Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Starkest of Choices

'Tis the season for doing our civic duty as Americans—that is, buying Christmas gifts to keep our relatives happy and the economy afloat, while getting ready to vote in the primary election. I know I'm not the only one who dreads going into overcrowded shopping malls with loudspeakers blaring "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" for the umpteenth time. But fortunately, in this age of convenient websites, we can do all of our holiday shopping from the comfort of our desk chairs.

Voting is also quick and easy in the Internet era. Some folks haven't registered because they mistakenly believe that it might be too hard or a nuisance. If you are one of them, I have some good news for you: Voter registration forms are available online, and you can also avoid the nuisance of going to the polls by voting absentee (that is, filling in the ballot at home and mailing it in) if you prefer. Like Christmas shopping, though, it has to be done soon; every state has different deadlines for how many days before the election you must register, and those deadlines are fast approaching.

In past years, some of us might have skipped the primary election, thinking that one candidate was as good as another. That is most emphatically not the case in the 2008 election. In the two leading presidential candidates, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, we are faced with the starkest of choices for the direction of the country and our own personal futures.

Barack Obama, who was a civil rights lawyer and constitutional law professor before he went into politics, understands the struggle of autistic people (and others who are affected by disability prejudice) for recognition of our basic rights as human beings. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, blatantly pandered to Autism Speaks' bigotry earlier this year by suggesting that it would be desirable to prevent and cure anything along the autism spectrum. Her idea of making health insurance more affordable seems to consist of eugenically "preventing" any group of people who might have higher than average medical costs.

If you prefer a different Democratic candidate, or if you are registered as Independent or Republican, please give some thought to voting for Obama anyway. You can always change your registration back to Independent or Republican after your state's primary is over. And if you're leaning toward another Democrat, well, this is how I see it: Edwards has good intentions, Biden and Dodd are respectable elder statesmen, Richardson is a capable governor, and Kucinich is a man of strong convictions. They're all decent guys—but this is clearly not their year for winning, and we all know what happened in 2000 when a few people in Florida decided to vote for the guy they liked (Ralph Nader) instead of the guy who could actually win the election (Al Gore). Let's not make that mistake this time around!

Getting back to Christmas shopping for a moment, the Obama campaign (which, unlike the Clinton campaign, does not take money from lobbyists) needs to raise funds from individual contributors to compete effectively in the primaries. If, like most of us, you don't have a lot of extra money to give to a political campaign, you can still help the cause by going to the Obama Store to shop for holiday gifts. You can get good quality T-shirts and other merchandise with Obama '08 campaign logos. They make great Christmas presents for Obama supporters, and all proceeds go to the campaign. Buy some for yourself while you're there!

Also, in some states (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia) a person who is 17 years old on the date of the primary election, but who will turn 18 by the general election, can vote in the primary. If that's you, or if you have a 17-year-old friend or relative who lives in one of these states, it's time to get registered! You can find more information about your state's specific voter registration requirements and get a registration form online by visiting the voter registration information page on the Project Vote Smart website. It's as easy as a tasty slice of holiday pumpkin pie.

(Edit, Nov. 19: The above list of states where 17-year-olds can vote in the primary may not be complete—thanks Kassiane for pointing that out. To be sure, check with your local election officials to determine if your state is one where 17-year-olds can vote.)

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  • Unless it's changed, you can also vote in primaries in IL provided you'll be 18 by the date of the general election. I needed to know about that 7 years ago, however, so things may have changed.

    By Blogger Kassiane, at 6:10 PM  

  • If it's possible for me to vote in primaries here, I'm still voting for Edwards. Clinton is a slimy sellout and Obama is, I fear, going to be more promise than substance when it comes to running the country, although he's light-years better than Clinton. Edwards seems the best combination of ethical and capable despite having the ickier bits of politician-ness in parts of him. Among the Democratic candidates I'd vote for just about anyone before I'd vote for Clinton though.

    By Blogger ballastexistenz, at 8:27 PM  

  • Ugh! I wish I were finally a citizen... this country is making it so hard for me to get naturalized! At least I have a chance of getting naturalized within the year, so I'll be able to vote in the actual presidential election. Yeah, that's right--spending multiple years waiting to be naturalized is pretty normal.

    By Blogger Chaoticidealism, at 11:59 PM  

  • Has anyone managed to confront Clinton regarding her attitude towards autism? She is a snake in a (pant)suit.

    You Americans should bring in compulsory voting. I think it's more democratic.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 12:20 AM  

  • Kassiane: Thanks for the info. I've edited the post accordingly.

    Ballastexistenz: Although I agree that Edwards is ethical and capable, I don't think he has enough resources to beat the Clinton Machine. We'll find that out soon enough, when the early states hold their primaries; if Edwards doesn't do well in the first few states, I expect he'll probably drop out of the race. As for Obama translating promises into action, he has a pretty good record as a reformer in the Illinois legislature.

    Chaoticidealism: We definitely need to make our immigration system more user-friendly.

    Lili Marlene: Although we've tried to confront Clinton, she won't respond to us. She's completely oblivious to the fact that this issue has more than one side, and whenever she gets any letters that mention autism, she doesn't read them personally; her staffers just skim the letters, sort them into an "autism" pile, and send canned replies about how hard she's working to combat autism.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:57 AM  

  • Good post. Gives me something to think about...why I have a visceral reaction to Clinton...

    I do like Edwards, but I also know that Obama is coming from a good place.

    By Blogger r.b., at 7:47 PM  

  • Yeah, I've donated a couple of times to the Obama campaign. I get emails almost every day asking for more money, or to help organize my area.

    At this time, (just after Thanksgiving), it looks like he's in the lead in Iowa, which would give him a boost in the next primaries.

    Don't know if it will be enough to beat Hillary though.

    By Blogger Clay, at 6:35 PM  

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