How to learn about the platforms of US political candidates.
January 7, 2008 8:22 AM   Subscribe

US Politics: how do you get information about the actual platforms of the candidates in a race? All I see is blather about their poll numbers and haircuts.

I generally read the NY Times for news, but I'm fed up with their political coverage. It's all about image — who needs to impress who, who's attacking who over what — and I just don't care. I want intelligent discussion of the issues and the candidates' stances on them.

Political blogs, the few that I've tried to follow, have been even worse on that count. They've had lots of minutiae on the squabbles between candidates — who was lying when they accused who of concealing what kind of support for which organization that had ties to who when — but very little of the big picture, and very little talk of anyone's actual position. Plus, most of them are shamelessly partisan, which is a problem as far as I'm concerned: if I'm reading about, say, Giuliani, I want to know what he actually stands for, and not what a Ron Paul supporter would caricature him as standing for.

What I'm looking for is a discussion of the candidates' actual platforms, ideally with some historical context and analysis from people who understand this stuff. I don't care about anyone's image, ad budget, poll numbers, "momentum," wardrobe, hairstyle, or choice of pets.

As far as specific issues go, I'm interested in your pretty typical lefty stuff: energy and the environment, civil liberties, foreign policy, health care. But I also don't mind reading about other issues. If one of the candidates has a brilliant idea on how to deal with, I dunno, mortgages or diabetes or steel tariffs, I'd be happy to read a good explanation of what it is and why it matters.
posted by nebulawindphone to Law & Government (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that sources of similar information on Texas or Austin politics would be good too. I just moved here, and I'm finding local politics to be completely incomprehensible without the 20-plus years of backstory that you accumulate when you grow up somewhere.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2008 has some good information.
posted by bobot at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can also visit their websites, which have positions on issues.
posted by Pants! at 8:34 AM on January 7, 2008

Project Vote Smart also has in-depth coverage of each candidate's stance on issues.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:35 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Their official websites are pretty helpful. Every one I've seen has an "On the Issues" page with a lot of information available. (Obviously biased, but they do talk about the actual issues.)
posted by fogster at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You can also visit their websites, which have positions on issues.

I should clarify that I am looking for at least a thin layer of journalism — fact-checking if there are factual claims being made, comparison and analysis if there's stuff to compare and analyze, some explanation of how the technical stuff (reinsurance! wind turbines! international copyright law!) works. I guess I just want journalism that isn't so... fluffy. Does that exist nowadays, or do I need a time machine?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2008

The League of Women Voters–Austin Area publishes a Voter's Guide before every major election. The one for the next primary will be published by 19 February. It contains the responses of questionnaires sent to candidates at local and national levels on their platforms. Highly useful.

I'm going to punt on the national question because I'm sure there are people here who will have better answers than me. As for local coverage, the Chronicle has better politics coverage than the Statesman in my opinion. For a more in-depth, albeit left-leaning, look at Texas politics try The Texas Observer.

To really get a crash course on the Texas backstory, you'll probably need to read a book. The Gay Place is supposed to be a great book on Texas politics, although it is a fictionalized account.
posted by grouse at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2008

Yes yes YES to I recently discovered their website myself after years of frustration, and this website actually quotes candidates and has voting records and everything.
posted by booticon at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2008

I should clarify that I am looking for at least a thin layer of journalism

Well, the LWV guide won't have that. Wish I had previewed.
posted by grouse at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2008

this was interseting.
posted by beccaj at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2008

If you read political and policy magazines, you'll find what you're looking for. I read the New Republic, the American Prospect, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Nation for info and analysis of the candidates' policy proposals. The long form journalism printed in magazines gives writers the space to put things in historical context, too.
All of those magazines post their content online.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2008 is great although it definitely has that anti-republican slant.
posted by furtive at 9:10 AM on January 7, 2008

For hardcore Texas politics there is also Texas Weekly, but you have to pay to subscribe.
posted by mattbucher at 9:12 AM on January 7, 2008

The Beeb has a handy guide on the main campaign issues.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2008

On the Issues hasn't been updated since the 2006 elections.
posted by COD at 10:02 AM on January 7, 2008

Three recent AskMe threads asking essentially the same question(s):
Focus on the Issues.

Doing my homework.

Voter Education.
posted by ericb at 10:33 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

COD- that's simply not true. I spot-checked a few candidates, and all had quotes from 2007 (some as recent as Dec 2007).
posted by bobot at 10:52 AM on January 7, 2008

The best education I ever had in Texas politics was a single semester in my freshman college PoliSci class back in (yup) 1981. Aside from the basic grounding in the government structure and offices, it's surprising how many of the issues (school finance! highways! bidness-with-a-D!) are still pretty much the same. Is there a way you can audit a class at, lets say, ACC? It helps when the lecturer is an old raconteur-activist...

Speaking of which, the second-best education I had in Texas politics was sitting quietly in the corner and listening to my godmother (a county Democratic chair), her husband (a lawyer), her son (a future judge), and her other son (a future PoliSci professor) just talk, Nothing like a gravely smoky drawl (my godmother's) explaining where all the bodies were buried. I'm sorry I can't offer her to you, but I assure you that the major charm of Texas politics is the entertainment value of the bigger-than-life and wannabe-bigger-than-life personalities, their quirks and clashes.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:04 PM on January 7, 2008

There is also this book: A Voter's Guide to the 2008 Election.
posted by mattbucher at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2008

posted by Ervin at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2008

« Older Video games suddenly make me sick?   |   "I am a member of no organized political party..." Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.