Thursday, January 24, 2008

How the politics has changed...

I was reading a piece contrasting Barack Obama's presidential bid to that of Jesse Jackson's in 80's, and this line kind of stuck out. However, since Florida's Democratic primary counts for nought, I started concentrating a bit on the local races, the ones for Gainesville city commission and all that. This would be my first time voting in Unites States, after expressing my opinion in different Indian polls a few times. Obviously the Democratic no show dilutes it significantly, but looking at those local races and trying to decide, I realized how the decision making process for me has changed from Indian elections.

Back in India, there were mostly no decisions to be made. Either we opposed a political party vehemently, or supported it wholeheartedly, and that rarely had very little to do with that party's stance on issues. That carried over from campus polls to the parliamentary polls, with everything in between. Most of the times, we did not even need to know who the candidates were, we just looked at his party affiliation and voted. I plead guilty of the same offence, that's how I voted for candidates mostly, without knowing who they are or what are their qualifications. Only once, in college poll, I realized I cant stand the guys who were opposing the party I oppose, so left the ballot blank. But other than that one aberration., it was never a decision. And I know its true for most people back there.

To my surprise, I realized, here I am looking at each candidates stand on issues that affect me. Let me give a real example - for a city commission seat, for which I am going to vote this Tuesday, there are three candidates. One is an ex-business owner, tauting her long involvement and experience with the city and her goals are to be selective about giving tax break to developers, improving the the bus system, decrease neighborhood tensions between long-term homeowners and student renters. The second one is a professor of economics and government in a local college, and his main aim is to invite emerging businesses, such as biotechnology and clean energy research firms in the city, and is counting on the support of the student population. The last candidate is also a successful local entrepreneur, and have pretty much the same goals, attracting high paying jobs to the city, promoting social programs for the needy, like vocational training and affordable housing, and being careful in giving tax breaks to companies.

Funny thing is I do not even know who who comes from which party- although I am sure it wont be too difficult to find out. Rather I chose to focus on the agenda. All of them have sensible platforms - but I was tempted to go with the third guy, probably because of his social programs for the needy bit, since homelessness is becoming a growing problem here, and as we all know, that breeds crime. But I saw he proclaims that his vision is to would turn the city into the next "Orlando, Jacksonville or Tampa", which are the nearby big cities. That immediately turned me off. Why? I like Gainesville to be this little big campus town, not a frantic big city where campus is just a part of it. So that reduced my options, and I decided I would go for the professor, partly because I am biased towards those in academia, and partly because I don't trust entrepreneurs. That is probably not the most objective selection, but at least I decided based on who they are and what they want. That's a big change by itself.

(With input from Alligator, the campus newspaper.)

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