It’s the end of my 42nd birthday and I’ve spent today relaxing. I’ve played video games, been taken out for a meal and for drinks, had dinner made for me by my wife, had presents given to me, and been utterly overwhelmed by facebook friends wishing me well on my special day. I took the day off from work so I could have some me-time. That’s what you’re supposed to do on your birthday, right?
So great, except all day there’s been this thing nagging at me, taunting me, double dog daring me to ignore it. And now I’ve just given in. Ignoring it isn’t working so I’m diving into shark-infested waters. It’s time for me to tell some very smart people just how utterly misguided and foolish they’re being.
I’m a liberal. Like most liberals in this country, I supported Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. I mean I really supported him. I even gave him some of my money. For the first time in my life, I had the experience of voting for someone that I actually wanted to be president rather than for the guy who wasn’t as awful as the other guy. It wasn’t just vague platitudes about “hope” or “change” that I liked, it was the specific stuff he said he was going to do as president that won me over, along with his enormous intellect and seriousness of purpose.
Since President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the Obama administration has made some decisions I don’t agree with 100%. It’s a long enough list of things ranging from actual policy positions I disagreed with to overly conciliatory negotiating tactics to not being forceful enough rhetorically on certain issues I care about. The most recent example is the administration’s decision to scuttle planned EPA rules that would have toughened lax Bush-era smog standards (it’s bad policy, and at a minimum, a missed opportunity for a bargaining chip).
Seeing the guy I supported doing things I disagree with is frustrating. I want him to be perfect. I want him to be Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, JFK and Jed Bartlett all rolled up into one guy. President Linceddyveltlett would have made sure we got the public option. The Linkeddyveltlett administration would have gotten Gitmo closed and would have played hardball in the debt ceiling fight.
I think it’s important to hold the President to a higher standard and expect him to meet it. And when he doesn’t, when he fails to live up to our President Linkeddyveltlett ideals, it’s important we let him know and complain about it and write blog posts and tweet and stomp our collective liberal feet.
But I also think that while we express our frustration, we need to keep our wits about us.
Recently, some friends of mine, who I tend to think of as very smart most of the time, have taken their liberal indignation to some rather absurd places.
Historically, primarying a sitting president is tantamount to just giving the presidency to whomever the other side nominates. But if it’s Romney, given the extent of the Obama disaster, that’s a tradeoff that could potentially be reasonable; Romney would likely just be a more effective version of Obama, putting forth generally the same sorts of policies without the scorched-earth opposition from the other side. Let Romney 45 govern like Bush 41 and regroup for 2016/2020.
My wife made the observation that we might actually fare better under Mitt Romney. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but it makes sense if you think about it. First of all, Romney’s record indicates that he’s a fairly moderate Republican. Earlier in his career, he very plainly supported a woman’s right to choose. If elected, I doubt he’d push to overturn Roe v. Wade (he’d probably just leave it to the states, which is kind of what Obama is doing by default). Romney’s health care solution in Massachusetts looks a lot like what the President promoted (and ultimately got). On the campaign, Mitt has to tack rightward to appease the teabaggers. But those positions wouldn’t necessarily carry over to the Oval Office.
My wife’s most interesting point was that, instead of negotiating against himself, like Obama, Romney could end up giving the left more of what they want. It’s not hard to picture him telling his party that he “had to make concessions” in the course of negotiations. And those concessions might very well be more than we get out of Obama, due to the fact that he gives away half the store BEFORE entering talks.
Seriously? Mitt Romney would be “more effective” as president than Obama? We might “actually fare better under Mitt Romney?” Guys (and Mrs. Contrarian), I think you’re letting your emotional reactions to some individual disappointments get the better of your brains.
First of all, literally the same day Casey posted the piece quoted above, Mitt Romney delivered a big speech about the economic plan he’d pursue if elected. What’s in it? Massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, the elimination of all new safeguards to reign in Wall Street, widespread deregulation, and a crackdown on labor unions. He also wants to enact a spending cap that would gut most of the federal budget and require brutal cuts to programs like Medicare.
In what universe can you look at that sort of economic plan and think a Romney presidency would anything but a disaster?
Well maybe Romney is a secret moderate, as Casey suggests. After all, one of previous versions of Romney’s many personas was actually quite moderate. But to accept this premise, one would effectively have to believe, “Maybe every word Romney has said over the last four years about his agenda and worldview has been a total lie, and he’s secretly a sensible centrist.” In other words, let’s trade a pragmatic progressive president for a Republican who *claims* to be a conservative, but who might possibly turn out to be shamelessly lying to the entire country. Romney *says* he’ll be super right-wing on everything from the economy to the judiciary to foreign policy, the argument goes, but maybe it’s all just an elaborate, half-decade-long ruse.
That seems like an awfully big risk to me.
What’s more troubling about Casey and Gerry’s posts is that they seem to assume that the Obama record of accomplishments is thin and underwhelming. That’s wrong.
If you had told me three years ago that Barack Obama, after 32 months in office, would:
I (and a lot of lefties) would have been doing cartwheels. If you then told me at the time that Obama would also get Osama bin Laden, withdraw troops from Iraq, and oust Moammar Gaddafi from power, all within the president’s first 32 months in office, I would have suggested saving room on Mt. Rushmore.
But if you had told me at that time that all of this would happen and liberal voters would not only be apoplectic about Obama’s perceived failings but would also start eyeing Mitt Romney as a credible alternative, I would have said that you’d clearly lost your mind.
And there’s a finer point here too that’s largely overlooked. Voters don’t just elect a president — they elect an executive branch and an expansive regulatory bureaucracy. Under a Democratic president, that bureaucracy works towards progressive ends — on everything from consumer safety to worker rights to the Justice Department’s prioritization of civil rights cases — while the exact opposite happens under a Republican president. Almost no one even realizes the importance of well-below-the-radar governance, but in countless ways that affect millions of Americans literally every day, it matters.
I get frustrated by the Obama administration sometimes too. But suggesting that handing a radicalized Republican party even more power might not such a bad idea because Romney was sort of moderate once upon a time is not a reasonable position for sane people to hold. You’re smarter than that.