November 2, 2012

Why I’m Voting for Obama

I’m not a fan of Barack Obama. With regards to foreign policy and civil liberties, his first term was in many ways a continuation of George W. Bush’s second term. He escalated the war in Afghanistan. He escalated drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. He tried to keep American troops in Iraq. He continued Bush’s policy of due-process-free indefinite detention. He did absolutely nothing for Palestinians. In sum, he largely governed like a sociopath, and if this were a just world he would be standing trial for war crimes.

But it’s not a just world, and Jill Stein doesn’t have a chance of winning. Our choice is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. And as bad as Obama may be, I believe that Romney would be worse.

First, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy would certainly be more belligerent. Romney has sounded like a neocon throughout much of the campaign, and, although he’s toned it down for the general election, if we want to see how he would govern we need just look at his advisors. His inner circle, Rosa Brooks writes, “looks an awful lot like George W. Bush’s inner circle, mostly because they’re made up of the exact same guys,” people like John Bolton, Dick Cheney, Robert Kagan, Dan Senor, Eliot Cohen, and Eric Edelman. All of which means that a Romney presidency might very well mean war with Iran. It might mean a return to torture, extraordinary rendition, and CIA black sites, all of which Obama banned in 2009. A Romney presidency would certainly mean more money for the defense industry.
Second, Mitt Romney would drastically weaken the social safety net. Although he hasn’t released an actual budget, he’s made it clear that he’s committed to balancing the budget without raising taxes and without cutting Medicare, Social Security, or defense. As Ezra Klein points out, “To make Romney’s numbers add up, you have to assume that by the end of his presidency, Romney will have cut every federal program that’s not Medicare, Social Security or defense spending by 57 percent.” Which means that he would have to impose drastic cuts to programs that benefit the poor; we’re talking things like “Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies and job training.” Some estimates suggest that “a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million [poor] people who would have coverage if he lost.”

Third, Romney’s policies would certainly be much more harmful to the environment. Obama hasn’t been great on environmental issues, but, as Brad Plummer recently reported, he “has taken a few modest steps to curb carbon emissions.” If we essentially continue these policies, we’re likely to see a decrease in carbon emissions by as much 16 percent by 2020. (Obama also invested quite a bit in clean energy in the stimulus.) Romney, by contrast, has made it clear that he would not do anything to reduce emissions.

Again, I wish we had a better choice. I wish Jill Stein were a viable candidate. But she’s not. The American public isn’t yet ready for someone like her. Which means that we have our work cut out for us. We need to continue working to educate people. But in the mean time, I’m voting for Barack Obama, whose policies will certainly harm less people than Mitt Romneys.

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