Regardless of the atmosphere in which it is taking place, we are going to hold an election in a few days. Someone is going to win, someone is going to lose and another bit of our history will be made. With that, let's take a look at the Presidential field and talk about their chances.
As much as we hate to say it, the “alternative” party candidates don't have a chance. They not only won't win, they probably won't garner enough votes to make a real impact on the race. There are three “third party” candidates on the ballot and one interesting omission.
Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for President. A native of Massachusetts, she is a medical doctor and a seasoned politician. In terms of running a campaign, Dr. Stein has the distinction of being the first Green candidate to qualify for matching funds from the federal government. (Note: Both Obama and Romney declined these, as they come with restrictions on overall spending.)
She has run a quality campaign and attracted a reasonable amount of media coverage. Stein is an interesting candidate for another reason: She faced off with Mitt Romney for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Stein performed so well in the debates in that election, Romney offered her a rematch if they ever ended up in the same race again. Obviously, he didn't keep that promise. And without the kind of credibility that comes with inclusion, Dr. Stein will probably not garner that many votes in Michigan.
Perhaps the most interesting alternative party candidate is not on our ballot. Despite the fact that the Libertarian party has automatic ballot access in Michigan, their candidate, Gary Johnson, is not listed. This is primarily due to the fact that Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, originally filed as a Republican candidate. “Sour grapes” rules in Michigan prevent candidates from making this kind of switch, keeping him of the ballot in this and several other key States. This is too bad. You can think of Johnson as “Ron Paul light” and he would be worth a look if he was on our ballot. But no such luck for the voters or for Mr. Johnson.
We have to be honest, Virgil Goode of the US Taxpayers Party and Ross Anderson of the Natural Law Party have made no impression and they don't have much of a chance with the general public.
Barack Obama's record as President is not wonderful and not quite what he promised. Despite the lousy hand he was dealt by inheriting the ravaged economy advanced by the irresponsible policies of the Bush Administration and an obstructionist Congress, Obama does indeed have a record to defend this time around. So let's look at it.
Obama's record of achievement, from universal health care to equal pay for women is astonishingly solid. As historian Douglas Brinkley notes: “Obama represents a new type of 21st century politician: the Progressive Firewall. He is the last line of defense that prevents America's hard-won social contract from being defunded into oblivion.”
* Universal Healthcare. Is way overdue in this country and Obama was instrumental in navigating it through. Republicans in the House have voted more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare - a move that would deplete the Medicare trust fund eight years early, kick 6.8 million young adults off their parent's health insurance and cost seniors on average $700 more for prescription drugs; not to mention being able to rescind insurance policies when people get sick.
Mitt Romney's plan of repealing Obamacare would hand over nearly $400 billion in tax revenues to those who earn above $250,000 a year and force us all into insurance plans enriching only those selling them, as it is estimated it would cost senior citizens currently on Medicare an additional $6700 to $12,000 per year in the first year alone.
The so-called 'Ryan Plan' - orchestrated by Romney's vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan - would voucherize Medicare, subjecting seniors to the whims of the private market. By 2050, as inflation took its toll, buying a policy as good as present-day Medicare would cost an 85-year old more than $50,000 under this hair-brained plan. Aren't the current 20-somethings going to love it when their parents need to move into their home because the simple concept of a nursing home is out of reach.
* The Federal Budget. The last time a Republican presidential candidate touted an agenda to cut spending, lower taxes, boost defense and balance the budget was Ronald Reagan in 1980. Similar to Romney & Ryan, Reagan didn't have an actual plan for his spending cuts - they were an accounting fantasy. And in the end Reagan's tax cuts went through as promised and the Pentagon budget soared, but the spending cuts never materialized. Reagan wound up tripling the debt.
If it didn't work for Reagan, it's not going to work for Romney. According to Reagan's own budget director back then, David Stockman: “The Republican record on spending control is so abysmally bad that at this point they don't have a leg to stand on. The last GOP administration turned $5 trillion in projected surplus into $5 trillion in new debt.”
And let's look at the so-called Ryan Blueprint approved by the House and voted for by 40 GOP senators. If signed into law by a President Romney, it would slash spending on college tuition grants by 42 percent next year and kick 1 million students out of the program. It would also gut funding for public schools, food and drug safety, basic science research and law enforcement. But it would increase Pentagon spending by an extra $29 billion per year. Is this really the direction we want to move in?
* The Rich Get Richer. Extending the Bush era tax-cuts which is what Ryan & Romney intend to do would blow a $3.8 trillion hole in the budget over the next decade. In fact, the Ryan Budget approved by the House goes even further and doles out another $2.5 trillion to the wealthiest Americans by reducing the tax rate on top earners from 35 to only 25 percent, in addition to ending the alternative minimum tax, which is a safeguard enacted to protect against tax cheats.
The math doesn't get any more simpler, nor stark, than this reality.
But mainly, it's a question of extremism: does America want to blindly move in such a radically black & white direction, forgetting the shades of grey and middle class that comprise the substance & soul of our country?
Appearances can be deceiving, especially when you look at the presidencies of Harry Truman and Richard Nixon. Truman was a rags to riches story. He took over when a popular President died, ended WWII decisively and set the tone for the rebuilding of Europe, proposing the United Nations and initiating the Marshall Plan. Nixon took over when the nation was in turmoil. He also ended a war, along with opening China. He also was the President who signed the EPA and OSHA into law, benefiting workers and communities more than almost any acts in the last 50 years. These guys got things done, despite a lack of popularity. They executed and that's what the Presidency is, an Executive position.
Presidential elections are rarely popular vote landslides. That's not going to happen here, either. Our best guess on this front is 52% to Obama, 47% to Romney and 1% split among the others.
The thing is, we don't elect the President by popular vote. While there is a lot of debate on the Electoral College, it makes sure we have a national election, with all regions represented, even if there is a particularly strong leaning in more populous parts of the country.
Without the Electoral College, California, New York and Texas would choose the President and the rest of us would just deal with it. With voter turnouts usually below 50%, we are only using a statistical sampling of public opinion, anyway.
The Electoral College is where Romney is going to have a problem. The most populous States traditionally lean “Blue” and will probably do it again this year. States like Ohio, which traditionally lean right, may fall to Obama due to Romney's positions on the Stimulus and manufacturing.
This Presidential race is going to be one of those definitive generational defining elections. Regardless of which candidate you support, we urge you to exercise that most precious right that generations of Americans have fought and died for and make your voices heard at the polls on November 6th.