Fall semester of last year, my friend and I joked about how we should bake brownies and send them to Obama because we felt bad that so many people were so mad at Obama for who knows what. My friend and I still believed in Obama. We wanted to show him that we still supported him, and hey, who doesn’t get cheered up by brownies? (Clearly, we didn’t send him brownies—we felt that the likelihood they would reach him was fairly miniscule.)
Throughout TSL opinion columns over the past few weeks, the author of “Struggling to Justify Another Obama Vote” and “A Response to ‘Still Rooting for Obama'” and I have been debating why (or why not) to vote for Obama. This other author’s first article argued that we voted for Obama mostly out of anger toward Bush and that Obama has failed to live up to our expectations by continuing down Bush’s general path. I responded with a piece highlighting Obama’s successes and explaining just how detrimental a conservative president in 2012 could be. The author then responded that these steps just don’t amount to very much and that I missed his general point that Obama has not created an administration which is fundamentally different than Bush’s.
Though I cannot speak for this author, it seems that he is looking for a knight in shining armor to be the next president, whether that turns out to be Obama or the eventual Republican nominee. Rising from the ashes of the Bush presidency, Obama had the luck, the skill, the strategical advantage—take your pick—to be portrayed as a hero. But this year, Obama cannot run on a platform of change. He is running for a second term, which means drawing upon his basic values along with new ideas for progress. So let’s remove all the political fervor, expectations, and disappointments and look at what we are really doing when voting for president.
First, Obama does have a vision. He is a liberal, progressive, Democratic president, and that means that he runs on a platform that contrasts starkly with the Republican platform. Obama believes in equal opportunity through Pell grants, helping the misfortunate through unemployment benefits, promoting civil rights through ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and more. As president, Obama is the lead spokesperson for these values, and they dictate his priorities. The same simply cannot be said for a conservative candidate. (Also, it must be noted that this other author frequently referenced foreign policy; however, foreign policy for decades has reflected the nature of the times, not the reigning party. Continuity marks foreign policy.)
So what does it mean to support these values? It can mean a significant veto of a regressive tax. Or it can be the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. And what about the Health and Human Services grants? We cannot forget the importance of the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which account for negative externalities in our system through ensuring our safety while bettering our economy.
We cannot vote in reaction to negative experiences, nor can we base our vote solely on the personality or message of a candidate. In our two-party system, we vote for the candidate whose policies most directly cohere with our viewpoints. Consequently, we must educate ourselves about the positions of candidates and parties, in addition to learning about the intricacies of the impact of what the president does. So much is behind the scenes or about appointed positions.
The positive case for President Obama is that he stands for and supports ideals that I believe best contribute to our strength as a nation and as individual Americans. I will vote for Obama because he represents my ideological views. To the author, or to any other reader: what are your values, and which candidate best supports them? And if you do not think that this question is the best question to determine whom you should vote for, what is a better question?