SINN: Backward and forward: The real decision of 2012

Sep 25, 2012

 

Beyond the collage of literature that fills up my leisure time, I have also designated time to watching the presidential race take shape over the past several months. 

October and the Romney-Obama debates are now just on the horizon. To some, America’s fate is on the line. To others, another election cycle means nothing.

But to me — with history as my minor, journalism my major, and this election a part of our nation’s history — I cannot resist casting my vote.

In spite of the enthusiasm I have for the political process, it was embarrassing to watch the National Republican Convention in late August, followed closely by the Democratic Party’s equivalent. Those two weeks revealed a lot about the nature of each party, and at the same time told us nothing about what we should expect from either candidate in the White House.

It is a hard fact for first-time voters to digest. Our decision in this election is like a riddle or an equation: We can read what the politicians are saying, but choosing who we think can solve America’s problems, that is up to us.

The Republican National Convention was held in the hurricane-stricken city of Tampa, where Republicans from all over the country congregated to rally around their not-who-we-hoped-for candidate, Mitt Romney. It is fair to say that Romney does have an honest following. It is true in West Michigan, certainly (though Obama may very well win Michigan due to strong support from labor unions and other powerful demographics). It was not Mitt Romney that fired up the delegates, but rather the same anti-Obama sentiment that ignited the Republican base four years prior.

The convention was both serious and celebratory, but seldom revealed any actual projects for the future if Romney is elected president.

Aside from the relative vagueness of Romney’s prescription, here’s the issue I have with the 2012 Republican Convention. It is more than a technical error, and has serious implications about our expectations from elected officials. Many of the speakers on the stage — most of them prominent governors and congressmen (except Clint Eastwood and his empty chair) — invoked a specific, roaring response from delegates holding up signs and cheering, “We Built It!”

Let’s step back to July 13:

President Obama was on the campaign trail in Roanoke, Va., giving a speech on the importance of infrastructure to the success of business. He said, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” What Obama said was neither inaccurate nor demeaning toward capitalism or the nature of American success, but his words were immediately snatched from their context and given new meaning. It was falsely interpreted that Obama believes the government’s benevolence is the only thing that generates success in America.

Republicans are regurgitating this dialogue in a way that convinces naïve voters that Obama is anti-business. The repeated chanting and brandishing of “We Built It” is a rebuttal to an argument the president never made.

At the Democratic National Convention, held in Charleston, S.C., much of what the Republicans said was reciprocated — the “failed” economic policies; praise for the health care plan as opposed to an attack on it; and the obvious avoidance of a situation neither party can politically afford to discuss during this campaign season: the war in Afghanistan.

The convention was a celebration of Obama’s first-term victories. It also served as a rally for Democratic base supporters — including minorities, gays and women. Michigan’s own former Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave a fiery speech about Obama’s auto bailout and the subsequent rejuvenation of the industry.

Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party’s own “Great Communicator,” gave a long speech outlining the specifics of the Obama plan vs. the Romney plan, which served as a calmative to confused voters. Clinton accomplished what neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had done up to that point: He made sense of the real issues, leaving Obama set to deliver another eloquent, powerful speech while smoothly sidestepping the specifics.

The Democrats have a major advantage: the cushion of incumbency, and specifically, the president himself. More fortunately, they do not have Romney.

But this race is not just about the two candidates. This election is not just a choice between “Taking America Back” and moving it “Forward.” It is Shakespearian: to vote, or not to vote.

Both parties talk about “putting America back to work,” but we have another kind of work to do. First-time voters, this is your time to be political. Our votes should at least carry the weight of our knowledge on issues and policy. We need to give these candidates what they deserve: a proud, educated population.

The decision lies with all of us, because without educated voters, the nation is not in the proverbial tug-of-war match it thinks it is. Without us, America is standing still.

— Alexander Sinn is a Tribune community columnist.

Comments

Tri-cities realist

At a 1998 conference Obama attended at Loyola University, he said "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot." (copied from mediamatters.org, hardly a right wing outlet.) Then 10 years later Obama said "I do believe the tax policies over the last eight years have been badly skewed towards the winners of the global economy. And I do think there is a function for tax policy in making sure that everybody benefits from globalization or at least the benefits and burdens are shared a little more easily." ... "What that says is that it's going to be important for us to pay attention to not only growing the pie, which is always critical, but also some attention to how it is sliced. I do not believe that those two things — fair distribution and robust economic growth — are mutually exclusive." Barack Obama, as quoted by WSJ on 17 June 2008, and verified by Snopes. If this isn't "Marxist redistribution", I don't know what is. These quotes were taken 10 years apart, with the last one from 2008 when obama was running for POTUS. I can't wait to here some of the replies, since I found the quotes on 2 of the democrats favorite sites, mediamatters and snopes. Look it up for yourselves. And when almost half of our citizens pay ZERO federal income tax, I ask who is not paying "their fair share"? Do they not benefit from the protection provided by our armed forces? Do they not benefit from the infrastructure that was funded by the paying half of our society? So if you want to label some as being selfish, I suggest you start with the non-payers, since they benefit from the fruits of the paying half's labor. There, I said what I wish SOMEONE would repeat over and over until the left should realize they are barking up the wrong tree. (and yes i realize they never would admit it) The half of us who pay, do so willingly, what most of us can't stand is that those on the left, instead of saying "thank you", ask US to pay more. Perhaps they would be better inclined to inquire how the successful got that way, and try to emulate it. And in case they haven't noticed, our federal tax rates are graduated, so the more you earn, the more you are taxed, both in total dollars, and at a higher tax rate. And for those who believe that we should increase the capital gains tax rate, this would amount to another form of increasing double taxation. When someone earns money, they pay income taxes. Why should they be taxed again when they invest it, if they make a profit? Hopefully one person will have their eyes opened by this.

Lanivan

Why would you continue to promote Romney's remark about 47% of Americans don't pay any income tax, and are moochers, takers, parasites on society, when every report out there shows that the majority of the 47% are senior citizens on social security who have worked and paid into ss their whole adult lives. Or people working 1 -2 low income jobs, with children - they don't make enough to pay taxes. Or perhaps our vets who have served our country with honor and courage, only to come back on disability....they don't pay taxes. Oh yeah - the super rich declaring record-breaking profits that have the means to get financially creative with tax loopholes, tax hedges and overseas bank accounts....they don't pay any taxes either. Nor do the single moms on welfare, working their way through college on student loans and food stamps, hoping education will help them find a job with a decent wage and benefits so they can raise their kids and not ever have to go on welfare or food stamps again - and pay a lifetime of taxes! This class warfare you seem to promote - poor overtaxed you vs all the lazy bums soaking the gov't - just doesn't hold up to inspection.......The rich have gotten richer by 400% over the last decade during the lowest tax rates since 1929. Last year alone, 2011, the 400 richest people in the country got 13% richer - their net worth grew to $1.7 TRILLION - the highest ever in US history (Forbes). The Bush tax cuts cost the US $2 TRILLION in lost tax revenues in 2001-2009 - all wartime years!!! Meanwhile, the middle class has stagnated or lost income. And while we're at it, where's all those JOBS that those super rich JOB CREATORS are supposed to create with all that extra money from those big tax cuts?? Oh - looks like they've been busy hoarding and outsourcing. Tricitiesrealist - I wonder if you would recognize reality if it was staring you in the face. And, by the way, in case you're ready to label me a liberal lefty, I've voted Republican for about 40 years now. I did, however, break rank, and voted for Obama in '08 and will again in 2012, with pride and conviction he's the best candidate for this country right now.

Lanivan

You nailed it, Mr. Sinn. A vote for Romney would take us back to the Bush era - 8 years of increasing budget deficits due to two wars (total costs in the TRILLIONS) and tax cuts that allowed the super rich to enjoy the lowest tax rates since 1929 (over $2 TRILLION lost revenue due to Bush tax cuts - but where are the JOBS these tax cuts were supposed to create???)...but that extra wealth never "trickled down" to the American people in the form of job creation - it went overseas in outsourcing and job creation in Mexico, China, and India, or overseas bank accounts and tax hedges. When taxes are low, the super rich hoard their money, and tend to not invest in the US - even during wartime! Jobs and the middle class stagnated or declined; deregulation of banks help lead us into the a near-financial collapse, global in it's affect. Why on earth would we bring that kind of thinking back? A vote for Romney says you approve of the fact that the Republicans in Congress have resorted to unrelenting obstruction to Obama Jobs proposals and have offered no (ZERO) comprehensive jobs bill that would try to bring stability to the economy. For example, Republicans blocked: Jobs for Main Street Act, Small Business Jobs Act, Veterans Job Bill, and continuously threatened to cut off unemployment benefits when unemployment increased due to an economic crisis of their own making ! - even when these benefits are an undisputed proven stimulus to the economy. Instead, they have spent a great deal of time and taxpayer money wasting time with symbolic votes they knew would never pass the Senate - like repealing health care, unprecedented passage of bills designed to limit or deny women's rights and other social wedge issues, when they were voted into office to fix the economy. Don't forget - Romney was very good as a hedge fund manager - he took over businesses and extracted money to get the highest rate of return for his wealthy investors - his goal was not to manage, build, create jobs, or grow a business - he did whatever it took to get the HIGHEST RATE OF RETURN on his investors money - NOT provide jobs or even make a company necessarily profitable. This is not what I want in a president of the people. The US government has never been nor should be considered a for-profit business! And as for redistribution - for heaven's sake! Do your home work, Tricitiesrealist. Redistribution is the bedrock of the Constitution and is the defining function of the all modern nation-states. A Republic of "We the People" requires and is possible only through the equitable distribution of wealth. Otherwise you end up with what started under Reagan - the steady increase of the super rich and the steady decline of the middle class. Top earners pay far less in taxes than they did when Reagan was in office; the net worth of the 400 richest Americans grew by 13% in 2011 to the highest level ever - $1.7 TRILLION. The top 1% takes in more than 2x the share of national income today than 30 years ago. If you are a member of the middle class, a vote for Obama takes us forward as we slowly recover from the Bush era disasters, and takes us to a point where there is still a chance to attain the American Dream for average people, and we have a Congress that will work together to address the issues that America faces. Through our votes, we have the power to move forward, look to the future, address the very real issues of the 21st century, and say NO to going back 8 years, 20 years, or even back to the Robber Baron years when women didn't have the right to vote, and there was no middle class - only the rich, the poor, and the very poor.

43°North

Please make sure you are registered to vote in the November election and then DO IT! Every vote counts. It is great to see young people get involved & informed. We live in a great Republic, where Democracy rules. Everyone has their opinion. It is very easy to access information today, unfortunately there is much misinformation on both sides, and you just have to weed that out for yourself (or use www.factcheck.org). No matter who you love, no matter who you hate - VOTE. No one ever has to disclose how they vote. You won't have to tell your friends you voted for that 'other guy'.

 

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