I’ve given a good deal of thought to the concept of faith. And recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about cynicism. When I talk about faith here, I’m not talking about religious faith, necessarily, although religious faith is certainly a powerful aspect of my life. By faith, I mean that part of my belief system that is not based exclusively on empirical evidence. For example, I have faith that most people generally do what they think is right. If I were [able] to examine the actions of every person in the world (including my own) I would certainly find that most of us fail miserably at actually doing the right thing at every opportunity. Evidence, and the cynical side of me, may be screaming out that there are people in this world who are either too thoughtless, too selfish, or too narrow minded to act on their impulse to do right, and instead seek to harm or otherwise disrespect their fellow human beings. But I try to keep that inner cynic in check and stay focused on my faith. Those people who resort to cynicism have lost faith in their brothers and sisters. Cynicism robs us of our ability to act in good faith.

(As you can see from reading some of the other things I’ve written or quoted here, I am not always successful at thwarting my cynicism.)

What’s a person of faith to do, then, when faced with a choice between two candidates for president like John McCain and Barack Obama? One can, based on their stated positions (and ignoring for the moment the rhetorical devices they employ as a means of obfuscating their motives), come to a reasonably considered opinion about each candidate’s plan for the country and the world. Two people will certainly come to different conclusions of which plan is better, but I think it’s possible to reduce each candidate’s plan to a set of true facts about what each intends to do if elected. For example, in a nutshell, John McCain would solve gnarly international problems by deploying the military, and according to both McCain and Obama, a President Obama would talk with our enemies before deploying the military. John McCain demonstrably believes that giving big tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans will make our economy stronger, and Barack Obama believes the opposite, that giving tax breaks to the poorest Americans will make the economy stronger. On these two crucial issues, I think it’s clear that these two men would do essentially the opposite thing.

While you and I may disagree about which of these men’s strategies is better, the difference in their positions is essentially clear. (Unless of course you are relying exclusively on the media or campaign advertising as your sole source of information about their positions. In that case, you may not get a clear picture.)

By my reasoning, the Obama plan on the two most crucial problems facing the United States today — how to deal with international conflict (terrorism), and what to do about a flagging economy — is the better plan. Here’s why I think that’s true. It has to do with faith and cynicism.

McCain’s positions are based on a pessimistic or cynical view of the world and human nature. He believes in a military solution to complex problems because he has allowed his cynical side to dominate his thinking. He has no faith that we can work through our differences by talking with people who disagree with us. The only solution, in his view, is the same solution that Dick Cheney pushed George W. Bush to follow — eliminate those who disagree with our position. Iraq had a grotesque and unreasonable dictator. The solution, according to Cheney was to eliminate him. There is nothing in John McCain’s stated position that could lead one to believe that he would deviate at all from the Bush Doctrine. He’s a hawk, and his goal is to attain a position of power in the world by a continued show of military might.

McCain believes in the trickle down theory of economic prosperity. Give more money to the investor class (through tax breaks for the wealthy) and let them invest it in profit making enterprises that create paying jobs for the working class. While this theory seems reasonable, in practice it doesn’t worked. One might argue that in this case McCain is operating on faith that some new force of nature is going to emerge to cause economic prosperity to trickle down. I would argue that he’s cynical about the large majority of Americans in the middle and working class. He has so little faith in their ability to bring about any kind of economic change that he refuses to give them any economic leverage to participate in the restoration of our economy. Under his plan, the smallest tax cuts given to American people go to the poorest of the poor.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, would reverse the existing policies of the Bush/Cheney administration on both these fronts. Unlike McCain, who mocks Obama for having faith in the power of diplomacy, Obama suggests that the first step in solving our problems in the foreign relations arena is to talk to our enemies. Similarly, Obama believes in an economic policy that would work from the bottom up. Clearly, the Bush administration’s trickle-down economic policy, which McCain plans to extend, has taken the prosperity of the last decade and driven our economy into the ground.

I am a person of faith. Faith in my family, faith in my friends, faith in my neighbors. Faith in a system of government that can work for the benefit of all the citizens of this country. I have faith the the goodness of the human spirit. And I want a president who shares my faith. I want a president who says that we can achieve a position of leadership in the world, not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

To me it’s obvious who is the better choice.

Posted 13 September 2008 by Mark ·