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The Candidates 2012

The Candidates and Civil Rights 2012 - Page 2

Voter ID

I remain unconvinced by either side of the argument when it comes to voter fraud. On one hand, I have a hard time believing that it is rampant enough to pose a serious problem to our democratic process, but on the other hand, it has been demonstrated again and again that it is way too easy to commit and get away with. I believe voter ID laws--like the one recently enacted in my state of Pennsylvania--are a legitimate effort to curb potential voter fraud and do not put any undue burden on the voting public, as long as state-issued voter IDs remain free of charge and easily accessible. Just as I support photo ID laws for gun purchases, I also support requiring a photo ID to vote, and I am not swayed by the shrill rhetoric of those who assume that minorities and poor people are too disadvantaged to figure out how to get a free ID. Having said that, I think we also need a detailed, non-partisan voter tracking and verification process that can accurately demonstrate whether voter fraud is a serious or a minor problem. What I don't understand is why the same party that complained about the 2000 election for eight years is now shouting from the mountaintops that voter fraud is an obvious fiction.

Nobody ever accuses laws that require ID for beer of being racist, but it is a scientifically proven fact that beer is more important than voting

Though Romney is mum on the issue on his website, the GOP platform states "we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud, particularly with regard to registration and absentee ballots" [8]. In New Hampshire last year, Romney agreed with the sentiment, arguing that voter ID laws are legitimate attempts to prevent "multiple" voting and other forms of fraud, and promised to stop any lawsuits that seek to challenge them [9].

Though his website is similarly quiet on the issue, it is no great mystery where the Obama administration stands on the issue of voter ID laws, as the Attorney General is actively blocking them in every state he can. The Democratic platform says, "Democrats know that voter identification laws can disproportionately burden young voters, people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, and the elderly, and we refuse to allow the use of political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens" [10]. Michelle Obama, in a speech last week, compared the resistence to voter ID laws to other civil rights protests such as marches and sit-ins against segregation, making no mistakes about where she and her husband stand [11].

This one is devoid of grey area. If you believe that voter ID laws are an honest attempt to tackle potential voter fraud, then Romney is your man. However, if you think they are a sneaky way for Republicans to disenfranchise the votes of poor black people who are too ignorant to get a free photo ID, then you should go for Obama. I have little patience for the Democratic view on voter ID--because it is nakedly cynical, divisive, and unconstructive--so where voter ID laws are concerned, I fully support Mitt Romney.

Gay Marriage

I am currently engaged in a debate over whether marriage is a legal institution or a fundamental right. Of course, as a social construct, it predates modern government and thus cannot be said to be a creation of our legal system. However, the benefits and privileges that come with marriage--tax benefits, power of attorney, medical visitation rights, etc.--are defined by legal precedent. I am willing to entertain the idea that marriage is a full-blown right, but the privileges that come with marriage are not. Regardless of this, I believe the government has no business defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and strongly oppose any attempts to write that into our federal constitution. People should be free to choose their own path to happiness, and that includes choosing to whom they decide to get married. If two men want to marry each other, I can find no secular or humanitarian reason to tell them they can't. I, therefore, fully support gay marriage.

The Libertarian Perspective

Gary Johnson's website argues that "a woman should be allowed to make her own decisions during pregnancy until the point of viability of a fetus," defends the Second Amendment absolutely, and insists that "government should not impose its values upon marriage." I cannot find anything on his site, on the Libertarian Party platform, or on Google that would indicate where he stands on voter ID laws.

thumbs up Though I find the silence on the voter ID issue disturbing and disapprove with his take on gun control for the same reasons I disagree with Romney, I would still strongly consider voting for Johnson because of his support for choice when it comes to abortion and marriage. He is more likely to stand by libertarian principles that are friendly to civil rights in many other areas as well, and that makes him worthy of my vote.

"As president, Mitt [Romney] will not only appoint an Attorney General who will defend the Defense of Marriage Act--a bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton--but he will also champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman" [12]. Romney is wholly unnuanced about opposing gay marriage, arguing that his opposition to it ("preserving traditional marriage" as he puts it) is "critical for the well-being of a civilization."

President Obama very publically announced his support for same-sex marriage earlier this year, and his record speaks for itself. He repealed "Don't Ask Don't Tell," instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act. Indeed, when it comes to the LGBT community, Obama has proven himself to be a champion for equal rights [13].

Though I question the constitutionality and wisdom of unilaterally instructing the Justice Department to stop defending the law, I would of course give Obama the win here. Romney's view is horrifically bigoted and wrong, and Obama is fighting the good fight. We should not be strictly defining marriage in order to exclude loving couples who are guilty of nothing but being different, nor should we encourage the social stigma of differing sexual orientation. I disapprove of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act, and thus agree with the steps the president has taken and likely will take in a second term.

My Choice if Civil Rights Were the Only Relevant Issue

Romney thumbs down
The Candidates and Civil Rights
thumbs up Obama

Barack Obama is a far better choice when it comes to these civil rights issues. Frankly, it's not even that close. While I agree with Mitt Romney's take on voter ID laws, I don't particularly like his views on abortion or same-sex marriage. Additionally, I think his view on gun control is too absolute and intransigent, unwilling to entertain the idea that gun control regulations can be well-intentioned and beneficial without violating the Second Amendment. On the other hand, President Obama is more reasonable about gun control, taking a stand that is to the right of his own party, and has a good record of progress for same-sex couples and gay rights. His view on abortion is too extreme, but it is much better than Romney's, and he is exactly wrong about voter ID laws, but on the whole, he would be much better for the future of American civil rights.

If I were to include the other civil rights issues I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I might find more places where I disagree with Obama (the contraceptive debate, drone surveillance, etc.), but I still believe that I would agree with him more often than I disagree. In general, Romney is a social conservative who appears to pander to the religious right, and that is not a political worldview I can comfortably side with.

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-e. magill 9/25/2012

  • The Candidates and Science 2012
  • The Candidates and Domestic Policy 2012
  • The Candidates and the Economy 2012
  • The Candidates and Energy 2012
  • The Candidates and Foreign Policy 2012
  • The Candidates and My Vote 2012
  • The Pennsylvania Ballot 2012
  • The Candidates 2016 and My Vote
  • The Candidates and My Vote 2008