I hope that you all have long since registered to vote, and plan on fulfilling your civic duty on or by Tuesday. Some would argue that any given vote is meaningless. However, in this post-Citizens United world, your vote can actually be ascribed an impressive financial value, by way of the millions upon millions of dollars spent by those in power trying to influence your decision. This is especially true across America's 'swing states' which have be deluged with a torrent of political advertisements and the like. We here in Delaware are only now getting a taste of the breadth of this assault via our proximity to suddenly in-play Pennsylvania.
I have a confession to make. As a Delawarean, I am unfortunately among the majority of Americans whose votes for President seemingly lack meaning. My vote for President Obama, in the solidly blue home state of Vice President Joe Biden, will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the electoral college. Similarly, a Texan of either political sway is not, at least in the short term, going to turn that state purple or blue. For this reason, I am ever so tempted to put my vote for President behind any one of the third party candidates. I'm tempted to look into them deeply, and make an informed decision amongst them, in an effort to make my gosh-darned vote count for something amongst this electoral sea of blue surrounding me.
I can't do this for one simple reason. I'm proud to vote for President Obama.
Over three and three-quarters years, he has provided the steady and principled leadership that this country so desperately needs moving forward. He's made mistakes, and he's not been perfect. But he's performed his job with poise and grace, and he has shown that he can be trusted at the helm.
Sound bites only go so far. But they don't get particularly better than 'Bin Laden is dead. GM is alive.' President Obama has moved the country on a number of issues, in the face of stiff opposition at almost every turn.
The Affordable Care Act, whether you are a fan or not, is an active attempt to help Americans avoid and mitigate what is today the number one cause of bankruptcy in this country: health care issues and expenses. The bill arose out of a good old fashioned bi-partisan squabble, and achieved success only through the work of widely respected Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, and was ostensibly upheld in the Supreme Court by Conservative Super Justice John Roberts. Don't believe it arose out of bi-partisan work and squabbling? Go back and re-live those months prior to the bill's passage. But this time, pay attention. Were this bill the picture of what Obama and the Democrats had initially envisioned, we'd all finally be getting those medical screenings we'd been putting off, all the while hailing Comrade Pelosi and Chairman Obama while muttering under our breath.
Obama has transformed our military's approach to prosecuting terrorism. He has shown courage and aplomb, to a surprising degree. The Bin Laden raid was one thing, but as we transition out of Afghanistan, he has shown an impressive willingness to bomb the shit out of Pakistan without their leaders blinking so much as a proverbial eye. This is exaggeration of course, and we cannot by any means carry this drone war out without end. But we are getting away with it, so far, because we are doing what we should have been doing from the beginning of this endless war. That is, we are tracking terrorists where they go, and targeting them with extreme force. Yes, we have killed countless innocents. Yes, that thought makes me sick to my stomach. But consider this - since 2008, upwards of 3000 people have been killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan. By our estimates, over 80% of those killed were militants. Compare these numbers to the deaths of Americans in Iraq or Afghanistan, not to mention the well over 100,000 civilians that have died during hostilities in Iraq. President Obama is consistently moving this war on terrorism in the direction it needs to go.
In the area of diplomacy, we have isolated Iran as never before, via sanctions approved by China and Russia. We've had a mixed record regarding the Arab spring, but we've at least managed to navigate those insane waters without putting any American soldiers on the ground. Of course, the Benghazi attack is a black mark on the President's record, and facts may surface which make this either more or less true than either side is hoping. But overall America has widely left Iraq, plans on leaving Afghanistan, and has yet to initiate any further extended hostilities in the region. We've done this without losing our edge militarily, and without taking the threat of assured annihilation off the table.
Facing an unprecedented financial catastrophe as he entered Office, President Obama has taken controversial steps to stave off the economic collapse we faced, and get the economy moving in the right direction. No one agrees with every step taken, from Bush's last minute bailout to the Stimulus to the Affordable Care Act to new regulations on banks and lenders. There is a little something to offend everyone in there. But the country is back on a positive track, despite continued global economic turmoil. Again, the President's actions weren't perfect, but they were courageous and based in principle, and have led to quantifiable results.
Under President Obama's leadership, we have seen the end of Don't Ask / Don't Tell, brought forth with the support and encouragement of the military's top brass, with seemingly no issues integrating the new policy of openness.
He has championed women's rights, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act and placing two women on the Supreme Court.
We have a President who supports equal rights for all citizens.
The often heard argument that Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same simply does not work in this election. There are stark differences between these two individuals, and even starker differences in the ideologies of the parties they lead. Unfortunately, these differences are highlighted most through the extreme positions taken up by the Republican party. These positions, on women's health issues, gay rights, voter enfranchisement, the environment, bank regulation, and so many more, make it impossible for me personally to support the party or consider its leaders as viable options. This is disappointing to me. I am also disappointed in the leadership of the Republican party, for working so hard over Obama's first term to thwart his initiatives at all costs in the spirit of political gamesmanship.
There is always a difference between the candidates of major parties, no matter how closely their politics may align. This is evident in the measure of the man. Attitude and style matter, as does grit and grittiness - an ability to see yourself and the job at hand in the broader context of history, while at the same time not getting carried away with yourself. These men are very different, with different leadership styles and different teams working behind the scenes. One of them will hold the nuclear codes and select the next one or two Supreme Court Justices.
While Mitt Romney's running mate has been the poster boy for Tea Party Ethics and Randian absurdities, Mitt Romney is no such ideologue. In fact, if you hold a particular position on an issue, and you believe in it dearly, chances are that at some point Mitt Romney has agreed with you in order to get your vote. Unfortunately, this is the case no matter which side of the issue you may fall. He has shown himself, time and again, to operate with zero integrity with regard to taking and standing by a position. He has already disavowed much of what he said only six months ago, including his desire to "Absolutely" strip funding from FEMA, his desire for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage, his bellicosity towards Russia and Iran, and a number of other issues as evidenced through all three debates. Mr. Romney has managed to at some point be on opposing sides of almost every single issue relevant to this election. He has shown little integrity on the campaign trail over the past eight years, and makes no indication that this will change were he put in office.
I don't agree with everything Barack Obama has done as President. I have ideological differences with the man, as well as practical frustrations and concerns. But there is only one direction this country can move in. We must continue on a path towards greater civil equality. We must elect leaders who are stoic, thoughtful, and principled. Barack Obama has widely served that role well over his first term. He has performed with dignity and pragmatism, and he has earned my vote. His opponent offers no viable alternative.