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ENDORSEMENT: 2012 Presidential Election (Part One)

In 2008, I was very quick to endorse Barack Obama for president. He was one of the first presidential candidates in my lifetime who I felt understood the issues that were important to me and shared my vision for the future of this country.

More than anything, I supported his message of change. Our country had been through a lot under the previous administration: the worst terrorist attack in modern history; two wars that seemed to drag on indefinitely (one of them based on faulty intelligence); the loss of respect from our allies across the West; growing economic inequality; and, finally, a monstrous financial crash the like of which we hadn't seen since the Great Depression. We were more divided politically than we had been in years.

Obama promised to change Washington for the better. He promised to encourage civility and bipartisanship. He promised to work together with Republicans and craft practical, common-sense solutions to our nation's problems. He promised to end the wars overseas. He promised to be more transparent than his predecessor. He promised to fight for the middle class and the disadvantaged.

Very little of what he promised has come to fruition. Washington is more divided than ever. Obama's first piece of legislation, a stimulus bill, included no ideas proposed by Republicans and earned not a single vote from the right side of the aisle. His administration has not been noticeably more transparent, and arguably has been worse. Politicians can no longer earn personal fortunes by trading on insider information, but they can and still do stuff bills with earmarks, bloating our federal budget. Middle class growth remains stagnant, and more people seem disadvantaged today than when he took office.

Of course, this isn't entirely Obama's fault. The president was faced with a nearly impossible situation when he took office. The economy was in the dumps, and unemployment was quickly sinking lower than most economists had predicted. He also faced a highly organized opposition effort. Bi-partisanship requires a willingness to work together from both sides. While Obama certainly missed some opportunities, Republicans went so far in their opposition as to mount a massive legal challenge against an idea they themselves invented and championed during more moderate times, setting Constitutional law back decades in the process.

But Obama is the president, and he could have used his power (both real and symbolic) far more effectively than he did. The first presidential debate of this election cycle is really an excellent encapsulation of Obama's entire first term. Obama -- the great "changer," the magnificent orator, the storyteller -- came into office with immense popularity and people hanging on his every word. He should have used his popularity and oratorical skills to define the solutions to our problems, to sell a vision of how this country should move forward, to give confidence to the markets and to consumers, to inspire young people to push forward, to champion the cause of freedom across the world, to push for unpopular but necessary solutions to tough problems, and to smite partisan opposition. But this president has consistently failed to use his skills in this regard in any kind of meaningful way. As in the debate, he has come across quiet and dispassionate, bordering on lazy.

Substantively, he hasn't done well either. The stimulus bill was not as effective as it might have been. Obamacare solves the dual problems of people being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and people receiving healthcare without first having paid into the system, but it does little to lower healthcare costs, which continue to skyrocket. On issues like immigration, entitlements, and the budget, the administration has refused to propose serious solutions, abdicating leadership to congressional committees or ignoring the issues altogether. His support for a "green revolution" has been little more than pandering -- expensive pandering at that, as many of his investments are now costing taxpayers.

But, at the end of the day, this election is not just a referendum on Obama. If the economy were continuing to plummet, that might be true -- any change might be good change. But the economy is no longer plummeting. It has been very slowly improving over the past 31 months. Not fast enough to help those just graduating from college, those ready to retire, or those who have been unemployed for months, but it is improving.

This election poses a real choice. Do we continue with more-of-the-same -- slow economic improvement and probably fumbled and/or absent leadership? Or do we take a chance on Mitt Romney?

Please see (Part Two)...
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