Philosophy was one of my favorite subjects in college, and if I had to summarize in one sentence what I took away it’s that Man in the state of nature is basically good. Sure I know that plenty of philosophers argue otherwise, but this is what I choose to believe to this day, and it is what I expect of those leading our nation. It is a “goodness” tempered with compassion as we give up some of our individual goals for the good of society. It is not a simplistic belief, it underscores the very contract we make when we gather under a set of laws for society, commerce, protection and procreation. It gives us strength in community and provides a safety net to those who can least afford to take care of themselves.
I mention this as a prelude to the physical pain I felt when Governor Mitt Romney wrote off 47% of the American populace as slaggards who paid no taxes, took no responsibility for their own actions, and who were undeserving of his attention or care. That really hurt, I didn’t expect that of him. Up until the moment I saw him with my own eyes and heard him with my own ears I thought Romney was simply playing an ugly game of politics that seems to be more necessary these days to win an elected office with the inflated fundraising budgets allowed by the Supreme Court’s rulings.
If you had asked my opinion of Romney before the 47% remark, I would have said he was a politician who was probably decent at heart, though not sure enough of his own convictions to stick to them; nevertheless a man who cared deeply for his family and his religion, and who has probably done good deeds with his wealth. Like everyone else I smiled at gaffes that showed him to be out of touch with the average person (betting Rick Santorum $10,000, which he obviously thought was chump change—when was the first or last time you were challenged to a $10,000 bet?). But I wouldn’t have been afraid of what he would do if he were elected president.
All of that changed with the 47% speech. I had to ask myself what exactly does Romney believe in and how would he govern? I don’t know. He seems to change his mind with the polls. I don’t mind having a president who doesn’t agree with me on every issue as long as I know he or she has decent convictions that they think are worth fighting for. And as long as I know that when the chips are down he or she would be looking out for the best interests of the country as a whole and would also have compassion for the least among us.
Hurricane Sandy brought those issues right to the forefront. Romney has alluded to abolishing FEMA, the agency charged with remedial action during emergency disasters. This is one of those events for which we have banded together, and the President took decisive and compassionate action during this time of tragedy. I fear that Governor Romney would have expected 47% of us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps of our own waders. Kudos to Governor Christie who put politics aside in favor of taking care of the people of New Jersey and who had the courage to compliment Obama’s compassion even though he was not his presidential choice.
I firmly believe that the President’s compassion for this nation is real. When he worked for community organizations in Chicago he was doing so for populations of people who were without power and money and prestige. He did it because that is what was in his heart and those were his core beliefs.
But President Obama has more than compassion, he has a competency that snatched this nation from the abyss of economic collapse four years ago; he kept his promises on troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan and expanded the GI bill; brought Osama Bin Laden to justice and weakened Al-Qaeda. He brought in a health care law that presidents had been trying to pass for years and years; decreed that people can marry no matter who they love; rescued the auto industry; expanded college loans to students and instituted Race To The Top to improve our educational system.
He put into place financial reforms that will hopefully protect the country from wildly speculative derivatives and the bundling of toxic financial instruments; formed a Consumer Protection Agency; and recovered money to be used to help keep people in their homes in the case of unfair foreclosures. At this juncture the economic picture seems to be improving in our nation and I want to give President Obama time to make more progress. The strengthening of the American middle class and economy bode well for Americans and the rest of the world.
My choice is clear, I am voting to re-elect President Barack Obama.