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By Fuskie
November 7, 2006

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Have you been inundated with automatically-dialed phone calls, dead trees arriving at your doorstep in the form of political mailers, and numbed by negative ads? Have you given up on tracking your candidates because you just can't stomach the campaigns? It is still important that you vote, however, so here I present Fuskie's Last Minute Election Guide, your comprehensive, reasonably unbiased look at the issues facing you at the voting booth. Vote conservative, vote progressive, vote independent. But please, just vote.

Let's start with the issues. What is driving the political parties, as Democrats seek to regain control of the House and Senate and thwart President Bush's final two years and Republicans work to hang onto power everyone jostles for position in the 2008 Presidential race? Here are the top five issues driving voter interest according to CNN.Com.

The Iraq War

Political pundits tell us this is the big one, the issue that most interests voters and upon which political fortunes may depend. 64% of Americans polled a few weeks ago by the Opinion Research Corporation opposed the war, and 72% considered the Iraq war to be a very or extremely important issue. Whether it be nearly 3000 American soldiers dead, sectarian violence spreading and threatening full scale civil war, or distrust of the current administration over why we went to war, how the war addresses terrorism fears, profiting by private contractors like Halliburton, and whether the government has a reasonable plan to bring the war to a successful resolution, everyone has an opinion and political candidates want you to know they share yours. Republicans know that patience is wearing thin, resulting in President Bush recent decision to stop promoting his "Stay The Course" strategy. Democrats promise a "New Direction" but are not in agreement over what that direction is. With Saddam Hussein's recent conviction and death sentence, the violence has been re-energized with American troops in the middle trying to prop up a paralyzed fledgling government. More than anything, who has the right answer to Iraq could drive this election.

To learn more about how Congress as voted on Iraq, visit:

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/iraq/

The Economy

In the 90's, it was "The Economy, Stupid!" Gas prices have come down from summer highs, but should we really be grateful that a gallon is under $3 now? According to Gallup surveys, a majority of Americans think the economy is poor or only fair. Last summer, 70% thought conditions were getting worse. The Bush administration points to a low unemployment rate and 5.5 million new jobs since August 2003 as evidence tax cuts have been working. Democrats point out that more jobs have been lost under the Bush presidency than have been created, and claim the low unemployment indicates not recovery but the unemployed giving up. Healthcare costs remain a concern as are energy costs and stagnant wages. The President's call for energy independence will not provide immediate benefit to struggling families. Tighter bankruptcy laws and increased consumer debt, falling housing values and families locked into unfavorable variable rate loans, a lack of savings and fresh scandals in the corporate world contribute to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

To learn more about how Congress voted on the Economy, visit:

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/economy/

Terrorism

The horror of 9/11 remains fresh on America's consciousness after 5 years, but where we were once united behind the President in our support for action against terrorists, the political lines are clearly split today. While 43% responding to a Opinion Research Corporation poll lost August believe America is safer, a quarter of Americans feel less safe. The public still thinks Republicans can do a better job fighting terrorism than Democrats, but the margin has narrowed as polls also indicate that Americans do not think Republicans are more likely to stop another attack than Democrats. Current events keep terror hot on the public's radar, but how to deal with the threat has become a struggle on how to ensure constitutionally protected civil liberties with the need to develop the intelligence that can stop future attacks. From controversies over warrant less wiretapping, phone call pattern analysis, indefinite detention without representation, torture guidelines, air traffic safety and security of water and food supplies, nuclear facilities and ports and borders, American opinion all over the board. President Bush never misses an opportunity to link the War in Iraq to the War against Terrorism, while the Democrats point the finger at insecurities back home. One thing is for sure, though, a September poll concludes is that terrorism is not important to only 5% of Americans as they vote for Congress.

To learn more about how Congress voted on Terrorism, visit:

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/terrorism/

Immigration

Emotions on immigration reform are high, with the President being opposed in part by his own political party, with sides being drawn within Congress by the House and Senate. The Senate, supported by the President, wants a guest worker program that recognizes the economic contribution of illegal immigrants while the House wants to throw out anyone who enters the country illegally. The closest thing to a compromise to come out of Washington was approval for a 700 mile fence for which there is no funding for construction. Minute Men civilian units are either vigilantes or vigilant depending on your point of view. Many Hispanic leaders blister at the labeling of illegal immigrants as a threat to the nation, arguing out that the millions of workers who toil in fields and in factories off the books for below minimum wage are the backbone of the American economy, and that the real threats are non-neighbors using porous borders to infiltrate the country with illegal drugs and terror. In Washington, it seems that not taking action was safer politically than the alternative.

To learn more about how Congress voted on Immigration, visit:

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/immigration/

Moral Issues

Moral issues are also known as "Get Out The Vote" issues. They have been successful in the past for Republicans to energize their conservative base to fight against so-called activist judges and clamp down on progressive issues such as same sex marriage, gambling, crime and punishment, and stem-cell research. Strategists may argue the effectiveness of motivating voters to the polls by pushing moral agendas, but that hasn't stopped both parties from leveraging their issues. The Republican American Values Agenda seeks to ban embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage and flag burning, a platform Democrats say is designed to distract Americans from rising healthcare costs and stagnant wages. Only 43% of Americans consider same-sex marriage very or extremely important to their vote for Congress based on an August poll by Opinion Research Corporation, an issue likely to be energized by the recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing some form of same sex union with equal rights to heterosexual marriage. Likewise, the issue of embryonic stem-cell research has been galvanized by the Rush Limbaugh's criticism of Michael J. Fox who has allowed his Parkinson's disease to be publicly seen as he supports candidates in favor of allowing federal funding for research that could lead to a cure for his and many other diseases. The issue of abortion will continue to be a hot topic as conservative states attempt to legislate paths around Roe vs. Wade. However, recent revelations of immorality among religious conservatives such as Mark Foley and Ted Haggard, and questionable ethics and corruption of connected to Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff have clouded the landscape of moral superiority.

FuskiesNote: On a personal note, I am strongly in favor of embryonic stem cell research and take this opportunity to urge you to support candidates and initiative that support allowing medical researchers the freedom to find cures for diabetes, spinal injuries, nervous disorders and more. The reality is that breakthroughs in medical science are not always planned but are the result of unrelated research and experimentation. As for the moral issue, the frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization patience that would serve as new lines for research are offered to science by their owners and slated for otherwise disposal. I am equally opposed to cloning, and think attempts to cloud the issue by equating stem cell research to cloning are disingenuous and just plain wrong.

To learn more about how Congress voted on moral issues, visit:

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2006/special/issues/moral.issues/

Coming up next, a state by state look at national ballots.

Fuskie
Who does not care who you vote for, as long as you vote your conscience...


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