America is a big place. Geographically, it’s huge, fifth largest on the globe, fourth if you don’t count Antarctica, and who counts Antarctica? Economically, it’s like 25% of the whole world, the same size as all of Europe put together, and three times bigger than China. Yet, for all this wealth and wide open space, we are a disagreeable lot. Most of the people disagree with each other on pretty much everything. The founding fathers, for instance, disagreed about whether we should be independent, how we should assert our independence, and how we should govern ourselves once we did. Pretty much the only thing they agreed on was that Great Britain’s tax code sucked, and the fact that they could not vote to change it sucked even more.
Their solution to the problem of how we should govern ourselves was an ingenious one, and one that our politicians have been using ever since. It’s usually known as “kick the can down the road” or “let the next bunch of jerks deal with it.” They created a system wherein everyone in the country gets to vote for representatives and then those representatives get to vote on the governing rules. This is why we have federal laws about nuclear proliferation while the founding fathers (including Franklin) thought electricity was a liquid. Both the people doing the governing, and the rules they govern by, are systematically updated to reflect our improved understanding of the world and our place in it.
Let’s pretend you believe, along with Franklin D. Roosevelt, that public servants have a responsibility to help the less fortunate. In order to put this belief into action, you should vote for the politician whose actions more often coincide with your belief. You might notice that the incumbent president has extended unemployment benefits nine times. This suggests that, during a severe economic recession, less fortunate people did not go hungry, nor did their children, as a direct result of President Obama’s policies. You might also notice that, despite warnings from Republican opponents that these benefits provide an incentive to remain unemployed, unemployment claims are now at a four year low.
Contrast this with Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Four of the ten largest companies he purchased declared bankruptcy, firing thousands of workers while paying huge bonuses to executives. Bain Capital is currently in the business of outfitting the Chinese government with surveillance equipment for use against its own people, with much of the profit being used to fund Romney’s presidential ambitions. Given your hypothetical belief in a public servant’s responsibility to help the less fortunate, does it make a difference which candidate you vote for?
Perhaps you care about the skyrocketing price of gasoline, or the high cost of the wars America must wage on oil producing countries. Perhaps you care about the environmental carnage wrought by oil drilling and the burning of fossil fuels. If this is true, it would inform your decision to know that President Obama has directed all federal agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel vehicles by 2015. The amount of clean, renewable energy produced in this country will have doubled between 2008 and 2012, as a result of massive photovoltaic plants built with money from the Investment Recovery Act. In 2010 the Air Force flew an A-10 Thunderbolt entirely on alternative fuels. Half of the Navy’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020, which means they won’t stay posted in the Suez Canal year-round.
Mitt Romney’s energy advisor, oil billionaire Harold Hamm, believes that in the future, America will be the world’s largest producer of oil, which would be convenient since we are already the largest consumer. This will be achieved through a combination of new drilling methods and upward adjustment of the estimate of proven oil reserves. His plan requires eliminating Obama’s carbon tax (which never existed,) drilling massive new wells through our undiscovered reserves (which never existed,) and subsidising oil production with federal dollars (which never existed according to Ron Paul.) The enviornmental cost is estimated to be zero, since technically the oil does not exist and therefore cannot be used for combustion. Given your theoretical concern with energy policy, which candidate should you vote for?
Finally, consider another lesson from history. In low voter turnout elections, the Republican candidate wins. In high voter turnout elections, the Democratic candidate wins. What do you think will happen if you don’t vote, or if you convince your friends not to vote? What do you think could happen if you did vote, and elected not only a president who shares your beliefs and concerns, but also Senators and Congresspersons who are not the tools of oil billionaires? Think about it.