February 17, 2008

Don’t Believe the Hype

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Voter breakdowns and exit polls have been conducted ad nauseam this election season. Yet it has become more apparent that this election is about the character and personality of a given candidate, rather than their position on the issues. Everybody is caught up in the politics and polls. Of course these are important, but the policy proposals of the various candidates are what really matters.

Hillary Clinton’s favorite phrase is “on day one,” but it may not matter if on the first day of the new presidency we have the experienced Clinton or the captivating Obama. Candidates, upon winning the presidency, like to fulfill their campaign promises. One need not look further than the current president, who promised tax cuts and was dead set on delivering them. The political commentators on television continuously say that Clinton and Obama are really no different on the issues, and that it is only their personalities and managerial styles that voters can decide on. When it comes to public policy, however, the formulation of a program and how it is implemented really does matter. The way in which resources are allocated can result in millions of taxpayers dollars either lost or put in to good use.

There is something to be said for extensive experience (although I am skeptical about how the tasks of First Lady can equip somebody to be president) and inspiring speeches. The country is looking for a leader who embodies a type of politics that can affect change and maintain the prosperity of the U.S. But when the next president enters the Oval Office, none of the rhetoric used on the campaign trail will be of much use. Instead, actual plans for reforming the country will be useful. For example, how will Hillary Clinton mandate that everyone purchases healthcare and what will the repercussions be? Or, how will Barack Obama actually talk with leaders of hostile nations and be assured that the event would not be twisted in to propaganda? These questions matter a great deal more than those about whether or not Hillary Clinton crying was genuine.

Many Americans have grown complacent with politicians’ rhetoric. But some are moved by the promises to restore America’s greatness, while others are inspired by a woman vying for the presidency. When President Bush stood atop the rubble of the World Trade Center after September 11th, many in the U.S. were similarly both moved and inspired. That moment, however, will not define the Bush presidency, nor will it make much of a difference in the lives of Americans. Rather, the policies of the past seven years are what matters. From the war in Iraq to No Child Left Behind, people’s lives are affected by these policies. So, when deciding whom to vote for, I implore you to look beyond the sound bytes and read over the candidates’ policies, for these policy proposals will truly influence lives.