This is the first general election during which I've been active on a social network.
I don't have 6,000 Twitter followers like fellow author/reviewer Bob Sanchez, but I'm active on Facebook with several hundred friends, most of whom are smarter, more literate, and more politically aware than I am. Thankfully, I seem to be connected to no one as mean-spirited as Ann Coulter or Bill Maher.
First, I'm surprised at the level of political activity. Second, I'm surprised at the relative civility. Third, I'm surprised that there are a few people, like me, who are populist-libertarian-conservative-liberals. Fourth, I'm more than surprised that the level of support for Obama-Biden far outweighs the support for Romney-Ryan.
Is Facebook a Democratic Party bastion?
Like most people, I have accomplished and intelligent friends whom I respect greatly who support Romney's election. To date, I've been able to voice my support for Obama's reelection without fracturing what passes for a friendship in this world of virtuality. I suppose that's because they are reasonable people. Or perhaps it is because each of us in our interactions are alert enough, clever enough not to say the one thing that might rupture the dialog we've managed so far.
That's difficult to do in an age when too many who make politics a profession focus attention on hot-button issues—religion in the public arena, access to abortion, gun control—that are seemingly irrelevant to the fundamental issues that face our nation. Any rational person is conflicted on these issues. None can be solved with slogans and demagoguery.
I know this, and yet I find myself being drawn into the little skirmishes that are scattered across Facebook's terrain. Slate says that I can offer my opinion and lose only 18% of my friends, most likely among those of a conservative bent. Of course, if I was entirely open, I might be dropped by a higher percentage, I suppose. Nevertheless, I would like to ...
- have Romney release 15 years of income tax returns and explain why he believes a system that allows him to pay income taxes at a rate lower than the average middle-class tax payer is equitable system;
- have either candidate present a plan to scrap the income tax and enact a progressive consumption tax;
- have Obama explain why no banker, private equity fund administrator, or other money manipulator responsible for the financial crisis is in jail;
- have either candidate present a plan to regulate banks and the stock market to prevent another meltdown;
- have either candidate give a valid reason for continuing the legal and economic and social fiasco that we call the "War on Drugs;"
- have either candidate offer a plan to change campaign financing in a way that will overturn the obscene Citizens United decision;
- have either candidate speak to the issue of decreasing the influence of paid lobbyists, perhaps by making such activity illegal.
There are other issues, of course. Foreign policy, for one, and our recognition that USA cannot police the world. Fair treatment for illegal immigrants. Extending tax-supported, free public education through four years of college for every academically qualified student, with technical and craft schools a valid option.
Most of all I would like to have Romney and Obama say what they mean, and mean what they say, without spouting soundbites meant to appeal to single-issue voters.