The moral imperative of reëlecting Barack Obama
by Russell's Rants
Originally published November 4, 2012
It’s not just that President Obama rescued us from the abyss of the Great Recession. It’s not just that President Obama’s first term was the most legislatively consequential since LBJ’s – from universal health care coverage (a dream from the days of Truman) to equal-pay-for-equal-work to Wall Street reform. It’s not just that he decimated al-Qaeda, killed Bin Laden and has kept us safe. It’s not just that he ended two wars, along with “don’t ask don’t tell,” and restored America’s standing in the world. And it’s not just that he told his Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act and issued an Executive Order for young immigrants who have lived here most of their lives when Congress refused to enact the DREAM Act.
The President deserves reëlection based upon his own, unparalleled accomplishments, especially given the intransigence of the Tea Party Congress for the last two years.
But he also must be reëlected because the alternative is so disgustingly dire.
Some say Mitt Romney is merely an accomplished manager with no moral or political core – not really the “severe” conservative he pretended to be during the Republican primaries. Even if this is the best defense you can make of the man, the fact is that he is, and will continue to be, beholden to those in his party who are severely conservative to their cores. Their obvious goal is to roll back the social safety net for the poor and deregulate the economy for the rich.
When President Obama said at the third debate that Romney wants to return to the foreign policy of the 1980’s, the social policies of the 1950’s and the economic policies of the 1920’s, he hit it on the head.
The president could have added that Romney also wants to resurrect the judicial policies of the 1790’s. A Gilded Age redux.
Look at the Supreme Court. It presently tilts to the right, with a 5-4 conservative majority. Every now and then we have Justice Kennedy and, in one famous occasion last term upholding the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice Roberts, voting with the liberal block. Experts say there may be two or more vacancies on the High Court during the next term. If Romney were ever able to nominate a reliable conservative, and you know that he would if give the chance, you can kiss the Court off for the balance of my lifetime.
- Roe v. Wade (hanging by one vote): gone
- Marriage equality: gone
- Affirmative action: already gone
- Anti-discrimination laws: overruled in favor of property rights
- Commerce Clause: returned to a 19th Century model
Make no mistake. We saw what George W. Bush could do in 8 short years: from surplus to deficit; from peace to war by false pretense; from boom to bust.
A Romney Administration will mean increasing economic stratification; major hurt for the middle class – the “47-percenters”; and the end of the American Dream for the coming generations. The New Deal institutions by which citizens climbed into the middle class will be wiped out. Public education, Medicare, Social Security – to say nothing of Medicaid – will be under constant assault and end up being privatized and voucherized out of existence. Union rights will be further restricted.
Literally, this county could end up looking more like India, circa 1900, with its caste system and lack of social mobility, than America, circa 2000.
The latest social science shows that what’s good for the middle class is good for America. Income inequality is not only immoral but bad economics. Romney didn’t get that memo and will enact policies that harken back to Calvin Coolidge’s focus only on what’s good for private equity. This is not a prescription for success in the broader economy.
It’s funny that the Republicans accuse Obama of wanting this country to be more like Europe. But Europe actually followed Republican economic policies, enacted austerity budgets instead of stimulus and has landed back in negative growth with double-digit unemployment.
President Obama deserves four more years to finish the job he started. Back in his very first presidential debate with John McCain in 2008, Obama said that his top three campaign promises for his first term were, in order: (1) a new energy policy stressing domestic production and alternative fuels; (2) education reform; and (3) health care reform. He accomplished the third and made large down-payments on the first two – with Race to the Top and clean energy policies. If reëlected, Obama stands poised to strike a “Grand Bargain” with John Boehner on the budget and avoid the coming fiscal cliff – likely almost immediately in the lame duck session. That will free up the president to focus on a progressive, practical second term agenda that completes his original promises – and maybe even moves toward dealing with poverty, social mobility and climate change.
It’s also funny that Romney tried to steal the mantle of bipartisanship during the debates with his etch-a-sketch move to the center. He repeatedly, and quite ironically given his position on the repeal of health care reform, cited his accomplishment in reaching across the aisle as Governor of Massachusetts to pass Romneycare. How hard could it have been to convince Democrats to enact universal health care reform in his state? It was like selling honey to bees. This is what Democrats do. If he were to come to Washington, Romney would find it a lot more difficult to sell draconian entitlement reform to Democrats, who would resists him every step of the way – including with a Senate filibuster. And the Senate is projected to remain Democratic through at least 2014.
If your issue is reduction of the debt and entitlement reform, then Obama’s got to be your man. He will be the only one able to sell it to his own party. It’s a Nixon-to-China scenario. The only ones with credibility can play against type.
The truth is that the most important thing that the president can do is win a second term – because it means that his first-term accomplishments, most especially universal health care, will survive, and he will be in a position to fill the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. The prospect of a Romney appointment to the High Court is truly frightening, and if everyone gets out and votes, will not come to pass. It is not merely a political question as to who will take the oath of office next January. It is a moral one that will determine the future course of our republic and, as Lincoln said, a government of, by and for the people.