Why I’m Voting to Re-elect the President

Despite his low score on the rubric

After scoring the Obama Rubric last week, I have to say that the results were not surprising. This last four years have been an exercise in political hair-pulling and teeth-grinding. From signing to close down Guantanamo, then failing to do so, turning his back on card-check, abandoning the public option, and seeming to “negotiate” with Republicans by leading with his chin it’s been hard to be enthusiastic about four more years of Barack Obama.

Even his accomplishments, as momentous as they are, and as hard fought as they were, are hard to really stand behind. Under President Obama the economy has improved. We cannot forget that when Obama took the Oath of Office, the economy was in a free fall. Obama and the Democrats, without help from the Republicans, turned that around. However, they squandered their moment with a stimulus that was much too small to restore adequate growth, wasting capital on a half measure. Consequently, consistent with the predictions of economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, the economy chugged and creaked up-hill when it could have gathered steam.

With regard to health care reform, it’s hard to cheer for what was, essentially, the proposal from the 1994 Republican Party. Yes, it was essential, and there are many very popular and necessary provisions that will, —hopefully—, kick in fully by 2014, but it just wasn’t what most progressives consider “reform.” A robust public option would have provided the needed reforms, and the President is not without blame for losing this opportunity. Instead of taking the bully pulpit and communicating his plans to the people, he chose to lead from behind and allow Congress to work through the political process. Of course, there could be no political process in Congress during his term in office. Republicans raised gridlock to whole new levels, aided and abetted by the appalling Joseph Lieberman. That Obama was outmaneuvered by Lieberman is, perhaps, most telling of the then new president’s inexperience.

In education policy, President Obama has taken President Bush’s abysmal No Child Left Behind, and upped the regressive ante. His policies demand more “accountability” in the form of mind deadening testing which amount to nothing more than threats against students, teachers and schools. Meanwhile, he and Arne Duncan advocate for the proven folly of Charter Schools. True, the Obama administration has established some half-way descent national standards and upped investment in early education. He has also attempted to tackle the rising costs of college tuition, especially with regard to reforming the student loan structure and keeping interest rates low. However, professional educators were hoping for a reversal of NCLB, not a fast forward.

I could go on. There’s a roller coaster record with environmental policy and his embracing of fossil fuels in the face of clear indicators of climate change. Let’s not forget the expansion of the national surveillance infrastructure. If that’s not enough, there is the executive policy of assassination that is a clear violation of international law and the US code, including the option of assassinating American citizens. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for President Obama

Yes, there have been some great Obama moments. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a great way to start his administration. He reversed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Democrats under his leadership passed financial reform, criticized for not going far enough, but certainly further than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. He has finally come out to support gay marriage. He issued an executive order to stop persecuting the children of illegal immigrants. His leadership in the face of natural disasters has been a breath of fresh air after “Heckuva job, Brownie!” He has managed to restore our status among world nations, which was no small feat considering the dismantlement of American diplomacy under his predecessor. Let’s not forget ending the abomination of the Iraq War and beginning an earnest draw-down in Afghanistan.

So how do we weigh the administration of Barack Obama? How do we establish a “grade” for a president who has been the object of more scorn, political scheming and brinkmanship than any other president in recent memory? To what extent is President Obama, a relatively inexperienced politician, to blame for Republican gridlock and filibustering and blustering and blathering? On the other hand…he is the President.

I will be voting to re-elect the president. This essay is not intended as advocacy or an endorsement. If it were, then it is poorly written at this point. I simply want to express my thoughts as I head to the polls tomorrow. It is my hope that, come tomorrow, my family and I will be looking forward to another four years with a much more experienced, and beholden, President Obama.

In 2009, I lost my job. The private school where I worked closed its doors due to lack of profits, but certainly not lack of effort, hard work and quality education. At that point I was stuck. In 2009 there were no jobs to be had. My local school district had a block on new hires, so getting work in my field was out. My wife and I spent a great deal of time and emotion trying to figure out what to do. The future was dire. There was no way for my family to keep our home without my income.

Fortunately, President Obama and the Democrats passed the stimulus, which included funds for education. It wasn’t long before those funds reached my district and the block on new hires was lifted. I had a job within two weeks and my family remains in the home that we worked so hard to get. I take this personally. President Obama and the Democratic Party saved my home for me, my wife and my children. That’s not something that I will take lightly.

In the meantime, what were the Republicans doing? Well they were doing everything they could to block my family from getting any help at all. Their pundits were busy calling me a deadbeat for not having a job and for purchasing a house that I could not afford (let alone the fact that I could afford it when we bought it). They were explaining, with heartless calculation, why my children should be thrown out into the street. After all, watching my children starve, would make me work harder… and accept any level of pay that I could get. Yet they decried food stamps, unemployment, Medicaid and welfare as fostering dependency.

This heartless, soulless, arrogant, self-righteous, medieval philosophy embraced by the Neo-conservatives must be challenged. It cannot be allowed to stand uncontested in the marketplace of ideas. Neo-cons seem to believe that a desperate labor base is a docile labor base. In fact, history shows, that there is nothing more dangerous than such desperation in the masses. Some people, including myself, have claimed that the Neo-conservatives wish to bring us back to the 1890’s where the Robber Barons ruled and the working man clustered in rat infested hovels happy for whatever pennies they could scratch up working endless hours in unsafe and unclean working conditions. Some have advocated reversing child labor laws, civil rights laws, and denying women the right to make their own reproductive decisions. I no longer subscribe to this notion. I believe that the Neo-conservatives endeavor to bring us back to the 1690’s.

Not for my children.

And this is the philosophy embraced in rhetoric by Mitt Romney. He punctuated his philosophical allegiance, as far as I’m concerned, by choosing a Neo-conservative icon as his running mate. Such a backwards and regressive worldview cannot be allowed to flourish in the White House. Eight years of Bush and the Project for a New American Century is bad enough.

With all of the problems that I have with President Obama, I don’t see an alternative in the Neo-con version of a President Romney. Will Romney reverse the enormous expansion of federal power that has taken place in the last two administrations? I doubt it. Will his education policies be any better? Instead of charters, he’ll advocate private schools. In those areas in which Obama has demonstrated some success, in the economy and international relations, would a Romney Administration build on that progress? Indeed, not. Romney, owing his presidency to the Tea Party fringe, will, I’m afraid, turn his back on and reverse any such progress.

If anything, it is my hope, though I admit that it is a flimsy one, that a more experienced Obama, re-elected by the neglected progressive base, will be more amenable to progressive action. After all, after bailing out Wall Street, allowing the banksters to walk without prosecution, and creating the bare minimum of regulations on an institutional complex that brought down the global economy, big corporations have largely abandoned the president. It’s been the liberal base that has remained loyal, that has his back, so to speak. Hopefully, President Obama understands where his loyalties should lie.

He’s already made some progressive turns, catching the winds of the Occupy Movement, and Elizabeth Warren’s message of a society in which we all work together. This message has, after three long years, made its way into Obama’s rhetoric, and is well received. Hopefully, he will walk the walk. Romney, on the other hand, has always walked in the path of the 1%. He has written off half of the citizenry as self-proclaimed victims.

More pressing than any ill-placed hope in an Obama 2.0, however, is my utter distaste for the direction that politics has taken in the last four years. The Republican strategy has been referred to as “scorched earth.” It is a strategy in which one party sabotages the functions of government hoping that the resultant dis-function is blamed on the President. Senator Mitch McConnell has stated outright that his number one priority is to make sure that Obama is a one term president.

This kind of tactic cannot be rewarded with success. If we allow the Republican scorched earth strategy to succeed, then we are condoning this cynical politics regardless of the party. In a democratic nation, we get the government that we deserve. I am voting for the President because I believe we deserve better than this. I fear that if Republicans are successful in unseating the President, then that will be the end of effective governance in the United States. After all, the Democratic Party would be foolish not to use the same technique regarding a Romney presidency.

I also fear the effects of a Romney “mandate” on the liberal/progressive movement. The progressive reforms of the twentieth century that led to the most prosperous society in the history of man have been steadily eroded over the last thirty years. I thought the long slide of the Bush Administration would never end. Under President Obama, progressiveness hasn’t been ascendant, but neither has it suffered serious reverses. For the sake of the movement, four years of Obama, even with little progress, trumps four years of Romney and the profound damage that could be done with what amounts to a Bush 3.0 administration. President Obama, facing pressure from the left, may be induced to assert force against the right.

Of course, this requires an active and invigorated left. Sometimes I think that the Bush years were so exhausting that when Obama was elected we all took a collective sigh of relief, and rested. It could be argued that we deserved the rest, but the last four years has shown that we certainly could not afford it. If the next four years are going to be fruitful for progressives, then the left needs to take to the streets. Frankly, I would rather take to the streets during an Obama Administration. As stated earlier, Obama did fill his sails with the energy from the Occupy Movement. Occupy hasn’t died. It’s regrouping. A Romney presidency would be a waste.

The last four years have not been the change that I hoped. Nor has it been an entire loss. I’ve shaken my fist at the President. There are some facets of his leadership that simply must change. That being said, four more years of Obama seem to me more hopeful than another Neo-conservative dark age I fear in Romney.

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