After seven years of the Bush regime, a long-awaited replacement at the White House and a new vision for America is only 375 days away. Across our country, there is a growing recognition that the Bush administration’s shortsighted approach to policy has further entrenched America in political divisiveness, advantaged America’s wealthiest people at the expense of its less fortunate and brought our nation into an unnecessary and internationally embarrassing war in Iraq. The damages are being billed to our generation. In this year’s upcoming primary elections, we have an opportunity to support candidates who can change this destructive course.

While making a difference in a primary election is usually as simple as punching a ballot for the best candidate or candidates, the situation in Michigan this year has practically stripped voters here of their say. Chastised by the national Democratic and Republican Parties for challenging the unfairness of the current nominating process, Michigan now has an incomplete list of candidates on a Democratic ballot that has no power at the Democratic National Convention and a Republican ballot with half its usual convention strength. This is an insult to Michigan voters from the national parties, not necessarily the candidates, who can’t be blamed for the parties’ politicking.

No matter how insulting the diminished ballot is to voters and despite the obstacles, it shouldn’t keep them from voting. Although it would usually be incumbent of all University students to vote here in Ann Arbor, where their votes would emphasize the student voice, this election is the exception. Out-of-state students should vote absentee in their home states, where all of the candidates will be on the Democratic ballot and all of the delegates are still promised (with the exception of Florida). However, in-state students must work within this year’s unique confines, using the option of voting uncommitted to cast a ballot for those Democratic candidates not on the ballot. Voters cannot write in the major candidates not on the ballot because these votes will not count.

In the Democratic field of candidates, there is a clear understanding among all of the candidates that the incompetence of the Bush administration must be ended. Similarly, the policy discussions among the Democratic candidates advocating universal health care, a more equal distribution of wealth, withdrawal from Iraq and American respect for human rights are characterized by small differences within fundamentally similar policies – all of which are needed. For this reason, students should choose to vote in Democratic primaries, even in Michigan where the national party has snubbed its members.

However, not all of the major Democratic candidates are the same. Hillary Clinton, who will be the only major Democratic candidate on the Michigan ballot, is an experienced but divisive candidate, who would compromise the passage of the policies she advocates. Furthermore, Clinton hasn’t argued strongly against the troubles of excessive executive power, only the executive behind it. While John Edwards, who will not be on the Michigan ballot, has been at the forefront of much of the policy debate and prides himself on being the “champion for regular people”, he also prides himself on fighting a partisan fight against his opponents.

Among the Democrats, the candidate best able to bring progress and innovation to our country is Barack Obama. Although he hasn’t been in the national spotlight as long as his Democratic competitors, Obama has valuable experience outside of the political sphere as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer and lecturer in constitutional law. He is a candidate who has built a career on overcoming the partisan polarity that threatens our country, working across the aisle to create or support legislation on ethics, health care reform, welfare reform and tax credits for low-income workers. He is inspiring and convincing, two qualities necessary to persuade, not manipulate, Americans into supporting his progressive policies.

The Daily endorses BARACK OBAMA in the Democratic presidential primary for those voting outside of Michigan. Because Obama is not on the Michigan ballot, the Daily endorses a vote of UNCOMMITTED for those voting in Michigan.

Sadly, most of the Republicans in this year’s primary are stuck in the Bush-Cheney way, pandering to Christian evangelicals, supporting the war in Iraq at all costs and changing little of what has been instituted in the last seven years, especially the dramatic expansion of executive power. In an election where the American people are calling for something different, the Republican candidates fall short of answering this call. They also fall short of our values. For this reason, we implore students to vote first in the Democratic primary. However, if students choose to take the misguided approach of voting only in the Republican primary, they should make an informed choice as well.

In the Republican pack of candidates, there are few standout leaders. Mitt Romney, a candidate with ties to Michigan through his father George Romney and Bloomfield Hills upbringing, lacks the moderate ideology that made his father a popular governor in Michigan during the 1960s. Instead, Romney has been a malleable candidate, bending to appease the most powerful voting blocs. The same goes for Rudy Giuliani, who has exploited the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and America’s fear of terrorism to fuel his campaign. Mike Huckabee, who may have strong character, has little understanding of policy. Ron Paul, who sometimes stumbles onto policies we agree with, uses a narrow ideology to reach these conclusions that would do far more harm than good.

While he is guilty of some of the same electoral pandering as Giuliani and Romney, John McCain is still the Republican candidate with whom this page’s views most align. A man of principle, McCain often has unpopular views, but at least they are consistent and based on an ideology open to hearing out his opposition. His experience in the U.S. Senate, speaking out against the inhumane use of torture and pushing through the desperately needed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, is a proven testament to these qualities and potential to be a refreshing change from President Bush. McCain is not an extreme ideologue. This makes him responsive to the needs of the American people. McCain is most importantly an innovator and leader among a Republican pack of status-quo politicians.

The Daily endorses JOHN MCCAIN in the Republican presidential primary.

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