Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winning the Buddhist Quaker vote

The news analysts I regularly watch on television—I admittedly watch nothing other than PBS—keep saying the 2008 presidential election may be the most important election in American history. I disagree. I think the election of 2000 was the most important. That election was so disastrous, and the consequences so damaging to the United States and to the world, that the election of 2008 amounts to little more than a contest to see who gets to stand on the bridge while the ship of state sinks. The ship has taken so many hits that she is no longer seaworthy, and she has been pretty much beyond repair since the current captain took the wheel for his second watch after proving to everyone except for 62,040,606 (51% of the) American voters that he was unfit for public office.

Even if it were still possible for anyone to salvage the wrecked ship of the American state, it would not be easy for me to decide for which of the surviving candidates to vote. Like many other voters, I watched all the debates among the presidential candidates of both parties and sank deeper into dismay at the superficiality of the questions and the answers, and the adolescent coverage of the race. We viewers learned a great deal about how countless experts expected the various sociological divisions of the American electorate to vote in the primaries.

One still hears a fair amount of discussion about who is likely to win the evangelical vote and the Jewish vote. One does not hear quite as much about which candidate is mostly likely to win the Unitarian vote, the Buddhist vote and the Quaker vote. And so, as a service to election watchers everywhere, I have compiled a modest list of issues that may be decisive in determining who gets the vote of one fellow who comes from a Unitarian family and who is now a practicing Buddhist Quaker. Whether this one fellow is representative of the Buddhist Quaker segment of the American population, I leave it to pollsters to determine. So here is a guide to what a presidential candidate has to pledge to do to earn my vote. The guide, of course, can be used to figure out who will get my vote for congressional representative and senator of my home and native state.

  1. Close all US military bases outside the 50 states, and reduce the military to a size no larger than what is needed to deal with domestic issues, such as providing disaster relief after storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. (The Canadian military would be a good model to follow in reforming the US military. Worth considering is the Canadian model of a unified military service rather than having a navy, marine corps and air force separate from the army.)
  2. Dismantle all nuclear warheads and chemical weapons and find a safe way to dispose of the toxins contained therein.
  3. Open the borders to all citizens of every North, Central and South American country so that all people living in the Americas can move freely throughout the two continents of North and South America.
  4. Make Spanish and French official languages along with English.
  5. Enforce strong environmental laws. Make sure those already on the books are properly enforced and pass new standards and regulations in consultation with scientists.
  6. Build an infrastructure for generating electrical power by harnessing solar power, wind, geothermal energy and tidal forces.
  7. Start a national campaign to reeducate the public to use their own muscles for many tasks now done with the help of energy-consuming machines. Thus, instead of only seeking new ways to provide artificial forms of energy, reduce dependence on all forms of energy not generated by the human body.
  8. Bring in a system of universal health care in which no citizen or legal resident alien is deprived of basic medical coverage.
  9. Begin a national campaign to reeducate the public in preventive health measures. (Worth considering is a policy, similar to those in Singapore and Japan, of offering annual cash incentives to citizens who maintain their weight within healthy limits and who pass fitness tests, and fining those who do not.

  10. Abolish the death penalty throughout the country.
  11. Decriminalize narcotics and other recreational drugs and make available clinics in which those wishing to break addictions could receive effective therapy and where others could procure regulated drugs administered safely rather than having to rely on illegal sources.
  12. Take all prisons (and, ideally, hospitals and clinics) out of the hands of private ownership and for-profit management.

  13. Require the registration of all firearms and the licensing of users of firearms, who must prove their ability to operate them safely and who must provide proof of carrying sufficient liability insurance to compensate anyone they may injure through improper use of firearms.
  14. Make provisions for giving massive amounts of food and educational aid to struggling countries.
  15. Work to make the United Nations and world courts strong and effective.
  16. Balance the budget. Raise sufficient revenues by taxing corporations and investment earnings and the purchase of luxury items and by imposing a modest tax on salary earnings, and then keep expenditures lower than the revenues so gained.

In short, all anyone needs to do to get my vote is embrace my politically moderate values and run the nation by the bodhisattva standards of love and compassion toward all sentient beings. If any of the readers of this blog know of any candidates who meet all, or even most, of these criteria, please leave a comment.