Four years ago, most of us undergrads couldn’t vote, even though many of us desperately wanted to. A young junior senator from Illinois with big speeches and even bigger ideas swept us out of our political apathy and into a fervor best summarized by his presidential campaign’s one-word mantra: hope.
Admittedly, it was foolish to think the problems plaguing the nation would be solved as soon as Barack Obama entered office. We were in the midst of the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression, and even a tidal wave of electoral hope couldn’t turn it around in four years. Yet today, five days before Election Day, The Guardian is endorsing Barack Obama for a second term as President of the United States, because Obama is the only candidate that stands with us on important moral issues of marriage equality, women’s rights and educational reform.
The economy is recovering, albeit slowly, and growing at a steady rate since the first June of Obama’s tenure. The President also oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than George W. Bush did in two terms. Republicans call it a failure, but the $840 billion stimulus bill created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. We should then preserve these successful policies and avoid the policies of deregulation and trickle-down economics outlined by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s Republican campaign, since we believe such policies are what created the recession in the first place.
While California continues to struggle to fund higher education, Obama has responded by doubling the annual funding for Pell Grants, increasing the number of students receiving grants from approximately 6 to 10 million. He kept the federal student loan rate from doubling to 6 percent this summer, while also creating the “Pay As You Earn” plan, which lowers monthly federal student loan payments for graduates with debt disproportionate to their earning abilities. Meanwhile, the 2013 congressional budget, compiled while Ryan was chairman of the House Budget Committee and endorsed by Romney, recommends that Pell Grants be limited to a $5,500 maximum for a decade — with no adjustments for tuition increases or inflation.
Obama is not the perfect President many of us had hoped for in 2008. For one, he’s been harder on drugs than Bush, continuing the “War on Drugs” by funding a military-led offensive against the drug cartels that has cost Mexico over 60,000 lives, but hasn’t abolished the cartels (which are as powerful as ever). Here in California, Obama has unleashed the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal prosecutors on medical marijuana users, shutting down over 500 dispensaries and contributing, no doubt, to the rise in the imprisonment of nonviolent drug offenders and subsequent increase in the prison budget.
Obama has also supported the use of remote-controlled drone aircraft in the “War on Terror.” Under the Obama administration, the use of drones to carry out targeted strikes against suspected terrorists has skyrocketed, but according to a study at Stanford and New York University, only two percent of drone strike casualties in Pakistan are top militants. The majority of the casualties are civilians, and their deaths are only successful in turning Pakistanis against the US.
Despite all this, Romney is unequivocally the greater evil. Romney won’t pull us out of the war, or stop using drones, or lower the current unemployment rates — though he’ll say anything to get you to believe that he will. He’ll also add barriers to women’s reproductive rights and shrink access to health care. Obama, on the other hand, appointed judges to the Supreme Court who would uphold the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, passed a monumental health care bill despite massive opposition from a conservative Congress and expressed his support for gay marriage.
There’s definitely something to be said of the argument that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are merely two sides of the same political coin — that’s the nature of the two-party system. But voting third-party is not the answer. Just look at the 2000 election: George W. Bush defeated Al Gore with a margin of 500 votes in Florida to take the election. If those who voted for Ralph Nader had voted for a major candidate, the results could have been vastly different. Every vote counts, don’t waste yours.
Vote for President Obama for all these reasons and more, even if you feel more apathetic than hopeful since he was elected the first time.