We Pick the Presidential Candidate Who Shares Our Worldview

Regular readers of this blog know by now that I’m pro-Obama. Not that I hate McCain or because  I think that Obama is the political messiah, as caricatured by his detractors. It’s simply because, after considering the policies of both candidates (at least those policies that are important to me), their moral values and worldviews, intelligence, and overall geopolitical appeal, Obama is the *better* candidate.

That said, I still enjoy getting to know both candidates as the election day draws near. Yesterday I watched CNN’s special on Obama/McCain. Both of their stories are inspiring, yet worlds apart. Nevermind their political partisanship. There’s a big generational gap and differences in worldview between these two passionate candidates. Obama is a classic Idealist. McCain is a classic Artisan.

I had more respect for John McCain after watching the CNN special. I get to appreciate more his hard work and maverick character. (Too bad he lost the nomination to GW Bush. Hindsight is 20/20.) But Obama’s story connects more with me, because like him, I grew up in another country and so my worldview isn’t only limited to the U.S.

Overall, I resonate with Obama’s experiences and more importantly, we share the same worldview–I have a strong sense of idealism too. So as much as I would like to think that I’m voting based on my knowledge of policies and issues, a big part of my decision is intuitive–my worldview is a prime mover of my political brain. And both campaigns know this. That’s why their strategies are tailored to the sensitivity of our feelings, emotions, and faith, rather than keeping themselves honest with the issues at hand. In short: everybody lies, including our brains.

My point: The more we get to know both candidates (or at least their public persona in the media), the more we gravitate towards the candidate who share our worldviews, even if we don’t agree with their policies.

Here’s a case in point. I just watched Bill Maher on Larry King Live the other day. In general, I share Maher’s views on religion and politics. That’s why we have similarities in our attitude towards Obama and McCain, and even Rick Warren. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation (see transcript):

KING: What — what part — now you mentioned Rick Warren. What part does — what should religion play in our political life?

MAHER: Well, if you ask me, none, or in any part of life, but you know, look who you’re talking to, the guy who made “Religulous.” But certainly in political life it’s had a terribly detrimental effect. I mean, did you see the Rick Warren thing?

KING: Sure. And we had him on last night.

MAHER: Yes, right. And by the way, let me just preface this by saying I’m asking people for perspective. I have it also.

Rick Warren, big improvement over Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. If we have to have a pope of the super Christ-ies, I’d rather it be him. He’s got good ideas about actually, you know — actual helping people.

Because you know, one thing I don’t like about religion is that, you know, ask any of the truly devout. It’s not mainly about doing the right thing or being ethical. It’s mainly about salvation. It’s mainly about getting your butt saved when you die. And that’s why I think they’re less moral than ethicists. But they would…

KING: But Rick is different?

MAHER: He’s better. He’s an improvement. But you know, when he says, as I heard him say before the event, “I’m going to ask the tough questions.” What would those questions be? How tightly do you close your eyes when you insist on believing something that your mind must be telling you can’t be true? OK.

But here’s a good example of why it shouldn’t infect our public policy. The big question that got all the play in the news snippets was asking what should we do about evil? Evil. And…

KING: Is there evil?

MAHER: Is there evil? And what should we do about it? So Obama gives a very nuanced answer, and again this is why I do like this guy. He sort of can’t win for — lose with the winning. I mean, he’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t. He gives a nuanced answer, which I like, and he loses the crowd.

He said, “Yes, we should be aware of evil, but we should be humble about evil.” And what he was trying to say, I think, was you know what? It’s easy to sit back in America and go, “Well, we’re the good people. That’s common knowledge. Evil is always over there and never here.”

He was saying you know what? We have a lot of evil right here. Look at the prison system. Look at the justice system. Look how we treat immigrants. We torture people now in America. There’s, you know, rampant sexual harassment of women in the military. There’s a lot of evil that we’re doing. OK. This didn’t go over very well.

Then McCain is asked. What do we do about evil? Two words. Defeat it. Now, of course, to the people in this audience, this goes over great because when they hear evil, they think of something very tangible: the devil. They’re not kidding. They believe in this comic-book figure called the devil who’s going to poke your ass in hell if you’re bad. Heaven, air conditioning. OK.

So, you know, you have to take this into account. These are voters. These are people who think evil is the devil. We can defeat it by the end of my first term. We will defeat evil. And, you know, how are you going to have a country, supposed to be a super power, in this world making the right decisions if this is the kind of thing, thinking that goes into it? It’s like trying to write a song when half the keys are out, you know, the keys on the piano are out of tune.

Exactly. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Bill Maher has to say about religion and politics, but Bill Maher is one of the most authentic and ballsy straight talkers out there. I like his style of conversational intolerance.

Another case in point: McCain’s worldview on technology (as reflected by his technology policy) is very much different from my view (I’m in favor of Net Neutrality). Lawrence Lessig sums it up with his keynote presentation: Me on McCain on Technology. Below is the Youtube version.

As you watch the above video, remember what Tim Wu said.

“Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry by creating a bandwidth cartel.”

Note that this issue is rarely covered, let alone mentioned, on mainstream media. (See The Consequences of an Ailing Broadband Infrastructure Begin to Surface) Again, McCain’s technological worldview run smack against my own belief and ideals when it comes to technological issues.

Which brings me back to my original point. Even before everything is said and done, we usually end up picking the candidate who shares our worldview, before we even get to know the details of their policies.

So whoever wins the presidential election would reflect the center of gravity of the collective worldviews of the American voters. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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