Before I voted for the first time, I imagined that I would, that I could, only vote for someone with identical views to mine. Of course, the reality, I soon discovered, is that there just aren't that many candidates out there who match my views closely, let alone completely. And then, as I realized after my first presidential primary, those candidates are unlikely to make it past the early rounds. So I've become a little more realistic and try to weigh viability with my most important issues.
While I like to think of myself as carefully considering all of a candidate's stances, there are three issues that get my immediate scrutiny: gay and lesbian rights, the environment, and education. Certainly that has been my approach in deciding to support John Edwards.
I should start by admitting that I pretty much limited myself to Clinton, Obama, and Edwards from the start. Kucinich probably matches my views most closely, especially on gay marriage and the environment, but I see him as more effective in the gadfly role than as president. None of the others either inspire me or have a realistic shot in my view.
As important as education is to me, I have not been focusing on it too much at this point. Whether or not they specifically name "No Child Left Behind," they allude to the need to reform the current set up. Plus the standard support teachers, be it with increased salaries or other improvements--I'm all for that, especially since I still haven't ruled out teaching in a public school.
So that leaves the environment and gay rights.
In my opinion, Edwards has the strongest environmental stance of the big three. His statement articulates a number of areas for improvement and then he outlines concrete steps towards these improvements. Clinton and Obama both say all of the correct things, but neither gives a lot of details or goes beyond the party line.
But the deciding factor, the moment I can pinpoint, comes from the discussion on gay rights. A few months ago, General Pace, the top military officer in the US, said that homosexuality is immoral. He later sort-of apologized, saying that those were his personal views and should not have been aired in an official capacity. Both Clinton and Obama were asked if they thought homosexuality is immoral, in the context of Pace's comments. Their initial responses basically dodged the question; it wasn't until later that they took exception with the content of his remarks.
As this post points out, Edwards led with a remark similar to Clinton's eventual backtrack:
I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple.Neither candidate used a "gay" word, but this was Edward's initial response, not his "spin."
Similarly on gay marriage, Clinton and Obama both give the party line, "I support civil unions, but not full marriage." Both responses struck me as the party line and nothing more. And? Try to find that information on their issues page. It's not there.
While Edwards essentially has the same stance, his statement feels more genuine. He admits that he personally is conflicted about terming it "marriage." But he also recognizes that this is primarily a semantic issue, that the current federal restriction of the "Defense of Marriage Act" should be removed, and that same-sex couples deserve the same rights as married couples. He also has made it clear that he wants a federal non-discrimination act for gays in the workplace, an end to "don't ask, don't tell," and no restrictions on adoption based solely on sexual orientation. How do I know this? Because Edwards has an LGBT category on his issues list.
So that's why there's an Edwards 2008 magnet on my car now.
(There are additional reasons I ruled out other candidates, but I didn't want to go down the negative path... yet. I may reconsider.)