Four years ago, I left the Republican Party of which I was a lifelong member and became an independent. Not long after, I supported Barack Obama in the 2008 election for president. I made this decision determined to look at the issues not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American.
It is through that lens that I consider my choice in the 2012 election. Like many other voters who crossed party lines to vote for Barack Obama in the last election, I have watched the 2012 campaign carefully and listened closely to what the candidates have said. I believe that President Obama should be re-elected.
Very few American presidents have been truly prepared to assume that job. Four years ago, Obama, a relatively inexperienced public servant, became the 44th President of the United States during one of the most difficult times our country has faced. The nation’s economy was on the brink of collapse. Our image overseas was tarnished, and our military was bogged down in two unpopular wars. I supported Obama then because I thought that he was unflappable. I saw him as a man with a keen intellect and a cool analytical head. I believed he would also be able to inspire those who had suffered most from a recession unparalleled since the Great Depression. In doing so, I reasoned, he would go a long way towards reuniting a nation deeply divided.
Obama was elected and took office, building on a number of stabilization programs initiated by the Bush administration. He took many other vital steps that reestablished our economic footing, including saving America’s automobile industry.
In the last four years, and despite the global downturn, America has come back from the brink. While pain is still being felt in far too many sectors of the economy, from a macroeconomic standpoint the situation in the United States is better than it is among our allies. According to the International Monetary Fund, today the United States is poised for 3 percent growth, which would make our economy the strongest of the other richest economies, including Canada and Germany. Other influential studies, cited in a recent column by Fareed Zakaria, show that debt in the U.S. financial sector, relative to GDP, has declined to levels not seen since before the 2000 bubble. And consumer confidence is now at its highest levels since September 2007. The housing market is also slowly coming back. While there is still an enormous amount to do to assure a recovery, the president deserves credit for a steady hand during this dangerous and unpredictable time.
In the last four years, President Obama has also had to contend with a rapidly changing international environment. He ended the war in Iraq, was the first Democratic president to ratify an arms control treaty with the Russian Federation, and rallied global leaders to put nuclear security at the top of the international agenda. The Obama Administration has also been responsible for decimating the top leadership of al-Qaeda and introducing biting sanctions on Iran. Today the president has significant experience in managing foreign relations, experience that GOP candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, do not have.
As a result of this campaign I am more confused than ever about what Mitt Romney stands for. I know little of his core beliefs, if he even has any. No one seems to agree on what they are, and that’s why I do not want to take a chance on finding out.
Given Romney’s shifting positions, he can only be judged by the people with whom he surrounds himself. Many of them espouse yesterday’s thinking on national defense and security, female/family reproductive rights, and the interplay of government and independent private enterprise. In this context, Barack Obama represents the future, not that past. His emphasis on education is an example of the importance he places on preparing rising generations to assume their places as innovators and entrepreneurs, workers and doers, and responsible citizens and leaders. He recognizes, as many of us do, that access to opportunities must be open to every American, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. This is not an entitlement, but a sound investment in the future.
Barack Obama’s record as president has not been perfect, and there have been frustrations for all of us during this time. Nevertheless, I believe that he deserves four more years in the White House. If the voters on November 6 give him that chance, we should expect and demand, if necessary, that members of both parties work closely with him to find a way to avert the “fiscal cliff” and other pressing and possibly destabilizing problems.
As I said in 2008 and will say again: “Unless we squarely face our challenges as Americans—together– we risk losing the priceless heritage bestowed on us by the sweat and the sacrifice of our forbearers. If we do not pull together, we could lose the America that has been an inspiration to the world.”