Nov 6th 2012

Why I'll Vote to Re-elect President Obama

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

On November 6th, I will cast my vote to reelect Barack Obama as President of the United States. I will do so without hesitation despite the let down that I and many in my community feel with the lack of change we hoped would come in several areas about which we care deeply.

Even with this disappointment, I can still quite confidently answer two critical questions in the affirmative: "Are we better off than we were four years ago?" and "Are we better off than we would have been had John McCain and Sarah Palin been elected in 2008?"

Just think back to where we were four years ago. The economy was in shambles. Millions faced foreclosure; pension funds had lost 20% to 30% of their wealth; unemployment was on its way to doubling; and, for many, the "American Dream" had become a mirage.   

We may have set our hopes too high when we believed that Barack Obama would change all this and still be able clean up the foreign policy messes left by his predecessor. But the reality was that on Inauguration Day 2009 the new President received not a magic wand but the shovel George W. Bush had been using to dig deep holes, at home and abroad.

If the magnitude of these many foreign and domestic challenges were not enough, our new President confronted, from Day One, a Republican Party determined to undermine his every effort. Despite their obstructionism, what the President has been able to accomplish has been nothing short of remarkable. The economic collapse was averted. The much maligned "stimulus" saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, firefighters, and construction workers. The American auto industry was rescued and with it the economic livelihood of millions of workers, their families, and the small businesses that serve their communities. The stock market (and, with it, the pension funds of millions) is nearing record highs. Housing starts are up, and while employment figures are not where we want them to be, the trajectory is steady and moving in the right direction.

In addition to all this, the President and his Administration used their executive authority to end the shameful "Special Registration" program that had discriminated against Arab visitors to America. He also initiated a reprieve providing relief for millions of young undocumented students (including thousands of young Arabs), who through no fault of their own, were in danger of being deported. And the President secured passage of legislation guaranteeing equal pay for women and protecting consumers against unscrupulous financial institutions. Most significant of all, the President was able to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insuring that every American will have access to health care. On the day the Supreme Court upheld the ACA, my entire family wept, because we knew that our two year old grand-daughter, Hope, who had been born with Down Syndrome, would never be denied health coverage because of her "pre-existing condition".

Of course, I am not happy with set-backs that have occurred in the Middle East. But I understand the enormity of the challenges faced by President Obama after eight years of Bush's neglectful policies and reckless adventurism—two failed wars, behavior (Abu Ghraib, torture, rendition, "black sites") that brought shame to our country, an emboldened Israeli leadership and a divided, dysfunctional Palestinian Authority, an empowered Iran, and a fertile field in which extremism was growing

As difficult as these challenges were, here too the President faced an obstructionist Congress of Republicans, looking to embarrass him, and weak-kneed Democrats, unwilling to back him up. He did end torture and close the CIA "secret prison sites" around the world, but Congress blocked his efforts to close Guantanamo. Republicans termed his remarkable and courageous Cairo speech as part of an "apology tour" and accused him of "betraying American values".  And, as late as a year ago, when President Obama made one last effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, GOP leaders stood behind the Israeli Prime Minister's rebuke of the President, inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress where they gave the foreign leader 29 standing ovations. 

Having blocked the President's every effort to rescue the economy, ensure health care for all Americans, and restore America's image abroad, Republicans have the temerity to claim he has failed. They lay the mounting deficit at the President's door, when, in fact, 80% of the deficit is due to the annual costs of Bush's reckless tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and an unfunded "prescription drug plan". And now, they want to "take back" the White House. Call me "old-fashioned", but I don't believe in rewarding irresponsible, bad behavior.

Republicans want to bring back the same economic policies—more tax cuts for the wealthy and less regulations on the financial sector and industry—that brought us to the brink of collapse. They also want to bring back the same foreign policy crowd that engineered the policies that left us at war and isolated in the world. And having callously used "Islamophobia" as a wedge issue in the last three elections (think: Gingrich, West, Bachmann, Palin, Cain, and Adelson), they want us to believe that they can be trusted with our votes.

No, thank you! I'll stick with the President and the Democratic Party. I believe that should President Obama win a decisive victory and should several good Democrats win election to the Senate and the House, it would provide him with the mandate he needs to confront GOP obstructionism. It might also provide Republicans with a much needed wake-up call to rescue their party from the band of extremists who are holding it hostage. 

The Democratic Party is the party that understands my community and its concerns. It is the party in which we find our allies in the peace and justice communities, the fighters for civil liberties, the churches, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, progressive Jews, and so many others with whom we have worked for decades.

We worked together four years ago to make history and elect Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. We remained together during the past four years and, despite obstacles and disappointments, we continued our struggle for peace and justice. Right now, we are working again to reelect President Obama on November 6th. And then on November 7th, we will continue our struggle together for real immigration reform, an end to "profiling", an end to the denial of Palestinian rights, and fundamental changes in U.S. foreign and military policy—making America better, stronger, smarter, and more just. 

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