I'm voting for Barack Obama, but not because of "Hope," the poster I made in 2008, or because of hopes, of which I can't say mine have been particularly fulfilled. I'm voting for Barack Obama because I believe evolution is real and possible. I want to see this country move forward, not backward, and I know that four more years of Obama in office will have our country and our planet looking far more like the ones I want to see than a Romney presidency ever could.
When I created my Obama portrait, the image was originally accompanied by the word "progress," not "hope," because I thought Obama was the candidate who would lead us in the right direction. My poster wasn't directly affiliated with the Obama campaign, but when they politely asked me if I'd change it to say "hope" I obliged, because without hope there is no action, and without action there is no progress.
I come from the worlds of skateboarding and punk rock, and the "Hope" poster was about as un-Jello Biafra as you can get. I didn't make it because it fit my outsider image or my history as an antagonistic street artist. I made the poster because I care about the future for my kids, and I saw an opportunity within the only political system we've got to support someone unlike the people we usually get.
I could go on and on about the flaws of the system itself, but short of a violent revolution (which I don't advocate), the only way to improve the governance of the country, and the system itself, is to vote people in who will make positive changes for government and for the people. I've talked to many people who say "f*ck the system -- I'm not voting," but when you remove yourself from the democratic process by saying "f*ck the system," you're only ensuring that the system will be more f*cked.
When I look at the accumulation of power by the oligarchy and the rise of the dog-eat-dog, kill-the-poor mentality, I see civilization, opportunity, and equality sliding backward. I love Devo, but I'm no fan of devolution. This is no time for idealistic posturing on the sidelines. The people who benefit most from your apathy certainly don't want you to vote. If you're as frustrated as I am, and you want to give a big F*CK YOU to someone, vote for Obama -- and while you're at it, vote some sane people into Congress, which has been more dysfunctional (thanks to the Tea Party) over the last two years than any other Congress in history -- and give the middle finger to the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, Wall Street, and all the other powerful interests who want us to live in their world without any say for ourselves or any humanitarian regard for society's least fortunate.
Obama can relate to the struggles of average Americans. Obama came from nothing and achieved the American Dream through hard work -- he wasn't born into American royalty like Mitt Romney. As suspicious as I am of all politicians, when I look at the character and perspective of Barack Obama I see a stark contrast between his humanity and Romney's callousness. Regardless of my frustration with certain aspects of Obama's first four years, I know that evolution toward manifesting the ideals of equality, justice, general welfare, and the pursuit of happiness with a level playing field is far more likely with Obama as leader and steward of these ideals.
Even if you're cynical about Obama, look at the alternative. Mitt Romney has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Romney will protect the power of the wealthy while straining the middle class further. Romney will increase military spending while schools lose funding. Under Romney, the Supreme Court would most likely move even further to the right. A more conservative Supreme Court would be disastrous for future prospects of repealing the Citizens United decision or any other future campaign finance reform, and could result in women losing their right to choose.
Four years ago, I knew that electing Obama wouldn't be the magic bullet to fix every one of the nation's problems, but it would at least be a move back in the right direction after eight years of fear, war, and shrinking privacy and freedoms. Another four years of Obama will likely not achieve all I hope for, but it will take us forward, not backward. How far forward we can move depends largely on us, not Obama. Progress depends on how hard we push. I've often described my approach as the "inside/outside strategy." Obama can be our ally on the inside, but we have to use all our voices and resources to push from the outside. Your vote is just one very important part of your voice. There are many issues on Obama's agenda that I'd like to see succeed, and the potential for effective results is greatly enhanced by exterior pressure on government, not just pressure from government.
If you care like I do about the issues of: tax fairness, Wall Street regulation, green energy, fuel efficiency standards, climate change, education, infrastructure and infrastructure jobs, health care, and marriage equality, elect Obama and then push him and Congress to move these ideas forward.
--SHEPARD FAIREY, contributor to the 90 Days, 90 Reasons initiative.
This essay originally ran as part of 90 Days, 90 Reasons. For more essays, written by people such as Roger Ebert, Russell Simmons, Paul Simon, Reza Aslan and Patton Oswalt, go to http://90days90reasons.com/
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