I think we have this election under control. But I don't think we can take it for granted. We have to remember that it will still take all of us. When Democrats are excited and willing to get moving, there is better attendance at the polls by voters who rely on the Party infrastructure for support. The strength of involvement by middle-class liberals affects those who still need to be registered, need rides to the polls on election day, and, infuriatingly, need help getting the proper ID, a process that has to be in motion well before election day.
So it matters that some of us seem so comfortable saying, "Meh. I mean, sure, I'll probably still vote for Obama, but it's just not the same. I'm not about to get out there and do the legwork this time around. He hasn't earned it." Right now this kind of passive support strikes me as a luxury of the relatively privileged liberal voter. It shows a failure to recognize the Democratic Party as the historical, practiced, and practical champion of the disenfranchised voter.
Of course, how to vote, even whether to vote, and whether to campaign is absolutely the personal decision of every American citizen. And campaigning involves a commitment of time and energy that individuals have to make based on their circumstances.
So I guess my plea is more that we at least be aware that the level of involvement we choose this time around does have consequences. How much money we send in, whether we spend a few hours volunteering, and even how we talk about this election, all will have an impact on turnout on November 6th.
Again, it wouldn't be fair of me to presume to say how enthusiastic liberals should be about this President. Some disappointment about his first term is understandable, although I consider it unrealistic, given the unprecedented level of obstruction by Congress we've faced.
I just hope that folks on the left aren't being naive about what is really at stake. I have been stunned to hear thinking people say that Romney and Obama aren't that different, or that, since the system is so flawed, it's almost not worth it to stay engaged, or that, since Obama doesn't seem to be the fighter they thought he would be, it doesn't feel important to actively get behind him - as if a Romney presidency would look roughly the same as a second term for Obama.
So in order to highlight some measurable, critical differences in what we would face under Romney, versus under an Obama second term, I'll offer here a quick list of things to contemplate.
- The Affordable Care Act - Romney would use every executive power available to him to dismantle it.
- Veto Power, Part I: Romney would eagerly veto any legislation seeking to raise taxes on millionaires, continue funding for Planned Parenthood, advance clean energy initiatives, invest in infrastructure, maintain the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. These are just off the top of my head.
- Veto Power, Part II: If Obama is out of office, we lose his veto on a Farm Bill that makes brutal cuts to the Food Stamp program, legislation sure to come in 2013 to repeal the Voting Rights Act, legislation to overturn Roe v. Wade, efforts to switch Medicare to a voucher program, proposals to cut funds for the Department of Education, and attempts to weaken Dodd-Frank. Again, these are just to name what comes to mind immediately.
- Foreign Policy Part One, Terrorism: If you don't like the use of drones under Obama, imagine Romney in action. He has proven himself in many areas to be a secretive, opaque operator. In the area of security, he's a bellicose hawk. Now put those two qualities together...
- Foreign Policy Part Two, Iran: Obama has insisted on a patient approach, taking flak for continued reliance on diplomacy and sanctions, standing firm. Romney prefers bluster, and has shown absolutely no ability to stand up to Right Wing zealots.
- Supreme Court and other federal judgeship appointments: we can't predict what seats will come open in the next four years.
- The Dream Act: forget it.
- The Ryan Budget: accept it.
- Citizens United: get used to it.
Regarding our basic economic structure: Romney, like every business person in the US, benefits from the sound infrastructure we enjoy as a country. He knows this. And he denies it. It is no more possible to prosper as a capitalist in a developing country, even where democracy struggles to exist, than in a communist country. Mitt Romney has enough worldly experience to know this, but he is cynical enough to voice hostility to government and taxes, in a sweeping, holistic way.
Like the most conservative members of his Party, he verbally disavows the very idea of the mixed economy in which he has succeeded. Because citizens operating at his income level are the last to feel any pain from starving our infrastructure, they are willing to push that approach to its extreme, under the auspices of the idea that free-market profits will trickle down.
Combining that economic ideal with his social conservatism, a Romney presidency would be little different in effect from having someone like Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, or Dick Cheney running the White House.
If you want to, push Obama hard from the Left on issues you think he's ignoring. But do it while he's in office, where he can do something about them. Let's please, please, see what we can all do to keep him there four more years.