The long and winding road that is the 2012 presidential campaign has almost reached its terminus. It is a contest that was expected to be close, to be hard fought and to be expensive. All those expectations have been fulfilled with a vengeance.
The campaign itself will be remembered for a number of reasons. It wasn’t merely expensive, but outrageously so. The most dire predictions about what would happen as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC were more than realized. Sheldon Adelson became a household name and was able to exercise far more free speech than any of the rest of us.
We also saw a return to efforts to disenfranchise voters that haven’t been seen since the Jim Crow era. The rash of state laws purging voter lists and requiring photo IDs was a blatant attempt to sway the election outcome, which worked hand in hand with the “money is speech” decision.
The core issues of the election were expected to be the condition of the U.S. economy and which candidate would do the most to improve it in the next four years. That should have given the challenger, Mitt Romney, an enormous advantage, but he struggled throughout the campaign as a result of his constantly shifting and redefining his positions on many of the key issues.
President Obama’s best argument with regard to the economy is that he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression and that it took quite a while to stop the decline before he could begin to turn around economic conditions. Moreover, he pointed to an opposition in Congress that fought everything he did from before Day 1, including measures that they had supported in the past.
Romney, on the other hand, highlighted the slow recovery and argued that his business experience would allow him to do better. The fact is, of course, that he has never been involved in a business whose goal was to create jobs, but rather was always focused on profits for investors.
Romney also brings an economic theory — tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate investment and growth — that has been tried twice in the recent past without success. Under both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, large tax cuts led not to economic growth, but to huge deficits.
Moreover, at the very core of Romney’s economic “plan”— details to be provided later — is a gigantic hoax. To offset the revenue loss from a 20 percent tax cut, he proposes to close tax loopholes and get rid of some tax deductions. In his fantasy world, the deductions and loopholes just appeared out of nowhere rather than being the result of highly paid lobbyists influencing members of Congress. Those highly paid lobbyists and their influence certainly are not going to vanish if Romney is elected president.
He has mentioned only two spending cuts — Planned Parenthood and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — that together constitute two small drops in a very large bucket. You can, of course, be sure that he will not eliminate the loophole that means the most to middle-class Americans, the special treatment for capital gains.
Even if you are willing to buy Mitt Romney’s economic arguments on faith rather than evidence, you have to remember that when you vote for president you get the whole package, not just the parts with which you agree. There are a lot of other Romney positions, not ambiguous or shifting, that should give you pause.
He believes that both corporations and embryos at the moment of conception are people with all the appropriate constitutional protections. It takes a truly creative mind to make that connection.
Romney, in his most recent iteration, has asserted that there are a limited number of exceptions in which he would support abortions, but can he stand up to the total ban advocated by his running mate and his party in its platform?
He would certainly appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
After favoring a ban on assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts, he is now totally in bed with the National Rifle Association. During the second presidential debate, his answer to a question about limiting access to guns was to start talking about the importance of two-parent households, a laudable goal that had nothing to do with the question and should get the answer immediate induction into the Obfuscation Hall of Fame.
Another area of clarity is his intention to turn Medicare into a voucher program and the likelihood that he would make another effort to privatize Social Security.
Romney’s attitude on women’s issues — opposition to equal pay, support of the Blunt Amendment in the Senate, repeal of Obamacare despite the many specific benefits for women — seems a throwback to the 1950s.
And then there’s his stated goal of a more muscular foreign policy. If the term confuses you, think war in Iraq, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Romney, at least from his campaign rhetoric, seems eager to outsource a decision about attacking Iran to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barack Obama has not run a perfect campaign and has not been a perfect president, but no president can make that claim. On the other hand, he has had major accomplishments despite an entrenched and unbending Republican Party in Congress. He also has demonstrated a core set of values that Mitt Romney neither has nor, despite his skilled stage performance, has even pretended to have.
Ultimately, it really is about character, and the choice is not a hard one.
Laslo Boyd does consulting in higher education, public policy and politics. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.