We have been glued to our TV sets and computer screens during the presidential and vice-presidential debates over the past few weeks, and by now most voters should have a pretty clearly defined vision of what is at stake in this election. We can either vote for a candidate for president who will represent 1 percent of the country, or a candidate who will represent 100 percent.
Romney has offered his so-called "five point plan" to revive America, including a 20 percent cut in taxes that makes no sense to anyone other than the right-wing loonies who desperately hope to see "the beast" (otherwise known as the U.S. government to the rest of us) finally killed off. Not only could such an irresponsible cut add $5 trillion to the deficit, but with such a catastrophic drop in revenues, government agencies would be cut to the bare bones and our safety nets like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, as well as a host of other programs -- like Pell grants -- that make America what it is, would be eviscerated. A 50-year mission of the right-wing would finally be accomplished: the end of a benevolent and caring nation that takes care of its own and provides opportunity for a better life for each generation of hard-working Americans. Climbing the economic ladder would become little more than a distant memory for most of us with Romney in charge.
Another clue to where the country would go under his "leadership" came with Romney's call for less regulation -- including crippling the Dodd-Frank law that even now offers only modest oversight of the financial sector that created the economic mess from which we are still digging our way out. Romney would also increase spending for the military -- potentially adding up to $2.1 trillion to the deficit -- despite no apparent need or requests for such increases from the Pentagon. Also, under Romney, there wouldn't be a national park or preserve left unexplored for oil, coal and gas, while pipelines would crisscross the country, further damaging the health of our planet and our people. Of course, none of these things seem to matter to Romney and his billionaire backers from Big Oil and Big Coal, who only see the massive profit potential of plying their dirty trade with the blessings of a regulation-quashing Romney administration.
Both candidates, it must be noted, have shied away from mentioning climate change recently, despite its being an international imperative. Our lack of a national policy on climate change leaves us with much work to do in the next administration, and we must press whoever is president to get serious about this issue. Unfortunately, President Obama has preferred to promote "clean coal" and increases in domestic oil production as solutions for reducing imports of foreign oil, with "renewable" and "clean" energy solutions only occasionally thrown in as an afterthought. He has also mentioned developing our domestic natural gas "resources," which means fracking, a destructive practice that a growing anti-fracking movement across the country is seeking to ban, because it destroys land, water and our health.
Other issues that would move to the front burner in a Romney administration would include the end of Planned Parenthood, which would severely affect poor women. Apparently, Romney's "smaller" federal government would still be big enough to interfere with women's health care. Romney's agenda would also include overturning Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, all achievable if Romney is elected and appoints a few more activist, conservative judges to the highest court in the land. Romney would create a Supreme Court at the ready to overturn any number of other laws protecting the environment, women, workers and more that conservative special interests deem annoyances and infringements on their bottom line. Think about that when you go in the booth on Nov. 6.
We have seen how contraception and abortion have been politicized in the past by the GOP (how can we forget Rush Limbaugh's despicable attacks on Sandra Fluke, or Todd Akin's and Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's insane views on rape?) to divert attention from the important issues in our country -- jobs and the economy -- and with its flimsy agenda, the Romney campaign has followed the same playbook, unleashing attacks on very personal health issues that should remain medical and not political. Hopefully, this strategy will backfire and a groundswell of women voters will come out and hand President Obama the election.
In the final presidential debate on Monday, we saw Obama, the Commander in Chief, in control, repeatedly outmaneuvering a relatively docile Romney, who wound up agreeing with the president's position on Syria and Iran and even to killing Osama bin Laden, an achievement that Romney previously had suggested was not worth the effort. Romney did present strong views on China and its manipulation of currency and theft of our intellectual property, but then bizarrely attacked the president for shrinking our navy, to which Obama responded with his cheeky reference to horses and bayonets, noting that the military has to change with the times while still maintaining our status as the greatest military power on Earth.
One interesting note was Romney's using the word "tumult" several times, as a reference to the failed Obama policies in the Middle East. This odd word choice was perhaps intended to reach evangelical voters, as "tumult" -- along with "water" and "sea," which Romney also used -- are strong metaphors used in evangelical teachings, according to a friend and political contact of mine who has had extensive experience with evangelical Christians.
Eventually, the debate rightfully came back to our economy and jobs, both of which affect our relationships abroad. How could we be a world leader with our own house in financial disarray? Obama said that "after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we've got to do some nation building here at home," while Romney offered to get the 47 million off of food stamps by delivering jobs to them, again with no details on the "how." Obama reiterated America's desire to work with our partners abroad to assist nations that have emerged from the Arab Spring in rebuilding, helping them to develop jobs and schools and bolstering their economies, while stressing the importance of respect and education for women.
Near the end of the debate, Bob Scheiffer asked the loaded question, "Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States ... ?" Both Romney and the president vowed that they would not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons, and we can only hope a peaceful resolution to this issue will be made a priority after the election. All in all, it was an impressive second win in a row for the president.
So what is our responsibility during the two weeks that remain until Nov. 6? Democrats must unite like never before if we are to revive our wavering democracy, and if you truly care about this country, you can -- and must -- do something to stop the GOP from taking over again and driving us into the ground. Join campaigns in your state and make phone calls to get out the vote. Walk the streets and hand out leaflets and do what ever it takes to elect Democrats -- especially Progressives -- to public office. Several Tea Party House members are vulnerable, thanks to some outstanding work by CREDO and other Progressive organizations.
So much of the attention, rightfully so, has been on the presidential race, but we cannot ignore the House and Senate, for without strong, committed Progressive Democrats working in both chambers, the Tea Party nut jobs will continue to gum up the works of our democracy. Democrats are needed who will work with a re-elected President Obama to re-enforce his mandate for finally changing how Washington works, fulfilling that lofty promise from his first campaign. After this election, we must hold all of our officials accountable and responsive to the needs of our country. No more sitting back and leaving the decision-making to our employees. The first order of business for America's citizen activists in the New Year must be to pick up the pace on removing the corrupt money from our politics once and for all and pass an amendment to strike down Citizens United and press for public funding of campaigns. This would be the prelude to a different kind of politics and America.
Here, then, are just a few of the great candidates you can support -- and vote for -- in this election:
- Elizabeth Warren -- Senate, Massachusetts
- Sherrod Brown -- Senate, Ohio
- Bernie Sanders -- Senate, Vermont
- Raul Grijalva -- House, New Mexico
- Alan Grayson -- House, Florida
- Dr. Richard Carmona -- Senate, Arizona
- Ann McLane Kuster -- House, New Hampshire
- Joe Miklosi -- House, Colorado
- Carol Shea-Porter -- House, New Hampshire
- Dr. David Gill -- House, Illinois
- Mazie Hirono -- Senate, Hawaii
- Mark Takano -- House, California
- Lois Frankel -- House, Florida
- Lesli Messinger -- House, Georgia
- Tammy Baldwin -- Senate, Wisconsin
Get involved however you can with these worthy candidates and their campaigns. Some are in fierce, ugly battles that the right-wing billionaires are trying to win with piles of dirty money. We desperately need these Progressives to get elected or re-elected, so they can continue the critical work begun four years ago to repair our broken nation.
And then, on Nov. 6, get out and vote!
Your country needs you.
Co-authored with Jonathan Stone