Friday, October 12, 2012

Undecided No Longer

It shouldn't have been this hard. I am a lifelong liberal Democrat who has voted Democratic across the board from the very first time I had the honor to vote for George McGovern in 1972. Four years ago I made up my mind in early September; this time around it's taken me to early October to come up with a plan. But I've finally figured out what I'm gonna do once I get to my ballot sheet.
I'm exasperated by President Barack Obama. I never had high expectations for him. He struck me 4 years ago as an overreaching cypher, a junior senator from Illinois with less than 2 years experience in the Senate,  the author of two amorphous books which didn't give me a clue as to what made him tick, a former state legislator who voted "present" over a hundred times rather than take a position. But there was no way I was going to vote for a team that included Sarah Palin. Period.
So then came the Obama administration. For me, there were exactly three high points during the first term of Barack Obama.
The first high point of Obama's presidency came the weekend of April 30 & May 1 of 2011. On that Saturday night he wowed the White House Press Corps dinner with a hilarious stand up routine, even as he had set in motion a daring and risky assault on Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. The next night he announced the successful conclusion to that attack. I was impressed.
The second high point of Obama's presidency came a year later, when he backed up his Vice President and became the first sitting President to support the right of gay couples to seek same-sex marriage. A brave pronouncement that had no practical policy implications, it was more symbolic than practical. Typical.
The third high point came in August of 2012, when I successfully refinanced my under water home mortgage (after failing a year earlier), thanks to the TARP II regulations negotiated by the Obama administration with the banking mortgage industry. $3,000 a year of savings to my pocketbook - I'll be forever grateful for that.
Other than that, this presidency has been a serial, meandering mess. No one said it better than then-economic adviser Larry Summers when he complained in 2009 to then-budget director Peter Orzsag about Obama's stewardship of the economic recovery: "‘We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes."
So I don't suffer from buyer's remorse, because I never expected all that much. And my very low expectations have been confirmed and reconfirmed each and every day of this bumbling presidency. No political engagement, no willingness to engage in the hardball politicking it takes to bring about true change, this presidency has been marked by half-measures and listlessness. Obama hasn't been a great President, he hasn't been a good President, he's just been President.
But my low regard for the Obama presidency doesn't drive me into the arms of Mitt Romney. I grant that Romney is the least unpalatable of the Republican joke-candidates who graced our screens during the primary silly season ("9-9-9"; "colony on the moon"; "three departments I would me here"). But a vote for Romney is a vote for a whole range of backwards conservative social and economic policies to which I can never accede. I can hardly believe I even toyed with the idea - but that is now a closed door.
So I am going to take to heart this routine by George Carlin (may his memory be a blessing), from an election season past:
I will vote in every other race on my ballot. As usual, I will vote straight Democratic as I have always done. But for the first time in my life, I am going to skip the Presidential vote. They both suck, and I won't be party to the outcome.
Undecided no longer. As we say in poker: "Check."
Update: Oct. 27: now there is Part II.

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