Dear Undecided: Welcome to the Main Event -- the 2012 presidential election!
Lots of people have been wondering about you (here). Some think you've just been playing coy with us political aficionados, for the attention. Others call you "low-information" (and not as a compliment). Comedian Stephen Colbert has likened you to the customer in McDonald's who waits until he gets to the cashier to check out the menu and make up his mind. However, given the ferocity of attacks between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, not to mention the interminable length of this campaign, I can understand why a voter might tune out.
But now it's decision time. To nudge you in the general direction of Mr. Obama and the Democrats, here is a guide, culled from reams and reams of binders, to help you to vote both in your own best interests and those of the nation. (You didn't get the binders reference? Never mind.)
MAIN ARGUMENT (inspired by former President Bill Clinton, here):
1) The Republicans left President Obama a "total mess" -- a wrecked economy, two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), and sky-high debt. Clinton left Bush a healthy economy and a budget surplus, which Bush destroyed -- and dumped on Mr. Obama.
2) The Republicans refused to help Mr. Obama clean up the "total mess" they left and blocked him at every pass. An actual conspiracy is involved: On the very night of Mr. Obama's inauguration, Republican leaders conspired to block Mr. Obama's proposals to Congress that would repair the economy they themselves wrecked (see here). Later the Republican Senate majority leader made it official when he declared the GOP's top priority was to deny Mr. Obama a second term (see here). Why isn't this obstructionism called treason?
3) If the Republicans are put back in office, they will produce...more mess. Think of the Republicans as the guys who drove the car into the ditch and Mr. Obama as the repair guy who shows up with the tow truck. Is it logical to put the wreckers back in charge? Is it logical, or fair, to fire the repair guy? You decide.
PRES. OBAMA'S ACHIEVEMENTS: Despite non-stop Republican obstruction, the repair guy -- Mr. Obama -- has achieved lots. He:
* Pulled the economy (the car) out of the ditch and restarted the engine. Over 5 million private-sector jobs have been created. Unemployment is coming down; the housing market is reviving; the stock market is soaring. And, just in: Our growth rate, flat-lined for so long because of the Republican wreckage, is trending upward (see here and here).
* Speaking of cars: Pres. Obama saved the auto industry -- the quintessential
American industry -- while Mr. Romney wrote in an op-ed, "Let Detroit go bankrupt" (see here). By the way, Mr. Romney, who rails against government intervention, as an investor reaped millions in the government bailout of the auto industry (see here). Against fierce Republican opposition, Mr. Obama invested in the American auto worker. And, no, contrary to the Romney campaign's desperate new claim, Chrysler is not moving its Jeep production to China -- it's keeping its Ohio production line going (see here).
* Passed historic health care legislation that covers millions of uninsured Americans and makes it illegal for insurance companies to drop you if you get seriously ill. Mr. Romney says "people don't die in their apartments" just because they don't have insurance. Millionaires in mansions don't know this world of hurt. Romney vows to repeal "Obamacare" once in the White House, but proudly passed "Romneycare" while governor of Massachusetts. Is this a contradiction or what?
* Passed historic financial reform legislation (Dodd-Frank) that restores regulation and curbs the bank excesses that wrecked the economy. Mr. Romney rails against "job-killing regulation." No, Mr. Romney: Rules of the road are crucial for an economy to function soundly -- and create jobs. Without rules, it's bumper cars. Not only does Mr. Obama understand the need for rules, he created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is up and running on our behalf (see here).
* Wound down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Romney said it was "tragic" for the U.S. to leave these war zones, then he flip-flopped -- which he does a lot (see below). Mr. Obama is bringing the troops home with honor.
* Went after and killed Osama bin Laden, perpetrator of 9/11. Mr. Romney said it's "not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." Mr. Obama did think it was worth it. You decide.
MR. ROMNEY'S SKETCHY PROMISES: Mr. Romney claims that as a successful businessman he knows how to fix the economy and create jobs. But remember: His business -- private equity -- is not about job creation, but profit-making via leveraged buy outs. As CNNMoney writes about Mr. Romney's firm, Bain Capital:
Bain and its fellow buyout barons don't care in the slightest about whether they create jobs or destroy them. All they care about is making money for their investors and themselves.
And if profit-making means sending jobs overseas, so be it -- a point about private equity that keeps coming back (see here). As for Mr. Romney's successful turnaround of the Olympics, his campaign omits noting he was helped by substantial government funding (see here). As governor of Massachusetts, his jobs record ranked 47th worst in the nation (see here). If elected president, Mr. Romney vows to add 12 million jobs to the economy -- exactly the rate of job creation under Mr. Obama. If elected, Mr. Romney vows to cut $5 trillion in taxes and add $2 trillion to the defense budget -- all without adding to the deficit. But the numbers don't add up (see here). "Of course they do," Mr. Romney insists, but offers no specifics (see here). Mr. Obama calls these claims a "sketchy deal." You decide.
One wonders about Mr. Romney's priorities, directing $2 trillion more into the world's largest military rather than investing in science, technology, and education, which he's vowed to cut. These are the knowledge-based building blocks "to a 21st-century economy," as Mr. Obama rightly understands (see here).
"ARE YOU BETTER OFF NOW THAN YOU WERE FOUR YEARS AGO?": Remember where we were four years ago: Lehman Brothers, a major investment bank founded in 1850, vanished overnight, while other institutions like AIG, world's largest insurer, nearly collapsed. George Bush, the economy's steward at the time, said, "This sucker could go down." Republicans reframe the "Are you better off?" question as "Can we take four more years of Obama?" -- cleverly, and irresponsibly, shirking their role in causing the '08 crash. Blameless, Mr. Obama stepped in and saved "this sucker." But you decide.
WHOSE WORD CAN YOU TRUST?: Once upon a time Mr. Romney was pro-health care, pro-regulation, pro-gun control, pro-abortion, among many other positions, but to win his party's nomination he knuckled under to the far right and reversed himself completely. By now he has flip-flopped so often, he's a whirligig; can you really trust him to be the moderate he's now presenting himself to be, or the "severe" conservative he promised he was in the primaries? Mr. Obama may not have delivered on all his campaign promises -- yet -- but he has not disavowed them.
HAS THE PRESIDENT GOT YOUR BACK?: Mr. Romney's shocking dismissal of 47 percent of the American public -- those who don't earn enough to pay federal income tax -- as spongers off the government and not worth worrying about says volumes about his commitment to "all of the people"; that he confided this to his super-wealthy donors tells you where his ultimate allegiance lies (secret video and text here). Accordingly, his tax plan would reduce taxes on the rich even more while increasing those on the middle class, says a respected think tank (see here). Mr. Obama's actions, by contrast, are aimed at fortifying the middle and working classes -- health care for all and not just the rich, financial regulation to protect Main Street from Wall Street's excesses, federal stimulus funds for infrastructure repair (roads, bridges, schools), etc. And he'd ask the rich to pay a little more in taxes, as their fair share. Democracy is of, by, and for the demos, the people. Who's its best protector? You decide.
MEDICARE and SOCIAL SECURITY: These programs, which Republicans call "entitlements" but which you earned by paying into your account over a lifetime of working, are under threat in the Romney-Ryan budget, which proposes Medicare be voucherized and Social Security be privatized -- meaning: your safety net would be shredded. (Given the Republicans' aversion to regulation, how safe do you think your Social Security funds would be if invested in the stock market?) Mr. Obama commits to keeping these vital programs in place, while reforming their funding.
And consider the suffering inflicted on the 50 million people now receiving Medicaid, which Mr. Romney, if victorious, would cut drastically (see here). And, no, Mr. Obama did not eliminate the work requirement for welfare, as another desperate Romney ad claims (see here).
THE SUPREME COURT: The deluge of political advertising we have seen in this presidential campaign -- the greatly increased role of money in politics -- is a result of the present Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that allows corporations unlimited spending in accordance with their rights of free speech. More such decisions favoring corporations over the citizen can be expected if Mr. Romney, as president, added one or more justices to the already conservative Roberts court. For the sake of you and your children, think about the preservation of your rights.
Now, a word to undecided women voters: Remember, one of the first laws Mr. Obama signed was the Lily Ledbetter Act ensuring equal pay. Recall also that, while Republicans want government out of our lives, some want to control your body when it comes to rape and abortion. And, finally, about the wrecked economy again: Ladies, if you moved into a new house and the previous tenant left a "total mess," wouldn't you expect said tenant to help with the clean-up? And maybe, with the mess being so total, you'd ask for extra time, for another term, to finish the job?
And a word to undecided Latino voters: "Hacia el futuro con Obama! El es nuestro amigo."
And a word to "disappointed" Obama voters: Really now, did you think Mr. Obama could fix the "total mess" he inherited in just one term and all by himself, without any help from Republicans -- or, for that matter, from you? Did you stick with him? Did you defend him at the water cooler? Or did you fade? Hope and change take time and work. Muscle up that hope.
Finally, dear Undecided: No doubt you have heard the Republicans ranting against government, how they hate-hate-hate government. Well, I say: Give the anti-government Republicans what they really-really-really want -- and vote them out of office!
Carla Seaquist is author of a book of commentary titled "Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character." Also a playwright, she is author of the just-published volume "Two Plays of Life and Death" and is at work on a play titled "Prodigal."