Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I've got a special connection to yesterday's Pennsylvania primary, having grown up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. My family still lives there, and some of them are close to Governor Rendell. As I wrote in a previous posting, I'm a Libertarian voter myself, but as I follow the Democratic contest, I'm rooting for Obama.

Why am I so viscerally on Obama's side? One thing I've noticed as I watch my mind: I'm revolted each time Clinton or her supporters argue that she should be nominated on the basis of "electability." As best as I can figure, here's why:

Imagine that you're going to a party, hoping to connect with someone for friendship or romance. There are two strategies you could follow. (1) You could speculate about, e.g., what most women are looking for in a man. Then you try to conform yourself to what you think they like. Or (2) You could express your authentic, natural personality, and let the rest take care of itself. If someone is attracted, it'll be to who you really are, rather than to a mask you're wearing.

Same thing when applying for a job. You can imagine what an employer is looking for and then try to fit yourself into that mold. Or you can simply communicate what your real talents are. If you're really qualified for the job, simple honesty is enough to get you hired.

Is it too much to ask of our candidates, that they take the more honest path? That they truthfully tell us about their skills, values, and insights... then let the chips fall where they may? Campaigns should be based on honest communication, at least as a default position! If you're a candidate with ideas that you believe in, and insights you think are good for the country, shouldn't you be concentrated on articulating them? Sharing sincere ideas with the population is beneficial regardless of whether you win this particular election. Indeed, championing ideas may be more important than your personal success.

Every time Clinton opens her mouth about "electability," it comes at the expense of communicating ideas and information about what's best for the country and the world. I don't give a damn if you're "electable"; I care what you stand for!

Buddhism teaches that all things are constantly changing. This means that no one knows who is or isn't electable. The best anyone can do is examine public opinion and voting patterns of the past, and then make assumptions about how they'll apply in the future. It's a guessing game. (God knows that if Clinton were really so skilled at judging electability, she wouldn't have lost so many primary contests so badly.) There's just one matter that candidates can speak to with absolute authority: their own beliefs and values.

In the midst of this world of relative morality and situational ethics, one value that I still find worth supporting is honesty. Also, I've got some person history with politics-as-psychodrama. I voted in 1984; I was 24, and it was my first US election after years in India. I had no enthusiasm for either major party candidate, but in an effort to support the lesser of evils, I voted for Mondale. When he lost 49 states, I felt sick. I had voted for someone I didn't believe in, and didn't even get the satisfaction of a close race. I decided to base my politics purely on conscience (which usually means voting Libertarian), rather than speculating about who'll win.

There's a whole branch of Yoga based simply on acting each moment without attachment to the results. My life goes better when I focus only on which action is correct, rather than what I imagine will be immediately popular. I'll trust a politician who articulates what he/she feels is true and beneficial, and leaves it to God and the pundits to worry about who gets elected.

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