In recent weeks, I have entered into conversations with friends and strangers upset with the options available to them for president. “They’re both the same,” I’ve been told. “At best, Obama is the lesser of two evils.”
Frankly, I find these comments shocking. In all but a few policies, striking differences exist between the vision President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney espouse for our country. With only three days left until election day, I am sharing the top seven reasons Barack Obama will have my vote on Tuesday, and perhaps in the process, I may convince you that he is not merely “the lesser of two evils,” but a candidate for whom you should be proud to cast a ballot.
1. The Environment
Climate change is real, and for all of those still reeling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the consequences of changed weather patterns and more natural disasters is no joke. That is why when I heard Mitt Romney mock President Obama’s concern about rising oceans during his speech at the Republican National Convention to wild laughter and a standing ovation from his audience, chills shot down my spine. We need a president who will make decisions not only for the betterment of people today, but for the well being of humanity into the future. Mocking climate change will not make it disappear. Likewise, attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air and greenhouse gas regulations may be good business for some big business in the short term, but places Americans’ health and well being at risk. In his first four years as president, Obama did not deliver on all of his environmental promises — ultimately choosing to push health care legislation over cap-and-trade regulation in congress — but his commitment to protecting the environment and taking environmental issues seriously places him well above his Republican challenger.
2. Foreign Policy
Many have suggested that the two candidates differ little in the substance of their foreign policies, but in style, Romney often appears bellicose and insensitive to other cultures at a time when verbal offense can cause considerable international turmoil. During his first foreign tour in the Middle East and Europe, Romney made several gaffes, and while some verbal mistakes may be forgiven, on the international stage, we need a president who is mindful of his words, culturally sensitive, and balanced in his approach. Fighting words against Iran, Russia, and China do not make us safer, and if we are to believe that Romney’s actions would follow his words, he may very well lead us into strained international relationships and more war. Obama has ended the war in Iraq, plans to end the war in Afghanistan, and continues to poll strongly in global public opinion, with 50% of foreigners preferring an Obama presidency and only 9% favoring Romney. Global opinion matters because it impacts a president’s ability to accomplish his foreign policy goals, strengthen alliances, and protect our nation against global threats.
3. The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is currently the oldest since the New Deal era, with five justices over the age of 70. While it is impossible to predict whether or not justices will retire or die during the next four years, the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies for the next president is important during an era when many recent decisions have come down to 5-4 opinions made along ideological lines. If elected, Romney has said he would appoint justices in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, calling it “the right next step … for the Supreme Court” on his own campaign website. The Court’s reach spans far beyond the abortion issue as we saw in the recent split decisions on Citizens United and the Affordable Care Act.
4. Economic Growth
Obama inherited a terrible economic situation in our country and responded responsibly to avoid a depression and take steps to reverse the recession. His stimulus package, auto industry bailouts, and bank regulations could not prevent the impending economic downfall, but did well to avoid complete meltdown. Jobs creation is slowly rising, and most indicators predict we are headed in the right direction economically.
5. Balancing the Budget, Reducing the Deficit
Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan support a budget proposal that would slash social spending at the expense of the poor and middle class while cutting taxes that disproportionally favor the wealthy. Romney has said the new tax cuts would be paid for by closing loopholes, but no one seems able to explain what loopholes could generate the $5 trillion in lost revenue without contributing to the deficit. Obama has proposed a balanced approach to reducing the deficit which would require the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes, while making modest spending cuts that would not jeopardize the most vulnerable citizens. For the wealthy concerned about their taxes, the decision comes down to this: would you prefer to have slightly more money while increasing economic inequality and placing the poor at a much greater disadvantage, or would you be willing to pay a bit more to continue government support of programs like Head Start, food stamps, and Medicaid which give poor Americans a fighting chance at improving their circumstances?
When Obama took office, 40 million Americans were uninsured in the wealthiest country in the world. While the legislation may not be perfect, it will dramatically decrease the pool of uninsured and make adequate health care more accessible for the poor and middle class. Romney once supported universal health care as the governor of Massachusetts, but has promised to take action to overturn Obamacare on his first day in office, providing few details about what provisions he would change if he garnered congressional support to replace the bill.
7. Women and Minority Rights
On his first day in office, Obama signed the historic Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, a law which Romney has said he would not overturn, but would not necessarily have supported if he were president three years ago. Beyond fighting for equal treatment of women, Obama has advocated for homosexual rights — overturning the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law and supporting marriage equality — as well as protecting the rights of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States before they turned 16 years old.
Obama has not been a perfect president, and was unable to deliver on all of his campaign promises of sweeping hope and change in the first four years of his presidency. However, he has made real progress on social issues and has laid out a path for economic recovery. Now is not the time to take a gamble on untested conservative policies that could harm the poor and middle class. Next Tuesday, I will cast my ballot for Obama once more, and I hope you will join me.