Note to Readers: We are entering one of the most important Presidential elections in our lifetimes. And so I'll be adding my two cents on some key topics. I recognize, however, that politics is a divisive topic, and so I've created this second blog for all future posts, You can also follow my other blog, ArchitectureChicago Plus, here.
You may find the title of this post strange. Surely, there has seldom been so clear a choice as the one presented to voters in this year's Presidential election.
Still, to a small but influential group of authors and activists like Chris Hedges and Ralph Nadar, a different interpretation is clear: Barack Obama has been so great a traitor to progressive principles that there is effectively no difference between Obama and the far-right platform of Mitt Romney. They cite core issues such as the failure to make good on his promise to close Guantanamo, the lack of criminal prosecution of financial sector executives who caused the 2008 crash, continuing militarism - including the killing of innocent civilians in secret drone attacks, the compromises with Republicans on tax cuts and spending, expanded spying on American citizens, and more.
And they are correct. These are deeply troubling issues. They should be part of a vigorous public debate. And yet, even with all this, in their final conclusion, Hedges and company are not just wrong, they are dangerously wrong.
I speak from experience. I remember 1980, when the progressive group IVI-IPO was debating it's presidential endorsement. Speaker after speaker got up and declared that incumbent Jimmy Carter had governed so far to the right, there was effectively no difference between Jimmy Carter and his challenger Ronald Reagan. The only acceptable choice was the liberal independent, Republican congressman John Anderson.
We now know how that turned out.
Overwhelming deficits, exploding military budgets, covert military operations, attacks on the rights of women and minorities, the destruction of protections for the environment and for safe food and products, evisceration of the rights of workers and the prosperity of the middle class - all of these critical problems of today were jump-started by Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney may have taken all these issues to a previously unimagined extreme, but it was Ronald Reagan who set it all in motion, on a massive scale.
These was a difference, and we're still reaping the toxic whirlwind three decades later.
Mitt Romney promises to replace Medicare and Medicaid with voucher programs. He promises to further decrease the tax burden of America's most affluent citizens, while closing "loopholes" that will increase taxes on the working class. The Republican platform promises to make a criminal of any woman having an abortion, under any circumstances, including incest and rape. The stated Republican policy is to create roadblocks to discourage minorities from voting. Mitt Romney promises to increase military spending, beyond even what the Pentagon wants to spend. In the person of John McCain, he promises new military engagements throughout the Middle East. He will not only not prosecute wrongdoers in the financial sector, he will repeal the regulations enacted to keep them from crashing our economy again.
Do Hedges and Company think he's kidding? Or are they willing to sacrifice America just to prove their point?
Barack Obama passed the first real reform of health care, which every President before him was unable to accomplish. He got Bin Laden, which George W. Bush failed to do. He fights for the rights of women, of workers, of minorities. He is the last bulwark, however imperfect, between an America of opportunity and justice, and the Republican vision of a new Ayn Randian feudalism that will make the gilded age look like a workers paradise.
Make no mistake: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are not the same choice. The declaration to contrary by Hedges and Company is a sucker's bet for which, if Barack Obama is not re-elected, all of us will pay the catastrophic price.
In 1980, even if Jimmy Carter had gotten every one of John Anderson's votes, he still would have lost to Ronald Reagan. In 2012, in contrast, the election is so close that the "they're both the same" argument, if allowed to stand, could well be the tipping point that hands America over to the most extreme elements of the right wing.
I am perfectly willing to stand with Hedges and Company on their key grievances, but I refuse to join them in a suicide pact whose final result is an exponential worsening of all the issues they profess to care so deeply about. I support the re-election of President Barack Obama.