Does anyone remember a time not so long ago when Obama seemed like a shoo in for re-election? Maybe that was an unrealistic expectation but way back when the Republican primary circus was in full swing, I found it hard to imagine any of the clowns vying for the GOP nomination standing a chance against Obama.
That is not in any way a testament to Obama’s record but a testament to the sheer idiocy that was emanating from the clowns participating in those debates. As I sit here today with the election in a virtual tie, I remember a quote often attributed to P.T. Barnum (a man well versed in the workings of a circus, albeit a different kind) that “a sucker is born every minute.”
Of course, I’m not talking about Ron Paul who was all but shut out from contending for the nomination by the major media outlets. Nor am I talking about moderates like Jon Huntsman who dropped out early and was criticized in one debate for accepting Obama’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to China. But as these candidates went from debate to debate (there were over 20 in total), each competing to appear more extreme on almost every issue, I thought to myself, how can Barack Obama not blow any of these people out of the water?
Each candidate seemed itching to go to war with Iran or to intervene in Syria. Their views on foreign policy showed a complete disregard for history or even of present conditions with their mythical attacks on a “weak” Obama foreign policy. They each called for a rollback of environmental regulations or even eliminating the EPA just as Americans are beginning to accept climate change as a real and serious threat to life on this planet. The EPA, by the way, was passed by Republican Richard Nixon, who would certainly be too moderate to find a place in today’s Republican party.
And as they traded stale talking points like government is evil and free markets (a word which here means crony capitalist corporatism) are good, I thought, Barack Obama is licking his chops right now. Rick Santorum threatened to go to war with China, Mitt Romney offered to bet Rick Perry $10,000 in the middle of a debate, Rick Perry compared global warming deniers to Galileo while declaring Social Security to be a Ponzi scheme, Newt Gingrich claimed Obama to be the most dangerous president in our history and Herman Cain and Michelle Bachman, well, just the fact they were there was a testament to the primitive nature of these debates.
It seemed Mitt Romney won the nomination by simply letting his opponents beat themselves. He played rope-a-dope. He had a consistent flow of money coming into his campaign from primarily financial institutions and other monied interests and as Republicans and ditto heads alike saw his extremist challengers fall away one by one, they reluctantly crawled back to Romney when it became apparent that he would be the nominee.
But back to the election at hand, how could a candidate coming from the most corporatist, hawkish Republican party we’ve seen have such a good shot at being elected? The extreme nature of today’s Republican party did not disappear when the primary ended. Just because Romney took off his neo-con hat and replaced with his moderate-progressive one doesn’t mean we should expect a moderate Romney presidency.
His calls for increased military spending as we try to finally end these wars are absurd and should be paid attention to by anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking he’s a fiscal conservative. The math does not add up but even if it did, we already outspend all potential adversaries very comfortably on our military. He is also very closely tied to Right Wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has even received criticism from his own intelligence agency for his eagerness to go to war with Iran. Nor should we take lightly, Romney’s declaration that 47% of Americans (veterans, retired people, working families) are freeloaders. I could go down the list of extreme positions that make up the Republican Party platform with regards to healthcare, abortion, women’s rights or Wall Street regulations but that should not be necessary at this point in the election season.
Barack Obama has been a disappointment and there is really no debating that. He squandered a super-majority in the Senate. His health care reform did not lower premiums or shift the power away from the insurance companies. A vast majority of Americans supported the single-payer option as did Obama but he lacked the political leadership to push for it. His foreign policy has led to more American deaths in senseless wars and helped increase the threat of terrorism and anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East. He’s legitimated George W Bush’s infringements on civil liberties by extending indefinite detention and failing to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, which Amnesty International declared to be the Gulag of our times. He’s been afraid to even use the C-word (Climate Change). Kudos to Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bloomberg for acknowledging that the threat of climate change is indeed a reality. Obama hasn’t even renegotiated our failed trade policies that are allowing our jobs to be shipped overseas at the behest of gigantic transnational corporations that owe their loyalty to no one except their deity, the almighty profit.
Yet, for all his failings, the choice should be clear. Romney’s positions serve to only exacerbate the problems that exist now due to Barack Obama’s unwillingness or inability to take them on. As our debt burden grows and tensions mount in the Middle East, we are reaching a tipping point where something will have to give. Would we rather increase military spending, cut taxes on the wealthy and let our infrastructure and social programs take the hit to reduce the deficit? Do we want another costly war in the Middle East? There is no guarantee that Obama will not lead us into war with Iran but it is safe to assume that such a war is far more likely with Romney in office. I’ll say it again, it amazes me that this race is as close as it is. As Ralph Nader said in a recent op-ed, this is the “cruelest, most corporately monetized, anti-people Republican Party since 1858” yet this election is sure to come down to the wire.
If someone had told me it would be this close 6 months ago, or even 2 months ago, I would have thought, the American people are smarter than that. But as the snake oil salesmen from Massachusetts heads into Election Day in a virtual tie with the cowardly lion from Hawaii (or Kenya, that’s for you Mr. Trump), I'm reminded of the words of one George W. Bush. I think I may have “misunderestimated” us.