From the country nearly defaulting to the shooting of House Representative Gabrielle Giffords, it seems like American politics can’t get any more insane than the events of 2011. Well, prepare for the crazy-gauge to get cranked up to 11 because we’re about to enter into a Presidential election year. In the previous election, we got unending shrieks about Obama’s heritage, the typical fear-mongering surrounding terrorists and homosexuality, and Sarah Palin almost made it to within a heartbeat of the presidency if American didn’t vote for Obama in 2008.
As we approach what will undoubtedly be one of the most shrill and frustrating deaths that logic and reasonable debate have faced, it makes sense to pause and reconsider exactly what we’re looking for in a presidential candidate. Republicans, demonstrating their endless ability to make perfect the enemy of good, have failed to become excited by any of the current candidates. On the other side of the aisle, liberals have been displaying quite a bit of disappointment with Hopey McImpossibleStandards Obama.
Liberals are in a slightly better position, having an inspiring, capable candidate with years of proven experience who can still totally make us cry sometimes. I can’t speak for every Democrat, centrist or disillusioned Republican, but I think Barry O deserves another 4 years, and here are the top five reasons why you should vote for Obama in 2012:
Reason One: He’s actually a mature, responsible politician
Although one could not seriously be blamed for thinking that Congress and the Presidency are laughably ineffective offices filled with politicians elected to talk grandly about everything while doing very little about anything… okay that’s actually a pretty accurate statement. But every once in a while, Congress is called upon to deal with some very serious business, the most recent example being the asinine debate surrounding the debt ceiling.
Without going into too much detail, the debt ceiling was created as an artificial checkpoint set arbitrarily by Congress back near the beginning of the 20th century. In one of the more supreme ironies of the decade, its original purpose was to allow Congress to spend even more money. The important point here is that not raising the debt ceiling would be (and has proven to be) pretty terrible. To be more precise, it falls somewhere between “Another Great Depression” and “The Goddamn Apocalypse“.
In light of this, Obama presented a plan that would cut spending by 4 trillion dollars, including major cuts to sacred liberal cows like Medicare and Social Security. It’s the farthest out a Democratic president has ever extended the olive branch in the interest of reaching a compromise. In past years, Republicans would have salivated over cuts to entitlement programs, tax restructuring and the lowering of the corporate income tax rate — all of which were included in the plan.
Instead, they rejected it and risked worldwide economic Armageddon. Why? Because the plan also cut the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year. It’s one thing to stick to your principles, it’s another thing to cause the downgrading of US credit (something that has never happened before) because you’re worried about a single-digit percentage tax increase on the most wealthy. I am obviously biased on this issue, but a President who is willing to sacrifice credibility among his base when the occasion calls for sensible political maturity is someone who should be trusted above the blindly ideological.
Reason Two: He has increased America’s credibility and efficacy abroad
Coming out of the Bush years, America’s reputation with the rest of the world was understandably suffering from serious image problems. While it’s something of a time-honored American tradition to not care what other countries think of our policies, the truth is the better we’re liked and trusted abroad, the more we can do successfully without bringing in the F-18s. So-called “soft” international power might not be as satisfying as Shock and Awe, but it’s a couple trillion dollars less expensive if a diplomat can resolve an international row.
To be fair, Obama hasn’t exactly knocked many political balls out of the park in the international realm: our crumbling relationship with Pakistan is a good example of this. But when the bar is set as low as “Don’t start wars that make no sense, ship prisoners to be tortured in CIA black-ops prisons and don’t completely ignore whatever everyone else is saying”, the fact that Obama has changed the tone is enough to count as a significant improvement.
And when almost any other potential competitor would likely respond to the issue of torture and what the UN thinks with a shrug and something about Jack Bauer, I’m going to lean toward Obama on this one. As powerful as we are, we need help to work effectively internationally, and given the current choices between Democratic unsatisfying semi-effectiveness and completely irresponsible Republican roughshod, the choice is clear.