There are elections where candidates and voters focus on personalities, wardrobe choices or so-called gaffes. Then there are elections where voters get a clear choice on important issues. This is one of those “choice” elections.
It’s still a campaign, with plenty of silliness, talking in code and serious issues reduced to four-second sound bites. But despite the noise, we can choose between two very different directions.
Take the economy. Barack Obama has ambitious plans for greater economic security for the poor and the middle class. He wants to cut taxes for 80 percent of Americans, raising them only on those making more than $250,000 a year. He wants to spend more on education, energy independence and job creation. He will not renew the Bush tax cuts, which mostly benefited those at the top.
If you think the economy is fundamentally sound, and that we should continue the Bush tax cuts and deregulation of financial markets, then you can choose that course.
But if you want a different direction, you should vote for Obama.
There’s foreign policy. Obama believes the big mistake of the past eight years was starting the Iraq war; he rejects the philosophy that justified that war, the Bush doctrine of preemption. The opposing view thinks the big mistake of the past four years was opposing the “surge,” supports preemption, and attacks Obama for willingness to talk with potential adversaries.
If you think the Iraq war was a good idea, that it makes sense for the U.S. to attack other countries preemptively even if the threat isn’t imminent, and that any form of diplomacy is an admission of weakness, then you can continue those policies. But if you want change, you should vote for Obama.
In health care, Obama wants to expand coverage of the uninsured, building on the existing employer-based system while providing individuals and small businesses some help obtaining insurance with tax credits without preexisting condition exclusions. The alternative is to eliminate the employer-based system by making the fringe benefit taxable, moving everyone into the individual market and making people more at risk for their health care.
If you think that people don’t pay enough for their health care, that you’ll get better coverage as an individual than in a group, and that the uninsured and underinsured really aren’t a problem, then you can stay that course. But if you want to change direction, you should vote for Obama.
For energy, Obama wants to spend $150 billion over 10 years developing clean energy, “green collar” jobs and conservation. Others say if we just drill in more places, that’s enough. If you think we don’t need fundamental change to our energy policies, that we can solve our problems by substituting U.S. oil for imports, then you can vote to continue our current policies. But if you recognize that we must change our use and mix of energy substantially, which requires public investment and leadership, then you should vote for Obama.
Obama wants to increase funding for Head Start and early childhood education instead of freezing it, or even subjecting those programs to an across-the-board cut in discretionary spending. Obama has called for changes in the bankruptcy code and greater market oversight, while current policy frets that we haven’t deregulated enough.
Obama supports a woman’s right to choose; current policy doesn’t. If you want to keep going in the same direction as the past eight years, you have that choice. If you want change, you should vote for Obama.
Then there’s style, which matters to some. Obama can be professorial, even downright boring. He listens to people, thinks before he speaks and doesn’t make rash moves. But he’s not pretending that by sheer force of personality, he can take discredited policies and obsolete ideology and somehow make them work after eight years of miserable failure. He is proposing real, substantive change in policy — not just not personality.
Are you better off today than you were eight years ago? Maybe you are, and if so, vote for the policies that have helped you. If you’re not, you should vote for change, not more of the same.
To me, it’s a very clear choice. Vote for Obama.
Sam Coppersmith, Democratic party activist and former member of the U.S. House, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.