Given that primary season is rapidly approaching, gentle readers, I decided to dedicate this post to some political thoughts. There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about political candidates, and I am a firm believer in not telling you how to vote, although I will tell you how I intend to vote in the California primary when I write up my voting guide in February. If you are eligible to vote in a primary, I want you to do your research, to think critically about the candidates, and to make a choice based on informed information. Don’t listen to what anyone tells you. Make your own decisions; this post isn’t going to tell you who to support, and why, I simply want to tell you about the things that I think about when I look at candidates for the Presidency.

I hope that my thoughts get you thinking, and I wouldn’t mind hearing some of yours. I believe in establishing clear, rational reasons for voting in a particular way, and in being able to back those reasons up with sound logic. I wish that more voters felt this way, that campaign spending was curtailed, that people made choices on the basis of who a candidate is, rather than what the other candidate says in an ad.

Like everyone else, I have an assortment of issues which are especially important to me: gender, the war, health care, and the environment are the big four for me. “Gender” is a pretty big label, so I thought I would take a moment to define it, because I’m lumping a lot of things under that heading. It’s about freedom of gender expression, equal rights for people of all genders and sexual orientations, and control over your own body. I believe in the right to choose, I believe in the freedom to marry, and I look for candidates who share these beliefs with me, or who are at least open to them.

As you might have guessed, I am opposed to the war, I support universal health care, and I would like the environment to not be broken, which requires taking some responsibility, as a nation. I also lump my concerns about the agriculture industry in with “environment,” since farming is very much tied in with the health of our environment.

When I evaluate candidates, I prefer to look at what they do, rather than what they say. If you haven’t followed any of my numerous links to Project Vote Smart before, I recommend that you do so now. The project has complete voting records for the candidates, along with profiles, speeches, and NPAT results, for candidates who took the political courage test. Incidentally, out of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, the three major Democratic candidates, only Edwards took the test. None of the major Republicans have taken it, including that rebel web darling gynecologist Ron Paul.

If you actually start researching voting records, you may come up with a nasty surprise: Edwards, Obama, and Clinton regularly fail to show up for votes, especially on contentious issues. In some cases, they merely mark themselves present, and in others, they just plain aren’t there. This is a source of constant irritation to me, and it should be to you, as well, especially if you live in a district which is represented by one of these candidates (Edwards is not currently in the legislature, but there are a lot of “NVs” on his record from his previous term). Not only are these candidates failing to represent their districts, they are also failing to take a stance on major issues, and that is not acceptable to me.

Kucinich, my personal favourite of the Democrats, shows up reasonably regularly, and he has a lengthy voting record. That’s a point in his favor; he’s obviously not afraid to alienate some potential voters because he’s committed to doing his job, which involves voting on pieces of legislature which shape the form of our nation.

Among the Republicans, Romney, Giuliani, and Huckabee have no voting records because they have never been legislators. Both McCain and Paul show up and vote on a fairly regular basis, which is encouraging, even though I don’t necessarily agree with all of their votes. Only Paul bothered to cast a vote on a Farm Bill; a NO, I note.

Courage is as important to me as a position on issues which matter. The Republican candidates are all so awful that I’m only really considering the Democrats. Kucinich at least backs up what he says with his voting record; it’s harder for me to gauge Clinton, Obama, and Edwards because they haven’t provided me with enough information. I cannot in good conscience support a candidate who cannot back up the lofty claims of speeches with action. Especially when candidates waffle on major issues.

When I talk about waffling, I’m not talking about a change in opinion. I think that a change in opinion is entirely reasonable, and it makes a candidate more human for me. It shows that the candidate is willing to rethink issues and that the candidate is not afraid to be public about changing personal views. We all make mistakes, we all rush to decisions and later regret them, and I think the politicians are only human. If you supported the war before and you don’t now, and you don’t in a clear, public way, bully for you.

Waffling, to me, indicates a failure to commit. It’s not the candidate is changing his or her opinion, it’s that no clear opinion has been stated. The candidate is clearly afraid of losing votes on one side or the other over an issue, and that shows weakness for me. I want a candidate who is committed, firm, and clear, not someone who is too afraid to speak up about an issue that matters.

The President is a figurehead, but a figurehead with powers. I do not want to vest the powers of the Presidency in someone who is a pussy; I would rather vote for a candidate who disagreed with me on some points than a candidate with unclear views, because at least I know what I’m getting. How come no one is running on the “I’m not a weenie” platform?