Saturday, 3 November 2012

I'm Voting Conservative

Since my Irish Echo colleague, Gerry Adams, will supply next week’s column, this will be my final missive about the presidential election. Hooray for Sinn Fein, says your man from Pearl River!

What a long strange trip this election season has been; and the oddest part of it for me: despite the acres of words written about him, I still have little sense of Gov. Romney.

Part of this stems from his unwillingness to speak openly about his core religious beliefs. In fairness, Mormonism has been viewed suspiciously, and even persecuted, since its foundation in upstate New York almost 200 years ago.

Despite this, it’s a credit to the country that the Governor’s religion has played little role in this election. But I would venture to suggest that Mormon turnout in Nevada and Colorado could swing those two pivotal states into the Republican column.

Now, I’m of the opinion that a president’s private beliefs should remain his own. And yet, I have no idea how a President Romney would react to a major international crisis. And that’s scary – given our alliance with Israel and the lines in the sand that are being drawn with regard to Iran and its nuclear program.

The US suffered much from the melding of President Bush’s biblical fantasies and his obsession with fictional weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And who could have guessed that the supposedly agnostic British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, shared many of these beliefs and delusions until he revealed them in his memoirs.

Now hopefully Gov. Romney is the ultra-pragmatic venture capitalist of his memoir but that’s hard to be certain of for his positions seem to change by the day – probably because he must appease the many factions of a deeply divided Republican party that range from an apocalyptic Christian Right through neo-conservative Iraq War apologists to deficit hawks.

In contrast the once-turbulent Democrat Party seem more like a Saturday afternoon knitting circle. Though often labeled a socialist, so staid and centrist are President Obama’s views he might not even gain membership of the Wexford Labour Party, not exactly a fire-breathing Trotskyite cell.

The much derided Obamacare, though a step in the right direction, is essentially a patching together of existing systems that will do little to bring down overall medical costs; in fact, it used to be the Republican alternative to the Clintons’ much more efficient version of a single-payer system.

Odd as it may seem, “no drama” Obama is the real conservative in this election. We know his policies and their likely effect; should lady luck favor him the economy will improve steadily over the next four years - though the middle class will continue to shrink because of the lack of any major restraints on corporate power.

Contrast that with the Republican ticket. Slash taxes 20% in a Hail Mary pass that will hopefully shock-start the economy! But what if it doesn’t? The deficit will surely balloon unless you cut defense, entitlements or mortgage interest tax deductions. Given the saber-rattling about Iran, my guess is that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and homeowner relief will all take a big hit.

That’s the problem with current Republican fiscal policy – it’s of the wing and prayer variety with little reality basis, except that it was tried by the last Bush administration and led to the evisceration of the Clinton surplus.

Likewise the mad urge to eliminate Obamacare – and replace it with what? As it stands even the insurance companies don’t want to go back to the old broken system – and why should they with so many new clients arriving courtesy of Obamacare mandatory coverage.

All that being said, I’m coming to agree with a friend who believes that this election will be decided less on economic matters than the reluctance of women to trust Romney/Ryan on social issues. She feels that with a couple of Supreme Court justices likely to be replaced in the next four years women are leery of upsetting the current somewhat reasonable balance of power.

So there you have it, faced with a choice between a radical Romney and a conservative Obama – I guess I’ll be voting conservative this year.

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