Barackalypse 2012 or why you should vote even though the world is about to end (hypothetically)

Barack Obama: Jedi Master courtesy of

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.

4 replies »

  1. Oh i’ll vote, just not for anyone with a D or an R next to his/her name. Done with that game.

    Yes, unemployment benefits have been extended, which is a poor choice of means to handle the issue when the total unemployment benefits are a drop in the bucket compared to what Mr. Obama has given to bankers that caused the economic pain. And apparently people are going hungry, as federal food assistance claims have increased 61% since 2007, now totaling 12% of the population receiving the benefit.

    It might be worth following up the unemployment claims number with some more facts, like how those numbers are manipulated. After you’ve been unemployed long enough or given up looking, you’re magically no longer unemployed. And what kind of new jobs have been created? Temp jobs with low pay and no benefits don’t really help beyond not-quite-starving.

    The link about all government vehicle purchases does not actually make that statement. It’s also not in the “blueprint” linked in the link. I’m not listening to or reading the SoTU where he might have mentioned it. Your link does say that he’s going to open up lots more offshore drilling and that he’s a fan of fracking for shale gas. Also, “alternative fuel” likely includes corn ethanol, which is only alternative if you don’t count all the oil required to grow the corn and makes the fuel a net negative.

    The DoD is the 35th largest consumer of oil in the world if it was ranked as a nation of its own, and that does not include petroleum it gets for free when based in the Middle East. Those numbers are encouraging but puny and given that the Navy uses nuclear power heavily already, i’m not sure how much cut down this will amount to. But i will admit that it sounds good. Look, except for the depleted uranium rounds it fires, the A-10 is a really green vehicle!

    Yeah, Bain helps the Chinese watch the Chinese. No, i wouldn’t trust Romney or Santorum with my civil liberties. But, uh, Obama’s got a pretty shitty track record on that right here at home … which concerns me slightly more than what happens in China.

    You’re right about turnout, and that’s likely what will fuck Obama. In 2008 he established an impressive machine based heavily on the youth. Lots of people thought he’d turned a generation Democratic, because they actually turned out. Unfortunately, his campaign was mostly lies and he immediately turned his back on the youth vote that worked so hard for him. He’ll be hard pressed to get them back, since now all he has left is to scare them (and the rest of us) with whichever asshole the GOP nominates.

    The problem isn’t which of the two parties we vote for, it’s that we vote for either of them. Look closely, they’re actually on the same team and it ain’t ours.

  2. I wish I’d started thinking about 2012 in 2009. Sadly, I didn’t and not many others appeared to either. Now the election is upon us all too soon, and it remains to be seen which third parties and independents will rear their heads. For now, whoever and wherever they are, they’re prudently keeping the wallets in their back pockets until they know what they’re up against.

    Barring a miraculous dark horse win for actual democratic values by an independent candidate, my best hope for 2012 is either another GOP-led Congress with Obama at the helm to help forestall any further catastrophic damage to the US or a toothy Dem-led Congress with the GOP Nutter du Jour at the helm, for the same reasons. Either 2-party winner needs to be held in check at this stage.

    My dream for 2012 is that Americans from left-moderate to right-moderate will get sick of this shit and go apeshit for a wide range of independent candidates. Ballot access laws across the country almost make that impossible at this late stage, but with the tech and social networking available it’s not completely impossible, just implausible.

    I’m prepared to suffer under whatever travesty of 1% dominance comes to pass this year. I’ve also got my eyes on 2016 now rather than later. I don’t know what I can do personally, but whatever I can do to agitate for the cause of more candidates on the ballot (with only two of them from the D/R) I’ll do.

    And there should be a simple slogan for the whole push, imho:

    If you see it on TV, don’t vote for it.

  3. That evil Bain Capital and its assistance to the Chinese surveillance state just got one-upped by the Obama administration and its extension of how long the National Counterterrorism Center can keep records on Americans with no ties to terrorism from 180 days to a full five years.

    By that they mean any data that any federal agency collects, or buys from anyone else (this includes your credit card statements, hotel reservations and search histories) can be stored and data mined whenever the federal government sees fit for whatever information it may want. Warrant? Due process doesn’t have anything to do with courts according to the Obama administration.

    Remember, “See something, say something.” That’s the Stasi like motto of the Obama administration’s DHS, which includes buying your coffee with cash as an indicator of being a terrorist. And i’m supposed to vote for him because the other guy is gonna be worse? If this is the best i can hope for, does it really matter anymore?

  4. Lex,

    I corrected the link for the 100% alternative fuels motor fleet. Thanks for pointing that out. It might be worth considering that President Obama did not make America the way that it is today. He did not create the income gap or weld the bars on the windows of upward mobility. He does not control the economy. The last two years of his presidency have been the story of a man trying to get legislation passed with a Congress whose number one goal is to have him removed from office. Based on the way the progressive liberals on this site enthusiastically hate him, I’d say that Congress has done a respectable job. I’m still not giving up hope.


    Both you and Lex seem convinced that the two party system only serves to further the interests of wealthy Patricians and must be splintered into a multi-party system that allows for candidates with less centrist views to gain traction. I totally agree. Back in 2000 I attended the Democratic Rally, the Republican Rally, and the MTV Rock the Vote event, all of which were held in or around the LJVM coliseum in Winston-Salem NC. The conclusion I reached was that no substantial differences existed between the parties.

    Then George Bush happened. In eight short years I watched everything my AP US Government class described as basic principles of US Government disappear, with the notable exception of judicial review. Obama has not given us back our Constitutional rights. He reminds me of Caesar Augustus, who always meant to return his emergency powers to the Consuls and the Senate, but never got around to it.

    So here’s my suggestion for the No-TV-Candidate movement. We don’t care about party affiliation: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Reform, Silly Party, doesn’t matter.

    We are Americans united for one goal: Give us our Bill of Rights back. We don’t talk about taxes, or foreign policy, or gay marriage, or anything else, until we get our rights back. The blueprint was laid in the 18th century. Fix this, or get voted right out of your precious beltway. We are Americans. We have inalienable rights. That means they cannot be taken away. Maybe we can call ourselves Rough Riders after Teddy Roosevelt, unless Universal Music owns the rights.