Friday, April 20, 2007

pacing and presidents

Yesterday was a particularly busy day, so no blog posts... and a desire to spend this morning more leisurely. Perhaps that is the nature of having a job that can be challenging intellectually--its easy to burn up the batteries when the problems you are working on are hard. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to a relaxed weekend.

Today is also something of a milestone for me--this is the first time I've donated money to more than one presidential campaign. I first donated to Barack Obama after the release of his first quarter numbers. Senator Obama is an inspiring figure with the power to inspire--but I'll be honest, I find some of his positions uninspired. Today I popped an equal amount of money to Bill Richardson who is by far the most qualified democratic candidate out there. What I most like about him is his proven ability to talk to people who don't want to do things and get them to do things they don't want to do (North Korea, as an example). He also has the clearest and most unambiguous stance on the Iraq quagmire.

As in 2004, the democratic party was blessed with a plethera of good candidates. But, this time around I think everyone understands the dynamic of front-loading (whoever wins Iowa and New Hampshire will sweep the field) and I think everyone is trying to figure out how best to capitalize on the successes of the 2004 Dean campaign (which I supported) while avoiding its pitfalls (the Edwards campaign has recently hired Joe Trippi, and the Edwards campaign has been more experimental and forward thinking in its web-roots outreach efforts).

My interpretation of the 2004 election is different from most people's. Most seem to blame Kerry for running an ineffective campaign, for relying on proven ineffective advisors, and for not hitting back fast enough on the swift boat campaign. But I feel that the problem was more psychological and more widespread. Going into the Iowa Caucus and into the New Hampshire primary Democratic voters were more concerned with defeating Bush than with picking the candidate who most appealed to them. So instead of picking the most appealing candidate (who should have been Clark, or Dean, or Edwards) they voted for the person they thought would be the most winnable. The election became an example of 'the prisoner's dillema' but on a large scale (do you pick the action that most appeals to your self-interest, or do you pick an action based on how you believe someone else will act... and how can you decide how that person will act when you don't know them?). The problem with this type of decision making is that it subverts one of the working mechanisms of democracy: you should always pick the candidate that most appeals to you in a primary, as it will inherently make them more electable and will shift the balance of politics in your overall favor (but then, the winner-takes-all outcomes of American-style politics are something of a subversion too). There is always a certain amount of this in any election, but hopefully the top democratic candidates will make an equally convincing case of their electability... so that when it comes time to make a vote, voters in these early races will actually pick the guy they really like. In my view, that person, be it Clinton, Edwards, Obama, or Richardson, will win the presidency in 2008.

Well... that's my politics post for the day. Go Obama! And Go Richardson! Woot!