|Mitt Romney speaks to supporters during in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Getty Images)|
The 2012 presidential election is vitally important to the future of the United States. As such, and for a change, I’m removing my dispassionate political analyst’s hat. Just this once, I’m going to put on my partisan hat and articulate some of the reasons why I believe it’s so important that President Obama be re-elected and as many Democrats as possible be elected and re-elected to the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
As an introductory aside, one almost couldn’t help but be amused by Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s series of gaffes on his trip to London last month. While what he said wasn’t really too bad, it’s his fault, and his campaign’s fault, for not knowing how his remarks about preparing properly for the Olympic Games would be taken by the English politicians and press. David Cameron’s comment about it being easier to organise an Olympics in the middle of nowhere was a fitting rebuttal to Romney’s ill-chosen words.
At any rate, I think what he said while abroad and what he has written and said in the past are a mirror on the man himself. What that mirror reflects isn’t particularly nice.
None of the foregoing or the following, however, is to say that Barack Obama is perfect, that the Democratic Party is perfect or that either party has anywhere close to all of the answers to the complicated and vexing issues that now confront the United States and, indeed, the western world.
Yet let’s compare President Obama and the Republicans’ standard bearer, former Massachusetts Governor Romney.
In the face of unrelenting opposition and knowing that it would provoke a backlash of epic proportions, President Obama succeeded in passing health care reform legislation. In vanquishing both entrenched, powerful interests and the ideological opposition of the far-right – those who believe that government is the enemy and that anyone who disagrees is a socialist – President Obama accomplished something that has eluded American presidents for a century.
Even former President Bill Clinton, one of the most formidable political operators to ever hold the office, couldn’t get this done. And he had an overwhelming Democratic majority to work with when he tried. President Obama’s victory on health care – due in no small part to the Trojan work of congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi – is something that Democrats can rightly celebrate. It’s already started to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans.
In addition to health care, President Obama was able to get crucial stimulus legislation passed that assisted millions of Americans in getting back to work and ensured that infrastructural improvements that have been needed for generations have been made.
President Obama also helped to rescue the American auto industry – remember that Governor Romney said “let it fail” – and, in doing so, preserved the quality of life for millions of Americans, their families and their communities. He’s even breathed new life into the manufacturing sector in the “rust belt,” which has struggled mightily as so-called free trade deals have inflicted untold damage on people who work with their hands for a living. President Obama is on their side.
At the same time, President Obama has been on the side of women, seniors, veterans, immigrants, minorities and all those struggling just to get by in America in 2012.
And whose side is Mitt Romney on? Well, it’s not overly glib to say that a Romney administration would be government by the 1 percent for the 1 percent. That’s whose side he’s always been on.
Mitt Romney used to be governor of my home state of Massachusetts. People who dealt with him in state government never fail to remind me how disinterested they believe he was in the job – that it was just a necessary line on his résumé in preparation for seeking the presidency. On a very personal level, many observe that they don’t believe he had the capacity to connect with the ordinary people he came into contact with. And this lack of empathy can be seen in his professional life.
He made a fortune as a venture capitalist. Just how did he do that? His erstwhile Republican presidential primary rival, Newt Gingrich, helped to answer the question in a lengthy political advertisement. The advertisement revealed the human toll of some of Romney’s success. Make no mistake: when Mitt Romney of Bain Capital “restructured failing companies,” he also eliminated the jobs and, as a result, forever changed the lives of hard-working Americans and their families – for the worse.
Now, he wants to be president. As a politician, his ideological journey may be without precedent. First, he was “moderate” and “progressive,” then he was “conservative,” then he was “severely conservative.” These are all his words. In this election, he’s going to try to convince the American people that he’s really a moderate again. This will take some fancy footwork.
The far-right thinks the American people can be fooled and far-right radicals are spoiling for control of the White House. Andrea Shell, a spokesperson for the Tea Party-affiliated Freedom Works, recently commented that their advocates in Congress are going “to force Romney to the right.” She stated that this was “our entire mission.” Specifically, she continued that “[H]e's (Romney’s) going to have to really, really go to the right. He'll be working with guys in the House and Senate. He won't be able to get away with too many middle of the road policies, especially on things like the deficit.”
The reality is that Tea Party devotees know that Governor Romney will owe them if he wins the presidency. That’s a scary thought, and might be the best reason for undecided and swing voters to re-elect President Obama.
As an American living overseas, I have a unique appreciation for just how radicalised the American right has become. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush opined that his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and even former President Ronald Reagan, wouldn’t be acceptable to the far-right radicals currently calling the shots in the Republican Party. They would probably call them RINOs: Republicans in Name Only. These new and emboldened far-right radicals are dangerous.
When they say that access to quality health care is not a right, but a privilege; when they argue that wealthy people shouldn’t be required to pay their fair share in taxes; when they see socialism in every attempt by government to do good; their pronouncements are broadcast around the world. Whether we Americans like it or not, their views reflect badly upon our country and upon us as a people.
I believe that these far-right radicals are wrong. I believe that we are a better country and a better people than they would lead the rest of the world to believe. That’s why I believe President Obama and congressional Democrats need to win in November.
This election is about what the United States is like as a country and about who we are as Americans. The stakes have never been higher.
Back to dispassionate political analysis next time.