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. 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."
Jun 28th 2022
EXTRACT: "It is tempting to conclude that today’s central bankers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Maybe if they sit tight, they will ride out the storm. Then-Fed Chair Paul Volcker was Public Enemy Number One in the United States in the early 1980s, when he squeezed post-oil-shock inflation out of the system with double-digit interest rates. But in his later years he was revered, and became a national treasure, called on to advise successive presidents in any financial emergency. ----- But central bankers would be wise not to assume that their reputations will automatically recover, and that the status quo ante will be restored. We live in a more disputatious age than the 1980s. Public institutions are more regularly challenged and held to account by far less reverential legislators." ----- "Moreover, former central bankers have joined the chorus of critics. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, breaking the unwritten rule not to reproach one’s successors, has said that today’s Fed made “a mistake” by responding slowly to inflation. And Bailey’s immediate predecessors, Mervyn King and Mark Carney, have weighed in, too, with challenges to the BOE’s policy. The fabric of the central banking fraternity is fraying."
Jun 25th 2022
EXTRACT: "Public opinion in Belarus remains firmly against involvement into the war with Ukraine. Moreover, according to a Chatham House survey, 40% of Belarusians do not support Russia’s war, compared to 32% who do, while around half of those questioned see predominately negative consequences of the war for Belarus (53%) and for themselves (48%). The Belarusian military and security services are also aware of the determined and skilful resistance that Ukrainian forces have put up against Russia and the risks that they would therefore be running if they entered the war against Ukraine. This, in turn, means that the risk to Lukashenko himself remains that he might lose his grip on power, a grip which depends heavily on the loyalty of his armed forces." ---- "Ultimately, Belarus may not be on the brink of being plunged into war quite yet, but its options to avoid such a disaster are narrowing."
Jun 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russification (the policy of enforcing Russian culture on populations) appears to be being reinforced by ethnic cleansing. Last month the Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights, Liudmyla Denisova, informed the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, that 1.3 million Ukrainians, including 223,000 children, had been forcibly deported to Russia."
Jun 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "If Trump had his way, then Vice-President Pence would have also broken his oath to the constitution and derailed the certification of electoral votes. Our continued existence as a Republic might very well have hung on Pence’s actions that day. The mob’s response was to call for Pence to be hanged, and a noose and scaffold was erected apparently for that very purpose. What was Trump’s reaction when he was told that the mob was calling for Pence’s summary execution? His words were: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” Mike Pence “deserves” it."
Jun 10th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Speaking to journalist Sophie Raworth on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show recently, former war crimes prosecutor Sir Howard Morrison, now an advisor to the Ukraine government, highlighted the dangers posed by the negative – often insulting and dehumanising – statements made by some Russian politicians and media personalities about Ukraine and its people." ---- "The conditions and attitudes described by Morrison have existed for centuries: Russians have viewed Ukrainians as inferior since before the Soviet era." ----- "And, as Morrison said, stereotyping and denigrating a people as inferior or lacking agency makes atrocities and looting more likely to happen, as we are seeing in Ukraine."
Jun 9th 2022
EXTRACT: "Unless Russia realises that the west is willing and able to push back, a new, stable security order in Europe will not be possible. Concessions to Russia, by Ukraine or the EU and Nato, are not the way to achieve this. That this has been realised beyond Ukraine’s most ardent supporters in the Baltic states, Poland, the UK and the US is clear from German support for strengthening Nato’s northern flank and a general increase in Nato members’ defence spending."
Jun 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "Highly civilized people can turn into barbarians when demagogues and dictators exploit their fears and trigger their most atavistic instincts. Rape, torture, and massacres often happen when soldiers invade foreign countries. Commanding officers sometimes actively encourage such behavior to terrorize an enemy into submission. And sometimes it occurs when the officer corps loses control and discipline breaks down. Japanese and Germans know this, as do Serbs, Koreans, Americans, Russians, and many others."
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Like Metternich, Kissinger commits the fatal error of believing that a few wise policymakers can impose their will on the world. Worse, he believes they can halt domestically generated change and the power of nationalism. Many years ago, this is what Senator William Fulbright termed the “arrogance of power.” This approach failed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is also doomed to fail in Russia and Ukraine." ------ "Not surprisingly, Kissinger misunderstands Russia. He appears to believe that, because Russia has been an “essential part of Europe” for over four centuries, it is therefore fated to remain so for the foreseeable future.The claim is completely at odds with history." ---- "Finally, Kissinger misunderstands the implications of his own analysis for Western relations with Russia. “We are facing,” he said, “a situation now where Russia could alienate itself completely from Europe and seek a permanent alliance elsewhere." ---- "But what’s so bad about Russia’s isolating itself from Europe and becoming a vassal state of China? "
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "According to the latest figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, China’s population grew from 1.41212 billion to just 1.41260 billion in 2021 – a record low increase of just 480,000, a mere fraction of the annual growth of eight million or so common a decade ago." ----- "China’s total fertility rate (births per woman) was 2.6 in the late 1980s – well above the 2.1 needed to replace deaths. It has been between 1.6 and 1.7 since 1994, and slipped to 1.3 in 2020 and just 1.15 in 2021."
Jun 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Casualties are very high. A very conservative estimate of overall Russian losses is that they have lost more troops killed since February 24 than in ten years of fighting in Afghanistan. This implies well over 40,000 men taken out of the fight, including the wounded." ----- "Away from the cauldron of Donbas, Belarus has been rattling its somewhat rusty sabre by deploying troops to its border with Ukraine. This is unlikely to trouble Kyiv. The Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko, is well aware that he may need them at home to shore up his shaky regime."