In the state of Massachusetts, where I live, voting for Republicans and not voting at all is pretty much the same thing. The only intrigue of this year’s presidential election is whether Obama will beat McCain here by 60% to 40%, 70% to 30%, or 80% to 20%.
Massachusetts is essentially a one-party state. It has a Democratic governor and a heavily Democratic legislature. Both of Massachusetts' U.S. Senators are Democrats and so are all of the ten members of the House of Representatives. My Congressman, the now famous Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a 16-year House incumbent, Barney Frank, runs in elections unopposed or faces only a ghost of a Republican opponent.
That’s why in the 2004 presidential election, I voted for George W. Bush. Not that I was particularly fond of Bush’s policies (although I didn’t call them “disastrous” back then), but after all my years of living through the one-party rule and single-candidate elections in the Soviet Union, I wanted to send a powerful message that in me, America had acquired a principal defender of political minorities at every level. (Bush lost the state to John Kerry by 37% to 62%).
This year, we are facing the prospect of our federal government becoming a one-party body. Democrats are expected to gain an additional 20 seats in the House and are within striking distance from reaching the filibuster-proof majority of the Senate. With Obama in the White House, both branches of government will have a chance to unleash an ultra-liberal run-away train.
Only the election of John McCain as president – resulting in a “split” government – can prevent that from happening.
And yet, this year, I’m going to vote for Barack Obama.
Americans, like everyone else in the world, choose their leaders based on pocketbook issues, on the “economy”. They listen to both presidential candidates and sincerely try to figure out whose promises of prosperity they like more. This doesn’t make any sense: the final word on economic issues in the United States belongs to Congress. Comparing minute details of McCain’s and Obama’s tax plans is a waste of time, because Congress won’t approve either; it will come up with something completely different. Just take a look at the initial bailout plan that U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, submitted to Congress and compare it with a monster that Congress eventually adopted.
It is in the area of foreign policy that presidents have traditionally had the upper hand over Congress, having usurped at the end the very right of the latter to declare wars. That is why this year, I, personally, vote for president based on “foreign policy”.
I have no doubt that Obama is a damned liberal. His idea of “spreading wealth around” makes me wary, because, statistically, I’m closer to people whose “wealth” will be spread around than to people who’d benefit from such a re-distribution.
But first things first. I’m voting for Barack Obama, because we need to reverse the disastrous foreign policies of the Bush administration. We need a president who will explain to the American people that “foreign policy” isn’t synonymous with “national security”, and national security isn’t synonymous with launching wars thousands miles off the American shores. We need a president who sees the world as it is, who will build the future and not settle scores of the past.
(And if Obama will run his administration in the same efficient, disciplined way he’s been running his election campaign, then for the first time in 8 years, we may finally get a functional government, however “socialist”.)
I know that some folks in Moscow would prefer a black-and-white, good-vs.-evil, us-vs.-them Cold War clarity of a McCain presidency. I also know of the great argument of theirs that since FDR, Russia has been better off with Republican administrations. Is it because these folks don’t see for themselves the difference between the Soviet Union of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, and Russia of Medvedev? Or is it because the perspective of talking to evil men like Holbrook and McFaul sends a chill through their veins and paralyzes their brains? If the Kremlin really believes that it won’t be able to work with Obama, then something is wrong with the Kremlin, not Obama.
Putting it mildly, I’m not a young man, and my life plans are becoming less strategic and more tactical with every passing year. But I have children, who will be living in this country long after I’m gone. Both of them will be voting for president for the first time and both – my son who’s inherited my cynical attitude towards politics and politicians, and my daughter, who still believes that the world can be helped by proper community work (my wife’s genes) – are enthusiastic Obama fans.
This year, I’m going to vote for Barack Obama to let my kids know that I share their belief that this country can be changed for the better. I’m going to vote for Barack Obama and, if he’s elected, will make sure – to the extent that an ordinary citizen like me can do that – that this guy will fulfill each of the many promises of change that over the period of the past 18 months, he has thrown at me and them.
That’s why this year, my vote counts. To me.
I’m Eugene Ivanov, and I’ve approved this message.