A lot has happened this summer that I would love to write about. The Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision; the Fast and Furious controversy; the premiere of Newsroom — Aaron Sorkin’s god-awful new show that I cannot stop watching; the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate; and most importantly, Romney’s ballet-dancing horse finished a disappointing 28th in the London Olympics.
But there is something that has been at the back of my mind the past few months and here it is: I’m just not that excited to vote for Barack Obama this November.
Don’t get me wrong, I am going to vote for Obama and feel assured in doing so, in the same way that my conservative friends will feel assured in voting for Romney. I will not, however, be voting for Obama with the same enthusiasm that I, and a large swath of the country, felt in 2008.
Coming of age in the Bush administration, as my generation did, provided a frightening picture of what government can do — in a negative sense. We witnessed two bloody wars turn into quagmires, saw our country torture both foreign captives and deny habeas corpus rights to our own citizens. We watched as corruption after corruption investigation lead to countless elected officials resigning in disgrace and — most tragically of all — we watched as Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s marriage came to an end.
As somebody of the more liberal persuasion, I also was forced to watch my home state’s second best senator — John Kerry — lose a presidential election.
Fast-forward to November 2008. The economy is in ruins, the war in Iraq is almost universally considered a cataclysmic failure, health care reform was popular (as even Republican John McCain proposed a sort-of-universal health care plan) and 66 percent of Americans professed to be worried about climate change. On top of that, the President-to-be was a charismatic leader who could finally communicate the benefits of smart-government to a country ready for change after decades of supply-side economics and deregulation.
I was giddy.
I expected that by 2012 I would be looking at a country that had passed universal health care, climate change regulations, strong financial reform and used the depressed economy to enact a “Second New Deal,” investing around $1.5 trillion into our shoddy infrastructure and education.
Needless to say, the last four years have not worked out as I hoped.
The economy remains sluggish — a result of a stimulus package, half of whose contents were tax breaks and whose total sum was not enough to dig us out of the Great Recession.
Financial reform was passed, but is a 2,300 page monstrosity. Instead of responding to the vast financial complexity that led to the crisis in the first place with simple regulatory guidelines, Congress tried to out-confuse the banks with their labyrinthine legislation.
Obamacare was passed, and it is more-or-less a vanilla law that attempts to both provide near-universal healthcare and bend the healthcare cost curve over the coming decades. It’s a technocratic piece of legislation, exceedingly similar to the one passed by my former Governor (Mitt Romney) that seemed to be working well enough for my family back home in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.
However, the Democrats did such a horrible job of selling Obamacare to the American people that its unpopularity, combined with the underperforming economy, cost them their House majority and almost cost them their Senate majority in 2010.
Virginia Foxx, a Republican Congresswoman, actually said these words on the floor of the House of Representatives: “I believe we have more to fear from [Obamacare] passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”
She actually said that!
Now, it is possible that she was just taunting terrorists everywhere … But, even if she was, there were plenty of people saying equally ridiculous things (see: Palin, Sarah).
Looking toward the next four years, there is little space for optimism, and that’s why I’m not so excited to cast my ballot this time around.
My conservative friends are quick to point out that I was foolish for being so optimistic about President Obama, and they are partially correct. One man can only accomplish so much, and our political system is not designed to allow for rapid change.
Yet, the constant filibustering, the hyperbole and the out-and-out lying that characterized the last four years of opposition has to make Americans of all political stripes sick to their stomachs.
It just has to.
If President Obama is reelected, I expect more of the same. There is no reason to expect an end to the petty fighting and sniping from both sides of the isle. The filibuster will ensure little is achieved in the way of progress. And polling indicates that Republicans will likely keep control of the House.
Even those who disagree with much of what I support politically have little to look forward to.
If Governor Romney is elected and Republicans grab control of the Senate, the next four years will be defined by Democrats in the Senate filibustering Republican bills, Republicans calling them unpatriotic for filibustering said bills, Democrats reminding said Republicans that they are the ones who won the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal in competitive filibustering, and maybe a war with Iran.
Obviously I’m being glib and simplistic. There are real issues at stake in this election — issues that are worth debating and discussing. But, I bet my predictions aren’t really all that far off, and that’s frightening.
As a liberal, I suppose I’d prefer the scenario where President Obama is reelected. But, borrowing from Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, do I have much hope?
Noah Karr-Kaitin is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Plain Hokum appears alternate Mondays this semester.