Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Will Vote for Barack Obama

In 2008, I voted for Barack Obama as a repudiation of the Bush administration. I believed that a popular vote reflecting a substantial majority of American voters would signal a turning point in American politics, not towards something truly just and productive, Obama is a Democrat after all, but towards a less destructive, more nuanced, more rational American government. I believed the popular vote would count for something. And it should have. The 2008 Democrat Platform was one of the most popular platforms in decades, but Republicans made a political, strategic decision to oppose the President at all cost. Whether it meant contradicting themselves, condemning ideas they once believed in, and/or hobbling all attempts at recovery and reform from the 2008 economic collapse, they would do it, as long as it got in the way of the President. In 2008, I voted for a symbol. In 2012, I will vote for a president. In 2008, I voted for what Barack Obama represented. Now, I will vote for what he's done.

Oh right, Obama had nothing to do with the deficit.
Given the intransigence of Congressional Republicans and the willingness of media to take absurd charges against the President even remotely seriously and the state of the national and international economy, Obama accomplished a lot in his first term. People have critiqued him for not celebrating his successes enough, for not selling himself to the public, but I respect him for his decision to stop campaigning to actually lead the country. It seems like every day or so, something else pops up that is really good that happened under Obama. But two things, in particular, prove to me that Obama is an excellent president, with the potential to be a great president. The first is Don't Ask Don't Tell.

There were a lot of different ways for Barack Obama to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. As Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, he could have simply ordered an end to the policy. It was within his power to do so and many people called for it. He could have also let the courts decide, as was already beginning to happen. Legislatively there were also lots of different ways to do it, including just repealing the original legislation. But the legislation let the military investigate the issue and lead the end of the policy itself. What they found, as we now know, is that integrating openly homosexual soldiers in the armed services would not compromise combat readiness. All of the other ways of getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, likely would have worked, but by letting the military manage the eradication of the policy, the Obama administration exposed the homophobia and bigotry at the heart of the policy in the first place. Those who would seek to re-institute the policy must somehow prove that homosexuals in the military are bad for the military even when the military says they're not. Furthermore, this allowed the military to fully prepare for the change in policy and gave it the opportunity to make changes should the need arise, and, well, have you noticed Fox News hasn't said much about the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Don't you think if there were any hint of controversy at all, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, and the rest would be shouting about it? They've shouted about much less. The point I'm making is not that getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is good policy, it is obviously good policy, but that it was implemented in the perfect way. Obama understood the idea and saw the path to its fruition. Add in that Obama instructed the Justice Department to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and it's clear Obama has laid the groundwork for a major advancement in equality. You can see this in the other policy successes of this administration; rescuing the automobile industry, investing in renewable domestic energy, making progress in immigration reform, etc.

Secondly, I think the administration's handling of the Libyan revolution in particular and the Middle East and foreign policy, in general, have been excellent. Yes, there has been conflict, there has been violence, and yes, we have not been able to broker peace in Syria or Bahrain or make meaningful inroads into the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia, and yes, Americans in the Middle East are still subject to attack, but we in America have to remember just how long we have been messing with stuff in the Middle East. To put it bluntly, we have been fucking up their shit for decades. Though it doesn't come up as much as I think it should, I believe American actions in the Middle East are still hampered by the chaos we sowed when we deposed the democratically elected government in Iran and replaced it with the Shah. We armed the Mujahideen, allied ourselves with or supported Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Hussein, and continue to support the Saudi Royal family. And we invaded two Middle Eastern nations, one over the objections of pretty much everyone in the world. No President would have been able to heal those wounds in a single term. But, America was able to support the Libyan revolution without embroiling ourselves in another war. Furthermore, we have, somehow, managed to maintain cordial or at least respectful diplomatic relations with nations, Pakistan most importantly, while we kill their citizens with un-manned drones. The Middle East is a complex, conflicted, and chaotic region going through dramatic change and the Obama administration was able to support the emergence of two democracies (one more quickly and decisively than the other) in under four years without committing thousands of American soldiers to battlefields. Oh yeah, and, finally, began winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officially ending combat operations in Iraq. How many of the wars did Bush see through to conclusion? The Obama administration, lead by Hilary Clinton, picked up the tattered remains of international standing and restored this country to a level of diplomatic respectability. I mean, our diplomatic standing around the world was so shattered by the Bush administration, Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up. The Obama administration hasn't solved all of our foreign policy problems yet, but voting against him because of remaining problems is like benching a guy for not hitting a home run off Christy Mathewson.

To Liberals Who Are Thinking of Not Voting for Barack Obama

Well, technically he was President in January
There is this meme of being disappointed with the President, of having such high hopes in his presidency and not seeing those hopes realized. My question to those of you who are thinking of not voting for him because of this is, exactly what should he have done differently? Congressional Republicans had nothing to gain, politically, from good faith policy negotiation with Democrats and so they did not negotiate in good faith. They demanded change after change after change in legislation and still blocked its passage after their demands were met. Republicans in the Senate filibustered more than any other group in history. And the President can do nothing about a filibuster. What would being tougher in policy negotiations have achieved when policy had nothing to do with negotiation? What would making a stronger case to the American people have achieved when the most popular cable news network gave air time to death panels, birthers, and creeping sharia law? And a strong case before the American people still wouldn't break a filibuster. As shocking as this is going to sound, the Obama administration was as liberal as possible. We all know (still talking to the disappointed liberals here) that a much larger federal infrastructure program funded by the expiration of the Bush era tax breaks on income over $250,000 and temporary increased deficit spending would have restored the strength of the economy, but the economy did not collapse as it seemed about to and we are, finally, starting to see some growth. Oh, and our renewable energy production vastly increased. We also all know that a single payer universal healthcare system is the most cost efficient way to solve our nation's healthcare problems and that, barring that, a non-profit, federally administered health insurance option is the best way to ensure some level of price control, but the healthcare reform that was passed has helped millions of Americans and, as parts of it continue to roll out, will slowly improve our private system to the point where the only step available for further improvement is nationalized universal health. If you want to blame someone for just how moderate Republican the policies of these four years was, blame Ben Nelson, not President Barack Obama.

One more note to disappointed liberals. If you're not buying this and you have decided not to vote for Obama, please, please, please, vote for Jill Stein of the Green party. You probably agree with everything she stands for anyway. And if we want the course of American policy to tilt to the left, we are going to have to demonstrate the liberalness of the American population and you're not going to do that by sitting out the election.

To Those of You Planning to Vote for Mitt Romney

“47%.” “#RomneyShambles.” “legislation that I know of.” “Corporations are people, my friend.” “Etch-a-sketch.” “$5 trillion.” That infamous video also includes him saying he would take advantage of an Iran Hostage Crisis type situation if one arose. At the beginning of his campaign, before all the Republican primaries, I saw Mitt Romney as a moderate Republican and a competent executive and administrator. I didn't agree with many of his policies as I understood them, but I felt that, at the very least, he wasn't going to drive the car over a cliff. What I have learned is that Mitt Romney is radically disconnected from the American people, living his life in a milieu of obscene wealth with a belief structure befitting the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age (who at least built libraries). The only thing I truly believe that Mitt Romney truly believes, is that he deserves every single dollar he has ever made, no matter how he got it, no matter how he protected it from being taxed, no matter how he sought at every step to minimize his personal risk, no matter who else was being hurt by it; Mitt Romney sees his wealth as proof of his quality and doesn't have any idea why the rest of us would question it. Some of you may believe Romney's radical self-interest is the exact engine we need to improve our society; that Romney is just an expression of capitalism and capitalism is the way to go. To you I say, what if the nurses at your local clinic all felt the same way? Or your town's fire fighters? What if you lost your job and there were no unemployment benefits or food stamps? What if your president only thought of himself?

When seen through this lens, a lot of Romney's actions make “sense” to me. He's not releasing his taxes because he doesn't think we have any right to know how he made his money and what he did with it. The money itself is proof of his quality. He's not being specific about the tax loopholes he'd close to fund his tax cut (which would somehow be revenue neutral and maintain the percentage of total income tax paid by the wealthiest, which makes you wonder why he's proposing it at all), because he believes he'll just be able to fix it when he gets in office. He says whatever he wants to say, whether it's true or not or whether it contradicts a previous statement he made or not, because he believes he deserves to be President and will do whatever it takes to get elected. It's not that Romney is a hypocrite or a flip-flopper, it's that he believes in the fact of his own presidency and everything else is what you pay accountants to handle.

Finally, a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the most cynical political techniques I've ever seen. Congressional Republicans put their own elections far ahead of national interest, Fox news gave air time to every preposterous accusation leveled against President Obama often after those accusations were refuted, in the most important speech of his life VP nominee Paul Ryan lied his face off (telling lies that had already been debunked), and Romney himself has changed his positions on pretty much everything depending on who he's talking to and when he's saying it. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for win at all costs campaigns and if he wins, Democrats will have to adopt them in the next election cycle and Republicans will almost certainly escalate. If you're disgusted with how this campaign has gone, a vote for Mitt Romney will ensure the next will be twice as disgusting.

Ultimately, though, there is really only one point to this post. Barack Obama will be a better president than Mitt Romney and that is why I will vote for Barack Obama.


  1. Well said Josh. You're description of Mitt Romney had me laughing my ass off! This sentence in particular was brilliantly hilarious: " What I have learned is that Mitt Romney is radically disconnected from the American people, living his life in a milieu of obscene wealth with a belief structure befitting the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age (who at least built libraries)." You're right. At Carnegie built libraries! What has Mitt built? A new mansion on Lake Winnipesaukee?

    My main criticism about Obama is that he's abandoned union workers and he never brought up the poor and working class in the debates. I'll still vote for him though. Mostly because of his foreign policy, the Affordable Care Act, his economic stimulus, bailout of the auto industry, and the fact that I'm terrified of Mitt Romney. Again, well said my friend.

    1. Thanks Gary. One of the challenges of assessing the Obama administration is we don't know what he would have been capable with an opposition party that negotiated in good faith. What policies would have happened if Republicans had an additional goal or two besides destroying his presidency? He still might not have been liberal (and certainly not as liberal as we would like, being a Democrat and all) but we'll never know.

  2. I think you're letting the President off easy when it comes to being the bridge between the parties. As President your responsibility is to put aside your gain to reach across the aisle in order to strengthen the nation's political infrastructure. A strong leader is able to work around opposition for the greater good.

    Bottom line, like them or not, I don't think it's fair to blame just the Republicans for the lack of bipartisanism of the last four years.

    1. I think there ample evidence of Obama compromising with Republicans on policy, the biggest ones being dropping the public option from Obamacare and the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts to secure federal funding for 9/11 first responders. Furthermore, Republicans did filibuster in the Senate more than any other group in history and used tons of anonymous holds on legislation and nominations. Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the Senate said before Obama had done anything that the top Republican goal was to make sure he is a one term president. It's awfully difficult to reach across the aisle when they other side has promised to cut off your hand. One more point; many, many liberals are extremely disappointed with how much he compromised. How could he both disappoint liberals and refuse to compromise with conservatives?

      Thanks for the comment.