Many people in Ireland ask me how can I, a centre-right pro-free market liberal, be so enthusiastic about President Obama. After all, if he were a candidate in Ireland, with his pro-public sector union views and unwillingness to tackle public spending, would I vote for him?
Probably not. But bear in mind, if he were a candidate in Ireland, he would not be opposed by a party that is de facto religiously sectarian, wobbly on the separation of church and state, actually either stupid or mad on female biology, regards gays as second class citizens, denies evolution and believes the world to be six thousand years old, and is openly dismissive of the poor.
If he were opposed by a party like that in Ireland, I’d vote for him here too.
He’s not perfect by any stretch. Gitmo is still open, despite a (foolhardy) promise to close it, and with his drone attacks his administration makes taking human life just a little too easy. He didn’t budge on his own Simpson-Bowles commission on deficit reduction either.
Yet he is nowhere near as left wing as his opponents say, and I believe he is genuinely open to compromise with moderate Republicans if only their own voters would stop firing them. He brought in universal healthcare, based on a Republican model, the greatest domestic political achievement in the US since the Great Society, when even the mighty Clintons couldn’t. He stopped the US economy from collapse, and saved the auto industry when President McCain would have just walked away. More importantly, like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR before him, President Obama recognises that if Capitalism, as the greatest wealth creating mechanism humanity has ever seen is to be saved, it has to be tempered to serve the common good, and yes, that does mean that the Koch brothers have to tip in a bit more. Left to their own devices, the far right of the GOP will, almost like Hoover before them, destroy Capitalism if they are let have their Marie Antoinette way.
Finally, there is the fact that after eight years of President Bush, President Obama made it possible for those of us outside the US who regard America as a friend and a force for good in the world to stand up and point and say “See? That’s what we mean.”
Mitt Romney is, I believe, a good and decent man. He probably is far more tolerant and moderate than the caricature he had to create during the GOP primaries. If President Obama is re-elected, he could do far worse than find a place for Governor Romney in his cabinet. But Mitt Romney has shown himself to be willing to bend to the will of the worst extreme elements of his party, and to publicly dismiss moderate political positions he held over a lifetime. It just isn’t worth the risk.
If I were a citizen of the United States, I would pause as I stood in the polling booth. If I were in a solid red or blue state, I would lend my vote to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, whose fiscal conservatism and social moderation deserves recognition in the ridiculousness of a two party system. But if it were a swing state, I would vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and I hope America does too.