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My Last Democrat

"All in all, Obama represents a tolerable evil; Romney, a surrender of democracy to the power of greed and arrogance."

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Four years ago in this space, I presented an argument entitled "A (Liberal) Case for McCain." I argued that — given a struggling economy and the mess left behind by President George W. Bush — the winner of the 2008 election likely would be doomed to a one-term presidency.

This was especially likely, I contended, if the extremely inexperienced Sen. Barack Obama were elected. My fear was that a President Obama would be defeated for re-election by a hard-right Republican. McCain as president, on the other hand, likely would seek to govern through bipartisan consensus — his longtime pattern as a senator — and make room for a truly progressive Democrat in 2012.

Re-reading that piece today, I find no reason to apologize. During the first three years of his presidency, Obama did indeed show signs of inexperience. Even in passing his signature legislative initiative, the Affordable Care Act, he and his congressional allies allowed the right to set the terms of the debate — which still hampers his re-election bid.

Moreover, the health care act wasn't great legislation. It ended up an exceedingly complex mishmash that failed to control rising costs and failed to provide the public option cherished by most progressives. At the same time, this moderate legislation came to be deemed — by most Americans — far more radical and socialist that it actually is.

All in all, I've been disappointed with, but hardly surprised by, the Obama presidency. But while I make no apology for my choice in 2008, I will confidently cast my ballot for the president in November.

I will still, in a sense, be voting for the lesser of evils. Obama has only begun to attack the concentrated power of wealth, greed and arrogance that characterizes America's corporate class. Even now, there's nothing Rooseveltian in his rhetoric or his actions.

Nor has the president outlined a persuasive vision for America's future. He has done the absolute minimum to address global climate change and to reduce American dependence on fossil fuels. He continues to believe that more schooling is the same thing as better education. And — though he seems to have persuaded most Americans that he is a Christian — he's avoided his duty to protect the secular essence of our Constitution.

Still, beginning with the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama seems to have figured out how presidents act. And clearly he's finally come to understand that the Republican Party has so utterly embraced the strategy of "rule or ruin" that it cannot be treated as a partner in government.

Besides, in 2012, there seems to be no viable alternative. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney appeared to be an intelligent, practical and forward-looking statesman. Since that time, his pursuit of the presidency has been so single-minded that it's no longer possible to say with certainty in what he believes on any subject.

I cannot imagine entrusting power to a man whose entire political philosophy seems to consist of reading the latest polls. If Obama is the lesser of evils, he's also a known commodity who has grown steadily in stature during his first term. Romney, on the other hand, no longer is the impressive statesman who once governed Massachusetts. Today, he's become a mere shadow — entirely devoured by his lust for a presidency which has become, one would almost say, his preciousss.

There are other considerations, of course. Feeble start though it was, the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. Its repeal, promised by Romney, would create chaos for the health care system and for millions of American families, while solving nothing.

If Obama has been a timid environmentalist, the Republican Party —Romney apparently included — seems actively hostile to preserving the environment.

If Obama's attempts to restore the pre-recession economy are more fanciful than realistic, the Republican pledge to restore the Reagan prosperity by delivering government into the untrammeled power of multinational corporations would be, for most Americans, a living nightmare.

Finally, allowing Romney to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices would cement the rule of corporations, authorized by the vicious 2010 court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.

All in all, Obama represents a tolerable evil; Romney, a surrender of democracy to the power of greed and arrogance, unwittingly supported by the power of bigotry, ignorance and
superstition.

In this space, I have argued for the formation of a third party founded on the principles historically associated with the liberal Republicanism of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Such a party would offer a genuine alternative to a major-party duopoly which offers savage political competition, but nothing like a vision of a realistic American future.

After 2008, I swore off voting for Republicans for good. After Nov. 6, I intend never to vote for a Democrat, either.

But if Obama gets my last Democratic ballot, I sincerely hope he wins.

Democratic leadership may be weak and without vision, but it is well-intentioned. The Republican Party, at this point, is so committed to corporate "rule or ruin" that it cannot be deemed either rational or patriotic.

America needs more alternatives than the two major parties, but this year, the choice is clear. S

'Rick Gray taught history at Midlothian High School and the Appomattox Regional Governor's School, and writes a column for the Village News in Chester.

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Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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