Barack Obama for President

Barack Obama for President August 19, 2008

Fully cognizant that an endorsement from an anonymous blogger on a minor Catholic blog seems vaguely ridiculous, nevertheless I have decided to publicly endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be the better of the two candidates in terms of Catholic social teaching. I had not intended to write such a post, but recent events changed my mind.

I endorse Barack Obama because I fully believe he is the candidate that will do the least harm in terms of protecting the common good, promoting public peace and justice, and fostering solidarity. I make this assessment with full awareness of his glaring failures in core areas, but I support him on the grounds that this election is a relative choice between two imperfect candidates, and in the belief that John McCain would be far worse. Given the horse-race nature of American presidential candidates, and the absence of a proportional representation that would facilitate the rise of third parties, abstention serves little purpose.

I endorse Barack Obama fully aware of his support for abortion, an intrinsically evil act, and intend to make no excuses for his position. I fully accept that his position as president may lead to various legislative changes that will increase the incidence of abortion, tying him formally to acts of grave moral evil. At the same time, let’s not deceive ourselves. The ability of any president, no matter what policies they espouse, to affect the incidence of abortion in the current legal circumstances is strictly limited. While Obama’s purported legal changes would surely increase abortion, I also believe that the kinds of social and economic policies he promotes would lead to a diminution in abortion, and could possibly outweigh the negative aspects. I make that prudential judgment based on the direct relationship between poverty and abortion, when three-quarters of women having abortions cite economic hardship as a reason. I form that opinion in the acknowledgment that the accompanying social and economic policies are just as important as, and intimately entwined with, the legal framework surrounding abortion. Finally, I believe that the only way abortion can be reduced in the current polarized climate, indeed the only way legal framework governing abortion can be tightened, is by addressing the culture through the power of persuasion and example, which can only be achieved by a Christ-centered consistent ethic of life.

I endorse Barack Obama because I believe he is vastly more likely to foster peace and global stability. John McCain was one of those very early enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war, even as the twin towers were still smouldering, and has never repented that stance even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that the underlying justifications for that war were false. Obama opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, a war that can under no circumstances be deemed a just war (the “last resort” criterion alone is sufficient to demonstrate this point). John McCain has displayed a persistent knee-jerk bellicosity since then, a context-free dualism that could very well make the world a far more dangerous place. He continues to believe terrorism is best defeated by military means, when reason (and the voice of the Church) says otherwise. His stance toward countries like Russia and Iran increases the likelihood of war, possibly a global conflagration, making it all the more urgent to deny him the ability to direct foreign policy. Obama, on the other hand, is extremely well respected throughout the world, and can restore the global prestige of America, a prestige necessary for effective leadership, and a prestige utterly obliterated by the Bush-Cheney regime. Of the two choices, there can be no doubt that he is the candidate of peace.

I endorse Barack Obama because of his complete rejection of torture, an act that is not only intrinsically evil but liable to destroy the reputation of America in the world. Despite a courageous early stance, and in spite of the fact that he suffered under the very techniques that Bush and Cheney made legitimate, McCain has prevaricated on this topic since running for president. He would also be the public face of the misguided “war on terror” that will forever be associated throughout the world with American-sponsored torture and denial of basic human rights.

I endorse Barack Obama because his health care plan is far more likely to lead to universal health insurance, ending the scourge whereby millions of Americans are either uninsured or under-insured, and are rationed by cost from seeking needed medical services. Health care is a basic human right, and the United States remains the only advanced country refusing to grant universal coverage, and McCain’s plan offers more of the same.

I endorse Barack Obama because his economic policies are more in line with the tenets of Catholic social teaching. Obama’s tax policies disproportionately support those on the lower and middle income scales, raising taxes on the very richest. McCain, on the other hand, moves in the other direction, offering nothing to the poor and the middle class, and large tax breaks for the rich. Obama’s policy is in keeping with the principle that the fruits of prosperity should be broadly shared among the different classes, especially in an environment of rapidly rising inequality, and that policy be geared toward a preferential option for the poor. Also in that context, I support Obama’s attempt to reduce poverty by expanding the earned income tax credit and the child and dependent care tax credit, and raising the minimum wage toward a true living wage. I support Obama’s pledge to introduce policies to support childbearing, including pre- and post-natal care, income support, and adoption policies. His support for expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act also warrants support. I also support Obama’s emphasis on restoring fiscal discipline by reinstating PAYGO rules, while McCain’s deficit bias will both costly to the economy and selfish in terms of leaving a debt burden for future generations to repay. Barack Obama also stands firmly for the right of workers to unionize.

I endorse Barack Obama because he recognizes the feed to combat global warming, rather than leaving the cost to future generations. He pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. McCain is far too close to the energy lobby to support ambitious endeavors in an area that could rapidly become one of the leading moral issues of our day.

I endorse Barack Obama because he recognizes that social problems have cultural as well as economic roots, and supports endeavors to strengthen families and promote responsible fatherhood.

And finally, I endorse Barack Obama because I am tired of the petty politics in recent years, where one side in particular focuses intently on perceived personal failures of their opponents, presenting themselves as more attuned to the values of the average voter, all the while studiously avoiding the key issues (do you honestly think McCain will run an abortion ad against Obama?). Over the last ten years or so, the language and methods of people like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Coulter has infiltrated the mainstream political discourse, and it’s time to draw the line. This kind of poisonous politics distracts from the issues, rapidly degenerates into infantile behavior, and promotes tit-for-tat attacks. Case in point: McCain’s seemingly endless sequence of attack ads mocking Obama for being a “celebrity”, or more poisonously, for being willing to place political ambition over the welfare of his country and the lives of those in Iraq. At the same time, outsiders can write the most vicious screeds against Obama, keeping sufficient distance so as not to implicate McCain in this calumny, but still managing to help him. We saw the same tactic in 2004. A vote for McCain is therefore a vote for the perpetuation of this cynical cycle of debased juvenile politics. For if McCain wins based on these tactics (and of course the media is a willing accomplice), then the level of partisan bitterness is bound to mushroom, and the other side will soon start aping these tactics with equal ferocity. If nothing else, a vote for Obama is a vote against the politics of issue-free personal attack.

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