However, if you backed Clinton because you had common ground with her on any of the issues, then you are choosing to abandon those positions if you vote for John McCain. The two leading Democratic contenders are quite close on most policy questions, and it seems to me that the goal this November for progressives is to eject the Republicans from the White House. George W. Bush and the GOP have caused considerable and long-lasting damage to our nation, and we need to make the bleeding stop.
While it’s true that McCain is not Bush, it is also true that the Arizona senator is quite close to the current administration on many issues – and certainly much closer than Obama. Here are nine reasons that you should vote Democratic in November:
1. The occupation of Iraq. There are no easy answers here, but we are well past the time when we need a fresh, open-minded approach to extracting our overstretched military from Iraq and refocusing the mission in Afghanistan. I am less concerned about timetables than I am about a president who is going to sit down with the Pentagon leadership to ask tough questions and then to listen to what they say. For all their bellicose bluster and flag waving, the Bush gang did not listen much to the counsel from the top generals. While McCain would probably listen more, he is also married to his past statements and to his support of our presence in Iraq, and he has said – metaphorically or not – that he would keep the US military there 100 years if need be. Obama has said that he will start planning the withdrawal as soon as he gets into office and it will certainly take some time – maybe two years – to complete such an operation, but I believe that he will face the task head on while listening to the uniform leadership’s concerns.
2. Rebuilding international relations. Bush’s clumsy rhetoric and clumsier foreign policy have made even our best allies weary of us. We’ve broken treaties, angered allies and infuriated everyone else, and it is time for America to put its best face forward to rebuild our standing in the world. Talking with less-than-friendly heads of state is not a sign of weakness, but rather an attempt to use all available options. McCain would continue the tough-guy approach; Obama would be more flexible. If that keeps us out of another war, then we should embrace it. Look at Obama’s willingness to open up US policy toward Cuba. For 50 years we’ve banned trade and travel to that nation because of the Castro regime, and what do we have to show for it? Nothing changed on the island politically, but the Cuban people suffered.
3. Ending the imperial presidency. Bush, Cheney and their advisors have stomped on the Constitution, advocating and executing their radical ideas of expanded presidential powers. Despite schoolchildren across America learning about the three co-equal branches of the federal government, the current administration has brought to life the twisted precept of George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In their view, the president’s powers are virtually unlimited. Bush has ignored laws passed by the Congress and, in one instance that we know about, actually suspended part of the Constitution. The administration has also, stunningly, ignored the Geneva Conventions. This travesty and treason must stop immediately.
4. Keeping some balance on the Supreme Court. Bush’s two conservative appointments have tilted the high court far to the right, with Chief Justice John Roberts, a relatively young jurist, running the show conceivably for decades to come. Since he and Alito joined the Supreme Court we’ve seen many conservative opinions – siding with big business and the government against the people – carry the day with 5-4 decisions. Aging liberal justice John Paul Stevens is presumably hanging on for a Democrat to take the White House and appoint his replacement, but if McCain becomes president he will likely appoint Stevens replacement – and that would certainly be someone in the Scalia/Thomas/Alito mold. This would insure an ultra-conservative court, which would probably limit free speech, shrink the separation between church and state, and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade.
5. Fairness on taxes and spending. The Bush tax cuts favor the wealthy and McCain wants to extend them, while Obama wants to eliminate them, but to give tax relief to working folks. The Republicans will try to frame the issue differently, but it’s all spin. If McCain is elected, he will likely attempt to straighten out some of the budget mess caused by the tax cuts and the war, but he will do so by cutting important and effective programs. This he will sell to the public by citing, as an example of government waste, some research study looking at the breeding habits of insects. He will not mention the hungry children, homeless veterans or freezing elderly that he’ll propose casting aside.
6. Purging partisan civil servants. For the past eight years the federal government has loaded its ranks with people loyal to Bush rather than individuals who are qualified for certain positions. Though this is not a new practice, it has been utilized to a far greater degree under this administration, leaving us with a government filled with incompetents. The most public example of this was Michael Brown’s lack of leadership at FEMA during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but the most far-reaching may be at the Justice Department, where hundreds of lawyers were hired based on their fealty to Republican principles, rather than their qualifications as lawyers. Professionalism has to be reinstituted there and everywhere else in the government, and politics among the career civil servants has to be sidelined.
7. Strengthening consumer agencies. The Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Agriculture are woefully understaffed and we’ve seen the results, with toys, vegetables, fruits and meat being recalled like never before. Republicans generally defer to corporations on such issues, but the effects of globalization demand that federal authorities are more vigilant than ever when it comes to protecting citizens. An Obama administration would do a better job on this than McCain would.
8. Being part of the solution on the environment. Under Bush, the US government spent seven years denying that climate change was actually happening – often by rewriting the reports of its own scientists. Recently they’ve admitted that global warming is a problem, but they still refuse to seriously address the matter. McCain is more realistic on the issue, but only slightly, and it’s hard to imagine him doing much of anything substantial on climate change, as industry lobbyists will exert their influence every step of the way. Obama would almost certainly address the matter head on, which is what the situation demands.
9. Revamping healthcare. America needs a drastic remake of the way healthcare is administered in this country, as the skyrocketing prices are swamping families and businesses alike. Republicans, as is often the case, are beholden to big business on this issue. Obama is willing to rethink the whole matter and to make the necessary changes. We can no longer tolerate a society in which millions of citizens have no healthcare.
For all these issues and more, Democrats, independents and open-minded Republicans need to come together in November to make sure that our next president will be intelligent and willing to listen to new ideas. Barack Obama is clearly the candidate of change at a time when America desperately needs to break from the ruinous policies of the past seven and one-half years.