Field of Science

Caucus Conundrum: Considering Compelling Candidates

For those of you still tuned in, thanks. I hope to have some more science content to share in the coming year...

In the meantime, the Iowa Caucus is weighing heavily on me—at least for the next three days. I'm uncommitted so-far, and that is weird for me. I'm usually a man of strong opinion and steady conviction... But none of the candidates (Democrats, of course) are floating my boat this time around. Perhaps it's because I'd vote and probably even campaign for any of them in November. I just don't see huge differences among them.

Politically, Dennis Kucinich is closest to my convictions as was re-iterated by my third assessment by this poll. But I have a hard time supporting Dennis this time around, even though I caucused for him in 2004 (when he & Dean were the only anti-war candidates). That's not to mention that Kucinch has all but forgotten Iowa this year (too bad for us).

The other choices are really pretty good. Last week I was leaning toward Joe Biden, who I blogged about earlier this fall. The recent debacles in Pakistan have certainly made me think even harder about international diplomacy (per se, not just foreign policy in general) as a key issue. I have always liked Joe's frank style, even if it gets him in trouble sometimes.

A few weeks ago, I went with my family to see Barack Obama (and Oprah) and it was made clear to me why people are excited about him. I like Obama, but there seems to be something substantive that's missing. My wife and many of our friends are Obama supporters, but I'm not sure what it is that's keeping me from jumping on the train. I think that Barack will be the nominee.

Which brings me to yesterday. Although I had not paid much attention to Bill Richardson so far, I saw that he was in town giving a speech and attending a few house-parties. So I decided to go and see for myself. I was impressed. I asked him about education and he was right on the mark. He knows that we are in dire straights for science and math teachers. When I asked Bill to guess how many of this year's ~60 student class that I teach (mostly junior/senior biology majors) were planning to be teachers, he correctly stated "zero" (usually 2-4 in previous years). This is scary—where will the next generation of teachers come from?? Richardson's plan includes a national minimum salary for teachers ($40K), which is a great start. Bill has a national service plan that would pay college tuition in exchange for voluntary national service. He's not just talking military here, either. His credentials in the international diplomacy arena (where we have lots of catching up to do) are really amazing. When I asked him about Science Debate 2008, he was interested and asked me to forward some info to the campaign (which I did).

How about today? Only three more days to go! I spent an hour this morning reading the Des Moines Register special Caucus section after watching some of the Sunday political talk. Hillary Clinton is giving a speech on Tuesday in Iowa City that I will probably attend. John Edwards and Chris Dodd are also in town in the next day or two. I hope that I'll be able to decide by Wednesday.

Science Debate

"Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we, the undersigned, call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Medicine and Health, and Science and Technology Policy."
Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum over at The Intersection have assembled a crack list of scientists and science bloggers to launch the the ScienceDebate2008 website. If you are so inclined, go over and pledge your support. They have also set up rapidly-growing groups over at facebook and myspace.