mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Democratic Presidential Candidates and the Space Program

As readers here know, despite my being very involved in local politics I don't often post about politics on my blog. The main reason I don't is that it can be far too easy for political discussion to cross the line from informative respectful disagreement to personal attacks.

However, as of yesterday I find myself in something of a bind. Next Tuesday I'm voting in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary, and the candidate I was planning to vote for, John Edwards, has dropped out of the race.

When people asked me why I was voting for Edwards, I usually responded with the following joke: it's about time a Christian white male had a chance at the presidency. The fact that a major party's presidential candidate is going to be either a woman or an African-American, and that most of the country casually accepts this achievement, is a wonderful thing. I haven't been this excited since the election of 1872. (What happened in 1872, you ask? Go look it up. I'll wait. If you can't find anything on your first search, try the name "Victoria Woodhull.")

Despite the obvious excitement and intensity Clinton's and Obama's supporters have for their chosen candidates, however, I was most interested in Edwards's populist, anti-poverty message. Yes, I know he's rich and has his flaws; so do all the candidates. But I was impressed with his stand on certain issues and the way he presented himself. In particular, I was pleased to hear about how he addressed the Writer's Guild of America in person during not just one, but two of their rallies. Union support runs deep in me ever since my father died while he was on strike and the union took care of us; it's an emotional connection that I will never shake.

So Edwards was the candidate I had chosen to support, and now he's gone. And I find myself with the dilemma of deciding who to vote for next week, Clinton or Obama. On most of the issues that I've been following, there's nothing to help me differentiate between the two of them. So I decided to do what any self-respecting science-fiction writer would do, and judge them based on their proposed plans for space exploration.

There doesn't seem to be much out there, but I have found two relevant documents so far. First, there is Barack Obama's Plan for American Leadership in Space, released three weeks ago. According to the document, Obama supports the development of the Orion CEV and completion of the International Space Station. He also supports more robotic missions and enhanced science and mathematics education here on Earth. But nowhere in this statement does he speak to the question of manned missions. I want to see humans return to the moon in my lifetime, and I want to see the beginnings of a mission to Mars. On both of those, Obama's statement is disturbingly silent.

Sadly, though, Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to be that interested in my core issues either. In her October press release, Ending the War on Science, Clinton does say that she'll take what I consider a better approach towards supporting science and scientific research than the current administration. But while she says she is committed to the same things Obama mentions (she just uses different language), and she refers to "future human exploration," again there is no specific mention of manned missions to either the moon or Mars.

So in the end, I'm still a newly-minted undecided voter. If anyone out there can give me good reasons to support either candidate over the other, based upon the core issues of manned space exploration, I'd like to know.

Per aspera ad astra.
Tags: history, personal, politics, science, space

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