I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, even though I actually wanted Al Gore to win the election.
Why did I do that? Because I wanted the Green party to qualify for federal matching funds in future presidential campaigns. I kept track of the polls, and the morning of the election I saw that Al Gore was up four points in WA, so I felt like it was okay for me to vote strategically, and did so. Had I still lived in Florida, land of my birth, there would never have been any question.
I’m a liberal, you see. And while I am as idealistic as they come on most issues, I am also cursed with a pragmatic streak, which robs of me of the ability to take an all-or-nothing approach to the things that matter most.
It’s trite to say it, but elections matter. I remember it as something of a refrain in 2000 that there was no real difference between the two parties and candidates. I hear that now, too, and while I can totally see it, and even agree that on many basic questions that I would like to see revisited, both parties and candidates are indeed on the same page, and it isn’t the page that I’m on. But now, as in 2000, to say that it doesn’t make a difference which one wins just isn’t right.
Just take a moment and ask yourself if a President Gore would have nominated John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court (giving us the Citizens United decision, which has set our national political discourse back who knows how many years); whether he would have squandered the moment of worldwide solidarity immediately after 9/11, when even Iran was reaching out to us and trying to make friends; whether he would have gotten us into a full-on ground invasion and occupation of Iraq, or waged it with borrowed money while securing significant tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Whether he would have chosen not to ignore the Presidential Daily Briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.”
I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that recent history would have been significantly different had Gore won the election in 2000.
And I think it’s even more reasonable to say that things will be significantly different if Mitt Romney wins the election on Tuesday, or even comes close, in either the popular vote or the Electoral College.
Look, I’ve got my qualms with Barack Obama. He punted on prosecuting both the war criminals who cajoled us into Iraq and the Wall Street gamblers who nearly drove the world’s economy off a cliff. He’s arrogated some potentially-scary powers to the office of the President that I’m afraid are ripe for abuse. He didn’t fight hard enough for health-care reform or the stimulus, and he’s blinked on more than a few occasions when dealing with the bad-faith antics of the disloyal opposition.
But not only did I vote for him, I did so enthusiastically, and with a clear conscience.
Were Mitt Romney to be elected, the Affordable Care Act would be struck down. He’d likely get two Supreme Court nominees, both from Court’s liberal wing, which would swing the Court to the right for a decade or more, during which time you can bet the farm on Roe v. Wade being revisited, and not in a way liberals would find pleasing. He would roll back regulation on Wall Street and unleash the a$$holes who work there to wreak their creative destruction on everybody’s retirement accounts. And he would likely be amenable to making Medicare a voucher system and turning Medicaid into block grants.
Never mind that he also seems to want to pick fights with Russia, China, and Iran, for no other reason I can discern than to be or at least appear belligerent.
Will Obama make all my dreams come true? Assuredly not. That’s my job. But of the two men who might be President come January of next year, he is the one who’s moving the ball in the direction I want to go. He’s the one that gets me closer to the world I want to live in.
And that’s the only thing that matters.
The only way we’re going to get where liberals want to go is incrementally. Baby steps aren’t leaps and bounds, but if they’re in the right direction then sometimes you have to be content with that. You have to keep your eyes on the prize.