Don’t get me wrong, I’m a liberal, a Democrat and I’ve voted for Obama for this election. My problem is that my main reason for voting for Obama is that I want Romney to lose. Obama’s campaign has consisted solely of stating Romney’s ideas are bad (which they are), yet he has not defended his own ideas or offered any new policies for his second term. Obama is fighting a defensive campaign, offering to prevent Romney from making things worse, but not offering any ideas for how to make things better. If you ignore the rhetoric and look only at the actions, you will see Obama has not been offering the radical solutions to turn America around.
Despite what Fox News might say, Obama is really a moderate Republican. He doesn’t want to abolish the welfare state or screw the poor, nor is he a fanatic on social issues. Yet he is not out fighting to explain why we need the welfare state or pushing for progressive social policy. He has not launched an anti-poverty programme nor has he attempted to reduce the level of inequality. He has stated the deficit is his main priority and seems to have forgotten about unemployment. If he was a European politician he would probably be a member of the British Conservative Party.
Obama’s main problem is that he was naive to believe he could be a bipartisan President. He thought he could be above politics and find common ground between the two parties. This can be seen from his healthcare plan which aims to provide more people with healthcare (a Democrat goal) but in the most conservative and market based way (Republican means). He did everything he could to get bipartisan support for it, and avoided controversial elements (remember how quickly the public option was dropped?) In the end, he was left with a bill that would seem at home with any European right wing party (in fact it would be probably be to the right of them, they would probably have some role for the state). This fact was covered by the hysterical and farcical response to it by Republicans. This response means most Democrats rally around their leader and defend the bill. If the Republicans were silent and Democrats were left to examine the bill itself, few would support it.
The same goes for the stimulus. Obama destroyed most of his political capital and energy trying to pass what should have been an uncontroversial bill. Almost every economist (including those working for Romney) agreed that a stimulus was necessary. Obama reacted the way a Republican reacted (remember Bush passed a stimulus too), moderate (in the context of near total economic collapse) stimulus that contained a large tax cut, even though that would be far less effective at boosting the economy than pure spending. This, along with the fact that there was only one stimulus instead of several years of it (remember the economy took an awful walloping), shows Obama put a politically attractive plan over one that would boost the economy. This was no New Deal or War On Poverty, when faced with economic catastrophe, Obama seemed content to leave it to the markets to solve the recession.
I have a significant problem with the way Obama handles the financial crash. Honestly, it was little better than Fianna Fail response here in Ireland. No bankers went to jail despite massive fraud taking place. The banks themselves suffered no loss and Obama seemed more content with helping them than helping the rest of the economy. If a Republican had been elected in 2008, I would imagine he would let the banks off scot free, let them keep their obscene bonuses and take no action against them. This is what Obama has done. Worst of all he has done nothing to ensure we suffer don’t suffer another financial collapse. The Dodd-Frank bill is so weak that it will have little or no effect. While Democrats (rightly) blame Republicans for the deregulation that caused the crash, they have not replaced this regulation. Obama has hired many people from Wall Street, continuing the revolving door system.
The main issue of the last year has been inequality. The Occupy Wall Street visibly highlighted the contrast between booming corporate profits (which are at record highs) and stagnating wages. Inequality has risen during the boom and it is clear that not everyone is suffering equally. Yet Obama has not tackled this problem at all. In fact, I cannot think of a single proposal of his that will reduce inequality. Conservatives like to ignore inequality and pretend it’s not a problem. Romney has no plan to tackle inequality. Neither does Obama.
Obama’s economic policies in general leave a lot to be desired. His plan is basically tax cuts and his main criticism of Romney is that he will raise taxes on the middle class. In fact all his economic policies are addressed to the middle class. Whatever happened to the working class? Or the poor? Obama has not mentioned the word working class once nor has he claimed his polices will help the poor. The only people he talks about are the middle class. How can you claim to be left wing if you only care about the middle class? (In fact Obama has never claimed to be left wing, liberal or any such word, as though he would be ashamed to be associated with the left) Poverty has risen under Obama yet he has no plan to do anything about this. Instead, like the Republicans, his priority is the deficit.
Obama has changed little of America’s foreign policy. The focus remains on getting the bad guys, there is little beyond that. This can be seen by the fact that Romney’s foreign policy is essentially the same as Obama’s. The foreign policy debate was little more than a competition over who was Israel’s biggest cheerleader. The idea that maybe Israel’s disregard for Palestinian life, its unjust occupation or its illegal settlements might be cause for complaint never crossed his mind. Early in his Presidency, it looked like Obama might take a different approach. He was welcoming to the Arab world and looked like he might get tough on Israel. However domestic politics took priority and he retreated to Bush era policy. Now he boasts about how tough he is on Iran and how big a supporter he is of Israel.
The Obama who won the Nobel Peace Prize has been replaced by the Obama who brags about executing an unarmed old man in his home in front of his wife. There was no attempt to bring Osama Bin Laden to trial and hold responsible for his actions, instead he was gunned down in the night like a mafia hit. Would Bush have done it any differently? Even on Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama is following Bush’s timetable for withdrawal. He has brought nothing new to the table, instead he is just following the failed Republican policies. He has also authorised drone attacks which have killed four times more people than under Bush. They have been criticised for killing civilians and for being counterproductive and only increasing support for militants. Is it just me or does this sound like something from the Bush era?
Obama was elected to change the system in Washington. While it is true that Republicans have done everything they can to block his every proposal, the main reason Obama hasn’t changed things is because he hasn’t tried. If he fought the good fight but failed, I’d respect him (in fact in Ireland all our heroes are noble failures). However, he sits silently by a failed system, then I’m disappointed in him. What has he done to combat the role of lobbyists or corporations buying the election? Why is he silent on global warming, one of the greatest threats of this century? He has made some progress on this so why does he act like he is embarrassed about it? The Gulf oil spill was the perfect opportunity to challenge the oil industry and promote environmentalism. A Republican would never do that, and neither did Obama.
Despite a record number of mass shootings Obama has nothing to say about gun control. Is it really that liberal to point out that if guns weren’t so freely available, there wouldn’t be so many gun shootings? Or is my gun free Irish culture coming through? What about the brave Bradley Manning who leaked information to Wikileaks in the name of transparency and accountability? I would have expected the Bush administration to go paranoid and clamp down hard on speech it didn’t like, but I thought Obama was to change that?
If I had the opportunity, I would vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party. However, there isn’t a hope of her getting more than 1% of the vote so unfortunately, a vote for her is a wasted vote. Instead I’m going to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’s not great and I wish America had a proportional system like in Ireland where there actually was a choice and a group of parties. It is because of the lack of substance (on both sides) that this campaign has been dominated by silly issues like Big Bird.
My vote is three quarters against Romney and only one quarter for Obama. I am convinced Romney would make the country worse off, yet I don’t know if Obama will make it significantly better. He has had a few successes, but only a few. He seems content with the status quo and fails to even attempt to tackle the many deep problems America has. If Republicans could hold off on their hysterical and exaggerated criticism of him, us Democrats might find Obama is not the candidate America needs.