Laying all my cards on the table. Now my friends can officially know where I stand.
I have no party affiliation. I think I was briefly a R when I was 18, followed by a mistaken enrollment in the Independent Party (I thought I was registering as an independent). After that I went "Decline to State" and have been DTS ever since. I refuse to commit myself to agendas & platforms devised by other people; I will not march in lockstep.
I vote for both parties, and have been known to throw my vote away on obscure, hopeless candidates because I am disgusted with the offerings before me. Honestly, Bush or Gore? The GOP lost me (not that they ever really had me) back in 2000 when they gave McCain the bum's rush and shoehorned in GWB. CA has an open primary, and I had voted for McCain, but the GOP didn't want unaffiliated voters back then (though they sure want us now). Bush or Kerry? I voted for Kerry, but held my nose when I did it. He ran his campaign like an idiot and framed his arguments poorly. I would have been fine with Hilary getting the nomination. I was never won over by Edwards. I find much to like about Obama, but I have very carefully avoided ever listening to him speak, because I do not want to be swayed by his obviously charismatic personality. I do not want to be blinded by Obamamania.
I do not want "a regular guy" running the country, somebody just like me. I did not ever vote for GWB, I never fell for his folksy pandering schtick. I want somebody smart, somebody who thinks things through, somebody who is capable of changing their mind. If Romney had gotten the GOP nod I might have considered voting R, because I think Romney is a really smart guy. It's OK with me if somebody admits they do not yet have an answer to a question. The term "flip flop" pisses me off like few other things can. Everybody should flip flop! When new information comes in, when situations change, when we have an epiphany, we should not cling to ideology like a lifesaver. Clinging to ideas that don't serve us, principles that are leading us the wrong way... consistency is not always a laudable quality. I vastly prefer flexibility.
On to my positions. I support tighter market regulations. Free (anarchist) markets benefit those who already have plenty of money and do nothing to help the middle and lower classes. Let's take the recent boom (and bust) in housing prices, particularly here in CA. Some people made wads of money off of the bubble, but a lot of those people are now unemployed (they should have gotten a financial advisor and invested conservatively). Home prices drove hundreds of thousands of young families out of the state (like some of you, my friends), breaking up extended families. Despite the fact that Dan earns a very generous amount over our city's median income, we have been frozen out of owning even the most modest house for 5 or so years now. Banks are in danger of failing. Our government is spending billions of dollars it doesn't have on bailouts and economic stimulus plans designed to prop up prices that never should have skyrocketed like that in the first place (and yes, I'm aware that $#@! Dems are responsible for this doomed bailout - I was very pleased when GWB said he'd veto it, but then he folded and signed it). This could have been prevented, or at least blunted, by tighter regulation of the mortgage market. Ack! Liberalism!
Shockingly, I am a fiscal conservative - in that i believe in living within your means, investing wisely and conservatively. You can say what you like about ol' Bill Clinton and his personal moral failings, he had us on track to a balanced budget and a surplus of $559 billion (I find it amusing that Lieberman mentioned this in his speech at the GOP convention and got not much more than mumbles - gads, those R's hate the Clintons!). The last 8 years have been a complete flip on which party is in favor of spending within our means and streamlining government. We are now so deep in debt that it is unlikely we will ever in our lifetimes see the end of it.
I don't mind paying more taxes if those taxes are supporting good causes. Example: Public education, as flawed as it is, is necessary to ensure an educated populace. I am also wholeheartedly in favor of overhauling health care, and I am not afraid of "socialized medicine." I can't even begin to cover this here, but based on my own observations and experiences the system could be a lot better. I also acknowledge that it will be a messy process to fix it up.
Our immigration system is a mess. I do not believe in mass deportation (on both ethical grounds and grounds of practicality), nor do I believe in "amnesty" (which is a word, like "fascist," that gets thrown around too much). I believe in some sort of reward system for illegals to turn themselves in and register for guest worker permits (work visas, if you will). These would not be permanent permits, but renewals would be possible. But this must be combined with tighter border security, which we could achieve easily if we didn't have our military tied up in Iraq (crap, I wasn't sure I even wanted to mention the I-word). This system would encourage compliance, help prevent foreign workers from abuse, and get everybody working legally.
Pollution/climate change. Who likes pollution? This is actually the reason I am an almost vegetarian - commercial-scale animal farming is a huge polluter (methane for the air and feces to pollute groundwater and oceans). I don't like to support pollution, when I have a choice. I do not believe climate change is a fraud. Yes, the earth has cyclical temperature variations and was already on a very slow warming trend, but our massive deforestation (reduction in photosythesis, which consumes CO2) combined with our massive increase in the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere, plus the methane created by our unnaturally large and unnaturally fed food flocks (roughly 96 million cows in the US alone) is speeding up and probably surpassing what would have happened naturally. Arable (farmable) land is mostly maxed out, and we are using more and more dangerous methods (synthetic chemical fertilizers and increasingly nasty pesticides) to extract as much food as possible from those lands. Our food system in the US is a frightening creature, mostly controlled by very aggressive semi-monopolies. Honestly, I see neither candidate talking about this, but those darned liberals are usually much more willing to do something about it, even if it means hindering business (I support assistance programs to help small businesses not be destroyed by regulations). I would rather have industries be hindered than have my drinking water polluted.
Energy - I agree with Paris Hilton on this one. We have to reduce our consumption (that means changing the way we live, sorry), carefully utilize what fossil resources we have, but work very aggressively toward creating as much renewable, clean energy as possible right here in the good ol' USA. I very much lean toward Obama's plan. He's even talking about insulation incentives, which are very un-sexy but would make a huge difference in energy consumption in this country.
What it all comes down to is that I believe in cleanliness and efficiency. I believe in compassion and generosity, administered with a firm hand. All too often social programs are depicted as being softy handouts. We should have "workfare" instead of welfare (as much as that calls to mind the poorhouses of old London), but there have to be systems in place so that the poor don't slip through the cracks and die of shockingly preventable causes. Humans deserve to live productive lives. There should be help for those that need it and want it. Poverty, real poverty, is not as easy to escape as we like to tell ourselves it is. Of course we will never eradicate poverty - there will always be people who are too foolish or weak to succeed. But we should want our fellow human beings, our fellow Americans, to at least be able to have decent food to eat, acceptable places to live, and to be healthy. It should be a fair playing field, because we have the power to make it that way. I'm no Pollyanna, I know perfection isn't possible. But I want to work toward noble, loving principles and goals, not give up on them because humans are flawed. The pursuit of money is not so very vital to me - money is only valuable for the things we need, and things that advance humankind.
I'm not at all certain I've covered all the bases I should have. I've been a middle-straddler for a long time, weighing my positions and my beliefs, but I belive I belong on the left, with a leg still flung over to the conservative side. In some aspects, I am a bit of a socialist. Don't worry, I'm not going to follow the Stalinist or Maoist model. But I think socialism has been set up as much more of a bogeyman than it really is. For example, Norway's mixed economic system (they are not strictly socialist, despite propaganda to the contrary) has served it quite well. It doesn't have to be all or nothing - all unrestricted capitalism or complete communism. Most of us liberals don't advocate pure socialism; I think there have been enough semi-socialist successes for us to learn what might work well here.
OK, OK, i'll shut up now.