Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why the US should re-elect Barack Obama

When Americans go to the polls this week, the choice they have is relatively uninspiring. One one hand they have an incumbent who once inspired a great many people to dream of hope and change, yet ultimately has been compromised by the ugly reality of politics and has fallen short of the faith placed in him. On the other hand is a man who very few would honestly describe as inspiring, aside from perhaps in regard to his penchant for making money.

Obama as POTUS has managed to disappoint many, but that is largely due to the huge expectations held for him as a young, charismatic leader who was also the first African-American to hold the highest office in the land. Thus he will struggle to inspire the same level of enthusiasm as in 2008. But while the real President Obama was never likely to compare to quasi-mythical Candidate Obama, he's not running against Candidate Obama of 2008. He is running against Mitt Romney, and at the end of the day it comes down to a straight choice between which of the two candidates is better. For me it's no contest.

Romney is a mystery; he has changed his position so frequently on issues that no one really knows who he is. Deep down I actually think he's a moderate Republican whose views on social and moral issues are not nearly as regressive as the base of his party. Yet he has seemingly adopted their positions in order to get to where he is now. In truth, the biggest reason not to vote for Romney is not the man himself, but the party he belongs to, which is dominated by flat-earthers whose views on gender, sexuality, poverty and race have yet to make it out of the 19th century.

As for Romney himself, his primary credentials are economic; he is super-wealthy and many think that this means he can apply this businesslike approach to money-making to the nation's economy. This is fine if you have a blind faith in the trickle-down economic model in which the best way of helping the poor is to make the rich even richer in the hope that they will deign to throw a few crumbs to the undeserving masses. The Republican position is to reinstate the vulture capitalism that fuelled the meltdown of 2008, just this time do it with even less checks and balances.

Romney is an extremely wealthy man who wants to govern for the extremely wealthy. His infamous "47%" comments make that clear. Obama, on the other hand, is a wealthy man whose primary achievement in office is to guarantee available health care to the least wealthy in the country. ObamaCare is far from perfect, but it is something, which is the opposite of what Republicans have offered in this area, ie. nothing.

This picture speaks volumes.
Explore what conservatives have to say about the President, and you will come across a number of reasons why they don't like him, and even hate him with a passion. Some of them are legitimate, but many are not. In truth, a huge proportion of the animosity directed at Obama says less about the man himself, and more about the Fox News-led propaganda wing of the Right to play on the fear, ignorance and xenophobia of the American public.

It's completely legitimate to disagree with things like his handling of the economy, or his stance on gay marriage, or on health care, if you are philosophically opposed to those things. The problem is that many of the arguments against Obama are based not on facts but instead are more about "feel" - as in, that he doesn't seem like a "true" American, or a "true" Christian, and so on. Gotta hand it to the right-wing strategists that play upon this sentiment - they know what they are doing.

We've seen, in the last couple of days, Paul Ryan talking about Obama threatening "Judeo-Christian values." We've recently seen John Sununu claiming that Colin Powell only supports Obama because of their shared skin colour. We've seen Michelle Bachman and friends whipping up fear of Muslims inflitrating the White House. We've seen Donald Trump persisting with the birth certificate nonsense. And yet it is Obama who is frequently charged with dividing America, on Fox News, the station where pundits regularly refer to the poor as "the moocher class".

Plenty of Left-leaning voters have been disappointed by the President's compromising on health care, and his use of drones in Pakistan. Some will be sufficiently disillusioned to not turn out to vote. The result would merely be a President Romney who would attempt to overturn the steps forward made in health care, and whose dealings abroad will only be more hawkish.

A common complaint is that under Obama, other countries see the US as weak. That says a lot about how people conceptualise strength. In truth, the US has long been seen as an arrogant bully, a perception taken to its limits by George W Bush. Obama has done a lot to regain respect from the rest of the world. But Romney has already shown with his limited attempts at dabbling in international affairs that he will undo all that good work very quickly.

Obama is not the messiah, that has been made clear over the past four years. But he's not "the worst President ever" as many Fox News talking heads would have you believe, either. He's been a reasonably good President doing a reasonable job at rescuing the country from a dire situation created by a Republican administration. A Republican Party that hasn't learned from the mistakes of the past, and thus is doomed to repeat them. So why would anyone want to vote for them?

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