I think the best way to describe myself as a political person is as a pragmatic progressive. Candidates invariably disappoint me by selling out some constituency or position that's important to me, and yet I support them at the ballot box because they're better than the alternative. To this day, the happiest vote I ever cast in a non-primary election was in the mayoral election in San Francisco in 2004--my options were Green Party candidate Matt Gonzales and centrist (for San Francisco) Democrat Gavin Newsom.
This is especially the case when it comes to national candidates. I'm never going to really be excited about a candidate who has a chance to win because I know that I'm outside the mainstream of political thought in the US. I want a more socialist economic structure. I'd like a parliamentary system to replace our Congress. I want the federal government to fully separate from religion, including removing "under God" from the pledge and "In God We Trust" from money. Universal health care (not insurance), decriminalizing marijuana use, rehab instead of jail time, green energy, no offshore drilling, an end to discrimination on any basis--you name it, I'm pretty much to the left of the country's position. So when it comes to national candidates, I always choose the one who isn't necessarily good, but is better than the other one who has a chance to win--that's the pragmatism.
Here's what I'm talking about in a specific case. Here's an article on the various problems that John McCain and Barack Obama have had with the American Muslim community lately. A McCain spokesman, Bud Day, fresh from his lying attacks against John Kerry in 2004, said the following:
One of John McCain's fellow Vietnam POWs compared Muslims to terrorists during a defense of the Iraq War on Friday, saying "The Muslims have said either we kneel or they're going to kill us."....A party spokesperson later said that Day meant to say terrorists and Muslim just came out by accident. Right. I think that it speaks to McCain's character that he has Bud Day as an open ally now considering that in 2004 he angrily denounced the smear job the Swift-Boaters did on Kerry.
He added: "I don't intend to kneel and I don't advocate to anybody that we kneel, and John doesn't advocate to anybody that we kneel."
Obama has a problem with American Muslims as well--I've written about them--but his problem isn't that he's using "Muslim" as a synonym for "terrorist." It's that he's not embracing them closely enough, and not standing strongly enough against the use of Muslim as a slur. Not good--Obama should be pointing out loudly that there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim, if that's your decision--but better than the alternative, which is that Muslim = terrorist. On every issue I've looked at, this is the case--Obama isn't good, per se, but he is unquestionably better than the other options.