‘A good rule’ for voting my values

“You and I are blessed to live in a country where we are born equal no matter what we look like on the outside, where we grow up, or who our parents are. A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you.”

That is a good rule. A golden rule, even. And the previous sentence may be more aspirational than strictly descriptive, but it’s a lovely expression of the American dream.

Those lines are from President Barack Obama’s letter replying to Sophia Bailey Klugh, age 10. Sophia had written to the president to invite him to dinner and to ask how she should deal with getting teased at school because of her parents.

I voted this morning to re-elect President Obama because of letters like this — because Obama was capable of writing such a letter, because he wanted to write such a letter, because the values expressed in that letter are reflected in the president’s words and deeds and life, and because it is clear from his policies and statements and priorities that those values are who he really is and who we can expect him to continue to be.

I’m proud of the vote I cast this morning. And I know that 20 years from now, when Sophia Bailey Klugh is 30, I’ll be able to still be proud of that vote.

* * * * * * * * *

Jon Chait: “Barack Obama Is a Great President. Yes, Great.”

Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.

Bipartisan panels of economists had long urged Medicare to reform its payment methods to curb perverse incentives by hospitals and doctors to run up costs as high as possible; Obama overcame fierce resistance in Congress in order to craft, as part of Obamacare, a revolution in paying for quality rather than quantity. He eliminated billions of dollars in useless subsidies to banks funneling (at no risk) government loans to college students. By dangling federal public-education grants, Obama unleashed a wave of public-school reform, over the objections of the most recalcitrant elements of the teachers union movement. And he forced Wall Street to accept financial regulations that, while weaker than ideal, were far tougher than anybody considered possible to get through Congress.

It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.

Michael Bloomberg: “A Vote for a President Who Will Lead on Climate Change

We need leadership from the White House – and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants … which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap-and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long-lasting and enormous – benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have `no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

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  • Robyrt

    Chait is wrong to discount Obama’s problems with the legislature and conclude he’s a “great” president. Part of being president is convincing members of Congress to vote for your policies, especially if your party has the majority. Obama has been fine when it comes to things he directly oversees – foreign policy, education grants, DOJ, etc. – but he resembles Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy whenever it comes to actual legislation that needs to be passed. Even when working with his own party, like with the health care bill, or with an explicitly bipartisan working group like Bowles-Simpson, he has not performed well. Some things like closing Guantanamo Bay just don’t get done at all.

  • spinetingler

    McConnell: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

    So, not really.

  • With all due respect…this has been the most obstructionist congress in history. If Obama had even an average congress, we’d be questioning whether or not Romney was going to win a state today, not whether he was going to win at all.

  •  http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/republicans-not-your-friendly-neighborhood-party/

  • Morilore

    Older woman at the polls: “I need proof of your current residence and photo ID.”
    Younger woman at the polls (scowling): “You don’t need photo ID.”


  • Lori

    Part of being president is convincing members of Congress to vote for your policies   

    This is a tough, and probably unfair, standard to apply when the other party has openly stated that their goal is to be obstructionist.

    but he resembles Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy whenever it comes to actual legislation that needs to be passed. 

    I agree that this is true. Obama’s natural inclination is to achieve consensus and it’s long past time for him to have figured out that that doesn’t work with people whose goal is to avoid consensus like the plague.

    explicitly bipartisan working group like Bowles-Simpson  

    I really wish people would stop repeating this fiction. Bowles-Simpson   is not bipartisan in any reasonable sense of the term.

  • “Convincing members of Congress to vote for your policies” is hard to do when the opposing party leaders make it clear from the start that their main purpose is to make you a one-term president.
    And even “if your party has the majority,” it doesn’t make a difference when the opposition party threatens a fillibuster on every major (and most minor) pieces of legislation. The Democrats never held 60% of the House seats during President Obama’s tenure, and only had 60% of the Senate seats during two brief periods which lasted for a total of just over five months (and Congress was in its traditional summer recess for most of the July-August 2009 time frame).  See http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/did-the-democrats-ever-really-have-60-votes-in-the-senate-and-for-how-long/ and the Wikipedia articles on the 111th and 112th Congresses.

  • Kiba

    My grandmother and I voted this morning and while I was filling in my ballot I heard this woman complaining. She showed up and was expecting the place to have electric ballots and was not happy that there were only paper ones. Her parting remark to the lady that handed her her ballot was, “Well, I’m not doing this again.”

  • LL

    If I cared enough, I guess, I’d ask people who are proudly hateful (of gays, brown people, Muslim people, women who use birth control people, poor people) what they’re so fucking proud of. As Fred has demonstrated, they can’t possibly, actually think they’re on the side of Jesus, unless they actually believe Jesus’ philosophy is, “Fuck the poor and the whores and the fairies and the non-white people, I got mine.” 

  • Becca Stareyes

     People are very good at looking in a mirror and seeing the face of the divine staring back: I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people do think they are on the side of Jesus.  Or have a strong cognitive dissonance to justify both the charity drives their church does for the ‘deserving poor’ and protesting increased social services for ‘welfare queens’.  (I’ve seen a lot of articles about folks on welfare or women seeking abortions who seem to argue that their choices are forgivable and just, but everyone else is abusing the system/a horrible baby-killer/etc.)

    People are very good at being biased monkeys, especially when it comes to themselves/friends/family versus strangers.  The first step is realizing that you have that bias and questioning your judgement. 

  • This Canadian would like to LOL at her wankery about paper balloting. FPTP means one X in one box for one candidate for a given position. Geez.

  • Lori

    The temptation is to think that anyone who is that hung up on voting machines is too ridiculous to be allowed to vote any way.

  • fraser

     And it’s hard to work with a group that couldn’t even agree on a plan.

  • Morilore

    I’m conflicted.  I feel I should show my approval for you telling your voting story in this thread, but I don’t want to click the word “like” after reading that story.

  • ask people who are proudly hateful (of gays, brown people, Muslim people, women who use birth control people, poor people) what they’re so fucking proud of

    I used to do this when I was younger. Mostly, the answer I would get is that drawing clear lines between morality and immorality made the world better, and the things they opposed (e.g., treating various minorities as fully human and deserving of dignity and respect) were immoral. (This was expressed in various ways.)

    After a while I became convinced of their premise that drawing clear lines between morality and immorality made the world better, so I began calling them out on their immorality. I was pretty proud of that.

    After a while I stopped being convinced of that.

  • MikeJ

    Chait is wrong to discount Obama’s problems with the legislature and
    conclude he’s a “great” president. Part of being president is convincing
    members of Congress to vote for your policies

    Bullshit.  Obama introduced a health care bill that was literally the same as that put forward by the Republican nominee and was called a socialist/communist/nazi for his trouble.  The Republicans went out of their way to try to destroy the US economy for the sole purpose of making Obama look bad.

    You cannot bargain with terrorists. The only thing you can do is grind them into the ground. It’s my sincere hope that Obama learned that lesson.

  • Pqw

    I was happy to be able to cast a vote this morning in favor of marriage equality in Maryland.

    I was probably the only Green at my voting place; northern Baltimore county skews conservative Republican. But then, every place I’ve ever lived has skewed conservative Republican, even if the state overall went blue. 

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I didn’t vote for Obama (or Romney), and I know the candidate I did vote for (Stein) doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning, but I will definitely be happier with Obama than Romney in office.

    I was tempted to vote for Obama, simply to increase the odds of Romney not winning the election, but I decided if I did that, I’m not really doing my part for democracy. I firmly believe it’s best to vote for the candidate you want to win, not against the candidate you want to lose.

  • hidden_urchin

    This is totally hilarious and more than a little awesome:



    I firmly believe it’s best to vote for the candidate you want to win, not against the candidate you want to lose.

    Yeah; I struggle with this a lot and end up making case-by-case decisions. In this case, I concluded that the popular-vote gap was likely to be enough of an issue that spending my vote on pushing it in the right direction was a reasonable move.

  • Paul Durant

    It isn’t just that the Republicans have been in full “blood for the blood god” mode, though. The stuff Obama tries to push through that gets blocked by the GOP doesn’t live up to his promises — like, you had to end up passing Obamacare without any Republican support, so why did you put so many god damn compromises to Republican positions in there? You have to jam it through an obstructionist congress anyway, might as well give us what we actually need instead of a watered-down version.

  • MaryKaye

    I voted for marriage equality and marijuana legalization (over a week ago–my state votes by mail, and a true election geek will now know where I live).  I don’t really know what will happen if we make marijuana legal while the Feds still say it’s illegal, and I would certainly not want to be involved in the early test cases in court–but it’s the best we seem to be able to do toward getting a change in this harmful law.

    I hope that Obama’s coattails are good for our governorship and other measures on the ballot, most especially marriage equality.

  • I firmly believe it’s best to vote for the candidate you want to win, not against the candidate you want to lose.

    I tend to do both. Australia has preferential voting, so I put all the people I most want to win at the top, all the people I most want to lose at the bottom, and then fill in the middle with the people I don’t really care about.

  • WalterC

    You have to jam it through an obstructionist congress anyway, might as
    well give us what we actually need instead of a watered-down version.

    You are making an assumption that many people make, that all Democrats are aligned and it’s only Republicans who block liberal/progressive policy positions. The reality is that in a lot of regions the “Democrats” are far to the right of the Nancy Pelosi or Ted Kennedy types that most people envision when they hear the word “Democrat”. I’m not running these guys done; a lot of this is regional and cultural — what passes for “liberal” in the South is a lot closer to what passes for “conservative” in the Northeast, for example.

    (A good example of this is former Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat, who threatened to filibuster the health care bill if it included a “public option”. Other conservative Democrats have blocked liberal initiatives such as the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the establishment of a single-payer health care system, and the DADT repeal).

    It’s not just a numbers’ game; it’s not enough to just have 59 Democrats; if they simply don’t agree with your position, it doesn’t matter if they are Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or Greens.

  • Carstonio

    That could have simply a lesson that Obama had to learn in dealing with obstructionists. Or it could have been a deliberate strategy to make the obstructionism more obvious, to make the political climate more favorable for eventual single-payer health care. I suspect that Biden’s comment about same-sex marriage was no accident but a calculated move – in the past Obama had cautioned supporters to wait until the time is right, and much has indeed changed on this issue since he took office. 

  • Kiba

    Yeah, filling out the ballot wasn’t exactly rocket science.

     * Candidate name (with party affiliation info obviously) with empty circle by it.  
    * Fill in circle next to name of chosen candidate. 

    I know she had to have completed a form similar to that before (hell’s bells my gram has to do something like that every time she goes to the doctor’s office). Sad thing is the lady handing out the ballot had to explain the procedure to her three times. 

    @Lori-Yup. I wanted to beat my head on the voting booth when I heard her carrying on, but the thing wasn’t that sturdy and I didn’t want to break it. Personally I was thrilled that we had the paper ballots since I really, really do not like the electronic voting machines.

    @Morilore- Ha! No worries ^_^.

  • AnonymousSam

    Given that the voting machine in PA someone linked in an earlier thread had to be shut down for “technical errors” (you push Obama, it votes for Romney instead, will wonders never cease), I’d say paper is a marginally safer route anyway.

  • Edie

    The thing is, my mother is exactly this proudly hateful type and really does believe she is on the side of Jesus and that I am “brainwashed” by the world.

    I have tried reasoning with her and she has an excuse for everything I bring up.

  • aklab

    @OriginalExtraCrispy:disqus , do you live in a red state?  I do (SC) and have to struggle with the same choice.  Our state is definitely going Republican anyway, so why not vote third party?
    Then on the other hand, SC isn’t quite as Republican as people may think — it’s pretty steadily 55% R to 45%, and even a few percentage of liberals voting third party instead would really strengthen the Republican stranglehold.  

  • http://www.thegreenpapers.com/G12/closing.phtml?format=gc

    Poll closing times, in case you’re wondering.

    This also means the first results will break in about 3 hours :-O

  • I firmly believe it’s best to vote for the candidate you want to win, not against the candidate you want to lose.

    It’s lovely that you believe in your own personal purity enough to risk a large number of Americans’ right to health care, women’s rights, welfare, social security, the economy, and the environment. Really. Just lovely. How about you don’t share it next time, hm? You never know when you’ll share it in front of someone whose back is in severe pain and who is worried sick that she won’t be able to get surgery because of so many people caring more about their personal purity than about actually getting shit done. 

  • aklab

    @87d583fa9c57436d73234c6d05310469:disqus , same here.  Today marks, let’s see, 4 years plus 1 day since the last time I tried to discuss politics with my parents.  

  • Edie

    I try to let it go and not discuss it but she keeps bringing it up. Just last night over the phone she started at it again – for her religion and politics have become so entangled in her black & white world view that anyone who opposes her views  is not a “true Christian” and is “Ashamed of God”.

    It’s incredibly maddening.

  • aklab

    Yeah, that sounds familiar.  For me it’s “do you not even believe in absolutes?”  By now they’ve learned not to bring it up with me, but they haven’t yet learned not to bring it up with my kids, which is even more incredibly maddening.  

  • Carstonio

    Polls in Indiana and Kentucky close at 6 p.m. local time? I suspect that disenfranchises many commuters. 

  • J_

    Because drones are dropped bombs on Pashtunistan *today*.

    Because we’re in year 41 of the War on Drugs and cocaine is, in 1971 dollars, significantly CHEAPER than when we started.

    Because a John Michael Scott Nelson was sentenced to 10 years by the USDOJ for selling medical marijuana–legally so under state law.

    Because I don’t particularly care if Iran has a nuclear device.

    Because I don’t particularly care to send money to Pakistan. Or Libya. Or Egypt. Or Israel.

    Because the White House Office of Faith-Based Programs still exists.

    Because the Obama administration is arguing that it can wiretap you without a warrant, charge you with the evidence, withhold the evidence from you, then wiretap your *attorney*, further charge you with *that* evidence, withhold *that* evidence from you, and then says no one, anywhere, ever has legal standing to contest this practice because they can’t personally prove they were wiretapped.

    Because we got 1,700 pages of Dodd-Frank and we’ve *still* got Too-Big-To-Fail financial institutions.

    Because of the sexual torture of Bradley Manning.

    Because I live in a deep blue state.

    I voted Gary Johnson, 2012.

  • JustoneK

    whoa what?  that fast?

  • I was surprised, too. I would have expected the polls to close around 9 PM-ish across the board.

  • J_

    Yeah, but no: You have an obligation as a thinking adult not to become a cog or enabler for an unjust system. Personal purity doesn’t enter into it: This is political decision-making, plain and simple.

    Fred’s been reeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaallll preachy in these pages about his love of The Wire. Seems to me that we all have an obligation to neither be nor to vote for the various Mayor Carcettis of this world.

  • AnonVoter

    Agree on all counts (except for the deep blue state bit), except that I voted for Stein. 

    I’d write my reasons, but Matt Stoller already did a brilliant job: 
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/. My favorite excerpt:

    “… some actions are so ruinous to human rights, so destructive of the Constitution, and so contrary to basic morals that they are disqualifying. Most of you will go that far with me. If two candidates favored a return to slavery, or wanted to stone adulterers, you wouldn’t cast your ballot for the one with the better position on health care…  ”

    And then listing several ‘dealbreakers’ that I also agree with.

    He also did a follow up on the ‘I have no dealbreakers and will ALWAYS vote for the lesser of two evils’ response, pointing out that a lot of ‘strict utilitarian’ voters do in fact have dealbreakers, they just haven’t come up in this election: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/the-responses-to-why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/263057/

  • J_

    Oh and what is more: Why is it someone else’s fault that your guy’s policies suck so much that your only selling point is, “Better than nothing”?

  • JustoneK

    Sometimes we don’t have the privilege of refusing to be a cog or enabler for what we know is an unjust system.

  •  (nods) If these things were sufficiently important to me that I had no preference between incrementally enabling a candidate who would do them, and incrementally enabling a candidate who would do them plus some other bad stuff, then I would probably do the same.

    As it happens, that’s not even close to true.

    Values differ.

  • J_

    Sometimes. But today is not that day. Today is ELECTION DAY. It’s the one 24-hour period within every biannum when we get that privilege in spades. You’ve just decided not to exercise it.

  • J_

    Oh and I left out another excellent reason I voted Gary Johnson: Because maybe I’ve read too much of the Vonnegut/Pratchett/Wodehouse/Adams/Franklin/Lem/Dick/Hitchens canon but something in me is *deeply* pleased to know that two behemothian organizations, plus many dozens of ideologue millionaires, just spent 13 months and $4.2 billion dollars to try and persuade me of something. And neither of them got me to do a single. Fucking. Thing.

  • JustoneK

    I have exercised it.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

    Or do you simply not believe the stories about folks of particular demographics being turned away and/or rerouted at the polls?

  • J_

    I believe them. It’s a serious issue. But I doubt the issue was whether they planned to vote for one of the major vs. one of the minor parties. I think we’re talking about different things.

  •  Can you clarify why you consider that an excellent reason?

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Yeah. My state is going to Romney, no matter what I want.

    @openid-122622:disqus Jill Stein’s values match up with mine more closely than Obama’s do. Are you telling me I should not exercise my right to vote for the person I feel would be best for the job? That the only correct vote is the one for your guy? That’s utter bullshit. I researched the candidates. All of them, not just the two. That was the decision I made based on the information I learned. 

  •  Cause that sort of reasoning worked out so well in 2000.

    Its because of people like you we got 8 years of Bush. Fuck your purity.