After nearly two decades of campaigning (only a slight exaggeration), the end of the 2012 presidential campaign is finally within sight. Hopefully that means an end to idiotic horserace news coverage, at least for a few weeks until the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway.
A good many people I know have been expressing disgust or disappointment over the options, particularly at the presidential level. I’m sympathetic – there hasn’t been a genuine social democrat with a shot at the presidency since George McGovern ran in 1972, and we all remember how that turned out.
All that said, I don’t see how throwing up one’s hands and staying home, or voting for a third-party candidate is really going to improve matters. Yes, Barack Obama has been a severe disappointment in a number of respects, escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, saving Wall Street while offering only crumbs to main street, and generally governing like the Eisenhower Republican he is. A Mitt Romney victory however would be simply a disaster. The man is personally and politically appalling. Obama may be governing as a corporate militarist, but Romney is a genuine threat to the planet. From launching a war with Iran to gutting the environment at home, the man seems determined to drag us back at least one century, possibly two. When it comes to the economy, Romney’s mission is to simultaneously enrich himself and bankrupt the government as rapidly as possible while eliminating the few useful services (cuts to unemployment, massive military expansion, and cuts to corporate taxes).
Is this a question of choosing the lesser evil? I suppose that’s one way to look at it. But faced with a choice between voting for somebody whom I agree with on many things, but disagree with on a good many others, and aiding somebody who stands for everything I am against, I don’t think it’s a difficult question. Obama, for all his faults, has done a fair bit of good. Romney’s politics guarantee that the best we have to hope for is that he won’t be quite as bad as Bush. And in a system where not voting for one candidate amounts to objectively supporting the other, it’s a pretty straightforward choice.
In short, let’s not have the perfect be the enemy of the good, or even the okay. Not when the alternative is Mitt Romney.
On a slightly different note, one of the curses of living in California is that the initiative process. It’s far too easy for dubious groups to introduce propositions with damaging short and long-term consequences. California schools are still be damaged by Prop. 13, more than 30 years after the fact. I’ve found by far the easiest way to determine how to vote is simply look at who is paying for the advertising for and against a given proposition. It’s a safe bet that anything the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, Valero, Monsanto or Mercury Car Insurance oppose is a good idea (and anything they support should be regarded with extreme skepticism). And of course, when in doubt voting no is the safe option.