Monday, October 27, 2008

Garden Paths, Or Why Andrew Sullivan Needs Better Reading

I really don't get the point of these posts from Crash Landing. They're intended as thought experiments to point out potential flaws in a Obama presidency, which has it's place as the voting public makes their decision as to whom the next president is. But that's not the point of Bob Murphy's posts. The question asked--what would a President Obama have to do to make you regret your support for him--verges on the absurd of 'what ifs'. Yes, I suppose if a President Obama decided to nuke Iran that would make me regret my support for him. I would also regret buying a car with an engine that might explode two years later. Neither scenario is plausible under current known and expected conditions.
It's a mug's game since the whole point of the word 'regret' is that you expected one thing but were disappointed later on for some reason. Do I regret my expectation of a Bush presidency filled with smart advisers and an open-minded president? Yes, of course I do, but I went with what facts were available to me at the time. Is it possible for a President Obama to do the same? Yes, of course it is. And this brings me to my second problem with these two posts: the attitude that you have more than just two options in voting for president.
This is silly. If I want to vote in the current election then for all intents and purposes I only have the option of either Sen. Barak Obama or Sen. John McCain. One of these two men will become the next president. Realistically, there isn't another option, because we have a two-party system. Do I regret that? Yes, I do. I would like more options, but unless we get together and decide to put our efforts into creating a third, fourth or even fifth party then we're stuck with the system we have. Arguing otherwise is denying reality in hope that a magic pony will arrive with new political parties in tow.
What Murphy has done here is posit a couple of 'what if' questions that are meant to make the undecided even more undecided. If you want to push the issue, I'd say that this thought experiment is designed more for fear-mongering than serious thinking. Look, here's a site dedicated to listing all the possible disaster scenarios that could befall Earth. It's a great bit of fun reading, but even those disasters that have a fair to good chance of happening are so remote as to make worrying about them the same as worrying your nose might fall off your face. Should we question the capabilities of Sen. Obama as criteria for whether we give him our vote or not? Yes, do so, it's what you're supposed to do when voting for president. But asking what would it take for you to regret that decision before the election, before we see a President Obama in action, is a walk down the garden path. You will meet devils there, but only because that what you expect to see.