Obama for President

by Neil Rickert

I rarely post on politics.  That’s because most political discussions generate more heat than light.  However, President of the United States of America is an important office, where it seems appropriate to express my opinion.

Most of the readers of this blog have probably already guessed that I would support Obama.  They will know that I generally support positions that are based on evidence and reason, rather than on unproven ideology.

I’m an independent

I’ll start with a brief comment on my broad political views.  I think of myself as an independent.  That is, I am not committed to any political party.

I am probably listed somewhere as a registered Democrat.  But that would be because I voted in the Democratic primary in the Illinois open primary system.  I believe that gets me labeled as a Democrat, though I’m not sure of the details.

I consider myself a pragmatic centrist.  I support policies that I believe will be effective in leading to a better America and a better world.  I have voted for the Democratic candidate more often than for the Republican candidate, but not because of any party commitment.

My most recent vote for a Republican presidential candidate was in 1988, when I hoped that I was voting for the Bush who had criticized Reagan’s economic plans as “voodoo economics” rather than the Bush who was at that time touting Reaganomics.  I grew to regret that vote.

My most recent vote for a Republican gubernatorial candidate was in 2006, when I voted for Judy Baar Topinka.  It was not that I thought her a brilliant candidate.  It was more a matter of not wanting to support Rod Blagojevich for a second term.  Subsequent events have shown that my opinion of Blagojevich was justified.

So here, now, is how I see the candidates:

Barack Obama

I see Obama as a pragmatic centrist.  That suits me rather well.  Of course, I don’t agree with every specific detail of Obama’s policies, but the broad direction is about right.  Some on the political left are disappointed in Obama’s first four years, because they did not see him as far enough to the left.  It seems to me that they misheard what Obama campaigned on in the 2008 election, and read too many of their own wishes into his campaign speeches.

I would fault Obama on issues such as domestic surveillance, where I see him as having compromised his principles in the face of political reality.  On economics, I think he has sided a bit too much with the financial sector, though again political reality did not give him much leeway.

On foreign policy, I see Obama as handling things rather well.  During the 2008 campaign, I though he was a bit too supportive of the war in Afghanistan, but he has since started looking for ways of extricating us from that mess.  His dealings with the middle east nations have set a pretty good pragmatic balance.

Obama’s biggest mistake was that he spent too much effort trying to achieve a compromise with the conservatives.  He had campaigned on compromise, and it is good that tried.  But he was slow in learning that the political right were unwilling to ever reach a compromise with him.  He should have used the bully pulpit of the presidency more, to put pressure on legislators.  He seems to have understood that lesson, so I expect him to be more effective if elected for a second term.

Overall, it is a mixed bag, but with more positives that negatives.  I support Obama for a second term.

Mitt Romney

Based on my admittedly minimal knowledge of his term as governor of Massachusetts, I had initially fingered Romney as also a pragmatic centrist.  So I did think him the most acceptable of the Republican candidates, and not particularly scary.

The more I have heard from Romney, the more troubled I have become.  He comes across as a man with no soul, as an empty suit.  He does not seem to stand for anything, other than his personal desire to be President.  He has been on both sides of many issues.  With Obama, I see someone whose principles I respect, so somebody I can trust.  I do not see that with Romney.

On foreign policy, Romney comes across as naive.  He is quick to make judgments on issues that he does not seem to understand.  Of course, he lacks the four years of experience that Obama has had, and that is not surprising for someone in his position.  But in that case, he should have the common sense to keep quiet on issues that he does not yet fully understand.  He gives the impression that he believes he is more knowledgeable than he actually is.  And he make statements that lead me to wonder whether he will foolishly commit us to another unnecessary war.

Romney touts his experience at Bain as preparing him for the job.  But when I look at what he was doing at Bain, I see someone who was driven by a desire for wealth and who did not care whether decent people were hurt by his efforts to achieve that wealth.  At its best, that seems amoral.  That is not the kind of experience that I want for a presidential candidate.  I am, likewise, troubled by his use of off-shore tax havens.  To me, that does not seem like the behavior of a true patriot.

On economic policy, Romney’s 47% speech is very telling.  It was factually wrong.  Yet, Romney would only say that it was inelegantly stated.  It seems that Romney has bought into a conservative mythology that despises ordinary workers and values only the wealthy.  His unregulated free market approach to economics has never worked, and is unlikely to suddenly work now.

My overall summary:  I see Romney as unfit to be President.

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6 Comments to “Obama for President”

  1. I’m an independent as well, which is why I plan to vote for Jill Stein for the 2012 Presidential election. I believe that a vote for Red or Blue is a wasted vote, which from a previous post of mine, you may have already gathered. Both Romney and Obama are bought and paid for by the corporate elite. Obama is the lesser of two evils in my opinion, and I refuse to vote for someone that doesn’t truly represent me and the types of changes I think are absolutely necessary for sustainability and the common good. I do not think that Jill Stein will win, but that’s not the point. This is why people keep voting for the lesser of two evils — because they think that voting for someone that won’t win (at least this election) will be a wasted vote. They couldn’t be more mistaken. Nothing ever changes if people keep voting for the lesser of two evils and they just compromise on their own values for the sake of trying to prevent “the opposition” from winning. I’m not accusing you of doing this, because you may agree more with Obama’s views than any other 3rd party. I’m not in that boat however. Eventually, when enough people realize that they no longer have to give in to fear-based voting, I believe that things will change. I thought the same thing back in 2008 when I voted for Nader, and I hope a greater number of people join me this election. One day, a 3rd party will win. It’s not a question of if, but when.

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    • At least on paper, the US has a strong legislature, weak executive form of government. And if a third party candidate were elected president, we would see how weak that president was.

      If third parties want to succeed, then they need to concentrate more on congressional and senatorial races, and less on presidential races.

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      • I completely agree. We’ve already seen how weak the executive branch is when the minority employ legal obstruction including the filibuster. In the case I mentioned below in response to John, there was both an executive and legislative majority that still lost numerous bill passage due to the filibuster. Which is why we need an overhaul to the system to prevent obstruction to truly democratic “up or down” votes and to ensure proportional representation.

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  2. More of a Democrat myself but not above voting for Republicans who are sane (the last I remember was the late great Jacob Javits). As a social liberal and fiscal moderate I mostly liked Bill Clinton (when he could keep his dick in his pants and wasn’t sucking up too much to business) and wanted to like Obama, until the whole business with using the “state secrets doctrine” to block justified suits against the government arising out of civil rights violations in the name of the :war against terrorism” and/or the goverment use of torture; his failure to keep his promise to lay off the medical use of marijuana in states that have approved it; his lukewarm support for gay marriage (until it became obvious that it could be a political advantage in the election); etc., etc.

    But Mittens … Mr. Etch-A-Sketch … unlike most Republicans, who run to the right in the primaries and then tack back to the center in the general election, he is still running to the right because there is little love lost between him and the Rabid Right. If he should be elected, he would have little incentive to restrain the crazies who want to shove transvaginal sonogram probes up women’s vaginas against their will (the definition of “rape”) before they can get the legal medical procedure of an abortion or loons like Rick Santorum, who wants to limit contraception, etc. etc.

    Like it or not, it is a clear dichotomy … there are two and ONLY two choices. I know which is the lesser evil.

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    • “Like it or not, it is a clear dichotomy … there are two and ONLY two choices. I know which is the lesser evil”

      Most people believe this, and most people agree that they “know” which is the lesser of two evils. I believe that the dichotomy is part of the problem which inhibits democracy, because people are voting based on an illusion of choice (in your case, the illusion of ONLY two choices). This is why the pendulum continues to swing back and forth every time a left-Democrat is replaced with a right-Republican or vice versa. In my opinion, the pendulum needs to swing in a new direction for significant change, and only a direction that a 3rd party can accomplish (at this time anyways). For me, the dangerous overlap between both parties (i.e. corporate influence, defense spending, etc.) is analogous to two parties being pro-slavery. One is campaigning on promoting chocolate and the other vanilla, but BOTH are pro-slavery. They aren’t going to platform on the issue of slavery, because it is an overlapping issue — so instead they placate the voters with far less important issues/distractions such as vanilla vs. chocolate. I believe that a vote for Obama or Romney is analogous to a vote for vanilla or chocolate, even though SLAVERY is the issue at hand that only a 3rd party can change. Sustainability, personal liberty, and humanitarian efforts are what matter most to me, and while I do see an extra bone or two thrown to the masses from the lesser of two evils, I do not see anything substantially different. Mind you, even if Jill Stein were to win the presidential election, I wouldn’t expect any significant change (at least not right away) due to the corrupt system we employ, including various forms of legal obstruction such as the filibuster (which should be eliminated — period), the supposed “checks and balances”, etc. In other words, the political battle will start heading down the right path when a 3rd party is elected, but this includes the legislative branch as well. Even when Obama was elected, and the U.S. had a democratic majority in the legislative branch, the Republicans filibustered over 200 bills in Obama’s first year. They created a situation where a 60/40 vote was needed, rather than a truly democratic up or down vote (51/49). This is inexcusable, as it went against everything the voters had in mind. Voters elected Obama into office, as well as the democratic majority, and very little was accomplished despite that democratic majority. Instead, legal obstruction and other parlor tricks were performed to basically dig some holes in the ground and fill them back in (which doesn’t accomplish much other than wasting energy). So there are a few things that need to be changed with our system in order to precipitate significant changes. This is what worries me the most, because the Corporatocracy will do everything in it’s power to prevent these changes. We as a country may be forced to undergo a revolution in order to be heard, as “playing by the rules” amounts to the dishonesty or lack of fairness of those in power. Perhaps if we implemented some type of proportional representation rather than the electoral college and other “winner-takes-all” political features, as well as publicly funded campaigns with more choices, the 3rd party would stand to make significant change in the much more near future — simply because new radical points of view would be brought to the table with proportional representation rather than simply perpetuating the promotion of chocolate and vanilla with billions of corporate-funded advertising dollars.

      “or loons like Rick Santorum, who wants to limit contraception, etc. ”

      I agree with you here. We have a few nuts in politics, and they are the kind that get stuck in your teeth. The infamous “Santorum Salad”, suggesting that if we let a man marry another man, what’s to stop a man from marrying a dog? What a close-minded bigot. Every time I heard him talking about gay marriage, he’d bring up the argument of allowing polygamy and other irrelevant scenarios as they related to the argument of allowing gay marriage due to it fulfilling happiness. He’d say, why not allow 3 people to get married if it fulfills happiness? In my opinion, when it comes to issue of gay marriage (in its most basic form), it is about giving the right to marry to any two consenting adults regardless of their sex or sexual orientation. The “Santorum Salad” provides nothing more than a bad case of food poisoning, metaphorically speaking.

      What I find most interesting behind the “Vote Yes/No” marriage debate is that the reason behind the “Vote yes” crowd is claimed to be based on religious views of what they consider marriage to be defined as. One question I have is, which religious group(s) brought this to the attention of their “representatives”? If it was Christians, or Muslims, or Jews, then we must ask, “Is it considered “Marriage” if it is a bond between a Hindu man and a Hindu woman?” If they say “yes, that counts as marriage” then it is not a matter of religion (since they don’t care if people are married by a Satanic priest, or some other religious figure OUTSIDE of their religion), it would imply that it is a matter of sex and orientation, which is sexism and orientationism (it is NOT about religious freedom). In order to be consistent when saying that “Vote Yes” is about religious definitions, then the same crowd should be denying the credibility of marriage in ALL heterosexual religious groups that fall outside of their own religion (if those same religious folks are claiming that marriage is a bond between a heterosexual couple AND the “one true God” not some false idols of the Hindu religion for example). I haven’t heard any decent responses to this argument and I get the feeling I never will. Even if we disregard this argument I’ve presented, why does one religion get a claim on a word like marriage, and if so, which religion is it? Why can’t I have a new religion that defines marriage to be something else (like a bond between two adults regardless of sex)? Not on topic, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyways.

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