Features |Obama for presidentOctober 28,2012
Barack Obama is a historic figure, not only because he is America’s first African-American president, but also because he has steered the nation on a perilous and difficult passage from economic collapse toward recovery. To reverse course now would be a profoundly damaging misstep. That is why President Obama must be re-elected.
It is important to put Obama’s presidency in the proper historic context, not to excuse his shortcomings, but to see clearly what he has accomplished.
On the economic front, his stimulus program halted the meltdown of the economy in the early months of 2009. His program saved millions of jobs, including tens of thousands of jobs in the auto industry and related businesses. Indeed, the auto rescue demonstrated for all to see the constructive role that an active government — big government — can play to nurture prosperity. It is a message that runs counter to the ideology of Republicans who believe that government must be hobbled, its role in the economy reduced. Mitt Romney, loyal to GOP ideology, would have let General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt.
One of Obama’s most significant accomplishments, health care reform, has not yet been fully implemented, which is why it has been vulnerable to Republican attack. It is the largest expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Medicare: Tens of millions of uninsured Americans will have access to health care coverage when it is fully implemented and the power of insurance companies to deny them coverage will be curtailed. Once again, Obama’s success was a repudiation of the Republican narrative that government is the enemy.
Obama used the economic stimulus bill to invest heavily in green technology, which has been his most significant step in addressing climate change. The willful blindness of Republicans to the onset of climate change represents a kind of crime against the planet; Obama has done what he could to get around GOP obstructionism.
On social issues and civil rights, Obama stands with the American people and against a party that has become increasingly retrograde on women’s rights, gay rights and civil rights. The Republicans’ efforts at voter suppression in Democratic precincts have been a shameful chapter in American politics. On abortion rights, the extremism of the Republican Party has been revealed in offensive comments by at least two Senate candidates, one of whom declared that when a woman is impregnated by a rapist, it is God’s will. Romney has been smart enough not to endorse these sentiments, but his Supreme Court appointments could well end up acting to put those views into law. There is no reason to believe Romney would not fulfill his pro-life promises.
In foreign affairs, Obama has redeemed America from the squalor and criminality of the Bush years. He has been aggressive in the war against al-Qaida, as he must be. But he has been careful not to overextend the United States. He has exercised both strength and caution, achieving notable successes in killing Osama bin Laden and helping to usher in a new day in Libya. He is tightening the screws on Iran to head off its nuclear ambitions, without indulging in the reckless rhetoric used by Romney.
One reason for the American people to support Obama is to reject a campaign of unparalleled cynicism and dishonesty by Romney, who has been willing to say virtually anything to win election. On almost every issue that has come before him, he has been for it before he was against it, or vice versa. It is all part of a conscience-free campaign of salesmanship that places a Romney victory above any honest articulation of actual views.
The steadiness and intelligence with which Obama has conducted his presidency are all the more remarkable given the poisonous atmosphere of disdain emanating from the right. The cloud of racism always looms on the horizon. Obama’s caution and aversion to outright political confrontation sometimes frustrate his liberal supporters, but they are part of his political DNA. One result is that he seems to absorb a vast reservoir of hostility with unusual calm.
The battles to come will be fierce. There is no indication that the more destructive elements of the Republican Party are ready to be vanquished. Romney’s promise to slash spending and taxes could initiate a new recession with all the suffering that would entail. Austerity had its test in Europe, and it failed. Romney’s subservience to the interests of the wealthy elite would only create further hardship for the American people.
Re-electing Barack Obama in 2012 may not bring the thrill that his election in 2008 did, but the path on which we set off back then was pointed in the right direction, and it would be a tragic mistake to turn back now. There is much to achieve in bolstering the economy, implementing health care reform, promoting education, science and research, instituting greater economic fairness, safeguarding the planet and meeting the challenges of a changing world. Barack Obama has been tested, and he has shown himself to be uniquely capable of taking up those challenges.MORE IN FEATURES15
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