When I cast my vote for president on Tuesday, my vote will be, once again, for Barack Obama. Having lived in Illinois back in 2004 during his Senate campaign, this will be the third time I will have the pleasure to do so. The first set of reasons I am voting for him are positive in nature: bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive, gay men and women can serve openly in the military, the economic stimulus brought the nation back from the brink of economic collapse, young immigrants have a clear path to citizenship, America is once again respected not hated by its allies, we have two new strong liberals on the Supreme Court, there are more avenues for women to sue for their rightful wages, America is out of Iraq and on the way out of Afghanistan, and we are finally on our way to having universal health coverage after a century-long battle. All of these things were accomplished against unprecedented levels of obstruction by the opposition party, unrelentingly mendacious propaganda spewed by Fox News and the mobilization of a corporate backed church and king mob (aka the Tea Party). While I wish the health care law had been stronger and stimulus focused on New Deal-style jobs programs among other disappointments, I am amazed at what the president has done in the face of levels of hatred, obstruction, and disrespect I have never before seen directed at a sitting American president.
I also have one very big negative reason for voting for Barack Obama, namely that he is all that prevents the radical conservative movement from gaining control of the levers of national power. As I have been saying time and again, the Republican party is not a traditional center-right institution, but the vehicle for a radical band of ideologues set on putting their Ayn Randian crossed with Christian dominionist vision of America into practice. A Romney presidency will see oil and coal barons free to pollute, banks set loose to exploit customers and wreck the economy, women's reproductive rights threatened, the conservative ideologues on the Supreme Court with a clear majority, a return to the old disastrous neo-conservative foreign policy, the social safety net shredded, and our horrendous social inequality worsen. That alone would be reason enough to vote for Obama, but I feel that he has not just prevented the Right from doing their worst, he has managed to do a lot of good against long odds.
In recent days I've heard from friends via social media and read in blogs and other online forums the disappointment of the Left in Barack Obama. They often point to things that I myself am greatly concerned about: his continuance of immoral and un-constitutional practices from the Bush era used in the war on terror (drone strikes, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, targeted assassinations), a tendency to compromise as a starting point in negotiations (his renewal of the Bush tax cuts is an obvious example), the weakness of the health care reform law, cowardice on the gun control issue, and the fact that his administration has done little to better conditions for the poor and working classes. I share these concerns, and even though the online quizzes tell me that my political views more closely align with those of Jill Stein, I'm still voting for Obama.
I used to vote for third party candidates; I didn't vote for a Democrat for president until 2004. Why the change? Because the Bush II administration showed me that as milquetoast and compromised as the Democratic party can be, the Republicans are extremists hell-bent on putting their dangerous ideology into practice. As much as I am horrified by targeted assassinations and drone strikes, the reality is that America is an empire, and that fact is much bigger than any one person who will be its president. In regards to domestic policy, I would love it if the president had stuck harder to his principles, but politics is the art of the possible. I am no longer enamored of the Left's obsession with the doomed noble cause or the beautiful loser. It's all well and good to romanticize Ted Kennedy's run for president in 1980 as a last stand for liberalism, but his actions and the liberals who voted for third party candidate John Anderson helped get Ronald Reagan elected. Power is what matters in politics, and putting that power in the hands of right-wing extremists must not be allowed to happen. In any case, the American political system is so beholden to corporate interests that Barack Obama is by far the most progressive president in my lifetime, despite his compromises and shortcomings. In fact, I will hazard to guess that it will be a very long time, perhaps never, before we have another president as progressive as him.
But let me not end on such an negative note. I will not be voting for president Obama out of the fear I have of his opponents or as a "necessary evil," but because he has managed to accomplish a great deal of positive things; I would even say he has done more for this country in his four years than any other president in my lifetime, including Bill Clinton. If that's not worthy of my vote, I don't know what is.