Americans have a choice to make on Election Day 2012, a choice between a sitting president even liberals and progressives may not always agree with – sometimes strongly – and the running lapdog of extremist right-wing interests: the anti-government corporatist Tea Party and the closely aligned anti-government fundamentalist Christian – both in flirtation with white supremacists.
Barack Obama may not be everything we thought he was going to be when we elected him, but few would disagree that he has been a game-changer in many (if not all) ways, after eight years of the catastrophic Bush administration. He has put the brakes on the worst excesses of that administration,
- restoring the United States’ position abroad while not starting any new wars and even getting us out of one of the two we were in while making preparations to exit the other. Pragmatism has replaced rampant ideology and “cowboy” diplomacy and Obama has shown the world that the United States can develop and work in accordance with a broad consensus and with its allies and friendly neutrals to achieve important goals (the downfall of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi being a case in point);
- providing the Affordable Care Act (so-called Obamacare), among many other things requiring health plans to recognize preexisting conditions, improving care given to veterans, increased regulation of drug manufacturers and forces insurance companies to tell us how much of our premiums are going to patient care;
- Ordered the strike that killed Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind 9/11;
- targeted infrastructure, including nationwide broadband coverage, development of a Smart Power Grid (ARRA.), funding for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools, and perhaps more importantly after a catastrophic bridge collapse in Minnesota, Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after years of neglect;
- appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court and the first black man to Attorney General;
- championed civil rights by Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Instituted equal pay for women, Supported the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), Stopped defending DOMA in court, and finally coming out in favor of marriage equality.
To name just a few.
Yes, we still have the Patriot Act; we still have the Faith Based Initiative that is an affront to the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause; yes, we still have a federal government that spies on its citizens and an Executive Branch that is too powerful. But we also have an executive branch that has been stymied repeatedly and for four years by an obstructionist House of Representatives and by widespread abuse of filibustering.
You can argue that Obama did not keep all his promises; admittedly, he didn’t. But he kept many (36% of them according to PolitiFact’s Obameter, with another 26% in the works), and many of those he has not kept (14% broken according to the Obameter and 11% compromised) he was not able to keep because of lack of cooperation from a legislative branch that has refused to compromise, indeed, to recognize the legitimacy of his presidency.
Disillusioned progressives ask where their change is and conservatives repeat the refrain, “How do you like your change now?” But look not only at what Obama has accomplished, the change he has wrought, but look for a moment your alternatives: Republicans label Obama a radical extremist but that’s because the only thing still to the right of the GOP is the Nazi Party, and that not by much, given the appeal the GOP has for right-wing militias and racist groups and fundamentalists calling for the establishment of concentration camps for gays and lesbians.
Yes, we could have had more, but we could also have had a whole helluva lot less. Think about a McCain/Palin presidency for a moment and ask yourself it that would have been preferable. Think about Romney presidency and ask yourself if that sounds any better, whoever might end up being his running mate. Think about two long wars in the Middle East, thousands of American dead and then think about another war – against Iran this time – and thousands more American dead – and for what?
So far, Obama has kept diplomacy on the table as an option, and international sanctions – everything short of war in fact; no Republican president would ever hold back from making like Dubya just pushing the button. None of them – or their children – are going to be shot at, after all.
Republicans call Obama a Muslim though according to the Constitution it wouldn’t matter if he were, since religious tests are banned (Article VI, paragraph 3); they say he’s a socialist too but that also is neither illegal nor even immoral, and he has been accused of being an anti-colonialist Kenyan of all things, as though being opposed to colonialism is a bad thing from a citizen of a country that was founded in opposition to colonialism.
Speaking of citizens, they accuse him of not being a citizen even though there is not a shred of evidence that he is not and no matter how often the authenticity of his birth certificate is verified. They simply oppose Obama so badly that they are willing to strip Americans of their voting rights so that they cannot vote for him, or to flirt with fantasies of keeping Obama off state ballots so that nobody can vote for him – or both.
As yourselves: if the Republicans will recognize no limits in defeating Obama and making him a single-term president, why would you not want to vote for him in 2012? Isn’t that argument enough in favor?
In perhaps the mildest and least-offensive attack, Obama has even been called a moderate Republican (by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post). But isn’t a moderate Republican far more appealing than an extremist Republican? If he is a moderate Republican, he is the only one in existence and we ought to safeguard that existence. Most of us old enough to remember have nothing against moderate Republicans. Moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans governed this country together and successfully from WWII until recent years.
There are many ways to look at this election:
- look at it as a choice between the lesser of two evils if you must, but even this comparison argues for the re-election of Barack Obama;
- or look at it as a choice between a pragmatist cognizant of the real world facts on the ground and an ideologue blind to our shared reality and a fact-based universe;
- a choice between a moderate Christian and an extremist Christian; a choice between a civil rights supporting president and an anti-civil rights president;
- a choice between a president who wants to cooperate with the other nations of the world and a president who wants like Bush to bully the rest of the world;
- a choice between a president who champions the middle class and a president who wants to create a new serf class out of the middle class;
- a choice between a president who recognizes the reality of anthropogenic global warming and a president who thinks rising sea levels, shrinking polar ice caps and record warm temperatures are all a fantasy;
- a choice between a president who thinks immigrants – even those here illegally – are human beings and those who think Sheriff Joe Arpaio is on to something with his Freikorps full of white supremacist bullies and misguided has-been movie stars.
There are many reasons to choose Obama in 2012. I have listed only a few of them here. I am sure you can find many more if you sit down to think about what’s at stake in the upcoming election. Rest assured whatever choice you ultimately make, it will be the most important choice Americans have made since the election of Abraham Lincoln.