If you are still undecided at this late hour–and you’re uncomfortable showing support to the third-party coots grumbling about the gold standard or sustainability–chances are you’re probably looking for something to shift you rightward or left. In this bi-partisan post, I propose to do just that. I’ve already decided, and it won’t take a psychic to divine just where I’ve landed, but I’m no true-believer in my chosen candidate so I thought I’d just lay out the relevant issues and give you my take on them.
Much has been written over the last few months about how muddled the public seems over this race. The culprit has been said to be anything from a negative Democratic campaign to a centrist “flip-flopping” Republican candidate to the perennial accusations against the oppression of a binary party system to the more plausible accusation of two parties who just aren’t that different or the idea that Americans are finally fed up with campaign money to a recent befuddling NPR piece about how few pop artists seem to be coming aboard the Obama campaign this time around. Nobody has discussed voter indecision in relation to the hopeless murk that is the American and world economy. Correlation: this campaign has centered on the economy more heavily than any since Clinton in ’92 –>;; The current polls show a race tighter than any since Bush v. Gore in 2000. Also, Clinton has resurfaced as a major mood-caster in the Obama campaign. Ever since he accused Bush of being stupid for not knowing that the economy is what it’s all about, we’ve cowered under threat of the same, so we’ve gone to blogs, NPR, actual budget plans and proposed bills (very briefly before chickening out and returning to cat videos) and The Economist for our prescribed regimen of “global” perspective. But no matter where he looks, the average decently-informed voter is left with a heap of data and a wide breadth of interpretation. The story of the economy is one that everybody seems to know but everybody tells differently. “A new study shows” is a qualifier that (justly) inspires little confidence. Kudos to Planet Money for trying to break it down for the little guy, but the impression that show leaves you with is that the 21st Century global economy is a chimera far snakier and more spurious than can be bridled by either a red or blue version of the executive office. Both candidates argue two different ways to prod the beast, but it’s clear that they’re only theories, not full plans.
Chances are, the undecideds out there are pretty well-informed people who follow a lot of blogs from both sides, but are smart enough to be pretty unsure over which economic policy is best and would probably be equally happy under both (as Mr. Douthat rightly pointed out.) I won’t bore you with the details you’ve already heard. Talks of the social immorality of the Ryan budget (which is not the Romney budget) or the totalitarian agenda of Obamacare are red herrings. The logic of “job creation” is sounding more and more like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The Economist’s grudging endorsement of Obama only barely lives up to its eponymy and it’s only going to help your decision if you haven’t read it. The economic argument that wins this race will be the one most charismatically orated. In a way, it may reveal a bit about the present flavor of our nation’s credulity. Is the middle class ready to believe that it can rise up, throw off government shackles and get ‘r done? or that we need to grit our teeth and stay the course? Either way, the real outcome of the recession is probably going to have more to do with Greece and Italy than anything else.
A vote for Obama might…just might be a vote for national amnesty for illegals currently residing in the U.S. A vote for Romney will surely not be a vote for police squads rounding up hispanics and demanding to see their papers, (as the President himself hinted during the second debate) but the difference here is clear, Romney is sticking to the ol’ party line talking about “what’s fair” and it is to his detriment. The actual policy differences will likely be minimal unless either one of them makes a serious push toward reform in the next four years. Both candidates trade platitudes about how we’re “a nation of immigrants,” and both want to lock the border up tight (which can’t be done, I’ve been down there) but it is Mr. Romney who has led the rhetoric regarding attracting “high skill job creators.” This is an unfortunate choice of words that affirms the familiar slogan that “this country was built by immigrants” and leaves out the fact that it was built by poor immigrants. This does nothing to court the Latino vote nor should it inspire confidence in White Americans as to our nation’s character. As a side-note, though the Catholic Church has many reasons to vote Republican in this election, Rome’s call for amnesty has been inconvenient for Romney. The Republican Party has missed its chance to reach out to the poor and Catholics with a unified perspective and reverse the charge that it cares little for the underprivileged. If an Obama reelection should come to pass, careful examination of the Latino vote will hopefully persuade the GOP to rethink their stance on immigration and align itself with a true compassionate conservatism.
I’ve been reading that a vote for Obama looks very likely to be a vote for continued lack of compromise due to liberal moral and philosophical superiority. I can’t pretend to know very much about how deals get made in Washington, but the only rebuttal from the left has been that Republicans are extremist meanie bastard terrorist hillbillies. So there’s that. Romney has a history that suggests that he could do better, but maybe that’s only because he’s new and we’re not sure how he’ll do. Or maybe not. It’s quite clear that Obama has not been the bipartisan uniter he billed himself as. Maybe the devil we don’t know is better at this point.
This is a political football thrown around more aimlessly than any other issue. Please do not vote for anyone based on their stance on education unless he is talking about repealing No Child Left Behind in favor of qualitative assessment and pumping defense moneys into a robust infrastructure for continuing the great, unvalidated experiment that is public education. Of course it’s not going to happen, so don’t pay attention to this one.
This is one big question mark. Obama certainly hasn’t followed a soft-hearted foreign policy. Increasing drone strikes and pulling the trigger on OBL is just what ol’ Bush Jr. would’ve done. Putting a Republican back in office may just be calling a spade a spade. There is Iran and North Korea to deal with, but deftness isn’t really going to help with them. Rabble-rousing about China is a fruitless. Nobody’s got the high ground here as far as I’m concerned.
What’s done is done. It’s passed and constitutional. Romney will not be able to repeal Obamacare barring overwhelming Republican support in both Congress and the White House (and the polls do not show this to be a likely eventuality). However, a Romney victory and with a left-leaning Congress could see see a tempering of the act’s more controversial provisions, particularly the unforgivable hard-line taken with religious hospitals and healthcare providers. Under Romney, Obamacare could become less extreme and easier to swallow for everybody. Even if he succeeds in his unrealistic promise to repeal it, he’s made overtures toward the left by promising to keep in the things that worked, and if his job in Massachusetts is still counted as part of his managerial character, we could be seeing not a repeal but a streamlining of Obamacare. Hopefully that means commitment to its core ideals, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, which he has promised, though showed little factual evidence to back it up. This will all depend on how much you already look forward to, or dread Obamacare.
Ah, here it is. The surprise issue of the race! The Obama campaign has done more than anything in recent memory to advance and normalize the vapid anthropology of post-modern secularism. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading about the history of America, it’s that we used to have progressives in this country that had a coherent picture of the role of the family and motherhood in social reform, and what that might actually look like at the end of the day. Now we have Lena Dunham telling young women to make sure their first time (voting) is a good one. It is the snottiest, most offensive campaign ad ever produced.
If Mr. Obama’s talk of the sort of rights he wants his daughter to have were supposed to make me sympathize by thinking about my future female children, he could have done better than Lena Dunham. Writer of the much acclaimed and derided HBO show Girls, (a title whose generalization of womankind has surely endeared it to the Obama campaign) Dunham is a master of irony and smirking ambiguity who, with contemporary wit and a lens liberated from romanticism, plumbs the depths of 21st Century womanhood like some kind of hipster spelunker. Dunham, in the show and in her tasteless campaign ad, has decided upon only one thing in the journey of 21st Century womanhood, that “Girls,” whomever they may be, must band together to navigate the generous amounts of sex they are all having. Abstinence is not just unrealistic, it amounts to depravity. The one character who has, for whatever reason, had no sex is an up-tight mess who evokes a large portion of the show’s laughs for her girlish kitschiness and post-college naiveté. There is not a single viable argument against abstinence as a doable, fully human way of life, only Dunham’s dead-eyed huff of callous dismissal. It’s just obvious, right? Oh for the days of Millie the Mathlete in Freaks and Geeks, when virginity and goofy unworldliness could at least be chalked up to the creed of her people, and even be allowed a scene or two of real insight.
Well, maybe that’s just how things are in Brooklyn and I shouldn’t judge, but I spend time with many interesting, capable women (I could fill an entire binder with them) who were quite pleased to not be having a steady regimen of protected sex during their single years, and whose sources of angst came not from sexual repression but from the spiritual yearning to find Mr. Right. They lament legalized abortion and are concerned with the normalization of casual sex and a breakdown of the family. Perhaps all this is simply antiquated and women like that are the fossilized remains of Victorian social mores, (a period of time which still somehow gets blamed for things 150 years later) but Obama and Dunham might be surprised to discover just how many women are, in their eyes, hopelessly stuck in the repressive, patriarchal past, and that maybe they would like to get to know some of them. Instead they are sneering at the geeky church girls from across the hall, confident in their superior position, because it’s what’s cool.
To be fair, the pro-choice, government-funded contraception camp is not just a high profile minority. It’s a perspective that has (regrettably) infiltrated a very large percentage of female voters and has many respectable, passionate advocates and followers who deserve to be engaged with all due straightforward respect, along with the fact that women profess a diversity of religious beliefs and perspectives. But to assume, as the Obama campaign has done, that his camp represents the whole of “women’s issues” is to willfully ignore the polls. Well under half of women in the country are rigorously pro-choice according to a recent Gallup. In it, 58% of Americans, including a relatively even distribution of women, were reported to believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or only legal in a few select circumstances. That’s not nearly enough to apply the label “women” to prospective voters that would like to kill their unborn children on the nation’s dime. If we’re only talking scoreboard at this point, then one might be tempted to make the opposite generalization. But the broader absurdity comes in the very act of turning an entire gender into some kind of interest group. Well over half of Americans–including American women–in this country root their identies in something more than the noble struggle to become completely sexually liberated. Here liberals even reject the legacy of their historical forbears. By and large, they saw the family as the central unit of social stability in a world increasingly overrun by industry and greed. “Desire Domesticated,” to take a phrase from Christopher Lasch, describes the original moral aims of America’s tradition of 19th and 20th Century reformers. But Obama has given no hint that he’s at all interested in consigning the scruples of 58% of Americans to any public forum other than the history museum.
Contraception, is a different issue that has been unthinkingly lumped into the “women’s issues” bloc. Many religious women have no problem with the use of contraception, and probably wouldn’t mind if the government decided to pay for it, but the blow to religious freedom that comes with it is a harder pill to swallow (as it were.) Am I to suppose, that just because I want birth control covered in my plan, that I require every other faith-based organization to include it in theirs? If the female demand for government birth control is really so high, then perhaps female employment in those institutions should be allowed to decline. And, as I discuss briefly below, if women really are becoming the next great post-industrial workforce, then we can reasonably expect those institutions to languish and feel the consequences of their religious beliefs. If liberals are confident in their prognostications, then a better strategy for validating their position would be to allow the consequences of denying human rights to naturally take effect rather than imposing them by federal fiat.
Incidentally, one need not look too hard to find a supportive community to these supposedly antiquated virtues in Hispanic communities. I’ve already written above on the Republican Party’s foolish alienation of Hispanic voters, but on the other hand, they must be facing an equally difficult alternative in a man who may want to grant legal status to a great many of them, but who also seems to have no respect for their predominantly Catholic way of life. It’s going to become much more difficult to remain a faithful Catholic under Obamacare, and low-income Hispanic communities may face few options but to compromise their convictions and follow the way of the world. Welcoming minorities into the cultural mainstream of a nation has historically only been possible after destroying their indigenous culture, and the Democratic Party is doing just as much demolition as any red-faced Republican complaining that Mexicans don’t want to assimilate. If Republicans deny them the bread of amnesty, then Democrats should be worried about disrespect for their religion, for it teaches them that man does not live on bread alone. Surely Dems want to believe the best about Hispanics, that they can be good godless seculars like the rest of us white folks, but I don’t think they will be so easily patronized. I think that Hispanics will surprise us with their allegiances on Tuesday, which will hopefully cause a constructive shift in the rhetoric of both parties.
The really infuriating thing, is not that liberals are pro-choice. It’s their chameleon-like ability to mutate terminology to feed the bottomless pit of undomesticated progressivism; it’s that liberals these days can be pro-whateverthehelltheywant as long as they can redefine the terms and call the established “norm” oppressive. “We’re pro-family!” Just a family that places no limitations or responsibilities on its mothers nor defines the sexual identity of the members of the family. “We’re pro-life!” just lives that don’t get in the way of human rights or inconvenient lives that are born amid difficult or tragic circumstances instead of careful planned parenthood. My real beef with the Obama campaign–and the man himself for that matter–is that it’s taken pains to define a historically, philosophically and spiritually rootless “new normal” and impress it upon a country whose majority simply disagrees. The result is only going to be more division between urbanites and suburban, rural, and semi-rural folk as well as higher and higher social hurdles for future generations of women (and men) who want to unite their bodies to their spiritual identities through moral behavior. Men who share this conscience will continue to be accused of oppressive patriarchy, as if employers who decide the moral limits of healthcare coverage are of a kind with those who demand female circumcision as a rite of passage. If this kind of thoughtless anthropology is allowed to continue by deriding all opposition as irrelevant, then Democrats will be as guilty of trusting our spiritual welfare to a laissez-faire morality as Republicans are guilty of trusting our economic welfare to a laissez-faire economy.
In that regard, the current state of men may be instructive. Much has been made lately of the decline of men in the workforce and society at large. Correlation: Men are more unmotivated than ever. They are stuck in the frat-boy desert of ‘guyness’ and are insecure about commitment –>;; Men have enjoyed an unprecedented level of sexual freedom from the 1970s onward. Do our women really want the chance to follow in those footsteps and experience the same nadir of social and moral decline? Hannah Rosin’s recent article in The Atlantic (the very same writer who announced, in the very same publication the end of men) says ‘yes.’ I suppose it’s only fair.
Well, it won’t take a detective to understand which issue has irritated me the most and swung me back toward a party that I have felt it my self-conscious duty (considering my background) never to vote for. My wife has just reminded me that care for the poor should, if my moral compass was properly aligned, probably produce more lines of moral indignation and outrage than anything else, and in this she is quite correct. Pray for me in that. Differing ideas of how the poor will be best served does little to salve the misgivings I have for voting for a party that has no language to describe the poor as a class worth a moment’s concern. Then again, I look forward to a future in which my religious beliefs need not be sifted through a federal screen before they may spur me to action on behalf of the poor. Whoever is elected, I pray that charity will prevail in the next four years.
But we all hope for this, Right and Left, and we know, in our heart of hearts, that the sacred presidential vote will not relieve us of our duty to our neighbors and communities. So vote as your heart leads you. I’ll see you at Church on Sunday where we can get back to worship and serving together as one people of God.