Sunday, July 01, 2012

Why I will vote to re-elect President Obama

It is difficult to work up any enthusiasm for the Democratic Party. Leadership nationally and in most states (notably Wisconsin) has shown itself to be a pack of spineless cowards, afraid of its own shadow, chronically unwilling to try anything new, or offer any substantive program, lest the radio talk show boogeymen might have something nasty to say about it. Fundraising boils down to “Citizens United is coming, Citizens United is coming, send us more money more money more money now now now now now.” Don’t forget that figment of Democratic paranoia, the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

A five year old could identify easily that voters are looking for fresh new faces, bold new ideas, something different from the same old same old, maybe, just maybe, something that might make life better. But, Democratic perceived wisdom is to keep running dinosaurs for the sake of “name recognition.” There is not much different between the reasons Marco Rubio won an upset victory in Florida in 2010 and the reasons Russ Feingold won an upset victory in Wisconsin in 1992. Republicans often miss this lesson, but Democrats never learn. Victories have to be forced on an unwilling party.

Scott Walker didn’t tell Wisconsin voters in 2010 what he meant to do 2011 if he was elected governor, but he did offer himself in a vague, noncommittal sort of way as a fresh, relatively youngish face, a man who took his lunch to work in a brown paper bag, a man concerned about job creation (without offering any details about how to create jobs). The Democratic candidate, a decently competent mayor and former congressman named Tom Barrett, is the main reason Walker won the election. As politicians go, Barrett was about as stale as they come.

When offered a rare second chance to turn Walker out, Democratic Party machinery reverted to form, reducing a popular insurgency at the polls into a re-run of a losing election. Duh-uh, with the choice of Walker v. Barrett voters affirmed that they had already passed on that choice. Barrett, once again, was found wanting. Democrats have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Obama offered “Hope” and “Change,” in 2008, and despite Sarah Palin’s pathetic carping, he won handily. That was four years ago. He can’t exactly run as the candidate of “change” now. He IS the incumbent. Fortunately, neither can Mitt Romney, a tired politician and soiled millionaire whose platform boils down to “I really admire the thought of ME being president. What do I have to say to win your vote?” Running on his record, he is one of the early architects of health care reform and the individual mandate!

Barack Obama was elected to take the Democratic Party by the scruff of the neck, give it a good shake, and make the party over into something creative, productive, appealing. Instead, once he had the nomination, he sank gratefully into the party as it was, like a gigantic pillow, and went to sleep. Turning to Summers and Geithner for financial advice, he single-handedly allowed Tea Party 2.0 (don’t use my money to bail out the banks) to gather steam. That energy was duly captured by the professional Republican consultants, who redirected the flow into Tea Party 3.0 (everyone hates Obama) and 4.0 (the usual crowd who believe Herbert Hoover had it right all along).

But let’s stop that line of thought for a moment. One of America’s great national past-times is trashing our president. It doesn’t matter who the president is, what their program, what their party, we draw and read cartoons lampooning everything they do, laugh at them on late night talk shows, carp about how they are doing whatever they are doing, and speculate on how their every word and action will cement or alienate the support of bald left-handed Mexican Jewish homosexual women of Chinese descent who are concerned about saving the whales, particularly those who are or are not born-again Christians, Muslim, or Hispanic.

Like most Americans, I have a laundry list of things I would have done differently if I were in President Obama’s shoes. But I’m not. I have the luxury of sitting in my own little room imagining that I have power to do things the way I think they should be done – a power the president, frankly, doesn’t have, and shouldn’t have. We have a government of limited powers, and that means the president can’t fix everything by decree, even if his decrees would always get it just right.

As presidents go, Barack Hussein Obama has done a magnificent job. He steered us away from the cliff of Great Depression 2.0, for which he gets little thanks, because we never felt the pain he saved us from. Franklin Roosevelt had the advantage that our grandparents stewed in Depression with 30 percent unemployment for three years under Hoover before Roosevelt came in. Anything Roosevelt did was bound to be a little better, and he was bound to get credit for easing pain we had felt all to sharply.

We are pretty much out of Iraq, and while George W. Bush signed the treaty that committed us to pulling out (because the elected government of Iraq turned down a longer American involvement), President Obama has stuck to his commitment that we need to be as careful getting out as we were careless going in. Nobody could get a good result out of the quagmire in Afghanistan – the only right way to have done it was to go in for six months, kick some Taliban and al Qaeda butt, then get out, and let our gallant allies of the Northern Alliance sort things out in their country. That’s water under the bridge. Obama is, step by painful step, pulling us away from our massive over-commitment, while trying not to throw away what the troops we did sent managed to accomplish at some considerable cost.

The economy is not performing in superlative fashion, but unless we live in a command economy, the president can only shape the broad outlines, and not always those. Europe is going to hell in a handbasket, rising economies all over the world can work employees cheaper than we can, and congress balks at what government does best: upgrading and installing a first-class infrastructure that allows economic innovation to flourish. Bottom line, President Obama stopped the bleeding, and the recovery is taking longer than we would have liked. Given a cooperative congress, what he’d like to do is on the right track. But he should act boldly, confidently, on a mass scale. We need high speed rail across the nation, not a hundred miles here, a hundred miles there.

I’m disappointed the president took a position on gay marriage. Frankly, its none of the business of the President of the United States. He should have had the political courage to say that, and then drop the subject. Our culture has come to expect the presidency to function as a bully pulpit, sounding off on every contentious issue of the day. It is a matter for the states, not for the feds. Period. Its not about fairness or equal protection of the laws, its about “Oh, here is an interesting human relationship, shall we take official notice of it and issue a piece of paper from the city hall, or just let people do what they want to do and not bother about it?” But, this entire subject really doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. I’m not going to vote for or against much of anybody because they are for or against gay marriage.

Abortion is also a non-issue for me. Again, it’s a matter for the states, to the extent it is the legitimate business of any level of government. No president has the power to overhaul the legal framework of the past 39 years, nor should any try. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, well-established, a sound, conservative, jurisdictional decision, resolving who shall decide, The State, or the individual pregnant woman concerned. With that well and truly settled, in the free market place of ideas, we are all free to advocate which choice is the right choice, the best choice, the moral choice, and the constitutionally designated decider (the individual woman) will make the final call. There is nothing about this that has any place in a presidential election.

President Obama doesn’t get any credit for this, but on his watch, the flow of undocumented immigrants across our borders has gone down remarkably. The only real question is how to deal with the people who are already here. The president’s proposed policies are right on target, and this is one of the things George W. Bush got right. Democrats and Republicans have various manipulative reasons no majority has ever gotten a comprehensive reform passed, but as the head of the executive branch, Barack Obama’s enforcement priorities are just about right.

Obama has been reasonably good for the country, in perilous times, and his challenger offers nothing of any substance. Voting to re-elect President Obama is a no-brainer. Now, getting back to all the things I would have done differently if I ran the zoo…