Wanting to Believe

In a blog entry I wrote for work, I referenced a New York Times story about the presidential candidates’ health care plans. The basic point of the story was that we can’t trust that the numbers from either campaign will end up being true. Both are probably being rosy in their estimates and too critical of their opponents.

The key paragraph, though, was one I thought bears true to issues far beyond health care:

A number of economists said voters would be wise to simply tune out all of the competing numbers and focus instead on the philosophical underpinnings of the candidates’ plans. Indeed, Dr. Reinhardt offered voters the same instruction he delivers to his students, that economics as practiced in the political arena is often “just ideology marketed in the guise of science.”

After the election, at the other blog, I plan to offer a discussion about the topic of “wanting to believe.” It’s probably true that both candidates are making promises too bold about a lot of their plans. But plans, once implemented, can be tweaked. We can predict disaster and to some degree we’re in an economic one now. In reality, though, both plans might work, and both plans will certainly have unintended consequences. So you get to the core question of which one you would rather have be the one put in place, with the consequences being a secondary matter.

It explains why many of my friends send me anti-Obama stuff that is obviously false within the first few sentences, but only to those who either want to find the fallacy or at least don’t implicitly believe it because it came from a friend. The same is true for much of the anti-McCain stuff I have heard during the campaign, the worst of it from Republicans themselves. Or there’s the screed against journalism by Orson Scott Card, who repeats the standard bullet points of Republicans seeking a way to make Democrats alone guilty of the financial crisis. It doesn’t take long to discover that politicians generally played a role, politicians of both ranks. I haven’t studied the meltdown enough to speak authoritatively, but I’ve read enough to know that there’s a wide swath of accountability for this, including on my own shoulders for taking on as much debt as I did. But folks interested in winning aren’t interested in that.

What I want is for a large group of Americans to admit that they’re voting for their candidate not because the one guy is a Muslim or the other guy is crazy and old. I want voters to say I agree more with the one guy’s politics, and then admit it makes them more likely to believe the garbage about the other guy. Only then can someone who saw the Reagan years as golden not blanche when someone talks about how wrong the 1980s were. It will be then that a liberal can not take offense when a conservative considers Obama’s policies akin to socialism. Those beliefs are based on core philosophies.

Part of the reason I’m voting for the candidate I’m voting for is because I want to believe his policies will be better than the ones from the other guy. All the while I’m wanting to believe the other guy is at his core a good man and would be revolted to think he could harm this country. This wanting to believe of mine comes with the caveat that I recognize an illness in anyone who wants to be president, only because I’ve probably seen signs of illness in myself. Nonetheless, I think politicians are capable of overcoming their own egos, and in this election I have high hopes for both contenders.

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