Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

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.


Matt J. said...

Hear, hear! Ironbound is back with a flourish. Even from a bluish circle in the middle of deep red Georgia (when will the color thing end?), this rings true. This is so good, I'm hesitant to suggest additions, but here are my two cents. We are told quite often that style and personality are major factors in the choice of voters when it comes to the presidency. Like it or not, I think it's true. Obama, for all the drone strikes, Wall St. help, and other centrist stuff that drives the left nuts, is infinitely preferable on this score. The Midwestern roots, the cosmopolitanism, the basketball, the college teaching, the student debt, and the list goes on and on. One of the major party candidates is an actually interesting person that has something to offer and would be a welcome addition to any gathering. The other is a super-rich, weird cipher, onto whom the alleged victims of Obama's policies, or racists, can project whatever bizarre fantasies they maintain. On policy, and on personality, there really isn't any choice at all on Tuesday.

And another thing: we hear all the time about every election being critically important, and all that. At the risk of feeding that cliche, it seems to me that the modern Republican party cannot sustain itself in its current guise. It will have to at least modify its positions on some issues to remain relevant in an America that is increasingly diverse and tolerant. So if Obama can win on Tuesday, and Democrats can hold the Senate, even if the next couple of years bring more of the same, the long-term picture may be different, and better.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Yes, I could have mentioned his personality and style too, in good and bad ways. In terms of dealing with foreign policy, his style has been superlative. His cerebral nature has been a welcome change from Shrub's evangelical fervor, and he has managed to drastically repair the mess that the last administration left us in around the world. However, his coolness can hurt, in that he obviously considers aspects of modern day politics distasteful. I like this personally, since I do to. How else does one deal with Mitt Romney's lies and policy reversals in the first debate except with stony silence? Problem is, politicians need to be able to get beyond their disgust with these things and work within them, which Obama at times is resistant to do. Like I said, I would do the same, but I also am not the president.

You are right as well about the Republicans. Diversity and tolerance aren't the only impediments, increasing secularization is too. I think that the GOP will adapt and become more regionally diverse. Chris Christie is a (unfortunately, from where I stand) a model of how to push economic conservatism and soft-pedal social conservatism. The Tom Coburns of the world will still exist, but in the future will have a smaller voice in their party.