Michael Franti
Michael Franti is the lead vocalist for Michael Franti & Spearhead. Their most recent album is The Sound of Sunshine.

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REASON 83: I’m an idealist in my personal life, but a pragmatist when it comes to presidential politics. I don’t believe any president can solve all our nation’s problems, but I feel Obama is closer to my opinions than Romney.

I have two criteria for choosing a presidential candidate to vote for.

1. Do I GENERALLY agree with their principles more than the other candidate’s?
2. Does my candidate’s party have votes in the U.S. Congress and Senate?

I’m an idealist in my personal life, but a pragmatist when it comes to presidential politics. I don't believe any president of the United States can solve all our nation’s problems, or should be called upon to meet all of my personal expectations. There are over 300 million people in our country, so the chance that the prez is going to please all of us all the time is ridiculously slim. Newsflash: presidents disappoint! So when it comes to presidential elections, I vote for the candidate whose ideas I GENERALLY agree with more than the other candidate. I don’t vote for Superman (who never fails), a Supreme Ruler (who always gets what they want), or Santa Claus (who always gets me what I want). I vote for the person who I think might (emphasis on the “might”) steer things economically, socially, and geopolitically in the direction I hope to see.

So here are some important issues to me. They’re not listed in order, and these aren’t all of them:

-We should end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
-Wealthy people and corporations should carry a greater tax load than they currently do, and middle-class people should receive a reduction.
-Freedom of marriage for ALL people.
-We should preserve a woman’s right to choose.
-We should increase spending for education.
-All citizens should have access to affordable health care.
-Prosecution of Wall Street criminals.
-Legalize marijuana.
-Campaign finance reform (put an end to super PACs).
-Make environmental sustainability a national priority.
-We should end all bombing of other countries (we didn't like it when it happened to us).
-Create a Department of Peace.
-Bring back music and arts education in public schools.

On all of these issues I feel Obama is CLOSER to my opinion than Romney. This does not mean I agree with everything Obama does or has done. For example, I want to see an immediate end to drone attacks in Pakistan and an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and economic development for the Afghan people — especially aid for schools. Obama says he wants to end the Afghan war in 2014; Romney says he sees no reason for a deadline.

To my second point: Once a president gets elected, their ability to accomplish their goals is largely based upon how many votes they have in Congress and the Senate. If their party doesn’t have the votes, it’s doubtful that any of their legislation will ever get passed. It's as simple as that. This is why as much as I might personally love a candidate whose ideals are closer to mine, I don’t spend my vote on a third-party presidential candidate whose party has zero votes on Capitol Hill. I save that idealistic kind of vote for primary elections, local elections, or “liking” a kitten video on YouTube.

All of us have an opportunity to make the world a better place, regardless of who gets elected. Don’t leave it to politicians, get out there and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE. We need everybody to tackle the world’s problems. The best science has to offer, the wisdom of indigenous nations, the common sense of everyday people, non-governmental organizations, the resources of the corporate world, the cooperation of governments, the spending power of consumers, and the commitment, creativity, and enthusiasm of all generations.

If you disagree with some or all of my beliefs, I’m okay with that. We all come from different lives and experiences and have different dreams and values. That is why I never suggest to others that they vote for the candidate that I like. Rather, I always say be the most well-informed voter you can be, show up on Election Day, and vote for whomever you want. I hope everyone reading this does just that.

Michael Franti
 San Francisco, California


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