Take George Romney’s Advice and Vote Obama

Don't let right-wing extremists move into the White House.

I make no mystery of my progressive leanings—particularly on social issues like marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose—and I have little patience for tried and failed economic strategies that place ideology above reason and use dogmatic tax policy to hold government hostage. But that’s not why I’m voting for the President this year. 

As a champion of progressive causes, Obama has been mediocre at best. He’s had some successes: He ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military. He helped overhaul the credit card industry, made it easier for the nation’s uninsured to receive medical care, and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. At the same time, he’s conducted a campaign of intimidation against state-sanctioned medical marijuana facilities, promoted indefinite detention under the National Defense Authorization Act, authorized the extra-judicial killing of American citizens overseas, and continued the Bush administration’s legacy of using warrantless wiretaps to spy on U.S. citizens. Even his landmark health-care reform initiative was based on a framework developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and piloted by his Republican challenger.

But unlike so many others who hitched a ride on the Obama bandwagon in 2008, the President hasn’t let me down. That’s because I never bought into the mythology of his election in the first place. “Hope and Change” is a compelling campaign slogan, but given the limitations of the office, even under the best of circumstances, it’s an untenable governing platform for a Commander in Chief. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Obama’s message and identified with his vision for America, but knowing that campaigning and governing are different animals, I started January 20, 2009, with realistic expectations for the next four years. Have I been disappointed by President Obama? Absolutely. Did I expect not to be? Absolutely not.  That’s the way it is with American presidents. You think we’d be used to it by now. Ronald Reagan—who, like Obama, entered office facing a recession not of his making—saw his public approval sink to 35 percent midway through his first term; and while Bill Clinton left office with the highest approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II, it certainly wasn’t that way throughout his presidency.

Which is why we need to stop thinking about this election as a referendum on President Obama’s batting average on campaign promises. This election isn’t about the price of gas or whether unemployment is 7.8 percent or 8.1 percent.  There’s much more at stake than that. And it’s not just the prospect of spending the next four years with President Mitt, either. I do not fear a President Romney. Mitt Romney is an opportunist, a numbers guy. He’s not an ideologue. There’s only so much damage he can do.

As the Economist rightly pointed out in its muted endorsement of the President, Romney’s “greatest handicap” is his association with an “extremist Republican Party” that is increasingly untethered from reality. And that is why we can’t let him have the keys to the White House.

The Republican Party of Mitt Romney is out of step with that of his own father, who—in a 1964 letter to Barry Goldwater—explained why he could not support the conservative candidate’s presidential campaign:

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress … [W]ith … extremists rising to official positions of leadership in the Republican party, we cannot recapture the respect of the nation and lead it to its necessary spiritual, moral, and political rebirth if we hide our heads in the sand and decline to even recognize in our platform that the nation is again beset by modern ‘know nothings.’”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. A vote for Romney is a vote against his father; it’s a vote against Reagan—who voted to raise taxes during five years of his presidency; and it’s a vote against our global allies, who, by a factor of more than 20 to one would like to see President Obama finish the job he started. It also could very likely be a vote for one, if not two new Supreme Court justices. For these reasons and more, the repercussions of the 2012 election will likely be felt for decades.

While I’m no Obamaite, and I certainly don’t support every decision the President has made, I have little doubt that a two-term Obama presidency will be judged favorably by history. Barack Obama has not been a bad president; as far as I can tell, the most resounding argument against his reelection is that he hasn’t been good enough. With so much at stake this year, that’s an argument for change that’s not good enough for me. And it shouldn’t be for you either.