*This article was written by our friend Brian Spirito.
Looking at the calendar, you‚Äôd think it was still the autumn of 2007. Unfortunately, Washington D. C. thinks it is autumn of 2008. They‚Äôve never quite been in touch with the rest of America, have they? We face a historic vote next year for the direction of the United States. Now that seems dramatic, but when we look at the rhetoric being spewed from candidates, it should be obvious that we are looking at road A or road B.
Several key issues stand out for the next election. The War on Terror, fiscal policy (taxes and spending), our ties to multilateral organizations (our sovereignty), gun control, government health care, national borders (our security), the environment and education (our future) are being discussed by the candidates. Are you listening? Do you catch the overt and covert messages? Are you translating the rhetorical words into the candidate‚Äôs real intentions? When we know our own guiding principles, we are in a better position to judge the candidates.
The first thing to figure out is what you personally believe about the Constitution. Some people believe the Constitution is a rigid document to be interpreted solely on its specific text. Some believe it is a ‚Äúliving‚Äù document with a changing meaning and should be reinterpreted as new issues arrive and culture changes. This becomes an issue for a President during judicial appointments. Hey, let‚Äôs be honest, a President from either party will stretch the Constitution if it favors them to do so and be rigid when it favors their opponents, but judicial appointments are where a President‚Äôs personal Constitutional views are taken seriously. Judicial appointments make legal precedent that may be followed for hundreds of years. Liberals seem to favor the judicial branch as a way to enact changes that cannot be pushed through the legislative branch and loose Constitutional interpretation. Conservatives seem to view that the judicial branch serves to enforce the laws of the Constitution first and the legislated law second with rigid interpretation. Will your favorite candidate appoint judges who interpret the Constitution rigidly or flexibly? How does this fit your views? Remember, just because you want it rigid for one of your favorite issues, do you want it rigid for others? Do you want it flexible for your issue but rigid for another? It is a balancing game. The candidates are talking about their judicial beliefs, are you listening?
Secondly, how much do you want the Government involved in your personal life? I spend an hour a year waiting in line at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get a renewal sticker for my license plates. What else do I want to hand them? Government involvement issues include health care, media censorship, education, consumer product regulation and taxes. Some have the more European point of view that the Government should tax high and provide a lot of services. Some believe the Government should tax low and let the private sector handle most of the services. Where do we find the balance? We must find our personal beliefs because neither party follows these lines rigidly. As President, Bill Clinton and his Republican congress used surging tax receipts as a way to balance the budget and supported free trade, which seem like conservative moves. George W. Bush cut taxes like a conservative, but let Congress run away with spending, which seems to be a liberal move. What is the extent of your belief in Government involvement in your life? This is a defining question!
Finally, we should analyze our personal beliefs about national sovereignty and foreign policy. How much should the United Nations be involved in our Government? Should we tighten up our borders and restrict immigration? How should our military be used? Which nations should we negotiate, fight, ignore, sanction, etc‚Ä¶? With organizations such as the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations and others, we have given away a large part of our economic sovereignty. The carbon trading schemes proposed by environmentalists would further tie our economy to the rest of the world. Liberals tend to have a viewpoint that America should consider itself a nation equal with other nations and never use force (economic or military) without the consensus of the UN. Liberal views usually see multilateral organizations as the route to pushing for democracy and human rights in other nations. Conservatives tend to view America as a leader nation that should not tie itself too tight to multilateral organizations and should use its status to push other countries toward democracy and human rights. What is your view? The issues that fall under sovereignty and foreign policy include the environment (the push for carbon trading schemes), the War on Terror, fighting dictatorships, human rights reforms and financial support for other nations. Again, no party holds too firmly to one side or the other. Presidents of both parties tend to keep their options open and decide foreign policy on a case by case basis, but their rhetoric gives us a clue as to how they will approach other world leaders.
I ask that people consider their personal stance on all these issues. Most other issues seem to line up under these overriding philosophical viewpoints. Once you know your views, you can judge the candidates on merit (if you find merit in a candidate). This is a much better way to vote than to buy into the empty promises, name calling, one-liner quips and rhetoric. Often the candidates change their views to match the crowd they are pandering to, but when you know your views, you won‚Äôt be fooled by their bait-and-switch maneuvers. Also, once you know your views, you can read history to test whether they have worked in the past. The best way to judge our personal views is to back them up with successful examples. Human nature hasn‚Äôt changed since Adam and Eve, just the tools at our disposal.