The only reason I won’t be using my overseas ballot to vote for Jill Stein in the upcoming American elections is that I think Barack Obama has done well as president and deserves four more years to complete the job he has credibly started. If the Democratic Party should, at some future point, be led by a Clintonian triangulator who never saw a principle it couldn’t sell out for re-election, though, I would certainly consider her in the future.
As I have noted numerous times in the past, I supported Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000, and returned to the Democrats to vote for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. The Clinton/Gore wing of the Democrats is still one I regard, to paraphrase Howard Dean, as not exactly being the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party”. Many of the deregulations responsible for today’s financial crisis originated not with Reagan or one of the Bushes, but with Clinton’s “Third Way” White House. If that crowd took over the Democrats again (particularly another Clinton did so) I would not hesitate to go off in search of alternatives.
The interesting thing about the political platform offered by Jill Stein, in opposition to Obama, is that much of it reads like an Obama “wish list”. If he were not harassed constantly by Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress, it seems pretty clear that Obama would seek to achieve most if not all of the things Stein states she favours in her policy documents.
This sort of thing was not true back when Ralph Nader ran against Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Bill Clinton ran in 1996 on his signature so-called achievement of “welfare reform”, a phony issue his spin doctors concocted to position the Democrats in the political centre, which political scientist Joe Soss described this way: “Welfare reform has coincided with massive growth in income and wealth disparities; it has done little to slow the expansion of inequality and may have actually accelerated the trend. Has welfare reform created job opportunities for the poor? Has it promoted wages that allow low-wage workers to escape poverty? In both of these areas, the economic story remains the same: we have little evidence that reform has produced achievements that warrant the label of success.” (Mr. Soss’s book, by the way, is devoted to a discussion of how the Clinton “welfare reform” effort is regarded as successful today largely because specific policy tests which might have shown it to have failed in certain respects were simply not done.)
By contrast, Clinton had promised in 1992 to commit the US to a national health care plan, and in a speech to both houses of Congress on 22 September 1993, he made the case for a “health security card”, on the model of the social security card, to become a proud possession of all Americans. Look, I even have a picture of him waving the prototype card he had made up for that speech, to demonstrate his alleged seriousness about the whole thing: http://www.usatoday.com/news/_photos/2009/09/09/clinton.jpg … this photo courtesy of USA Today, which ran an article on Obama giving a similar speech in 2009 (and soon afterwards actually getting a national health care plan through Congress during _his_ presidency).
So let me just sum up what I’m saying here. Clinton, proposed health care in a 1993 speech, encountered fierce resistance from Republicans, dropped it like a hot potato, campaigned instead in 1996 on “welfare reform” because conservative individuals think that’s a thing, did not return after that to the health care topic for the entirety of his presidency.
By contrast, when Obama has met with resistance from Republicans, yes, he has compromised and made deals, but he has also made a point, where he really disagrees with the Republicans, of making said compromises temporary. He did that, in case anyone has forgotten this, with the Bush Tax Cuts, which he did extend in 2010, but which he pointedly said he would not accept as permanent, and against which he has campaigned in this election campaign. Here’s an AP story about that in case you think I’m making that up: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2012/president/candidates/obama/2012/09/03/new-obama-makes-middle-class-appeal/UtZahfZPFzYllJLjaJwoiP/story.html … my point here is that there is a difference between a temporary compromise and rebranding yourself as someone more like your opponent. I hope that’s coming off clearly?
It’s not always clear to me that Obama is free of the influence of the worst of the Democratic Party’s triangulating advisor elite, but the Obama I have seen in office the past four years is an impressive mixture of a principled statesman and a realistic politician, and someone who has made steady progress. The only progress I saw Bill Clinton make in eight years was progress at not being voted out of office. When the country needed important changes, he found other things to do.
I’m not going to give you the tired “Obama’s not perfect” line, because I don’t think any politician is likely to be perfect, and because what matters to me is that he’s a _lot_ better than any other candidate is likely to be. This does include Jill Stein, who may deserve kudos on principles and proposed policies, but who has not yet demonstrated an ability to get people to vote for her.
I say that as someone who has chosen principles over a “realism” devoid of content in the past. If I felt Obama offered an empty “realism”, I would be advising you to vote for Stein, as she has a good vision of in what directions Americans should be charting their course. (Here’s a copy of her platform if you’d like to see what I mean: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/jillstein/pages/620/attachments/original/
But I’ve seen what empty “realism” really looks like, for eight years from 1993 to 2001. Just because the president hasn’t solved everyone’s problems yet doesn’t mean he has completely failed. Keep Ms. Stein on standby, but make your mark for the President, please.