power. The Executive Branch enforces the law…it does not make the law. Thus, the speeches about abortion and taxation are dishonest. The President does not have the power to prohibit/allow abortion or lower/raise taxes. At best, the President can persuade Congressional action and appoint Supreme Court candidates, however, Congress has the ultimate power is both scenarios. Unlike Obama and McCain, Bob Barr and the Libertarian Party understand the role of the President in our segmented governmental system.
Equality is always an issue in American politics. Bob Barr supports ultimate equality. Equality means being treated equally…it does not mean equal outcome nor does not mean granting special treatment based on “differences.” No one should be discriminated against based on sexual preference, race, national origin, religious preference, or any other personal characteristic. However, this does not mean that we should strive to force the issue. The free market will force the issue of equality. The best person for the job (regardless of personal characteristics) will get the job. It is not a perfect system but it is a fair system. Remove the boundaries and allow market forces to allow inclusion of the best candidate. The real problem with diversity is socio-economic, not personal characteristics.
Same sex marriage is another hot button topic. Bob Barr supports state by state legislation. Barr supports state sovereignty on the issue of marriage. The federal government should not be in the business of mandating marriage rights to individuals. Thus, Barr supports the states’ right to define marriage. I do not fully agree with this position. Marriage can be a “one size fits all” institution. A loving person + a loving person = marriage. No logic reason exists to argue otherwise. The only arguments that counter the logical mathematical equation above are based on person animus, religious superstition, and narrow-mindedness. Loving v. Virginia is a good example of why states should not be allowed to legislate marriage with federal oversight. However, Bob Barr is at least making steps in the right direction.
The most important issue is privacy and surveillance. Bob Barr supports the removal of domestic spying. The Constitution should be allowed to thrive in the modern era of terrorism. The Constitution was designed to protect us in times like these…it was not meant to be riddled with holes and pushed into obsolesces by bad legislation. The Patriot Act and its spawns should be repealed. The 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments must be given full force. Bob Barr supports the immediate and swift move out of the Orwellian state. The best defense against terrorism is true defense. We are currently masking “defense” with “offense.” If we are not spread all over the globe we can truly defend the United State from outside forces. Terrorism can be fought while remaining true to the Constitution.
The economy is topic of 2008. However, sadly, the economy will not be fixed by the next President. In fact, the economy will not be fixed by the next two Presidents. The free market operates in cycles. No one policy will change the cycling economy. A capitalist system trades perpetual stability for perpetual endurance. Bob Barr supports a less aggressive governmental stance. The market will work through the peaks and valleys. It is not a popular decision but most, non-political, economists agree that more government is less effective. The goal should be private recovery not nationalization or socialization of the markets. Further, we need to curb spending on welfare or “handout” institutions. The system is not working.
We need a strong third party in our political races. The Democrats and Republicans have lulled America to sleep with personal attacks and political stances that are worded differently but function the same. A third party will keep the candidates honest and force America to wake up. If we read American History honestly, we find the most change occurred when the political races were rampant with candidates and parties. We never know a good idea until we face a bad idea…the problem is that we are only facing the same ideas, how do we know which are bad/good?
At the end of the day just VOTE, November 4, 2008.