Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why I Voted for Obama

I knew when I cast my vote in November 2008 for Barack Obama that he would make every effort to grow government, raise the national debt, and would most likely not be able to do anything of substance to slay the bear market and ease the Great Recession. Presidents get far too much credit when the economy is going well and far too much blame for when it isn’t.

The truth is, regardless of the power of the Federal Government, no government can control economic forces. The truth is the economy will do whatever it is going to do through the natural ebb and flow of bulls and bears. Government tampering with the economy only makes things worse in the long run. I suppose from that perspective the more a president attempts to stem the tide of recession or to encourage recovery the more they should be held accountable for making things worse. So that blame is justified.

At any rate, it would not matter much if John McCain had been elected president in 2008. We would still be in a stalled economy on the verge of massive deflation. Politics doesn’t count for much in that regard. The only thing I could say is that under McCain we probably wouldn’t have amassed quite as much debt as we have under Obama. But, the difference is only a few hundred billion dollars. Pocket change in our fiat currency sea of liability. Under McCain our debt would have risen significantly anyway because of pre-existing obligations to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the prime culprits of our national bankruptcy.

My vote for Obama had nothing to do with the economy, stupid. My vote had to do with the Supreme Court. I could not justify allowing a conservative president to tilt the imbalance of the court further to the political right. Currently, the court is as polarized as the rest of the country, with the neocons enjoying a slim 5-4 majority.

As I have posted before, I believe in a liberal court. I think the constitution deserves the broadest possible interpretation when it comes to individual rights. When it comes to those liberties about the only one conservatives support is the right to bear arms (which I support). Abortion rights, gay rights, or any other social rights (all of which I also support) are almost universally abhorred by the conservative mind. Their wish is for a myopic America, a limited America, a constrained America that largely favors freedom of enterprise (think corporate funding of politics as freedom of speech) over the freedom of self.

Under a liberal court we are more likely to get a balance between the two, or at least more protection of individual liberties.

The now inevitable confirmation of Elena Kagan to the court pleases me. During her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee she displayed not only a superior grasp of the constitution and the court’s role with regard to the constitution, she displayed incredible intellect, wit, and finesse in dealing with criticism and opposition. She proved herself to be great communicator and an effective navigator of conflict resolution.

With regard to intelligence and the ability to engage with others she is a far more impressive choice than Obama’s selection last year of Sotomayor who struck me as qualified but bland. Since the contentious proceedings of Robert Bork ages ago we have unfortunately entered an era where our justices are chosen based upon their ease of confirmation rather than upon their actual credentials.

So, while the liberal minority is being preserved I must confess that the glory days of a bright and astute court are probably long-gone. Every nominee since Bork, both liberal and conservative, has struck me as rather mediocre. The court today is not the shining force of legal and ethical insight of old. Like the rest of our consumer culture it is slowly being dumbed down. No president is willing to spend the political capital necessary to get a truly outstanding justice appointed. There are always more pressing political issues, apparently.

At any rate, Kagan strikes me as perhaps the best choice made by any president in the post-Bork era. The only point of concern for me is that she carries forward the all-Catholic/Jewish, all-Harvard/Yale character of the court. That shouldn’t matter. These justices should be more objective than that. But, it still makes me slightly uncomfortable for some reason. The court is accountable to all Americans - or should be. Perhaps it should also be composed of a broader range of our society. Then again, usually democratic representation only leads to greater levels of mediocrity. So perhaps elitism is our salvation after all.

Kagan will likely preserve the ratio of the court’s fragile liberal minority. For that I am grateful. This fulfills what I had hoped for when I voted for President Obama to begin with. Though his re-election is far from certain given the blame he will take for our economic woes, if he somehow manages to remain as president through 2016 we might just end up with a liberal majority. And a young one at that.

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