by Igor Luzhansky, 4/16/08 • Three Sixty • For most of my life I was never very interested in politics, and neither were most of my friends. I was much more interested in ancient history, origami, and biology. But during my junior year in high school, I realized that I would be old enough to vote in the 2008 election, and I started to think about the issues and my vote.
This blog was written for Three Sixty, a youth journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is reprinted with permission from Three Sixty.
I did not initially have strong political convictions about anything, or if I did, I did not think of them as political. So I began to shop around: At the beginning of eleventh grade, I signed up to join both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs. We talked about a lot of issues, ranging from the war in Iraq to policies on abortion and the environment.
Most people in Young Democrats and many in Young Republicans talked about how it was a mistake to go into Iraq in the first place. I recalled that, in eighth grade, I was completely bewildered as to how the U.S. made the switch from Afghanistan and Al-Qaida to Iraq. I began to agree.
But, many Young Republicans contended, it wouldn’t be right to leave Iraq within a couple of years if the “job wasn’t done.” This was probably the first issue about which I formed a definite opinion. Unpopular battles needed to be fought too in order to win the war. To leave very soon, I reasoned, would be to leave both Iraq and the U.S. in worse shape than before the invasion. That was the main reason that I supported measures like the troop surge.
Much more than the war in Iraq, I had been ready to discuss social issues with my peers. I grew up with what I would describe as fairly strong moral and family values. My family is not incredibly religious, but what spiritual values I learned helped me to decide where I stood on issues such as abortion and the death penalty.
Most people, at least in the U.S., would describe my stances on these issues as fairly conservative. But I support things like gun control, stem cell research, and positive environmental policy. I want what’s best for our society.
The hardest issue to decide has been gay marriage. On one hand, I like to think that marriage as an institution should be protected. On the other, I accept that homosexuality is innate and think that it would be unfair to penalize gays that way. I’m still trying to decide.
Money and fiscal policy was something that my friends didn’t discuss as much as other issues, maybe because they liked discussing ethics and philosophy more than economics, which I think many people don’t understand. One of the most contentious issues was universal health care. It took a long time for me to side with one camp, but eventually I was convinced that there were market-based solutions for the “health care crisis.” It was soon after siding with Young Republicans on that issue that I stopped attending Young Democrats meetings.
As caucus time neared, my friends and peers (but not my family as much) began to discuss and debate the election and the candidates. While writing college application essays and worrying about first-semester grades during my senior year, I thought about the candidates. To me it seemed like most of the Republican presidential candidates had views similar to each other. In the end, my decision was based on my opinions about the war in Iraq, some social issues like gun control, and protecting the environment.
I voted for John McCain. His stances on issues matched mine most closely. In addition, I was attracted to his very strong character. I feel that the extreme hardships that he faced during his time in the military (his hair turned from black to snow-white because of the stress from injuries and torture) gave him, to some extent, an ability to identify with people in difficult situations. Overall, I think that he would be the best candidate for president.
Thankfully, McCain won the nomination and the Republican Party is not so divided as is the Democratic Party. As the November election draws near, I plan to vote for McCain again. Like everyone, I hope for the best outcome.
Igor Luzhansky is a senior at Eden Prairie High School.