This election does matter. Here are my six reasons why, in order of increasing importance:
• Healthcare: We know with certainty that Obamacare will not be repealed under Obama, nor will it be implemented under Romney. That’s a difference of more than 1 in 10 people with or without insurance. That’s a difference of guaranteed inclusion on your parents’ health insurance when you leave college. That’s a difference of access to health insurance when you have a preexisting condition. This matters.
• Financial Regulation: The Great Recession we’ve been facing was avoidable. It was the natural result of a financial market that had learned to outmaneuver public oversight. Dodd-Frank is a first step to restoring financial regulation, but it needs to be fully implemented. Republicans in Congress have fought this implementation tooth-and-nail, and they threaten to eviscerate the law if they win the presidency. This matters.
• The Supreme Court: The next presidential term will probably see two new Supreme Court justices, and I’d guess those are the successors to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy. That’s a difference between a court split four-to-five, and one split six-to-three. Of the forty five people who have served on the Court in the last seventy five years, only four others have been as conservative as Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts. For comparison, sixteen have been as liberal or more than Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. We don’t need two more ultra-conservatives. That will have profound impacts on the capacities of the government, affirmative action, abortion, campaign finance reform, gun control, and whatever other issues arise in the coming decades. This matters.
• Super PACs: The Citizens United decision blew apart our campaign finance laws, and this election is being reshaped by new excesses. Super PACs have raised over $189 million dollars – that’s roughly one-seventh of all campaign spending – and 77% of it is in support of Republicans. Just ten individuals have contributed more to the Republicans than all of the Democratic Super PACs combined. This is not a fair fight, but the real losers are all of the rest of us voters. If we do not repudiate those ten donors and all the rest of the Super PACs now, they will only learn to drown out our voices more and more in the elections to come. This matters.
• Gridlock: The Democrats had sufficient majorities in Congress for only six months in 2009-2010 between Al Franken’s delayed election and Ted Kennedy’s replacement. For the other thirty-nine months of the President’s term, Republicans were able to block appointees, filibuster bills, hound Federal agencies, and agitate for the repeal of Obamacare. They killed the Dream Act and the American Clean Energy and Security Act. They took us to the brink of a government shutdown and a default on the debt. Throughout it all, their stated objective was to make Obama a one-term president by denying him accomplishments. All according to plan, Romney now hammers the president as a weak leader. If voters fail to repudiate this shameless strategy up and down the ballot, every Congressional minority from here on will act the same. This is the primary cause of our civic dysfunction, and we must end it. This matters.
• Credit for the Recovery: Assuming that we get past the fiscal cliff this winter and that Europe avoids further destabilization, the foundation for economic recovery that Obama’s policies have laid will succeed. To be sure, the Republican fervor for austerity could weaken the recovery – but at some point in the next four years, the Great Recession will become history. This election will determine how that history is written. It could say that full recovery was not realized until the poor were kicked out of their safety hammock, liberating an elite class of Randian job creators. Or, it could say that the economic recovery was the result of bold investment in the future and steady support for the people of the middle class who were staggered by forces outside their control. That’s a difference between reinforcing and redefining the American Dream. This matters.
There are a lot of other issues in play this election, including the posture of war towards Iran, the fairness of the tax code, and our national energy policy. There are also a lot of other issues I wish were getting more play, especially climate change and civil liberties. But the bottom line is that you don’t have to believe that one party is all good and the other all evil in order to realize that this election matters a great deal. More than most. So, vote. Research the candidates and donate to your favorites. Go canvass in a swing state. This matters.