01 Nov

Why I’m Voting to Re-Elect President Obama

at 10:08AM
Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The president voting early last week in  Chicago

Submitted by Michael

Because I am going to be in Florida on Election Day, I am voting this  morning here in the Commonwealth (God save it!). There is only one vote that I  am casting with any measurable amount of enthusiasm. That is the vote I am  casting for Elizabeth Warren to be my next United States senator. This  enthusiasm is based not solely in my personal affection for her, nor solely in  my admiration for the things she’s already  accomplished, nor solely as a reaction against the unnecessarily crude  and boorish  campaign waged against her by incumbent Senator Scott Brown, nor solely even in  the fact that I think this race is still  agonizingly close and that I think Warren has it in her to be a great United  States senator on behalf of many of the issues that I think are important to the  country. The enthusiasm derives from the fact that, when she was asked in  a debate what her policy would be toward our groaning (and increasingly  futile) military adventure in Afghanistan, she answered quickly and  simply. Out. Now.

I am also going to vote for Barack Obama. Without enthusiasm. And without a  sliver of a doubt in my mind.

To be fair, this won’t be the most unenthusiastic presidential vote I ever  have cast. The prize for that one remains Jimmy Carter in 1976. I spent a year  chasing that grinning peanut-farmer around the country on behalf of Mo Udall’s  campaign, organizing in the field in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and  Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, until the money ran out. All we did was finish  second, over and over again. Hell, we finished second to him by an eyelash in  Michigan after Mo had dropped out. Voting for Carter that fall was like draining  my own blood with a turkey baster. I wasn’t particularly ginned-up over Mondale  in 1984, either. Neither did Bill Clinton make my lights shine either time he  ran. And, to be perfectly honest, the only real enthusiasm I felt for this  year’s incumbent in 2008 came largely from being  around people who were so transported by the idea of him. That and the fact  that George W. Bush no longer would have anything to screw up.

However, I am casting my vote for him (again) because of something that Dr.  Jill Stein said  the other night on TV, when she was being interviewed in the wake of that  third-party candidates debate that Larry King hosted. I’ve known Jill socially  for some time, and I admire her, and I agree with her on a marginally greater  percentage of the issues than I do with the president. I think a lot of the  snark aimed her way is unjustified. She’s not responsible for the wankerific fantasies of renegade “progressives.” I do  not, however, think she is any more likely to become president — or any more  qualified to be president — than I am. For example, I take a back seat  to nobody in my scorn for the president’s apparent naïvete concerning the  virulent nature of his political opposition. But, listening to Stein talk about  the glories of the “Green New Deal” she’s going to pass through a Congress that  is unlikely to differ much one way or the other from the one we have now, well,  that makes Barack Obama sound like Huey Long. Still, I thought long and hard  about tossing her my vote, because I live in the bluest of blue states, and I  felt that, in casting my vote that way, I would absolve myself of complicity in the  drone strikes, and in the  inexcusable pass given to the Wall Street pirates, and in what I am sure is  going to be an altogether dreadful Grand Bargain while not materially damaging  the most important cause of all: making sure that Willard Romney is not  president. And I might have done it, had Jill not gone on TV and talked about  how those people who are voting for the incumbent president simply to make sure  that Willard Romney is not president are doing so out of “fear.”

Horse hockey.

It is not fear. It is simple, compelling logic. We have two major political  parties. Until that great gettin’-up morning, when purists on both sides of the  ideological ditch manage to create workable third parties that look like  something more substantial than organized unicorn hunts — which won’t happen  until we have proportional voting, and I wish you as much luck with that as Lani  Guinier had — we always will have two major political parties. One of them is  inexcusably timid and tied in inexcusably tight with the big corporate money.  The other one is demented.

This is not “fear” talking. I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the  debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative  democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the  nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed  air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any  and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive  income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on  the grounds that a one-world government threatens our “liberty” with its  insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base  his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain  and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this  and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them  within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy. When you see a  lunatic wandering down the sidewalk, howling at the moon and waving a machete,  it is not fear that makes you step inside your house and lock the door. It is  the simple logic of survival. Fear is what keeps you from trying to tackle the  guy and wrestle the machete away from him. And, as much as it may pain some  people to admit it, the president is the only one stepping up to do that at the  moment.

It is vitally important that the Republican party be kept away from as much  power as possible until the party regains its senses again. It is not just  important to the advance of progressive goals, thought it is. It is not just  important to maintain the modicum of social justice that it has taken eighty  years to build into the institutions of our government, though it is. It is  important, too, that that you vote for one of these men based on whom else,  exactly, he owes. Who is it that’s going to come with the fiddler to collect  when you get what you’ve bargained for?

Barack Obama owes more than I’d like him to owe to the Wall Street crowd. He  probably at this point owes a little more than I’d like him to owe to the  military. The rest he owes to the millions of people who elected him in 2008 — especially to those people whose enthusiasm I neither shared nor really  understood — and he will owe them even more if they come out and pull his  chestnuts out of the fire for him this time around. He may sell them out — and,  yes, I understand if you wanted to add “again” to that statement — but they are  not likely to revenge themselves against the country if he does and, even if  they decided to, they don’t have the power to do much but yell at the right  buildings.

On the other hand, Willard Romney owes even more to the Wall Street crowd,  and he owes even more to the military, but he also owes everything he is  politically to the snake-handlers and the Bible-bangers, to the Creationist  morons and to the people who stalk doctors and glue their heads to the clinic  doors, to the reckless plutocrats and to the vote-suppressors, to the Randian  fantasts and libertarian fakers, to the closeted and not-so-closeted racists who  have been so empowered by the party that has given them a home, to the enemies  of science and to the enemies of reason, to the devil’s bargain of obvious  tactical deceit and to the devil’s honoraria of dark, anonymous money, and,  ultimately, to those shadowy places in himself wherein Romney sold out who he  might actually be to his overweening ambition. It is a fearsome bill to come due  for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee.  Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the  difference.

In his time in office, Barack Obama has done some undeniable good for people.  There are auto workers in Ohio with jobs, and women making equal pay, and young  people freed from the burdens of health care because of some of the president’s  policies. And he is running on that record, making the case for his second term  based on the good he has done for people in his first. In his only time in  elective office, Romney also did some good for people. He reformed the  health-care system in Massachusetts in a way that made him far more popular up  here than he ever will be again. And he has spent seven years now running  against the good he did for people. What kind of a politician does that?  What kind of a man does that? A politician who has counted the debts he  owes to the people to whom he owes them, and a man who is willing to hock  everything about himself just to get even.

This is not “fear” talking. This is simply the way things are. It is  important to stand against the people and the forces to which Willard Romney  owes his political career. It is more important to do that than it is to do  anything else. It is more important to do that than to salve my conscience, or  make a statement, or dream my wistful dreams of a better and more noble  politics. And that is why, today, I will vote for Barack Obama, not because of  the man he is not, but because of the man his opponent clearly has become. I  will do so without enthusiasm, and without a sliver of doubt in my  mind.

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