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The Candidates 2012

The Candidates and My Vote 2012

[If you missed the previous entries in this series, I highly recommend you catch up first:
The Candidates and Science
The Candidates and Domestic Policy
The Candidates and the Economy
The Candidates and Civil Rights
The Candidates and Energy
The Candidates and Foreign Policy]

Obama and Romney at the final 2012 debate
Here the candidates bend for their public proctological exams so that we can make a truly informed decision

Before I even start talking about my thought process going into my final choice for president, I want to take a step back and put this in a cool-headed perspective. The pundits and political junkies would have you believe that this is the most important election in a generation--if not the entirety of American history--even though they said the same thing four years ago and four years before that. It's easy to get so swept up in the rhetoric that you see this choice as a defining moment that will decide the future for better or worse and set the stage for our children and grandchildren. However, we need to remember that, though the president is responsible for setting the tone in Washington and attempts to set the priorities for Congress, he is absolutely not endowed with the powers of a king. His power is thus checked and balanced, by design, and there is only so much good or ill that he can truly accomplish.

If there's a single theme to this series, it's that we can only make a proper choice when we stop thinking of it as some kind of archetypal battle between good and evil. Just because you may disagree with a candidate, it does not mean that the man or woman is ill-intentioned or that every word he or she speaks must be treated as a pandering and cynical lie. It is easy to conclude that a politician you disagree with is a nefarious villain--and that assumption comes with all kinds of intellectual shortcuts that prevent you from making a realistic assessment--but it is much harder to work under the assumption that all politicians, regardless of partisan inclinations, seek office in order to do good and help make the world a better place.

I am not trying to persuade you that all politicians are benevolent leaders in the making. No matter how much I try to avoid cynicism, I still believe that power corrupts. On the other hand, if you look at your choices in this or any other election as a choice between candidates who mean what they say and genuinely want what's best, it forces you to confront what you really believe rather than what knee-jerk reactions and talking point echo chambers would let you ignore. It's also helpful to remember that, no matter which candidate ultimately wins, it is neither a shining beacon to a better tomorrow nor a dark potent of a doom-riddled future. So with that in mind, let me take a deep breath, splash some cold water on my face, and take a calmly rational last look at today's choices.

Obama in his Air Force One jacket
There's no way Romney could possibly rock the bomber jacket this well

As he is the incumbent, I will start with President Obama. Though he is far too draconian about how we should approach the issue of climate change, his take on scientific matters leaves me little cause for concern. He opposes creationism in the science classroom, supports stem cell research (with qualifiers), and does not openly advocate dangerous pseudoscientific medicine. Similarly, though I have several issues with his approach to foreign policy and his unflinching support of the NDAA, President Obama is neither a weak-kneed pacifist who invites ruin from without nor is he a warmongering hawk who forgets that war is supposed to be the last resort.

On domestic policy, he is a clear believer in governmental central planning over free market economics--as his record of strict federal mandates and increased regulation attest--though I wouldn't go so far as to call him an avowed enemy of capitalism. His biggest strike, in my opinion, is the Affordable Care Act, which I humbly believe does far more harm than good by sabotaging economic incentives and putting too much faith in the power of bureaucracy. When it comes to other domestic issues such as education and energy policy, Obama almost always argues that more spending and more regulation is the way forward, but of course, I disagree. This philosophical difference of opinion stretches into economics, where Obama's goals of increased taxes on the rich, history of broken promises to reduce the federal deficit, and inability to substantially lower unemployment in the last four years leave me no reasons to consider voting to give him another term.

However, the president has done good work in the realm of civil rights. He is a believer in the second amendment, advocates for gay rights, and is pro-choice (even though his take on abortion is a bit extreme). Indeed, I have already gone on record stating that, if civil rights were the only relevant issue this time around, I would unhesitatingly vote Obama.

Which brings me to Mitt Romney, who's opinions on civil rights I do not entirely agree with. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and write same-sex bigotry into the constitution, advocating that the federal government should share his religious views on both abortion and sexuality. Similarly, he has no interest in advocating a reduction in the War on Drugs and thinks a border fence is somehow a solution to the problems of illegal immigration.

Romney at a campaign rally
See what I mean?

When it comes to foreign policy, he does little to distinguish himself from the sitting president. Though he is opposed to defense cuts, I appreciate his willingness to evaluate the cost effectiveness of military spending and his positions on the conflicts we are currently embroiled in. I specifically like his stated approaches to Iran and Afghanistan, but those approaches are only slightly different than the ones currently being employed by the president. I stated last time that I'd vote for Romney if foreign policy were the only relevant issue, but I'm not entirely sure that's true. With so little daylight between Romney and Obama on foreign policy, it might be better to stick with the incumbent in order to maintain continuity.

However, on domestic and economic issues, Romney's philosophy is wholly separate from the sitting president's. Romney believes that streamlined regulations and increased market competion lead to economic growth and prosperity, and I have a hard time understanding how anybody can look at the history of the Twentieth Century and not think he has a valid point. He does not believe in class warfare, doesn't try to argue that increasing taxes on investments will magically improve the economy, does not confuse spending with efficacy, and acknowledges that even the best-intentioned government mandate can lead to devastating unintended consequences. If there is a single best reason to vote for Romney, it's that he wishes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the crown jewel of monolithic bureaucracy that cannot possibly be enacted without unintended consequences far worse than the problems it is designed to solve.

The debate does not end with these two men, as there are several other people running for president. The only one I choose to take seriously is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. He aligns almost perfectly with my beliefs about how the federal government should approach science, domestic policy, economics, civil rights, and energy, arguing that individual choice, freedom, and reasonably limited government power are the only true paths to maintaining American exceptionalism. Indeed, on all of these issues, Johnson is a better choice in my book than either of the major players, but the great big asterisk here is his approach to foreign policy, which I believe is suicidally naïve. Pulling nearly all of our troops out of every nation they are currently residing in is, in a word, insane, as is treating Iran's nuclear ambitions as no big deal. Though I hardly consider this election to be a referendum on foreign policy, Johnson's approach is so radically stupid that it overrides all the ways in which he is a superior candidate. I simply cannot vote for national suicide, no matter how much I agree with Johnson's other positions.

Romney thumbs up
The Candidates and My Vote
thumbs down Obama

Therefore, it really does come down to a choice between President Obama and Mitt Romney. I could easily turn this into a referendum on the incumbent--talk about whether we're better off now than we were four years ago or why we shouldn't expect the next four years to be any different than the last--but that would not be in keeping with the spirit of this exercise. Truth is, I do not have to go down that road in order to find reasons to choose one of these men over the other, because the most important issue in this election is the economy and these men represent radically different philosophical approaches to it.

That's why I'm voting for Romney, despite the many places on which he and I disagree. I believe in free market economics and a simplified regulatory state, not because I am a believer in anarchy or because I believe rich businessmen are benevolent dieties to be trusted. I believe that individual liberty--freedom of choice--is the ultimate check against power in all its forms, and I do not believe that either government officials or corporate bigwigs can correct life's inequalities. I believe in people, not the imperfect agencies they create, and I think the only way we can lose our freedoms is by giving them away. Romney seems the most in-line with my thinking, whereas President Obama seems the most diametrically opposed to it. Obama wants to force businesses to obey the whims of bureaucrats in the name of free choice, wants to punish the successful and call it fair, and wants to abuse executive authority to bypass Congress because he doesn't accept that his plans might do things he doesn't expect them to do. With the economy in the state it's in today, I think we need a man like Mitt Romney in the Oval Office instead of a man like Barack Obama. To me, even after all this consideration, it really is that simple.

-e. magill 11/6/2012

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