I was listening to the news this morning and I can’t believe that I even have to say this, but the election is so close that I feel I have to make my voice heard. On whatever day (Nov. 6th?) we vote, I will be casting my vote for President Obama.
If there’s any surprise here, it’s that I have some qualms about him and his leadership. For instance, I think he should close down Guantanemo as he said he would. I’m not a big fan of drone strikes. I don’t like that he veered right for a while. I don’t like some of the things he did when trying to get Obamacare passed (Remember the guy whose entire state would get federal aid for health care if he agreed to vote for it?. The administration backed off of that, but their strategy didn’t sit well with me.
With that out of the way, let me say why I am voting for him — his values are in the right place. He likes women. He likes gay people. He wants to take care of veterans. He can add. He tries to be a statesman. He understands that relationships with nations are complex, and not just about jingoism.
So, in order: 1) He likes women. There are many times in the past 4 years where I thought he was acting like The First Dad and I think that is how he approaches his Presidency. But, as a man with two daughters and a wife myself, I know to my core that he cares about the women and girls in his life. The idea that he would cut funds for Planned Parenthood is laughable to him. I don’t have to worry that he would make it hard for my daughters to be full citizens with control over their own bodies. I am well aware that the government isn’t needed for them to have control over their own bodies. They can make their own choices and I hope they will. But in places where they aren’t allowed to c0ntrol their bodies (rape happens all the time, just ask my clients), I don’t want to create a society that says “it’s ok — no, it’s good — that you can’t control your body”. The idea that a man could make a decision to de-fund reproductive rights for women after they have worked so hard to get them is insane to me. I can’t be sure that Mr. Romney wouldn’t consider doing so or that Mr. Ryan wouldn’t get into office (and he would de-fund it) means that for both positive reasons and negative ones, I will vote for the President.
2) He likes gay people. I was watching Rachel Maddow online after Obama announced his support for gay marraige. I wanted to see what someone affected by the President’s ideas thought about it. In her usual intellectual way, she avoided the “I’m so happy about it!” gush. She did say that she was happy, of course, but then she talked about policies, actual walk vs. talk. She pointed out that he pushed for “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” to be repealed. He pushed for domestic partnership benefits. He allowed openly gay folks to serve and bring their entire lives to the battlefield, and put up pictures of the people they love. In short, he treated them like human beings — and that seems to be a hallmark of his presidency. While he clearly can think about numbers, and maybe even likes to, he treats people as more than that. That’s what I want in my President. I haven’t even heard Romney speak about gay people.
3) He wants to take care of veterans. Actually, I think he wishes we didn’t have so many veterans to take care of, but — if we’re going to send people to war and trumpet how proud of them we are, then it’s time to follow through. The idea that we would send men off to war without decent body armor or safe vehicles is just evil — especially for a war (in Iraq, anyway) that we shouldn’t have been in, in the first place. Our government said to it’s people — we’re going to war, we’ll lie to you about why we’re going there, we’ll stay forever, and we’ll put you in harm’s way without giving you the things you need to be remotely safe says that the men and women who went there are just bodies to be destroyed. This is not honoring. This is destroying. Stopping doing that is a good thing. It says we value the humanity of our soldiers. Again, valuing people is better than not, and trying to heal their wounds if you put them in harm’s way is the only humane thing to do. Obama seems willing to do that. Again, I haven’t even heard Romeny talk about veterans.
4) He can add (and he adds like people matter). I don’t understand how or why Keynesian economics works, but it does. Spending money you don’t have to make money you do have seems nuts to me. But it worked for FDR, it worked for Johnson, and I think it’ll work again. Mr. Romney talks about the debt and how to pull us out of it — and that’s pretty much all he talks about, until lately. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that budgets reflect our values, though not having debt is a good value by itself. Neither Obama nor Romney want us to have the debt we have. Too bad it’s the given of the economy. Have a war for 10 years or so and you, too, can have the economy we have. Give banks a “free market” in a society with fewer and fewer morals and you get the banking crisis. So stop complaining about the debt like Obama created it. He didn’t.
In the meantime, people have to eat, so give them money for food. People need to do something with their lives and their days. There’s plenty of work to be done. Let them do it. Don’t spend money on destruction. And, yes, it is beyond fair to ask millionaires to help do it. Millionaires profited from gettiing us into this mess. Let them help get us out of it.
5) and 6) are really the same thing. One of the things I hear Republicans complain about — especially Mr. Romney — is that Obama “apologizes too much for America” and this is “a sign of weakness”. Countries, like individuals, families, corporations, or any other system, make mistakes. Part of diplomacy (which Clinton really started) is admitting that we have done horrible things, that we are complex and we are fully capable of being our best and our worst. By doing so, we make it more possible to believe that we can see others as complex, too. So, for instance, we can like Afghanistan and respect Islam even if we want to kill the Taliban. We can like certain policies, and hate the dictators who put them in place. I understand, as a parent, the value of not apologizing as you establish authority, but as people get more mature, or smarter, or something, of if you really mess up, apologies allow for ongoing relationships. Being a statesman (or woman, in the case of Hillary and others) requires a belief in people’s maturity or capability to become mature, to see things as complex and messy, but to be ok. Obama, for all the things he may or may not be, is not a one-dimensional person. He’s not a sound-bite guy. He’s not a “they are good” or “they are bad” kind of guy. I thinkl sometimes that we as Americans value simplicity-of-thought above all else. If it’s not easy, or in one sentence, we don’t want it. I don’t know that this — or any future President — can afford the luxury of that kind of thought.
So there it — my endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States — because he tends to focus on people, and because he can handle the complexities of life, and because he starts with human beings before he adds and subtracts.