Monday, November 05, 2012

Too Far to Turn Back Now | The Election of 2012

This time four years ago, Susan and I were in Pennsylvania with her dad and I was thumbing a final post on the 2008 election into my iPhone.
Today, Dale -- who, at 89, recalls vividly what happened when Americans were willing to employ the strength of our elected government for the common good in another time of economic and political crisis -- put it as clearly as anyone could. "If people like what George Bush has done the last eight years, they should vote for John McCain. If they don't like the last eight years, Obama is their man." 
I find no fault in that summary. Senator McCain isn't President Bush but I think he's too close for comfort. Beyond that, I hardly know who he is. Certainly not the Senator who had my grudging respect in the 90s. Senator McCain surrendered significant ground to the Bush Administration on the constitutional doctrine of habeas corpus and historic legal prohibitions prohibiting torture. Senator McCain's lack of curiosity and discernment about economics -- especially after his involvement in the costly Keating financial scandal is disheartening. And then there's the selection of Governor Palin, a choice in which I find no upside. 
I don't wish to demonize Senator McCain; I just don't think he's the right person to lead our government. 
I like Senator Obama on foreign affairs. I like him on the Constitution, on health care, on tax policy, on the economy (though I feel confident we're in for tough sledding in the economy no matter what). In short, I'm more confident in Senator Obama's worldview than Senator McCain's. Perfect? Of course not. But, as far as I'm concerned, much better. 
That's why I voted for Senator Obama in early balloting. It's why Dale will vote for Senator Obama at his polling place tomorrow.  
Don't be afraid. This way to the future.
Dale died last spring at age 92. He did not regret his vote for Barack Obama, and neither do I regret mine. 

I admit I didn't anticipate the self-destructive belligerence with which Republicans in the U.S. Congress resisted not just the President's policies but resisted him as a human being. I thought they were better women and men than that; better legislators; better citizens. My mistake. In fairness, not every Republican in the House and Senate misbehaved. But, sadly, most of those who did not won't be back in January, having retired or been turned out by their constituents in contentious primaries this year. 

Still, in the face of a stiff, foul wind, Mr. Obama led us across the threshold of (at least) four extraordinarily important cultural shifts. None of the four is complete; there is work to be done; but that work was begun because we elected Barack Obama president in 2008.

The Affordable Care Act ensures that tens of millions of us can be insured and will remain insurable. For the first time in our history (though certainly not the first time in the world) none of us needs to fear that our families will lose everything because one of us has lost his or her health.

Financial reform via the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act makes it harder for liars and thieves to rip off ordinary citizens and easier for us get justice should we fall prey to those who are crooked and greedy and false. This is to say nothing of keeping our economy on the Great Recession side of what was rapidly devolving into another Great Depression.

 By bringing the Iraq war to a conclusion, by winding down the war in Afghanistan, by the messy work of personal diplomacy and statecraft, and the canny deployment of Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama brought the U.S. back from the brink with our allies, adversaries and enemies. We are safer and better positioned in the world in 2012 than we were in 2008 (without descending farther down the path of torture, even if we haven't yet managed to remove congressional barriers to closing the compound at Guantanamo Bay and pursuing justice under the law, as we always have in our best moments as a nation).

Our national policies have in the last three years took a heartening turn toward human dignity and equal protection under the law via the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. It's a start. (As a practical matter, the test of equal protection under the law is that by statute, code, regulation and enforcement, every one of us is treated as I want to be treated.)

We have crossed important thresholds in these domains, but we are by no means finished. What's been accomplished is incomplete and imperfect. There is so much to be done.

Meanwhile, the opposition fronted by Governor Romney is determined to push us back across those thresholds and seal the doors if they can.

I say they can't. I'm voting for President Obama in 2012 because he's leading in a direction I want us to go. Because, as he has been saying in the campaign, "We've come too far to turn back now."

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