Thursday, November 1, 2012

Friday Reading List: What This Election Means

Every election is the most important election ever. But for me, this one is. I have far, far more invested in this election than in 2008 – more invested in this than any election since I became a voter. I supported Barack Obama from his primary campaign onward. John Edwards (unlike John Kerry) completely flip-flopped his positions, and Hillary lost my support around the time she implied that Barack Obama was likely to be assassinated (which was at least slightly tantamount to an incitement). But I held my nose in the beginning until I realized that he did not give off the same noxiousness as his most devoted followers. As Obama’s most devoted followers have long since retreated into disappointment, I feel like I’ve had to take the place of a few dozen of them. So let me say, without equivocation: Barack Obama is the greatest president since Franklin Roosevelt, and may yet have to prove himself Roosevelt’s equal.

Thanks to Obama, we do not know how close came we close to came to worldwide cataclysm in the Bush years’ aftermath. The financial recovery is only the beginning of the equation. Imagine if the Arab Spring had occurred with the anti-American sentiments of the Bush years completely unrepaired – would the Islamist mullahs now have a chokehold on Egypt, and therefore the entire Middle East? Imagine if the Federal Government refused to pump as much money into the economy to bail out industries – would China have to recall the debts we owe because we couldn’t spend enough to keep their economy growing? Imagine if the Federal Government defaulted on its credit – would we have had to spend 14 trillion dollars to keep the worldwide economy out of a depression twice as bad as the Great Depression?

Civilization continues to exist because of those in power who are willing to preserve it. One bad decision can be all it takes to bring it to ruin. We’ve come closer in the last few years to that brink than at any time since, at very least, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and perhaps well before that. And the fact that so few people realize that is a testament to the Obama Presidency.

Far moreso than in 2008, the choice in this election is pellucidly clear. I may not have agreed with John McCain on much, but he was deserving of at least a certain amount of respect. Anyone who says that John McCain is not a conservative is dumb, but McCain is an Aristocratic Conservative – like Theodore Roosevelt or Winston Churchill. He's the scion of an old and prominent American family, and does care deeply about the country’s welfare. He sees a duty to look after all Americans in the same way more principled noblemen used to look after their serfs. It's hardly ideal, but it is a form of concern. He may not view those less privileged as equals, but he at least sees them as deserving of protection. But whereas McCain is an aristocrat, Romney is a plutocrat. Like Calvin Coolidge and William McKinley before him, the term for Romney is a Plutocratic Conservative. He sees the entire world through the goggles of entrepreneurship, and believes in individual initiative at the cost of all else. To Governor Romney, those unable to make it in America are neither deserving of care nor respect.

In 2008, Barack Obama merely exhibited promise. In 2012, President Obama exhibits results. Even if the Left of the American public doesn’t realize the extent of his triumph, the Right certainly does and will do everything in its power to make sure his results are scaled back as far as they can possibly take them. Contrary to popular belief, Mitt Romney is their perfect candidate.

There has never been a starker choice among presidential candidates in my lifetime. The choice is between a candidate who believes that America could continue upon its status quo in perpetuity without disaster ever striking again, and a candidate who believes that America needs greater results to live up to its first, best destiny – and with a record of staggering proof to back up that claim.

So in the next few days, please volunteer. Please make phone calls to swing states, please give whatever amount you can in good conscience give to Obama campaign; and if you live close enough, please canvas in swing states where it matters. But while it is absolutely crucial to be fired up for this presidential election, it is equally important to be contemplative - to keep that large impersonal survey which sets limits to the actions which our passions inspire and to know precisely why this election is so crucial – to know for yourself and to answer others. So in that spirit, I give you this reading list:

Victoria Collier (Harper’s Magazine): An Excerpt from ‘How to Rig an Election’

(The New Yorker) Editors: The Choice

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