Why Should (or Shouldn’t) Geeks Vote for Obama?

Super Tuesday is nearly upon us, and that means it’s time for all good citizens to lift their heads out of the mire and make some decisions.

Some Linux devotees may argue that they have more pressing things to worry about — alerting the public to the evils of Vista, for instance — but we here at LinuxInsider know that *our* readers are more civic-minded than that. We were gratified, then, to find the thought-provoking post on Tuesday from Red Hat blogger Tom (Spot) Callaway titled, “Why should a geek vote for Obama?”

Net neutrality, H1-B visas, copyright reform, an open government and the promise of a national CTO are all among the considerations Callaway cites in his arguments in favor of Obama, eliciting a range of comments in reaction.

‘Geek-Friendly Policies’

“Spot, I kinda worry about your friends,” wrote aeria gloris. “I mean, I’m a geek too, but it’s not going to decide my vote.”

On the other hand: “I wouldn’t say his geek-friendly policies decide my vote, but having a president who has a clue about technology is about as important as having a CEO who ‘gets’ technology — it can really make or break the long-term viability and profitability of a company,” countered pam.

“Also, I suspect it will in most ways make my life easier, to have things like more H1-Bs and net neutrality, and a patent system that has A CLUE… much easier for a programmer…,” she continued. “And his desire to make the government processes more open, including having web based tools for all people to preview legislation before it is passed, is exactly what will help make the government more accountable to the people.”

Investing in Science

Is Obama a more geek-friendly candidate than the others? What do geeks really want in a president, anyway? LinuxInsider couldn’t resist asking around.

“Obama presents interesting possibilities that may attract geeks,” Slashdot blogger yagu told LinuxInsider. “I’m really mixed on his positions.”

Among Obama’s pros for geeks are his willingness to address the patent system’s need for reform, his interest in investing in science, and his ability to encourage diversity in media ownership, yagu said.

Regarding science, “this is important, and it needs someone who is willing to invest for a return not immediately evident,” he explained. “To continue to lead in understanding our world (technologically speaking) we need to be willing to spend time and money up front. We may never know the return until we see it, but we’ll never see the return if we don’t try.”

‘Bad Money After Bad’

Among Obama’s cons, on the other hand, are his stand on national healthcare standards and databases and on technology for schools, yagu said.

Regarding education, “some of our country’s best successes in education reform have come out of poor schools with no budget for computers where the emphasis was around a disciplined approach, while some of our biggest failures come from schools with computers everywhere,” he said. “If Obama is about making technology available as a supplement to education reform, that could be a positive thing. If it’s only about buying equipment and hooking up networks, it’s bad money after bad.”

Obama is young and of the Internet generation, yagu concluded. “This doesn’t assure ‘geeks’ of a savvy and sympathetic prospective president, but it does suggest someone more familiar with technical issues in an everyday sense than the older candidates,” he said. “Of all of the candidates, Obama is probably the most plugged into the Internet generation.”

Free Market Advantages

With the exception of copyright reform, the very issues Callaway cites in his post are reasons NOT to vote for Obama, Monochrome Mentality blogger Kevin Dean told LinuxInsider.

Callaway’s assertion that Obama will deploy a modern communications infrastructure, for instance, is a con, not a pro, said Dean, who confesses to being an ardent Ron Paul supporter.

“A critical part of the USA is the free market,” Dean explained. “Supporters of the open source development model often argue that the sheer number of people involved produce better code. This is because in a free market the best ideas win.

“A ‘modern communications infrastructure’ controlled by the government,” on the other hand, “stands against this,” Dean said. “What competing ideas enter the fray when you’ve got one option to deploy it? Where are the drives to innovate when you’ve got a monopoly?”

The Competition

Obama may be getting mixed reviews, but what of his Democratic competition?

“Clinton has done a lot of questionable things in her years,” Slashdot founder Rob Malda told LinuxInsider. “My tendency on the dem side would be to vote against her more than ‘for’ anyone else.”

Indeed, if not Obama, then all other signs point to Paul, according at least to LinuxInsider’s (highly scientific) poll on the subject.

“In general, politics in the US is nothing more than a joke — it’s a popularity and mud-slinging contest at best,” asserted Slashdot blogger gasmonso. “I’ve voted for both Republicans and Democrats, yet am satisfied with neither.”

When it comes to technology, “it gets even worse because most politicians can’t even get their VCRs to stop blinking 12:00,” gasmonso said. “Politicians are not the most tech-savvy individuals, but they should be intelligent enough to let the free market handle this matter (and most other matters if you ask me.) That’s why I like Ron Paul’s views on this particular subject.”

Should a candidate’s tech savvy be a deciding factor?

“While Obama may be more tapped into the Internet generation, I would worry and be cautious of an approach where he may think ‘technology can solve all of our problems,'” yagu concluded. “It can’t — technology can be a tool to help us, but it can’t absolve we as a country of people of our responsibilities to each other. I think Obama gets that… I hope he does.”

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