Whom I’m Voting For, and Why

Whom I’m Voting For, and Why November 2, 2012

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

Let me note, I write this post not telling you for whom to vote. Nor do I think that you (or I) have an obligation to disclose our votes. A secret ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy.

I disclose my prospective votes today to offer them up for discussion. So, read them, then have at it:

President – Barack Obama (D)
Obama’s first term has not been perfect. But he has basically done what he said he would do. Maybe he hasn’t brought back the hope, progress, and unity for which we’d all hoped. But policy-wise, he has had a steady hand, and he has attained some major accomplishments in the face of the most conservative Republican party in memory. The bail-out of the auto industry was a big gamble, that worked. The Affordable Care Act is the right thing for our society’s advancement. And we may be not at war by the end of a second term.

U.S. Senate – Amy Klobuchar (D)
Klobuchar makes me proud to be a Minnesotan. In the midst of a polarized Congress, she is an even-handed, soft-spoken centrist. She’s friendly toward business. She’s non-ideological. There’s a reason she’s up by 43 points (!) in the polls. As Thomas Friedman wrote this week, “Klobuchar built that lead by combining a moderate liberalism with a probusiness, projobs agenda and a pragmatic problem-solving approach. All of Klobuchar’s campaign ads are positive, and many feature Republican business leaders explaining why they are voting for her. Most Minnesota voters ‘want their politicians to be problem-solvers, not ideologues,’ Klobuchar said to me.”

U.S. House of Representatives – Eric Paulson (R)
Like Klobuchar, Paulson is a centrist and a pragmatist. Like his predecessor and mentor, Jim Ramstad, he keeps his head down (and his face off FOX) and gets his work done. The same quote above about what Minnesotans want in their politicians applies to Paulson.

Minnesota Senate – Melissa Franzen (D)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Franzen looks to be this very kind of politician, too. In the face of a brutal campaign against her by conservative PACs, she’s maintained her equanimity. She’s young (32), friendly toward business development (she’s a lawyer for Target Corp.), and she’s against the marriage amendment. Keith Downey, her opponent, is just the opposite; he’s a right-wing ideologue.

Minnesota House of Representatives – Terry Jacobsen (R)
I’ve met Jacobsen’s opponent, Paul Rosenthal, on the Little League field, and he lives two blocks from us. I have been very unimpressed with how he handled himself. Jacobsen, for her part, is committed to public education, and we need more Republicans who are serious about this issue to work with Democrats if we are ever to reform education.

Mayor of Edina – Jim Hovland (non-partisan)
Hovland is the incumbent, and he’s already held the office for 8 years. During his tenure, Edina has developed sensibly, redeveloped an aging infrastructure, and maintained its AAA bond rating when several surrounding cities have been downgraded. Edina’s public schools are among the best in the nation. And Hovland has led the City Council to be the fourth city in Minnesota — and the first suburb in the state — to set up a domestic partner registry; the Council under Hovland has also passed resolutions against both Minnesota constitutional amendments. For all its wealth and its supposed conservatism, and for its shameful history of sundown laws, Edina under Hovland has been a place of of welcome and inclusion.

Minnesota Marriage Amendment – No
I’ve blogged plenty about gay marriage, gay ordination, and gay rights, so my opinions should not be a surprise. This is an absolutely stupid amendment. 1) It is politically cynical: Republican legislators and consultants have admitted that they pushed this amendment in an effort to activate GOP-leaning voters in an incumbency presidential election. 2) It doesn’t trust the judicial branch: As an amendment supporter said in last night’s debate, “I trust Minnesotans, not the courts.” If you don’t trust the judicial branch of our government, you’ve got bigger problems than gay marriage. 3) It is a misuse of the constitution: A constitution is meant to protect and ensure rights, not to take them away. 4) It is a breach of wall of separation between church and state: A hallmark value of American democracy is that we do not legislate our religious convictions on the entire society, and that is clearly what is motivating people to support this amendment.

My greatest hope of this election is that Minnesota will be the first state to defeat a marriage amendment.

Minnesota Voter ID Amendment – No
Minnesota has consistently been known to have among the fairest elections in the country. There is no (or very little) cheating. This is a solution in search of a problem. We should be encouraging more citizens to vote, not discouraging them. Also, see number 3 above.

Agree or disagree (and feel free to do either or both in the comments!) I hope that those of you who are American readers will vote on Tuesday. Also, because of the election, I won’t be answering this week’s Questions That Haunt until next Friday.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Paul Gregory

    I don’t live in MN so I have no comment on most of these picks. However, I agree with your reasons for voting for President Obama as well as against the marriage amendment.

  • Eric E

    Obama has not raised the minimum wage, he’s done nothing to regulate Wall Street, his support of unions has been horrible, he extended the Patriot Act without reforming it, he’s prosecuted whistleblowers against the US government, and he’s failed to cut the deficit in half. Those are all promises he made that he hasn’t accomplished.

    Naked Capitalism has a list of broken Democratic Platform promises, too: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/09/broken-democratic-platform-promises-from-2008.html

    And despite Bloomburg’s endorsement of Obama, I’ve been majorly disappointed with what he’s done on energy and the environment. His one-ups-manship with Romney over how much pipeline he’s laid and how much he’s drilled and who can keep gas cheap was ridiculous. And any leader in this country has to MAKE climate change an issue, which Obama hasn’t done.

    Matt Stoller’s recent article at Salon (“The Progressive Case Against Obama”) is really a must read for anybody out there thinking of voting for Obama.

    • Sven

      Obama hasn’t been progressive enough, therefore don’t vote for Obama….. thus handing the election to Romney, who is a right-wing nut.

      Makes perfect sense.

      • Eric E

        I was pointing out issues with Tony’s reasons for voting for Obama. If your reason for voting for Obama is “He’s not Romney,” I have no problem with that. But that doesn’t appear to be Tony’s reason. In fact I want people like you to be vocal in the fact that your vote isn’t a vote for Obama, its a vote against Romney.

        But I do think the end of that Stoller article I mention makes a great case for voting for a 3rd party.

      • Ole

        Hi, Sven, Ole here. Maybe we should get together and set up a pizza joint.

        Your point is really only valid for voters in nine states. The pollsters tell us that the other 41 state are firmly in either the Democratic or Republic camps. Lawrence O’Donnell, as partisan a Democrat as they come, recently said on his “The Last Word” show that, if you live in one of the other 41 states, you should feel perfectly free to vote for a third-party candidate without feeling guilty about it having any effect whatsoever on the outcome of the presidential election.

        I live in a solidly Republican state and am thinking strongly about voting for Jill Stein. It would be my little way of saying that the Democrats should not assume that I am going to vote for them regardless because “I have no place else to go.”

        • Sven

          I agree there. If I lived in one of the many “solid” states, I would vote 3rd-party in a heartbeat.
          Sadly, I moved to a swing state 2 years ago, so now I’m basically obligated to cast a ‘not-Romney’ vote for Obama.

          Also, holy cow, the amount of campaign junk mail, phone calls, door hangers, billboards and TV ads is astonishing. I used to regret living in a “blue state” because my vote didn’t matter. Now I’m bombarded by people reminding me how much my vote matters!

          • Ole

            If I lived in a swing state, I’d be in something of a quandary. If I didn’t vote for Obama as a “not-Romney” vote, there is of course a very slight possibility that Romney might win. On the other hand, a protest vote for a third-party candidate in a swing state would actually be a lot more meaningful and noteworthy than a protest vote in a solid state (where for all practical purposes it wold have zero chance of affecting the outcome).

  • Patrick S

    While I personally can’t understand how anyone could vote for Obama after his disastrous handling of the economy and foreign affairs, your choices are clearly thoughtful.

  • Evelyn

    I’m voting third party this year. Thinking about Obama vs. Romney is like thinking about French Vanilla vs. Homemade Vanilla ice cream. What is the real difference?

    I like Obaid H. Siddiqui’s post under this same patheos heading: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/altmuslim/2012/10/why-im-voting-green/

    salient quote from Siddiqui: “We need a person in office who is dedicated to supporting civil rights at home and humanitarian causes abroad. Voting for the ‘lesser of two evils,’ as most of us have done since we’ve been able to vote, has failed us. Our democracy is only as effective as our choices. Choosing between the Republicans and Democrats is not a choice.”

    There’s a nice post in the Huffingtion Post by Peter Winkler about voting Third party as well: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-winkler/why-i-voted-third-party_b_2020382.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012

    salient quote from Peter Winkler: “I’m not looking for a perfect president or a saint. I am looking for someone who will actually honor his inaugural oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, a president who sees his primary duty in governing to ‘provide for the general
    welfare,’ rather than facilitate the interests of those who have everything they need but feel entitled to more at others’ expense. Obama has failed miserably in carrying out those obligations.”

    And, of course, the Salon article: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/27/the_progressive_case_against_obama/

    salient quote from this one: “The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings — home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did.”

    I am anti-Romney but not pro-Obama and luckily for me I live in a Red state so my vote doesn’t really count – I can stand up for my disgust with regards to the current functioning of our political system without worrying about splitting the vote. My decision would be much harder if I were living in a toss-up state but I hope I would adhere to my moral convictions and vote third party if that were my situation.

  • David D

    Seems like a reasonable set of picks. Regarding “Patrick S’s” comment, how has Obama’s handling of the economy and foreign affairs been “disastrous.” It is precisely comments like that which indicate that anti-Obama folks have evidently lost the ability to interpret events — it’s just such an extreme view. You would have more credibility if you’d say something like: “I disagree with Obama’s handling of __ and __ because of a, b, c, etc.” But of course you would have difficulty doing so because you couldn’t really find anything significant that has been “disastrous.”

    • Patrick S

      I guess I assumed people were aware of the longest, highest period of unemployment in history. And the largest deficits and debts ever. (I’m guessing 23 million people out of work share my view, making it unextreme, to coin a word)And gas prices double what they were and the loss of family income since Jan. ’09. And the killing of a US ambassador for the first time in three decades. And the general mess Benghazi was and is. Along with the missed opportunity with Iran. And the “daylight” with Israel. And the “space” he would like to accord Russia…

      I was commenting that I thought Tony’s picks were thoughtful, not trying to establish an argument. But thanks for giving me the opportunity to remind people what a disaster the last four years have been!

      • Craig

        Patrick S., you assume that the economy would have been much better–and not about the same, worse, or even much worse–under the likely counterfactual GOP alternative to the last four years. How exactly do you assess this counterfactual? Should we imagine that McCain had won? (What was it that he said about the “fundamentals of our economy”?) Should we assume that congressional Democrats would have been just as obstructionistic as congressional Republicans have been? Why not, moreover, consider these relevant counterfactuals: suppose congressional Republicans wouldn’t have been so obstructionistic in the last four years. Suppose that Republicans made “economic stimulus” a bad word. Are you so certain that you know enough about macroeconomics to run the relevant counterfactuals? If so, please explain.

        • Craig

          rather: “Suppose that Republicans hadn’t made ‘economic stimulus’ a bad word.”

      • Eric E

        Do people realize that the growth of income inequality between the 1% and the rest of us is higher under Obama than it has been since the Great Depression? And that this is because Obama didn’t want to implement the policies that could stop this? http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/04/growth-of-income-inequality-is-worse-under-obama-than-bush.html

        • Craig

          And that’s why we want Obama replaced by Romney? That would be marvelously stupid. http://tinyurl.com/8w2hrla

          • Eric E

            No, that’s why we don’t want either. Criticizing Obama is not equivalent to endorsing Romney.

          • Craig

            Alright Eric, but some might reasonably think that what you are doing is a bit like voicing complaints about the prick of a needed vaccine. While the prick may be bad, what’s much worse is what’s implied by the absence of the prick. So let’s complain about the prick? Just what are you recommending?

          • Eric E

            That is a really bad analogy. Obama and Romney both want the same thing for the economy … unsustainable economic growth. They differ in how they want to do that but the goal is the same. And really the only way to have unsustainable economic growth is to have unsustainable energy use growth. On foreign policy I see very little difference between the two, either. Both are militaristic and aggressive and think peace through strength is a good motto. The differences between them pales in comparison to the similarities.

            What is in need of a vaccine is the whole 2 party system, its reliance on corporate money, its devotion to infinite economic growth, its militarism, and its devotion to unsustainable environmental and energy policies.

            I’m not recommending anything other than being realistic about what the candidates actually stand for.

          • Craig

            Eric, I agree with the content of what you are saying. There is some slight pragmatic reason, however, for thinking that your message isn’t particularly timely. Here’s a pragmatic concern we both share: how do we get from where we are to the more ideal state of affairs you envisage? I judge that a Romney win would only set us back, and perhaps significantly so. Consider a future in which Romney expands military spending and fossil fuel dependency, nominates Supreme Court Justices, and better positions Paul Ryan to frame the national conversation and, down the road, to succeed him in office.

      • Curtis

        “longest, highest period of unemployment in history”

        Not true. U. S. unemployment was above 8% from 1930 until 1942, far longer than the 4-year string from 2008 to 20012.

        Also you can’t hold Obama accountable for the unemployment trend that began when Bush was in office. Unemployment peaked at 10% during Obama’s first year in office, and has dropped throughout the rest of his term. Still too high, but dropping steadily. We are digging out of a big hole that Obama didn’t create, and we are moving in the right direction with employment steadily dropping for the last three years.

        • Patrick S

          So using Curtis’ numbers, Obama’s is the second worst economy ever. Glad he cleared that up.

          It is funny how Obama supporters have such a looooooong timeframe for the economy. My question: at what point DOES Obama get/take responsibility? Sixty months of crappy employment? Eighty? Forty million unemployed? Fifty? Or is it just always Bush’s fault?

          • Sven

            The fact is, millions of jobs were lost in the crash of 2008, and ever since then we’ve been making up that lost ground.
            The fact that those jobs were lost in 2008 has not changed. The fact that those jobs were lost in 2008 will never change. No amount of time will alter the fact that Obama was not the President in 2008.

            Unemployment has been zig-zagging downward since mid-2009. You seem to be conveniently ignoring this trend.

  • Frank

    Meanwhile as of today unemployment is on the rise again, our foreign policy is disastrous, despite those that do not like that word, and Obama wants another four years to continue his failed policies. No thanks! Our country would have to be categorized insane to reelect Obama.

    • Chris

      Why is foreign policy a disaster? It is one thing to say that it is another to explain why. Can you do that?
      As for unemployment, it is on the rise today because more people have entered the workforce to look for jobs. Why would people do this? Because they think the economy is growing and getting better thus they become part of the labour force again. This is a positive sign for the economy not a negative one.
      The problem is that when the unemployment rate was dropping no one bothered to point out that it was because people just stopped looking for work and left the labour force. So as negative as it was then it is positive now.

      • Frank

        Keep,spinning the numbers but the reality is unemployment has changed directions and is moving up.

        As far as foreign policy we have no further to look than at the Mideast.

        Obama had a terrible four years and he has yet to say how the next four years under him will be any different. It’s time for a change. You can bash Romney all you want but he will govern as a moderate and will accomplish that which Obama has failed to. This no doubt will bring ire to the conservatives but its exactly what our country needs.

        • Chris

          How is Romney going to be able to govern as a moderate? You do know that most domestic decisions are made by Congress not by the President right?
          So the far right Republican Congress is going to allow Romney to govern as a moderate? Won’t it be the other way around and they’ll ensure Romney governs to their wishes?
          I mean you are basing your vote on the hope that Romney has been lying this whole election cycle.

          • Frank

            Not at all. Romney has not been lying, you have bought into the Democratic lie.

            And based on Romneys history he will work with everyone. Obama has not and will not be able to get anything done. You would have to be stupid to reelect. Obama plain and simple.

  • Craig

    A vote for Romney is a vote to reward the bad children of the congressional GOP. This country has suffered from their single-minded obstructionist strategy to make Obama a one-term President. If the obstructionist strategy succeeds, don’t expect that Democrats won’t learn from it. Rewarding bad habits makes bad habits spread. So, Republicans, don’t be hypocrites. Don’t rant about personal responsibility while rewarding the singularly most destructive practices of your representatives.

    • Frank

      So you vote to stick it to the other guys? No wonder our country and liberal Christianity is in such bad shape.

      • Craig

        I sincerely hope you’re not raising children Frank.

        • MaryBeth

          Hahaha, this comment just made my day. 🙂

  • Tom Schwolert

    Obama’s done a few things: http://tinyurl.com/7vf3m4w

  • Patrick S

    McCain lost. Obama has been president. All I do is look at the numbers and they are horrible. I don’t have to answer the question of how republicans would have done – a ludicrous red herring – to see the guy we have has done a lousy job in foreign and domestic affairs.

    • Curtis

      A ludicrous read herring is giving out false numbers and then calling them horrible and lousy.

    • Craig

      Patrick S., to show that an action has hindered or damaged something (be it an economy or anything else) requires an assessment of what things would have been like in some scenario in which that that action wasn’t performed. That is, it requires a counterfactual assessment. It requires some baseline from which to make the assessment of hinderance or damage. Like many people, you apparently don’t realize the assumptions implicit in your own judgments about Obama’s handling of the economy. The GOP has relied on this kind of ignorance in the general populace, and you have served them in perpetuating it. Please recognize your error. I’m not asking you to join me in combatting it; I’m just asking that you stop perpetuating it.

      • Patrick S

        Actually, the only thing you need to review is what the numbers are. Deficits, debt, unemployment — all at ridiculously high rates. The baseline is history.

        • Craig

          You’ve precisely illustrated the simple-minded ignorance now energizing the GOP base.

          • Patrick S

            There’s that tolerance to different ideas and philosophies I love so much!

          • Craig

            If you had responded with “ideas and philosophies” you’d have a point.

  • cameron conant

    Patrick S.: I know if you put your partisanship aside for a moment, you are able to see that the economic situation is incredibly complex, with a number of systemic problems, not to mention a poorly regulated Wall Street; you must be able to see that Obama stepped onto the Titanic just as everyone else was jumping into the lifeboats.

    That doesn’t mean that his policies or ideas can’t be challenged or criticized – I personally favor a third-party candidate – but can’t we all just acknowledge that no one – not John McCain or Mitt Romney or Ronald Reagan himself – would have likely done much better in terms where we are currently at with the economy (not to mention how little the president actually has to do with the economy).

    These events were set in motion long before Obama took office, and most economists were predicting a protracted recovery (some said as long as a decade) prior to Obama’s election.

    The only thing that’s clear is this: when people are scared and angry, and don’t fully understand what’s going on, extremism of all forms – religious and political – takes hold in order to give malevolent, unseen forces a face. Sadly, in our country, for many of our angriest citizens, that face looks a lot like Barack Obama’s, a man who I believe is decent and sympathetic, and who – for all his shortcomings – has had to work with the most extreme group of Republicans in recent memory, one that sent Tea Party candidates to Washington after the mid-term elections with the expressed purpose of seeing Obama fail.

    When we lose the pragmatic middle and everything becomes an ideological battle (with facts molded to the shape of one’s ideology), everyone loses. With the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and a group of Republican ideologues, Obama didn’t have a chance.


    • Buck Eschaton

      Obama didn’t have a chance because his number one priority was to “foam the the runways” for the banks. Foam them with cash. He’s there to run out the statute of limitations on the massive criminality and fraud that was committed. He was there not to protect the victims but the criminals. He appointed people who had as their dominant ideology not to prosecute banking fraud and people whose only thought was to bail out banks at all costs.
      Now in his second term he wants to cut Social Security, the safety net and any last vestiges of the New Deal.

    • Patrick S

      cameron: thank you for a message of respect. I will disagree but reply in kind.

      The president, when he has strong majorities in both bodies, can make a tremendous difference in the economy. Obama chose to pass ObamaCare, not focus on the economy. He believes in Keynesian economics and “stimulus.” They didn’t work because they can’t work. Keynes created a “multiplier” out of thin air – just read him like I did. I also don’t think Keynes would have supported all Obama did.

      I strongly disagree that all blame goes to republicans. It takes two to cause a problem. Obama and republicans had a deal on the debt ceiling — until Obama asked for $800 billion more. He moved the goalposts. Also remember those republicans were sent there because of a strong reaction by voters against ObamaCare – passed along strict party lines BEFORE the Tea Parties got there.

      You are right people are scared. And they certainly do take it out on elected officials. I don’t think Jimmy Carter or George Bush I were bad people. But voters didn’t like the way things were and wanted a change. That is the great thing about our democracy: we get to decide!

  • Buck Eschaton

    I’m for a Jubilee. I’m for direct cash injections into the bank accounts of the bottom 99% of the people. Obama has steadfastly stuck to the Quantitative Easing Forever!!!/throw endless amounts of cash at the banks approach. It hasn’t worked, except to make the super-wealthy a lot more super-wealthy and maintain a very high unemployment rate. The 0.001% percent have had their Jubilee it’s just that they ran up their debts so impossibly high that they can never be paid at their hallucinated values. It’s time for a Quantitative Easing for the people send Fiat to pay the mortgages, credit cards and student loans. I’m not voting for Obama because he can’t do anything except send money to the banks and make the rest of us poorer.
    The guy even wants to cut social security and the safety net, I guess we’re not sending enough money to the banks.

  • I love that you’re voting for individuals, rather than for parties. Smart man.

    I voted for Gary Johnson, and left most of the rest of the ballot blank. (I live in Arkansas.)
    Here’s my thoughts on why I voted third-party: http://redemptionpictures.com/2012/10/16/thirdpart/

  • Curtis

    Erik Paulsen may keep his face off of Fox, but he is a rubber-stamp vote for the Republicans in congress. He voted 93% in line with his party in the last session. Why do you want to reward partisan behavior that is our main problem in government right now?

    • Patrick S

      Don’t reward parisans: vote for only democrats!

      • Curtis

        Collin Peterson, Democrat from Minnesota’s 7th district, votes with his party only 56% of the time. There are Democrats still working with Republicans, examples of the other direction are hard to find.