Reprinted below is my endorsement for Barack Obama, originally published in Heso Magazine.
Though we at Heso Magazine are practicing secular-agnostics, we are inclined to believe that Hurricane Sandy making landfall on the U.S. on the eve of the election is hardly coincidence. Not that this tempest is an Act of God, mind you, but a manifestation of a furious Gaia, the Earth goddess howling brimstone at a national farce now almost beyond contempt. Though they have competed for bragging rights on who would be better at exploiting natural resources, neither the incumbent, President Barack Obama, nor his challenger, Mitt Romney, have acknowledged the obvious, urgent crises engendered by global warming (typical for a GOP candidate, glaring for a Democratic one). The most important difference is that one of the candidates (Romney) believes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is too expensive and should be discontinued, leaving bankrupt states to manage the inevitable environmental catastrophes on their own. That this is emblematic of so much other nonsense espoused by the GOP means that we at the magazine will in fact endorse Barack Obama for President, but with many caveats and some total absence of enthusiasm.
It is hard to imagine an election less engaging for its activists’ bases. The conservatives don’t trust Romney, a flip-flopping hybridized Richie Rich-Gordon Gekko twit representing the worst aspects of modern corporate culture. They don’t like him for his Mormonism and his record as the Governor of Massachusetts, particularly, his health care reform. Besides pimping for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as well as Fortune 500 companies Mitt Romney represents almost no one, but the Republican base will probably vote for him anyway, in total opposition to their self-interest, simply because he’s a white male.
On the other side of the spectrum, progressives are equally disengaged from Obama, who has either ignored or backtracked on nearly every campaign pledge from 2008, including respecting habeas corpus, renegotiating NAFTA, rejecting sweeping claims of “inherent” presidential power, protecting whistle-blowers, expanding labor rights, and diversifying media to name but a few. The propaganda on talk radio and Fox News is as spurious as it comes; a “socialist” Obama is not. On some issues, such as gay rights, he has proven progressive. But unless you’re for same sex marriage or a member of the nation’s financial elite it’s unlikely you have more opportunity or freedom than you did four years ago.
Running a country as multi-faceted, complex and dangerous as the United States requires responsibility not only for present crises but also for the long-term future of the republic and its citizens. With Ayn Rand acolyte Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate, the two Company Men will work to comprehensively dismantle Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamp and financial aid programs, and any other public “entitlement” that any way at all aids the dispossessed and downtrodden. They will do it in the name of austerity, the hypocrites, all the while, continuing massive defense spending and supporting tax cuts and tax shelters for corporations. As perilous as life is in America today, it would be more capricious, uncertain and altogether hopeless under a Romney administration. For the wealthy elites in the GOP, the Bush tax cuts and TARP are mere Prelude to the Class War they will engage once they have the capacity to direct the national conversation on the economy. Once the purge is on it will make us nearly wistful for the days of ‘compassionate conservatism.
Romney and everything he and the GOP stand for then must be dismissed outright as antithetical to our democratic traditions. Well, what do we have then? Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate was arrested when she tried to gain access to the Town Hall debate. Third Party candidates have almost no momentum this year (mostly due to media blackout and unfair playing rules.) That leaves voters with Obama, who arguably governed as Bush might have had he a third term, but who articulated the abridgements of civil liberties better than the Texan Bumpkin. Otherwise how could one explain how Democrats have gone from condemning waterboarding as torture to condoning executive-ordered drone assassinations? Keep in mind that a vote for Obama is essentially a vote for The Surveillance State of which our president has come to be one of its principle architects. It is important to note that Obama did not bother much with the ‘hope’ thing this time around. He might respect our intelligence, even if he doesn’t honor our privacy.
So what has he promised in this endlessly dull, insipid, uninspired, misanthropic election cycle? Well, so much as we can tell, he’s pledged that he wouldn’t be as bad as Romney and we at Heso agree. Thus, a vote then for Obama is a vote for competence. He probably won’t privatize Social Security and it’s unlikely with him as Commander-in-Chief, we’ll hear dispatches of G.I. Joe from the Gates of Tehran. We’ll get the status quo, which isn’t that great if you’re living day-to-day and paycheck-to-paycheck but it beats the heck out of the Made in the USA dystopian disaster the GOP might engineer should they have their childish hands on The War Machine’s joystick.
Because the GOP is out of touch with Americans (by virtue of its leadership and talking heads demonstrating unhinged sociopathic behavior) we at the magazine don’t much believe in the hype of a close election. The mainstream media has Ford Explorers, Big Macs and Verizon phone plans to sell so they need us turning in to the election cycle, which often feels like it’s 10% content, 90% poll tracking. The President will likely win this election, but that doesn’t mean we can look forward to good times. Though Obama had once been a community organizer and constitutional lawyer, he has really come into his own as a cold-blooded technocrat, legitimizing the worst of Bush’s abuses (illegal detention, runaway defense spending, obsequiousness to Wall Street). It seems that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has benefited the President as much as the venture capitalist, the corporations having hedged their bets equally. Nearly a billion dollars has been raised and spent by each candidate.
We at Heso think what Winston Churchill said about democracy, that it “is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried,” is bunk. We can do better. The Scandinavian Model is proof of that. It might not be possible in such a large heterogeneous country with a militaristic background but we have already done better in the recent past, namely the fifty years of relative middle class parity between the elections of FDR and Ronald Reagan.
While we take Churchill’s cynicism with a grain of salt, we take Martin Luther King’s words more seriously, especially, “The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” We might be wrong but we believe the GOP, with its characteristic racist nativism, hateful misogyny, religious fundamentalism and class war agenda, has no future in the increasingly tolerant, secularized, cultural plurality that is Tomorrow’s America. In spite of the evidence, we are optimists, even if once more, the lesser of two evils is still, well, somewhat evil.
‘Change’ is gonna come, but we don’t believe it will necessarily come from D.C. It’s gonna be us, grass roots, after the tempest, one community at a time. Even the worst storms are temporary. And in the afterglow amid tomorrow’s beautiful light, some rebuilding will begin.