The right to vote—the very foundation of the American idea—is drenched in blood, something precious beyond value, for which men and women have fought, suffered and died. The franchise is a right once confined to white male property owners, and only after centuries of struggle was it extended to African-Americans, women, and all other citizens over the age of 18.
Now, all across the nation, Republican state governments are waging war on voting. Using the ruse of “voter fraud”—an invented non-crisis—GOP governors and legislatures, many of them installed in the 2010 elections, are ramming through Voter ID laws that may suppress turnout by several million in 2012. These laws disproportionately affect the elderly, infirm, minorities, the poor and students—most historically Democratic constituencies. In many cases, voters who have cast ballots for decades must now obtain and produce new forms of identification in order to make their voices heard. Often this requires travel and considerable cost—effectively, an unconstitutional poll tax—and a descent into Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
The goal, of course, is that millions of potentially Democratic voters will throw their hands up, surrender—and stay home on Election Day.
The goal, of course, is to defeat Barack Obama.
It’s an old story. The GOP has always sought to suppress turnout. What’s tragic is that the right wing is receiving some unexpected help—from some of our friends on the left.
Disappointed that the President has not ushered in a progressive utopia, some liberals in the media and in cyberspace are encouraging their compatriots to stay home, or perhaps, waste their votes on quixotic “Obama alternatives” like Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Despite unbending opposition from GOP filibusterers in the Senate, and a radical Tea Party House, President Obama has forged a record of domestic legislative accomplishment unsurpassed since the Great Society era of Lyndon Johnson. He saved the American auto industry—and saved America from a second Great Depression. Millions more Americans will have health coverage—saving untold lives. Gays and Lesbians can now serve openly in the military. In the area of foreign policy the Obama years have seen the end of Osama bin Laden and many other al Qaeda leaders, the fall of Ghadafy, the end of the Iraq War and a drawdown in Afghanistan. And the Obama administration has ushered in a new era of “smart power”—an antidote to the cowboy neoconservatism that brought on one needless war, another grossly mismanaged and prolonged conflict, thousands of deaths and the accumulation of massive debt. Not to mention the diminishment of America’s standing in the world.
I do not assert for a minute that President Obama is beyond criticism. I have been frustrated at times by his over-willingness to compromise with uncompromising foes, among other things, as well as the Big Pharma deal and a failure to address adequately the foreclosure crisis. But I would take Barack Obama on his worst day before turning the country over to a radicalized, right wing Republican party.
Some liberals seem to think otherwise. They are miffed that Obama hasn’t broken up the big banks and prosecuted Wall Street malefactors who destroyed the economy. They are miffed that he hasn’t closed Gitmo, and that he signed the NDAA. They are miffed that he “caved” on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (never mind that everyone else’s taxes would also have risen). They are miffed about his environmental record, and the Keystone Pipleline. They are miffed that he has not come out strongly for marriage equality—even though he repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and has ceased to defend DOMA.
They are miffed that he hasn’t beaten the crap out of Dick Cheney.
All those criticisms have validity. What does not is the response of some disappointed, self-styled progressives: To elect the likely GOP nominee, Willard Mitt Romney.
Oh, they haven’t come out and said it. But the liberal pundits who—like spurned lovers—daily trash the President, who urge progressives to stay home and “send a message,” or vote for a doomed third party candidate, or write in Pat Paulsen—they are essentially wearing Romney 2012 buttons.
For anyone to the left of Joe Scarborough, this is sheer folly. The notion that “they’re all alike” and that a vote for Obama is cast for “the lesser of two evils” is patently absurd.
Look what’s happening in Congress and across the country. Not only are voting rights under siege, but…
The right wing has waged war on women’s health and reproductive rights—God help the rape or incest victim who seeks to terminate a pregnancy. Even birth control might be imperiled
Republicans advocate the destruction of social safety nets, privatization that will force many seniors and working Americans into poverty. Their “trickle down” policies have yielded historic income inequality—can you imagine what life would be like under Mitt “Bain Capital” Romney?
The radical GOP has also waged war on unions and workers—advocating not only the elimination of the minimum wage and workplace rights, but a rollback of child labor laws. Yes, for the love of God, child labor laws.
A Republican-dominated government would see the end of myriad environmental and safety regulations—making Barack Obama look like Bill McKibben.
LGBT? Tough. If the GOP has its way, DADT will be reinstated and marriage equality will become a hopeless cause—and Dan Choi can chain himself to the White House gates till Doomsday
Disappointed with Obama’s record on civil liberties? Try your luck with a GOP administration.
What of the Supreme Court? Imagine the ramifications if Romney appoints two more conservatives: A 7-2 right wing majority that, for many of us, will last the rest of our lives.
And, lest we forget, foreign policy: Mitt Romney will bet you 10 grand that within the next four years we will be at war with Iran—or Syria, or someone else—if he’s elected.
Elections have consequences. Several hundred fewer liberal Ralph Nader voters in 2000 might have saved us the Bush years. A bit less liberal apathy in 2010—especially at the state level—might have spared us Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder and Rick Scott, not to mention a House full of teabagging wingnuts.
Liberals, before you stay home or throw your vote away, think. Would you rather press President Obama for the next four years—or surrender the country to the Dark Side.
That’s what I call “caving.”