What Kind of Choice Is This?
Scientists have a reputation for being apolitical, for not caring what happens outside of their labs. You never see men in lab coats picketing Creationist-leaning schools, for instance, or (more usefully) making their voices heard to declare scientific literacy a basic life skill as valuable to self and country as reading or ’rithmetic. Living at MIT, it’s easy to see how the stereotype could be true; we students are often too busy to think about larger issues than the next Genetics (7.03) test. The scientific mindset is a likely cause of political apathy too. In the rational, humble mindset of science, there is no absolute Good and Bad, and every factual statement is followed by an asterisk and the words “... we think.”
For people who disdain quick, fake answers and doublethink, presidential politics looks noxious. This season we have three real choices: a fool, a liar, and a man who has no prayer of winning. There -- a quick answer!
Unless we can analyze each candidate’s position on every issue, and somehow know what fraction of those positions will survive the winner’s first hundred days in office, there’s no way to say which candidate will be best for this country. But one thing seems clear despite the mudslinging and rhetoric -- George Bush, Al Gore, and Ralph Nader will all find ways to increase the power of the federal government, at the expense of the liberty of all Americans. The only question is how each one will do so.
Bush and Gore are clearly not the ideal men to represent their parties. Gore is stained by Bill Clinton’s legacy, while Bush represents the worst aspect of Republicanism, as a good ol’ boy who inherited wealth and power instead of earning them. (Bush is a Republican Kennedy.) And yet they are the only candidates who have a significant share of national popularity to get elected. It’s nice that Nader represents an alternative to the Big Two parties, but the nature of that alternative is largely just more big government. Construction laws to “stop the malling of America” (some of us happen to like suburbia, and our freedom to live there); a “living wage” (read: massively increased minimum wage) and taxation as a dual system for letting government decide the proper standard of living for all Americans; and long government-mandated vacations to further help our unemployment rate resemble Europe’s ... this is the Nader Alternative.
There’s no clear choice in this election, no one who is personally respectable and who has a set of principles supporting individual freedom and limited government. In the absence of a convincing argument from any side, the best option is to admit we don’t know we can trust any of these men, and cast a vote for the closest thing we have to a worthwhile candidate ... I think.