The Ambivalence Manifesto (Or: My Personal Politics, As Explained to a Severe Conservative)

From an email I wrote to a friend last week, who, in the words of Mitt Romney, is “severely conservative,” in a way that Romney himself never actually was:

So I read your articles, which wasn’t a problem, since reading articles is what I do with a large amount of my time lately [the articles he sent me are here, here, here, and here.] I don’t have any interest in or support for a particular candidate, though, I’m more interested in the machinations of politics, the strategy and tact that goes into elections and governing. I myself would of course never run for anything – just imagine that for a minute, what the attack ads against me would look like. Which brings me to my first point…

I am not an Obama supporter. I’m not. I voted for him, but I am not the person who thinks he has all the answers, or that liberalism and progressivism are the only paths to enlightenment. I was in 2008. I bought in to the whole hope and change, let’s-elect-the-first-black-president, history-making craziness of it. Not that my support was a whole lot of help, as I spent most of my time at that point trying to figure out if I could, in fact, ingest my own body weight in, uh, jelly beans before my liver gave out – 2008 was not a good year for me – and was just generally a worthless human being. I actually saw the final election results in Troy, where my dog-man dwelleth, rather than at home, and I never actually made it to the polls to vote for anyone. But I am not a supporter now. I think he’s made a lot of mistakes, that there are a lot of things he could have done better, that he is not an infallible individual (when he got the Nobel prize I thought that was RIDICULOUS). I think he has no where near lived up to the hope and promises he made in 2008.

But I still think he is a better candidate than Mitt Romney. This was not an easy or obvious choice. It wasn’t like I said, “Are you kidding? Of course I’m voting for Obama! Don’t be ridiculous!” I don’t subscribe to the cult of personality. So I’m not the guy who’s going to argue with you that my position is better. I think your support of Romney is perfectly valid, and not just because you’re my friend. For me, my most important issues are civil liberties, particularly separation of church and state – and I got that in Obama in spades – as well as women’s rights like abortion. A close second in this election would be the economy, and I know you disagree, but I do not think a businessman is what we need to turn it around. Even if he was a good businessman – which from what I understand is pretty debatable, given his record at Bain and his outsourcing of jobs – I think the methods and practices of business are part of what got us to this point now. And though it seems Romney did do great things for Massachusetts, his single greatest achievement – universal health care for the state – is something he never ran on or promoted during the campaign, due to no other reason than partisanism and the fact that Obamacare is based very closely on his system (which is something else I don’t completely think is right but that is heading in the right direction, though that subject is probably a whole other email’s worth). Obama’s recovery has been excruciatingly slow, and I don’t think he’s done a fantastic job, but the trends he has initiated and sustained – a rising housing market, a rising employment rate, and a steadily improving economy overall – are on the right track, and I think it would be damaging to take him out now. Obama’s main handicap is that he hasn’t done anything tremendous, but there’s something to be said for keeping things from getting any worse (this addresses some of that, if you’re interested). Where his policy could really use some work is Simpson-Bowles and the fiscal cliff debate, but once again, that’s probably another email.

What I absolutely hate, and have trouble stomaching – and is something that has really turned me off of the Republican party as a whole – is the radical right, mostly embodied by the Tea Party. If Romney, who is not one of these people, had stood up to them, I would have gone right out the door and volunteered for his campaign. But he didn’t; instead, he tried to appease them to get the nomination, and in so doing he let them and the Iowa caucuses drag him violently to the right, and with him the whole Republican field. I can’t stand the people who have tried to discredit global warming by questioning basic science, who have tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, or communist, or a Kenyan, or Hitler, or any of that ridiculously batshit-crazy rhetoric we hear so much now, from people such as Rush Limbaugh. Anyone doesn’t like Obama, that’s fine. Think he’s leading the country in the wrong direction, that he’s made bad choices, that he doesn’t know how to manage the economy, that it’s crazy to vote for him, that’s all fine. But he’s not trying to “destroy the economy,” or destroy America. All that talk does is make Republicans at best sound like sore losers, and at worst sound outright nuts, diverged from reality. And I have to say, two of these articles are pretty good examples of this kind of vitriol and demagoguery: the Russian one and the one with the list of employers who laid people off.

The one alleging voter fraud isn’t as bad, but is edging pretty close to that area as well. I don’t buy much of it though, and here’s why: the writer only gives a statement from one Ohio newspaper as evidence that fraud occurred in that state. The only other evidence she gives are descriptions of video of a couple people saying they’ll commit voter fraud or joking about voter fraud. She makes disparaging remarks about Obama’s Organizing for America – an organization I know nothing about, and hey, maybe they are a bunch of assholes, who knows – but doesn’t actually mention anything they did. She says they may have done this, or may have done that (they “may have given [people] rides to the polls,” how horrible). She mentions some radical from the 60’s with a tenuous connection to Obama. The argument about absentee ballots from military personnel may have some merit, but the evidence isn’t entirely convincing.

The fourth article, about Americans being too stupid for democracy, was just plain fascinating. I find that kind of thing very interesting. But I think it’s just as much an argument against Romney as for him, and the same for Obama.

My mom was having trouble understanding – she is someone who HAS bought in to Obama this time around – why anyone who cares about women’s rights would vote for Romney (as my grandparents and father both did), and so I sent her this. It’s one of the best cases I’ve read for voting for Romney. I wish more people would frame the argument that way, instead of getting ridiculous. Take a look. Your first choice, Newt Gingrich, in the midst of his incredulity at the results of the election, made what is quite possibly the most intelligent and rational statement about the long-term implications of the 2012 election that has come from the right: he didn’t pitch a fit (see Karl Rove on Fox News on election night), he didn’t cry havoc, he didn’t claim anyone cheated or that the victory was unearned. He remarked practically on what both his party and his movement needs to do in the future. You can find that here. And I completely agree with him – something I never thought I’d admit – and wish more on the right would come to the same conclusions.

I would have no problem voting for a Republican candidate that was worth voting for, but in order for one to be worth it, to me, he would first and foremost have to denounce the radical right, or, failing that, deal with them only as much as he absolutely has to. As this country becomes increasingly polarized, though, I doubt that’s going to happen. I want moderates back. I could totally see myself as a center-right Republican within the next five years (I’m registered independent), but no one is championing that sect of the electorate. I think I told you, I was sincerely hoping Gary Johnson would go all the way, though I knew he wouldn’t (I almost ended up voting for him anyway).

And let me also ask you this: assuming Romney doesn’t run again – and by all accounts he won’t – and assuming the country’s still standing, who do you like for 2016? Have you seen this? Might be relevant to you. I’ve been looking at Chris Christie – maybe, just maybe. [But probably not. If anyone wants to, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section.]

1 comment
  1. Big Chairs said:

    So true. Obama has not even come close to living up to all of the Hope and Change he campaigned about yet he was re-elected with the worst economy, highest unemployment (which he inherited from Bush) and almost doubled the national debt. Well he accomplished that.

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