In the spirit of reason, I believe we should seek out the best arguments for and against the important issues we face. I have already posted the best arguments I could find for a Mitt Romney vote. Now I’d like to post two of the best arguments for reelecting Barack Obama.
The frist comes from E.J Dionne writing for Time. He lists the standard accomplishments that the Obama campaign likes to point out: Obama saved the economy from depression, saved the auto industry, killed Bin Laden, etc. Although these are valid, we have heard all this before. Where Dionne makes a interesting case is when he argues an Obama vote is a rejection of extreme conservatism:
Americans who want to replace polarization with balance, extremism with moderation, obstruction with problem solving and blind partisanship with compromise need Obama to win again. An Obama defeat would empower those whose go-for-broke approach to politics is largely responsible for the distemper of our public life and the dysfunction in Washington.
This election does not represent a choice between left and right. It represents a choice between balance and a new, extreme form of conservatism. This new conservatism cannot accept any tax increases as part of a deal to reduce the deficit. For all his attempts to sound moderate in the campaign’s closing days, Romney has not altered the response he gave during a Republican-primary debate rejecting a hypothetical deal involving a 10-to-1 ratio between spending cuts and tax increases. This refusal to acknowledge the need for more revenue is a recipe for eviscerating government—and the cuts, as Ryan’s budget shows, would fall disproportionately on programs for Americans with the lowest incomes.
The new right has broken with conservatism’s past—and our country’s most constructive traditions—by adopting a new and radical individualism that largely ignores our country’s gift for community.
Dionne echos the arguments from his newest book, Our Divided Political Heart, in that conservatism used to have a deep respect for community, not just hyper-individualism. To him, Barack Obama is a conservative, but in the spirit of Edmund Burke, where radicalism is discarded and change respects our existing institutions.
The second comes from Jonathan Chait writing for NY Magazine. He opens by admitting his expectations for Obama were low (or realistic, depending on your point of view) to begin with.
Possibly for that same reason, I have never felt even a bit of the crushing sense of disappointment that at various times has enveloped so many Obama voters. I supported Obama because I judged him to have a keen analytical mind, grasping both the possibilities and the limits of activist government, and possessed of excellent communicative talents. I thought he would nudge government policy in an incrementally better direction. I consider his presidency an overwhelming success.
Obama’s accomplishments are a centerpiece of Chait’s argument. He lists many of the same items Dionne does, but from a slightly different angle:
Obama’s résumé of accomplishments is broad and deep, running the gamut from economic to social to foreign policy. The general thrust of his reforms, especially in economic policy, has been a combination of politically radical and ideologically moderate. The combination has confused liberals into thinking of Obamaism as a series of sad half-measures, and conservatives to deem it socialism, but the truth is neither. Obama’s agenda has generally hewed to the consensus of mainstream economists and policy experts. What makes the agenda radical is that, historically, vast realms of policy had been shaped by special interests for their own benefit. Plans to rationalize those things, to write laws that make sense, molder on think-tank shelves for years, even generations. They are often boring. But then Obama, in a frenetic burst of activity, made many of them happen all at once.
He then goes on to counter the most common arguments against Obama: that he has presided over a weak economic downturn and that he has failed to produce bipartisanship. On the economy, he shows the affects of the recession have hit us much softer than similar countries, like in the Eurozone. On bipartisanship:
How can a president “work his will” in such a way as to force autonomous members of the opposite party controlling a co-equal branch of government to sacrifice their own calculated self-interest? It is a form of magical thinking, but a pervasive one. Which is exactly why the Republican strategy — making Obama’s promise to transcend partisanship fail by withholding cooperation — has worked…
…What can be said without equivocation is that Obama has proven himself morally, intellectually, temperamentally, and strategically. In my lifetime, or my parents’, he is easily the best president. On his own terms, and not merely as a contrast to an unacceptable alternative, he overwhelmingly deserves reelection.
Once again, the focus is on the past four years. Obama’s accomplishments are laid out and the GOP’s obstructionism is condemned.
What strikes me about these two pieces is the lack of vision for the next four years. This is Barack Obama’s key weakness. Does he have plans for his second term? I’m sure he does. I’d also be willing to bet that they will look much like his first, with pragmatism and problem solving taking priority over ideology. He just hasn’t articulated any of this to voters.
So there you have it. Two of the best arguments for each candidate. How persuasive did you find these arguments? Did they provoke any thoughts or challenge your views, or just reinforce them? I’d love to know.