Every election cycle, partisans distort the positions of those they oppose. I particularly recall one pro-lifer, a Mitt Romney supporter, who titled Sen. John McCain — he of the 0 percent NARAL rating — “the ultimate betrayer.” And I’ve heard many people, Catholic and Protestant, seriously suggest that Sen. Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, which is at least as ridiculous as his being the new Messiah.
Name-calling and exaggeration are all too common, as Elizabeth Scalia (“The Anchoress”) once pointed out in reference to Sen. Edward Kennedy. Being a pro-life Democrat, I’m especially sensitive to the demonizing already present in the presidential race, for I can honestly see the good in both major-party candidates.
Let me state categorically that I will not vote for Obama — my commitment to the unborn prohibits me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a certain longing, a pang, a wish that he were pro-life and pro-marriage. Then I could vote for a man who may in many ways be a great president.
Disagree? Then consider these ten ways an Obama Administration could improve America:
1. A systematic reform (or possibly revocation) of No Child Left Behind. Subsidiarity, one of the three central tenets of Catholic social doctrine, states that things best handled at the local level should remain under local control. The Kennedy-sponsored NCLB legislation arguably violates subsidiarity more than any other piece of legislation in the past decade.
I have seen the impact of this legislation in my own classroom, in being directed to “teach to the test” — especially for students on the margin, since the advanced kids will pass anyway, and those too far behind will never catch up. So it isn’t “No Child Left Behind,” but “No Data Left Unfudged,” “No Child Left Untested,” or “No Teacher Left Standing.”
You get the picture.
2. Improved access to health care for the poor. Obama’s health care plan does not involve a government takeover that puts Blue Cross and Cigna out of business; rather, it creates a new opportunity for those who cannot afford insurance. It mandates health coverage only for children, not for all Americans. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but a chronic illness or worsening condition in one person — even a child — can affect the standard of living for the entire family (I say this as the uncle of a child with autism and cerebral palsy). That’s not the American dream.
3. An end to refineries and factories being built on the Rocky Mountains. Over the years, the Bush administration has issued a tremendous number of drilling permits for energy exploration in the “five major energy basins” of the Rockies, in opposition to those who use the land for fishing, camping, and hunting. They’re now pushing for “oil shale drilling,” too, a position McCain has endorsed. Objections have been raised based on everything from the land’s current “natural quiet” to its nighttime “darkness,” with Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) adding that the infrastructure necessary for large-scale energy production would not “be compatible with the wilderness experience.”
The Rocky Mountains are a national treasure of beauty and majesty, not economic power.
4. A lowering of the federal deficit. Obama would indeed increase spending, but weighed against that would be the cessation of the $1 trillion (so far) Iraq war. Financial discipline just doesn’t occur under modern Republican presidencies — the Reagan and Bush presidencies (both of them!) saw skyrocketing deficits, which only Clinton was able to rein under control. George W. Bush’s tax policies have failed to produce the economic growth that supply-siders had insisted would take the country out of the red. An Obama presidency, by eliminating the most irresponsible of Bush’s tax breaks, would increase government income, ending the excessive deficit spending of the Bush years and replacing it with the first balanced budget since the Clinton years.
5. A realistic investment in alternative energy. Obama’s plan provides grants for auto companies to develop vehicles with higher fuel-efficiency standards, which would help push us away from oil dependency. Additionally, he would double the amount of money spent on clean energy products (solar, etc.). This should aid in making these products affordable for average Americans, who currently need to invest often-unrealistic amounts of money in order to have their houses “go green.” Gasoline combustion is 19th-century technology, as is coal-generated electricity; it’s time to move on to better things.
6. An end to harsh interrogation techniques of detainees. Much has already been said on this topic, but it bears repeating: After World War II, America did not use harsh interrogation techniques against Nazis, and we got plenty of useful information from them. The brutality exercised at Guantanamo and other locations is not only unnecessary, but counter-productive. Obama will end that policy.
7. An improvement in international respect and relations in general. In fact, this has already begun. President Bush’s actions in Iraq alienated the leaders of many nations, as have his environmental policies. An Obama presidency would surely lead to increased respect internationally, giving us the power to work in concert with other nations on important issues instead of trying repeatedly to “go it alone.”
8. An improvement in our relations with Africa in particular. Obama’s support in Africa runs deep, while in many places, Bush is viewed with either suspicion or boredom. African nations are likely to extend trust to Obama in a way that they will not do now, and that’s good news for everything from oil trading to extradition practices.
9. A racial reconciliation desperately needed in many parts of the nation. A win by Obama will help African Americans regain confidence in a system many believe is designed to keep them down. Similarly, many white Americans will, for the first time, find themselves led by an African American — a true paradigm shift for some.
Not only that, but this African-American statesman is willing to speak frankly about race. One shouldn’t get overly optimistic, but any improvement in race relations in America should be welcomed.
10. The possibility for a national unity not felt since the presidencies of JFK and Ronald Reagan. It should be noted that only twice in the last eight elections did a candidate earn more than 51 percent of the vote — Reagan in 1984 and George H. W. Bush in 1988. Three of the past four elections produced a president without a majority.
There’s no denying that America has been deeply split along political lines, especially in the past 16 years. Depending on how the remainder of the election runs, Obama has a chance of earning a mandate rarely seen in contemporary American politics. Conservatives such as former McCain media consultant Mark McKinnon, the much-cited Douglas Kmeic, and Bush biographer Stephen Mansfield have thrown their support behind the Illinois senator. Obamacons, as they’re called, welcome Obama’s calls for personal responsibility and have been impressed with his statements about his faith. While no one should imagine a fully united country, one can certainly hope for better than what we’ve had.
All of that being said, I will not vote for Obama. If he does succeed in becoming president, I will work to either block or alleviate the moral evils he would promote in the areas of life and marriage. But he is more than those two political issues, and I cannot in good faith deny the positive things he may accomplish as well.