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16 Reasons to Vote for Obama and the Democrats

September 3, 2012

I’m old enough to have voted for Hubert Humphrey in 1968.  I missed by only a few days being old enough to vote for LBJ in 1964 (you had to be 21 in those days).  I lived through the Freedom Rides and the Birmingham bombings, several assassinations, Watergate, the Vietnam War, the OPEC boycott, Iran-Contra, the Contract with America, Monica Lewinsky, and the phantom weapons of mass destruction that gave George W. Bush the pretext to invade Iraq.

But I think I have never seen such utter lunacy and mendacity in American politics as was on display last week in Tampa at the Republican National Convention.  Nor have I ever seen as stark a divide between two visions of America.  This post is a bit off-theme for this blog, but I felt compelled to set down the reasons you should choose one of them.

You should vote for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party if:

  1. You don’t want Social Security to be destroyed.  The reason Social Security works is that almost every American is in the system, and it does not depend on the ups and downs of the stock market.  It’s not meant to be anyone’s whole retirement plan (although for a lot of folks, that’s what it is), but if it’s privatized then the value of the benefit becomes uncertain.  Yes, the funding needs to be strengthened, but if people can opt out, it will weaken both the financial underpinning and the political support for Social Security to the point that the program will become expendable, which is exactly what the Republicans want.
  2. You don’t want Medicare to be destroyed.  Same principle as above.  Medicare works.  It’s more efficient than private insurance.  People like it.  The Obama program does not cut benefits, despite the lies being spread in Republican political ads. So why would you want to change it to a voucher program that would give seniors an—unspecified—amount to apply to private insurance that would cost them more?  Because the end result will be to eviscerate Medicare by removing future participants from the program.  And, yes, it would adversely affect seniors who are already under Medicare.
  3. You want to see a balanced budget in your lifetime.   Republicans don’t really give a shit about balancing the budget, they just want to “starve the beast” by stopping funding for non-military government programs.  The last time we had a surplus was under Democrat Bill Clinton, but the Bush administration destroyed that by starting an unfunded war in Iraq while granting a huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy.  As Dick Cheney famously said:  “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”  Most of the “crushing” additions to the national debt that Republicans moan about are a direct result of Bush policies.  The “Ryan Plan” is pure Ayn Rand fantasy which would actually swell the deficit, while Romney calls for further tax cuts for the rich and cannot show how he would balance the budget.  The only way that can happen is by getting wealthy Americans to pay more, which is what Obama is proposing.  The Democrats are also willing to put the military budget on the table, realizing that the US probably doesn’t really need to spend more on defense than the next 20 largest countries combined.
  4. You don’t think that the best response to economic catastrophe is to do nothing.   When the Bush team realized the depth of the abyss their policies had pushed the country into, it was the Democrats who stepped up and passed a bill that prevented a collapse of the banking system with almost no Republican support.  After Obama took office, Republicans fought tooth and nail every measure proposed to keep the economy from flat-lining.  A government economic stimulus has been the standard policy in every recession since the Great Depression, but this time the GOP was uniformly against it.  The Obama stimulus package, which Republicans love to vilify (though they didn’t mind taking the money), kept teachers, police, firefighters, construction workers, and others from losing their jobs, even though most economists think it was too small to do what was really needed.  Contrary to the Republican mantra, most economists agree that the Obama stimulus worked better than the one the Bush administration applied in 2002 (the first Bush recession—remember?) because it emphasized spending rather than tax cuts for businesses.  It also saved the American automobile industry, which Romney famously wrote should be allowed to die.
  5. You don’t think the rich should keep getting richer at the expense of the middle class and the poor.  One result of the Bush tax cuts has been accelerating concentration of wealth among the very richest in this country, while the share of the middle class and poor has declined.  The Republicans have staunchly defended these entitlements for the rich, and the “Ryan Plan” would lower their taxes even further.  Obama has proposed letting the two highest tax brackets (currently 33% and 35%) revert to their pre-2001 levels of 36% and 39.6%.  Those would apply only to income in excess of $250,000.  Not really a radical proposal, but you’d never know that by listening to the Republicans howl about it.
  6. You think all Americans should have access to affordable health care.  I don’t know why Republicans are so opposed to Obamacare (as they contemptuously named it), unless they believe their own lies about it.  There is no “government take-over” of health care—the private insurance lobby made certain of that!  It doesn’t put “government bureaucrats between you and your doctor” (those would be the private bureaucrats employed by health insurance companies).  Health care in the US is great if you have money, but it is very expensive and inefficient in comparison with other developed countries, and we rank shockingly low in overall public health measures.  “Obamacare” may not change all of that, but at least it will extend coverage to millions of people who don’t now have it and include those who couldn’t get coverage because of “pre-existing conditions.”  It’s a big positive step, and I think it would be popular if only the administration would do a better job of selling it and countering the right-wing slander.
  7. You think women should be able to make their own choices about abortion and have full access to contraception.  I don’t believe anyone decides to have an abortion lightly, but even if you don’t like the idea of it, there are circumstances where such a decision can be justified.  The Republican position is now that abortion should be illegal in all cases.  If implemented, it wouldn’t totally prevent abortions, but it would make them expensive, illicit, and dangerous—just like in the bad old days—and inaccessible to women of limited means.  And if you don’t like abortions, why would you be against contraception?  Trying to impose restrictions based on religious conviction comes awfully close to imposing a “Christian” (or at least Catholic) version of sharia.
  8. You think climate change is real and the environment needs protection.  The Republican Party is collectively in deep denial regarding climate change—by refusing to accept the scientific consensus that it is happening and accelerating and by fighting any policy changes that might mitigate the effects.  This should be of particular concern to South Florida, where we all live only a few feet above sea level and are particularly threatened by melting polar ice caps and sea level rise.   This goes hand-in-hand with the GOP’s fundamentalist base which places religious belief above science and with the Republicans’ quasi-religious (dare I say idolatrous?) faith in unimpeded capitalism, which means that profit always trumps environment.  The EPA and its “job-killing” regulations are particularly hated, and wherever the GOP has taken over state governments—as in Florida—local environmental enforcement has been gutted.  If the Republican platform were enacted, it would roll back progress made since the 1970s on air and water quality.
  9. You don’t think the noun “American” only refers to white people.  Despite the GOP’s best efforts to showcase a few blacks and Hispanics at their convention (I must have missed Allen West—or was he just too crazy to put on camera?), the “party of Lincoln” has become the “party of Jefferson Davis.”  The GOP is now the Angry White People’s party, as South Carolina queen Senator Lindsey Graham all but admitted.   The just-below-the-surface racism that permeates the GOP—particularly now that the Tea Party Taliban has taken charge—keeps bubbling up to the top.  They have (mostly) learned to code the racist language so that it’s not quite explicit, but still everyone gets it.  African-Americans certainly get it, and recent polls show virtually NO support among blacks for the GOP.  Hispanic-Americans, turned off by the party’s hostility to immigrants, are not far behind.  The GOP has responded not by modifying its platform to appeal to minorities (which would piss off its racist base), but by implementing restrictive election rules in states they control (like Florida) designed to impede minority voting.
  10. You really can’t see why a gay couple getting married would threaten a straight couple’s marriage.  That’s because it doesn’t.  In states where gays can marry, it has had absolutely no impact on straight marriage—and really, how could it? Opposing gay marriage is just a way of perpetuating anti-gay prejudice. When one lives in an area like South Florida, where gays are widely accepted and out all over the place, it’s easy to forget that in so many parts of this country being gay is a very lonely—and too often dangerous—existence.  When Obama ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to allow gays to openly serve in the military, nothing happened!  But the Defense of Marriage Act still denies gay couples rights that straight couples take for granted, such as being included on a spouse’s health insurance.  The Republicans use hostility to gays as a wedge issue to motivate their base, while the Democrats have moved sharply in the opposite direction.  That choice couldn’t be clearer.
  11. You think the poor and unemployed deserve some help.  Republicans staunchly defend tax breaks for the rich, but their attitude to the poor is basically:  “Get a job, you lazy bastard!”  The problem is that most poor family heads do have jobs, but the jobs don’t pay crap.  And millions of others are only a pink slip away from plunging into poverty.  Earlier this year, Paul Ryan smirked that the social safety net was becoming “a hammock”, while calling for deep cuts in food stamp benefits.  The “Ryan Plan” would take nearly two-thirds of its non-defense budget cuts from programs that serve the poor, including Medicaid which would take a major hit.  (In case you’re wondering, the “plan’s” defense budget cuts are approximately zero.)
  12. You think working immigrants and their children should have a path to legal residency and citizenship even if they got here illegally.  Okay, raise your hand if you’re absolutely sure that the guy who cuts your grass or cleans your pool or picks the veggies you eat is legally in this country.  Do you really think the woman who cleans your apartment should be sent back to El Salvador if she can’t produce a green card?  Or that her children, who probably speak English as well as yours, should be denied a public education?  Well, the Republican platform opposes “any forms of amnesty” for illegal immigrants, and calls for “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”  Romney has endorsed “self-deportation” and said he would veto the “Dream Act” which the Obama administration has proposed to help illegal immigrants who arrived as children to acquire legal status.  And of course, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has become the poster child for GOP hostility to Latino immigrants.
  13. You believe that good public schools and access to higher education are critical to the future of this country.  US primary and secondary education is falling behind the rest of the developed world.  The reasons are complex and the remedies aren’t simple, but starving the public schools is not the solution.  The Republicans have become increasingly hostile to public education, partly because they hate the teachers’ unions, but mostly because it is, well, public.  The GOP preference is to support home schooling and vouchers (paid with public tax money) to move students into private and religious schools, while cutting funding for public schools and programs like Head Start, childcare, and job training.  More than half of children born in the US now are minority, and most of them will be going to public schools.  The US needs an educated workforce, and that means providing a decent education to all kids—not just those in private schools.  It also means giving lower income kids a way to pay for college, which is what Pell Grants do.   But the GOP has been trying to cut Pell Grant funding, and the “Ryan Plan” would eliminate over a million such grants over ten years. The GOP platform also calls for ending government student loans, but having the government guarantee loans from private lenders—you know, the private lenders get the profits, but the government assumes the risk.  That’s Republican capitalism for you!
  14. You think Obama has done a good job on foreign policy.  Romney and the GOP in general have clammed up about foreign policy because they have nothing to say.  In an interview after her convention speech last week, Condi Rice couldn’t come up with anything when asked how Republicans would do things differently.  (True, the rabid right wants the US to nuke Iran—or get the Israelis to do it for us.)  Basically, things are going pretty well.  Our troops have left Iraq, and the process of extricating ourselves from Afghanistan has begun.  Kaddafi is gone without a single US casualty, and, oh yeah, Osama bin Laden is dead.  Obama has restored our credibility with our European allies, and people there don’t hate us anymore—remember how it was four years ago?  Anyone?
  15. You don’t want a Supreme Court dominated by more justices like Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.  I would have added Roberts to this list except for his surprising vote on the health care act. The next president will likely be able to nominate 2 or 3 justices who will be on the Supreme Court for another 20 years or more.  Their opinions will shape the country’s laws for decades to come.  This court has already done irreparable damage with the Citizens United ruling that has corrupted the political process beyond belief.

Well, I have more reasons, but that’s enough for now.  So let’s simply sum it all up with this one:

16.      You just don’t want to support a party whose appeal is based on ignorance, bigotry, mendacity, and greed.

One Comment
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