In February 2003 I was working as editor of the Cambridge Chronicle in its namesake city outside Boston. America was a different place back then. We were still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks and the government, led at least figuratively by George W. Bush, was milking the public’s terror for all the mandate it could muster. In less than a month we’d have boots on the ground in Iraq with a long occupation ahead.
On Feb. 19th, I wrote an editorial for the paper calling for George W.’s impeachment and removal from office. (This is the only copy I can find of the thing; the typos and spelling mistakes are not mine.) Bush stayed in office, the war went ahead, and I got written up for insubordination – likely because, in those days, the Chronicle was owned by the Right-leaning Boston Herald. In the editorial I talked about the Constitution, but the refrain running through my head was: He’s making us worse.
And he did. Bush made us scared and paranoid and more likely to bite. He made us unreasonable and bombastic. Under Bush, America grew superstitious, xenophobic and unwilling to sacrifice. In a time of war and want, Bush encouraged us to go shopping. He modeled frugality by making America live outside its means and borrow money from China to pay for its aggression. Bush turned us into a bully, setting the precedent of invading sovereign countries simply because we don’t like the leadership. In eight years we forgot how to delay our gratification
Obama has made us better. As the Republicans have made asses of themselves talking about rape and trying to roll abortion and contraceptive rights back to the 1950s, Obama has worked to protect choice, signed equal-pay-for-equal-work into law, ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, protected the children of illegal immigrants, defended the right of marriage for everyone, and made the government more transparent. I would have preferred a single-payer healthcare system to the Frankenpolicy that became Obamacare, but Obamacare is better than what we had. We’re trying to take care of more people now and, at least, admitting that we have some responsibility for the well-being of our fellows. By investing in green energy, Obama has at least made the attempt to use our dollars to vote for a better future. This is where we want to go – smarter kids and cleaner air – not some Dickensonian future where the air is full of coal ash and only the wealthy prosper.
The Obama administration has broadened the umbrella of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that more people are out of the rain. These people are better off than they were before, and we’re a better society for making sure they are protected.
Forget the economy. The whole idea that government controls the economy is a fallacy. It has some control over the things around it, but there are too many people, like me, who buy their morning coffee at Starbucks rather than from a Mom-and-Pop shop, and too much of the money is in the hands of too few. The economy rises, and it falls. It’s a cycle. We fell far; it's going to take time to recover. I believe Obama's plan has a better chance at aiding slow, steady growth. But even if it didn’t, even if the other guy had a big green GO button that would instantly give us unparalleled economic growth and jobs for all, I would vote for better rather than bucks. I would live jobless in my car before I helped to usher in leadership that wanted to reverse the progress we've made on becoming a better, more enlightened society.
And that’s why I am voting for Barack Obama on Nov. 6 (and I still think Bush should have been impeached).