Monday, November 5, 2012

No Matter Who Wins, Someone Else Loses

We know this much for sure: No matter who wins the election tomorrow there will be many, many people across the country who are uneasy about the next four years. I have absolutely no idea what will happen tomorrow. I only know that nearly half the country will be left disappointed. I take some weird kind of solace in this. Knowing that each election cycle we face this odd paradigm and yet, we carry on regardless of which side is left sullen and dejected. But I still have my pick. I still have my side of the story. I have no illusion whatsoever that I can possibly change anyone’s mind at this point. But maybe, just maybe it would be helpful to know why a possible Romney presidency is troubling to me.

First, let me say that I do not believe, nor have I ever believed that Barack Obama was some kind of messiah that would usher in a new era in American politics. From his election in 2008 I was cautious about the high expectations he’d set up for himself. Perhaps that’s part of the reason I don’t find myself disappointed by him. I don’t agree with everything he’s done. He could have done more for the environment and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has its issues. Even so, he did block the Keystone Pipeline and my brother is able to afford health insurance for the first time since he came off of my parents’ insurance nearly 5 years ago. Add to that the death of Osama bin Laden and a complete and utter mess of an economy that was resurrected from the ashes as much as it possibly could have been in the span of 4 years (in my humble opinion) in addition to laundry list of other accomplishments and you have a pretty decent record.
At least I think so.

And then there’s Mitt Romney. I didn’t know a whole lot about him when this campaign started way, way back in 2011. As far as I knew, he was a moderate Republican who served a term as Governor of Massachusetts. But watching him in the Republican primaries gave me pause. I found Romney to be willing to bend and alter his positions any which way to gain favor with the conservative base. Sure, almost all politicians will do that, but he seemed to bend over backwards. After the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, Romeny started to slide back toward the center. By the first debate he was rejecting some of his own policies. On top of that, he began throwing out spurious claims about Obama left and right including the latest whopper about Obama “selling Chrysler to Italians and moving production of Jeep to China”, a patently false claim he’s pushing in ads in Ohio. Again, these are things all politicians do to some dgree, Obama included. But Romney’s use of dubious claims has only increased as the campaign has worn on.

Given the widespread lying and flip-flopping, I’ve determined with a fair amount of certainty that Mitt Romney is not a man of great integrity. He comes off as a man more interested in having the job of president than doing the job of president and is willing to do and say whatever it takes to achieve that goal. And that brings me to perhaps my greatest fear of a Mitt Romeny presidency. To retain power, I believe Romney will kowtow to the GOP in any way he can.

I won’t mince words here. As much as I’m trying to be pragmatic and fair, I need to be honest about my feelings on the Republican Party of 2012. What the GOP has evolved into is deeply troubling to me. I view it as a party that is controlled by extremely wealthy businessmen who will do absolutely anything to protect their business interests. This includes funding far-right ideologues who appeal to deeply socially conservative constituents. I seriously doubt most of these businessmen -- and they are almost exclusively men -- care much about whether abortion and gay marriage are outlawed, but if that’s what it takes to keep their companies ridiculously profitable and often subsidized by the federal government, then so be it. Add that to the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited spending to support political agendas and to do so anonymously and you have the modern GOP and its grafted limb the Tea Party.

My misgivings about Romney’s character lead me to believe that he will go out of his way to enable the right-wing, pro business GOP. I worry that Romney will placate the bigots and willingly infringe on the civil rights of women and homosexuals by imposing social conservatism by law. (This in spite of the “get the government out of my business” battle cry of the GOP.) I worry that he will continue to saber rattle and at the behest of the GOP, possibly taking us into more international altercations we'd be better off avoiding.

I also worry about vast deregulation resulting in environmentally devastating consequences not to mention continued consolidation of wealth away from the lower and middle classes. It's important to note that I believe in capitalism and free market principles but at the same time I believe that to make those principles work for everyone that you can’t stack the deck in favor of those who are already at the top of the food chain.

Then you have my pet issues of urbanism and transit. The GOP is openly hostile to both. In their party platform they decried "dense housing and government transit". This would be very bad news for the entire country, but my home of New York City in particular. And in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I can see a great amount of resistance to helping us better prepare for the next massive storm, let alone taking steps to stem climate change in spite of the fact that this was an issue Romney once embraced.

Combine these concerns with Mitt’s promise to dramatically increase defense spending while cutting funding for the arts, social programs, and Planned Parenthood. Add to that a massive tax cut that will almost certainly primarily benefit the very wealthy and you have a recipe for bigger deficits in spite of Romney’s promises of fiscal responsibility.

Clearly, I’m impassioned about all of this. And I know there are some very smart, well-intentioned people who support Mitt Romney. I know this because some of them are my friends and family. And many of these people could challenge many of the things I’ve said here. But for me, the bottom line is this: The Republican Party I registered with in 2000 no longer exists. It has been replaced by a political machine hell bent on its way or the highway, everyone else be damned with Mitt Romney as their enabler-in-chief. I can’t get on board with that. And the prospect of it coming into power is disconcerting to me. And yet, with the election as close as it is I must be prepared for the possibility that they will do just that. Or maybe they won’t. Either way life must go on. And my conservative friends must remain my friends. Because to bury my head in the sand, to retreat to my own echo-chamber and to be so naive as to think that my way is the only will help no one. 

No matter the outcome of tomorrow’s race, I and everyone else must move forward, keeping the conversation going. I just hope, in all sincerity, that no matter who wins we remember this: A little less than half the country will have wanted the other guy to win. But at the end of the day, we still have to live in this country together. We’ll be a lot better off if we keep that in mind.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Alex.

    Whenever I think of politics in this country, and especially elections, I think of something President Wilson said in his address to Congress in the months before the United States entered World War I. He said, "Is the present war a struggle for a just and secure peace, or only for a new balance of power? If it be only a struggle for a new balance of power, who will guarantee, who can guarantee, the stable equilibrium of the new arrangement? . . . There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace."