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You ask, I answer: Political Edition!
cap, captain miss america
In the spirit of Election Day, I thought this would be fun.

Ask me a question about my political beliefs. I will do my best to answer them. They can be on anything from big stuff like civil rights to little things like state tax issues to personal things like political moments that shaped my views.

This is not a place for debate or disagreement. I am going to be completely honest and that might mean that my views might piss someone off. I will ask you to contain your pissed-offedness and not debate in this post. Post your own post if you want to discuss. I usually like to debate but I don't want this idea to turn into that, not because I want to silence anybody, but because I want to keep it on the original subject.

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What's your position on felon disenfranchisement, especially given the disproportionate disenfranchising of black and Hispanic men due to drug-related felony convictions?

I was actually talking to someone about this earlier today. I know a number of people who have been convicted of felonies that are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

While part of this is clearly related to what I believe is an imbalance in how drug-related and some other crimes are treated compared to violent crimes (possession with intent to sell is a felony, while manslaughter is a misdemeanor!), and to what I believe is an imbalance in how black and Hispanic people are charged in drug crimes compared to white people, that doesn't, to me, mean that a felon doesn't deserve the same rights as everyone else even if that imbalance were righted.

So you're dealing with two issues. One is inequity in our criminal justice system. That needs to be dealt with. The other is whether felons who have served their sentence should be held to a different standard/given the same rights as people who have not been convicted as a felony, even if the playing field is in all other ways equal (which it is not). While I do think it is all right to have a different set of expectations for someone who has been convicted of a felony in terms of things like checking in with a parole officer, I think taking away rights is not. I don't understand why felons can't vote. The only group of citizens whom I think should reasonably be barred from voting are people who have actually participated in election-related crimes. I'm a big believer than the punishment should fit the crime, so: if you tamper with an election, your right to vote could reasonably be taken away, and I wouldn't object. However, why someone who was caught selling marijuana shouldn't be allowed to tick off a ballot eludes me: selling drugs does not in any way make me doubt someone's ability to participate in the electoral process. The fact that certain groups in the US who are already consistently and systemically intimidated out of voting are disproportionately affected by this disenfranchisement means that maintaining that disenfranchisement for any reason is essentially a form of election fraud.

Edited at 2010-11-02 08:32 pm (UTC)

On the whole, I believe felons should be able to vote. On a personal note, I am pretty dang happy to know a certain felon ex-boyfriend can't vote but that's for reason unrelated to the whole being a felon thing.

On our local ballot was an admendment to ban anyone convict of a felony from being allowed to be sheriff. What do you think of that?

I think it's preposterous, for the reason above.A past "criminal" record, especially if the crime is clearly one where they were charged much more harshly than they should have been, because of racial discrimination, or one that they committed a long time in their past, should not hinder them from being permitted to run for an elected position. They're just running, they're not being handed the position without having to stand up and explain their platform and any past problems with the law. I think a voting public can judge whether someone who has a felony is capable of holding the position of Sheriff-- if they're not, I would think the electorate would vote against them. But we need to allow people to make that decision.

It passed 80something percent for it.

That's terrible! Seriously, to me, people are going to be voting in elections. They should realize that they have the ability to vote against someone with a felony record.

One: to me, "reproductive choice" is a whole series of issues that go far beyond medically terminating a fetus. It encompasses every issue where a woman (or in some cases, men) may feel that her ability to make decisions about how and when she chooses to carry and deliver a baby is at stake.

This includes:
availability and affordability of birth control
availability and affordability of STI tests
availability of sex ed
availability and affordability of gynecological/prenatal visits
availability of information about termination, adoption, and assistance for new mothers
the right to choose any of the above three options (or others if necessary) and to receive assistance in carrying them out
the right to set terms and not be intimidated in decision-making when giving a child up for adoption
the right to not be raped by anyone at any time
the right to medical care and non-judgmental legal support for rape victims
the right to medical care and non-judgmental legal support for mothers and expecting mothers who are unable to get assistance or cooperation from their sexual partner(s)
full transparency and required consent if genetic material is used outside of normal sexual reproduction

And there are probably a few others I left off the list.

Basically, I think that women have a right to decide when and where and how they will or won't have babies. They also have a right to not be made to feel pressured or intimidated or harassed while making private, personal decisions.

I strongly believe that the abortion debate in this country is not about innocent little babies but is about intimidation of women. That's how it started, with the AMA trying to discredit midwives, and that's what keeps it alive today. The only gender inequity that can't be righted through a combination of legislation and human decency is the one where a woman can't always control when she will get pregnant. Therefore, she always needs to have the right to decide not to be pregnant if it happens.


This is beautiful. (And such a quick reply!)

What do you think of political parties, and the idea that you should vote for someone because "they're a reliable Dem/Rep vote", even if they are lackluster in promoting new ideas and legislation?

I think that political parties, like many alliances, have good aspects and bad aspects. I think that they are good in that if someone affiliates with a party, you know roughly what views they are going to try to uphold. However, I think that the two-party system in America is very dangerous and destructive.

I respect our politicians enough to believe that they are individuals, and intelligent ones (mostly), who have their own individual beliefs. The two-party system forces politicians to compromise their own beliefs to fit an expected mold. It also forces the electorate to choose between two sets of beliefs that are going to be rigid and means often choosing the lesser of two evils because you may disagree with elements of both party platforms. I know I do.

We've lost the idea of government officials as public servants, and I think that's actually something that our President has tried hard to reflect and that people have responded negatively to. I don't want a politician to get up and tell me what they stand for-- because a politician's job is to stand for what his or her electorate wants, regardless of whether they agree with it. I should be able to trust my representatives to do what New Yorkers want, regardless of whether what New Yorkers want changes between now and the next election. And I believe that political parties keep that from happening. I also believe that the two-party system adds to the polarizing us v. them mentality that creeps up in American politics.

I am registered Independent, by the way.

George Bush: great President, or greatest President?

Should cats be allowed to vote? Why or why not? If you answer "why not" where is your bed so Luke can leave you a mouse head?

I don't feel that it is necessary for cats to vote, as we know they simply control their humans' thoughts and send them to do the voting instead. Besides, there is no delicious tuna at the polling place.

What is your to-do list for our new Governor?

1) Request Federal stimulus funding on behalf of the MTA with the stipulation that the MTA must use the money to encourage regular commutation and other environmentally-sound methods of travel, and discourage commutation by individual car, especially for single-occupancy vehicles.

2) I would like to see the state make an attempt to pick up the slack for the Federal government in a couple ways. One would be by doing some serious investigation into health care programs like the CMSP in Massachusetts which helps cover uninsured children, and into jobs programs. I'd like to see some effort being put into helping New York farmers keep their farms, too.

3) I'd like to see some creative budget-balancing.

4) I would like to see marriage extended to any two consenting adults who are not immediate blood relatives and domestic partnership rights extended to any group of consenting adults regardless of blood relation (so domestic partnership rights could be extended to an aging parent or disabled adult child, for example).

Would 4) be something like Vermont's reciprocal beneficiaries law? (That only covers two blood relatives, but it'd be a start.)

Yeah, something like that.

I feel like the healthcare system and some other benefits programs would need to be overhauled, because let's face it: it's just not fair for someone to be able to name three domestic partners and get them all benefits when they're not putting in any more money than someone with just one partner, but I don't think that is so difficult to do. I would also like to see it not just cover blood relatives, but people in other non-marriage domestic partnerships: platonic roommates, an elderly or disabled person and their longtime caretaker, etc. I'd also like to see something that could cover poly families or even situations like two parents who are living together to raise their child but who are not romantically involved and would like to be able to be married to other people but share domestic benefits for the sake of jointly raising a child.

Which do you prefer: socialism or capitalism?

Here's a line you probably don't hear very often: I don't think they are mutually exclusive, and I believe that each model works better for different types of things.

I think that capitalism works better for industries that require a lot of innovation and ingenuity. Individuals are more likely to work hard for individual compensation, rather than for a nice feeling of helping the public good. Competition in a free market makes people race to out-innovate in a way that I don't think would be possible without a free market.

However, I think socialism works better for services that everyone needs, and for equalizing the availability of services. Socialized health care, education, police and fire services, and so on, are better at making sure that everyone who requires service gets service, and privatizing those services opens them up to a huge number of inequities based on class (and as a result, based on race, gender, etc.) In the US, our social services aren't perfect and do have a lot of inequities, but in many cases, the inequities are caused by the fact that the programs aren't entirely socialized (eg, people have a choice to send their children to private schools, which forces the creation of a class structure in our school system which would not exist if wealthy people were more invested in our public schools).

I am currently in a public policy class here in the UK (long story) - which, I'm sure you can imagine, is really interesting. Watching clips of people speaking with horror about the bad old days when you had to actually pay a doctor to get health care, and some people had to go without the care they needed, is particularly stark against the background of American debate over health care policy. Anyway, it's prompted me to do some thinking, and now I'm reading a book on political philosophy.

So...why do you think what you do? What principles do you base your political beliefs on?

That encompasses a lot of things, and I don't always consider the same principles to be applicable to all issues. Do you mind focusing the question down to, say, one issue?

I suppose it was meant to be a question like, "If I asked you about a political issue you'd never thought about before, how would you go about deciding what your opinion on it was?" I don't know if that makes sense or helps narrow it down more. I think because of the class I'm in and the reading I'm doing, my head's mostly in questions around the welfare state - who should get benefits, to what extent is it okay to tax people in order to benefit other people, etc. But I know that's a pretty big topic in itself.

Aha! Okay, yes.

I usually try to think about how an issue affects people, and which people it affects most. Even if my personal beliefs are counter to a certain outcome, if that outcome will help more people and will preserve more people's rights, that's usually the outcome I will support. I almost always err on the side of preserving individual rights, as long as it's not at the expense of someone else's rights.

(Deleted comment)
I think we need about five parties to actually have a working democracy. I also think it needs to be an odd number because even numbers become polarizing us v. them things. Three parties is not enough to fix the system because as we've seen in three party elections, the third party candidate usually only serves to help deliver the election to the candidate who is least like them.

Things I look for in political candidates:
--An interest in public service.
--A willingness to compromise.
--A respect for all viewpoints.
--Intelligence and the ability to answer difficult questions.
--The courage to say that they don't know without making it sound like they're trying to cover up their lack of knowledge. Also, to apologize if they say something incorrect or offensive.
--An awareness of privilege and of oppression, especially as it relates to groups that they are not part of.
--A positive campaign message.
--Views that roughly correspond to mine.

Edited at 2010-11-03 01:30 pm (UTC)

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