All this sitting around waiting for Superstorm Sandy to pass, for my kids to go back to school and for life to get back to normal has really got me thinking. Thinking about the election. Because Tuesday is Election Day, a day I have long said should be a federal holiday. Without getting up on my soapbox, I can say with confidence that I have voted in every election since I was eligible in the 1980s — and not always for candidates of my party.
As a journalist, I have long kept my vote to myself though, in recent years, I have made a slow shift from the notion of journalistic objectivity (on which I was reared by the likes of Peter Jennings, Carole Simpson and Ted Koppel) toward a more civic model (what some call the advocacy model).
Before anyone cries, "Propaganda," let me be clear: I am not some partisan trying to make the case for my party's candidate just because he is my party's candidate. I never drank the Barack Obama Kool-Aid, as my frustrated friends who have passed that cup around will be quick to tell you. But the case for the re-election of Barack Obama is easy to make based simply on the man's track record during his first term in office.
This president was dealt a dreadful hand and he has played it well. To make this point, during the live chat hosted by It's a Free Country for the third presidential debate, I quoted Vice President Joe Biden: "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." Perhaps those ten words have been repeated too often over the past several weeks; but that’s because they make the point better than any others.
The fact is that in January 2009, when Barack Obama took office, the auto industry in the United States was on the verge of collapse. President Obama saved it. My friends on the right complain that the auto bailout has created more jobs in China than it has in the United States. But Detroit refutes this claim, with Chrysler and GM acknowledging global branding, but insisting that the bailout saved thousands of U.S. jobs. My friends on the left complain about the cost of the bailout to taxpayers. It is unclear what the total cost will be but admittedly it will be upwards of $25 billion. Still, it is important to put that number in context. The cost, in taxpayer terms, still isn’t quite as high as the cost of not bailing out Detroit would have been.
Let's talk about healthcare. Mitt Romney has said he plans to end Obamacare. That is unacceptable. By 2014, an additional 35 million Americans will be covered by health insurance. Presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt have tried and failed to achieve what President Obama has accomplished. To undo Obamacare would take the country in the wrong direction -- backward.
Of course, I understand the feelings progressives have that Obama hasn’t fought hard enough for their priorities. It is difficult for those who have not experienced the suffocating realities of bipartisan compromise to understand that the promise to close Guantanamo Bay would likely go unfulfilled. I understand the frustration my friends on the left expressed as the president yielded to Republican pressure by devoting a significant portion of the 2009 stimulus package to tax cuts.
My liberal friends were further disappointed when the Obama Administration abandoned the “public option” in the health care overhaul, didn’t go after big banks more aggressively in its financial overhaul bill and, most recently, supported an extension of Bush-era tax cuts.
Now, I hear many who say the President is not fighting hard enough for tax increases on the wealthy to help close the federal deficit. And as an African American, I hear my black friends complain that Obama does not do enough for our community.
But I give President Obama high marks on the work of civil rights enforcement that marks leadership in its Department of Justice: Reducing sentencing disparities on possession of crack versus powder cocaine possession, and broadening federal authority over hate crimes.
Consider, also President Obama’s support of gay marriage. Finally, there has been the President’s ongoing push to scale back military action in the Middle East.
The biggest sticking point for Obama’s base, however, is Wall Street. Time and again, I hear the passionate voters threaten to stay home from the polls because of President Obama’s decision the bail out the banks.
When President Obama took office, four years ago, the country’s financial sector was collapsing and threatening to drag the country into another Great Depression. President Bush put the Wall Street bailout into place. President Obama made the decision to endorse it. This was analogous to a surgeon stanching the bleeding in the banks and investment firms. It may have been a difficult decision for the President himself, as a progressive, to continue the Bush bailout; but that decision and the stimulus President Obama passed pulled the economy back from the brink of utter collapse. After the worst recession of the past 60 years, the economy is recovering, although half-heartedly.
Now, voters must decide whether they want to be worse off or better off in the next four years. Obama offers plans to take the U.S. forward.