If I could vote in the Presidential election…

Barack Obama
Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

It would not be for Mitt Romney.

If this means a stampede to the exits from some of you, sorry.

But that’s how I feel.

I have a “green card”, (pink actually), that allows me to work and live in the U.S. But, for a variety of reasons, I do not have citizenship. I can easily get it, and retain my Canadian cititzenship as well. I just have not made that choice.

So I can’t vote for anyone.

I watched President Obama’s speech, and those of his VP Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton — who I’ve seen a few feet away in a local restaurant, as we live about a 15 minute drive south of his home.

I came to the U.S. to live in 1989, writing on the consular application “better job opportunities” as my reason. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed.

That, and two American husbands (not simultaneously.)

It’s been a really rough four years and I’m terrified that Obama is not going to be re-elected. Not because I think he’s done such a great job, hamstrung by partisan politics.

But the notion of Mitt Romney, and his dressage-horse-owning wife, his $250 million fortune, his absolute disregard for the middle class (and below) — and his Mom jeans — in the White House is making me look at my Canadian passport with longing.

Would I leave if he won? It’s not that simple.

But I would want to.

I’m a self-employed, middle-aged feminist. Republicans care not a whit for anyone in those three categories.

Every week another insane-o Republican politician, usually male, tosses some red meat into the cage by offering up yet another way to control our reproductive rights. As many of us have noted, Republicans loathe government intervention into any aspect of their lives — but they love telling American women what to do with our bodies. It’s my uterus, boys. Back off!

A third of American workers now look like me: self-employed, permalance, temp or contract. That means the only way to get health insurance is to marry someone who has it or buy it, at whatever price is on offer, on the open market. For anyone living in New York, you’re looking at $600-1,200 a month, easy. You can go bankrupt paying for health insurance or you can go bankrupt with enormous medicals bills. Now that’s my kind of economic freedom.

I’m also weary of the fantasy that the wealthy are “job creators.” They’re not. Right now, American corporations are earning record profits, (often having pounded their desperate, un-unionized workers into lower wages and worse working conditions), and are stuffing their pockets with that dough. They are not hiring or giving raises, promotions or bonuses.

The latest job numbers are terrible — only 96,000 new jobs were added here in August.

And the two largest areas of job growth?

Foodservice and retail, the subject of my memoir of working 27 months as a sales associate.

Dead-end jobs for lousy pay.

From The New York Times, August 30, 2012:

The occupations with the fastest growth were retail sales (at a median wage of $10.97 an hour) and food preparation workers ($9.04 an hour). Each category has grown by more than 300,000 workers since June 2009.

Some of these new, lower-paying jobs are being taken by people just entering the labor force, like recent high school and college graduates. Many, though, are being filled by older workers who lost more lucrative jobs in the recession and were forced to take something to scrape by.

“I think I’ve been very resilient and resistant and optimistic, up until very recently,” said Ellen Pinney, 56, who was dismissed from a $75,000-a-year job in which she managed procurement and supply for an electronics company in March 2008.

Since then, she has cobbled together a series of temporary jobs in retail and home health care and worked as a part-time receptionist for a beauty salon. She is now working as an unpaid intern for a construction company, putting together bids and business plans for green energy projects, and has moved in with her 86-year-old father in Forked River, N.J.

“I really can’t bear it anymore,” she said.

Either can I.

Americans’ slavish devotion to the “free market” is killing the hopes and lives of millions. People who can’t find a job and can’t afford to go back to school to re-train (again) because — funny thing — they’re already in debt from the crappy mortgage they bought or they ran through savings in the years it took to find their last job or because getting the next costly credential is no guarantee that anyone is going to hire you.

For those of you who live outside the U.S., the defining mythology here is that of the boot-strapper, that each of us is fully able, from birth onward, to create and define and shape our lives.

Regardless of race, education, family background.

I’ve spent a lot of time, as a reporter, talking to people whose lives make this a lie:

— A woman who shot her husband dead because the police were unable or unwilling to stop him stalking her.

— The 19-year-old raped in the dark, dirty hallway of the public housing where she lived.

— The family who showed me a quilt with the images of their mother and father, both killed violently, woven into it.

— The contractor who had to fire half his staff because he could not afford to keep them.

— The businessman paying $1,000+ every month to buy health insurance for his family.

— The student terrified to be job-less because she’s carrying $30,000+ of student loan debt.

The U.S. is a great place to live if you’re smart, strong, well-educated, healthy, socially connected. Don’t get sick. Don’t need help. Don’t have dependent family members who can’t earn their own way.

If someone tries to crawl into your lifeboat — say the Republicans — beat the oars on their frozen hands and tell them to save themselves. No one ever needs help. It’s their own fault!

If you’re unlucky enough to be ill, old, physically weak, in debt, financially illiterate…you’re Republican carrion.

If the Republicans win the White House, I fear, deeply and genuinely fear, for the well-being of all but the winners at the craps table of laissez-faire free-market capitalism.

How are you feeling about this election?

Do you plan to vote?

36 thoughts on “If I could vote in the Presidential election…

  1. I’m voting for the incumbent, because the Republicans have offered up a Stepford choice, programmed to say whatever blows in on the wind. He’s a trojan horse, loaded chock full of the fundamentalist and mathematically impaired. Politics will make the most honorable people into gigolos. Even the President is not appealing as a choice, but at least we can now say he has experience. It’s always about the lesser of two evils.

  2. I’m a Canadian, and believe me, the leadership choices up here are pretty depressing, too – you don’t want to come back here! I love how Americans are engaged in political discussions. I know Obama has disappointed on many fronts, but he wasn’t exactly dealt an easy hand by his Republican predecessors. It’s much easier to talk about doing the job than actually doing it. He has not been afraid to make tough decisions. Choosing Romney would take America back into a very dark age, especially for women and the middle class. I read a quote recently somewhere: “Obama may not be a great politician, but he is a great leader.” Go out and vote, American friends. The ballot is your voice.

  3. I was incredibly shocked by the shooting at the PQ election this week. What is going on up there?

    I come back to visit Canada several times every year so keep up a bit. I do know how utterly loathed Rob Ford is as Toronto’s mayor…

    In all my years here, I’ve never felt so nervous about what will happen. I can’t bear the right-wing craziness likely to descend if Romney wins.

  4. Okay, Caitlin, I’m rising to the bait. I usually avoid the topic of politcs except with people I know quite well but I have a few minutes this evening so I am sticking my neck out for you to step on. In your post and in the comments so far I am reading the same tired and overworked issues that I have been hearing for most of my life. The message I get is that you want the government to take care of your every problem and every need. First, I would like you to understand that I have no objection to that —– providing that the government has the money to do it. That brings us to the most critical and monumental problem facing this nation today. A problem that you didn’t mention. This nation is bankrupt and plunging deeper into the abyss every day and it is all from the government trying to be everybody’s benefactor. The government has made a colossal mess of our economy and the only thing they can come up with is to keep doing more of the same. There is a saying that only a fool will keep trying the same thing over and over while expecting different results. The federal government has encouraged and abetted impossible levels of private debt and then blamed the banks when the bubble burst. It has hampered industry with taxes and mandates and then put industry in direct competition with low-standard countries by adopting free trade. When industries were forced to move out of the U.S. in order to compete, government blamed the industries. Please note that I am blaming government, not a political party. This has all taken place while the baton was passed back and forth several times.
    You may be asking, “What is your point?” My point is that our government has spent itself into bankruptcy while crippling the best sources of jobs and revenue. This is the problem that urgently needs correction. The idea that the government can keep pumping out money and somehow spend us back into prosperity is a fallacy. The government has no money. The only way the government can hand out stimulus money is by first taking it from the citizens so all it can do is take money out of circulation and then put it back into circulation, after wasting a large part of it. The whole thing is counter productive and puts us further in debt.
    In four years President Obama has spent money like a drunken sailor but has done nothing to correct the things that got us into this mess. During his campaign for the presidency he vowed to cut the deficit in half within two years. Didn’t happen! He has repeatedly complained that he inherited the problems from the previous administration. That is only partly true. This has been building through a number of administrations. Will Romney do any better? I don’t know but Obama has not shown any ability or any desire to get it under control. I don’t think we can wait. I think we have to do something different.
    To you, Caitlin, I say, “This a looming catastrophy. Put your selfish needs aside for now and put your efforts behind anything that will get this nation back to the greatness we used to know. Then, perhaps you can be pampered again.”
    P.S. Please don’t stomp on my neck too hard.

    1. I’m not going to get into chapter and verse with you.

      If you read my post carefully, you’ll be quite clear that I do not, nor did I say or imply that I “want the government to take care of your every problem and every need.” I’m fiscally fairly conservative, so your comment is inaccurate in this respect.

      What I said, and I will repeat it only once, is that: 1) I want no government interference with my reproductive rights; 2) I am tired of the hypocrisy and lies, contradicted by every business report I read, that the wealthy are “job creators” who have won the right of further tax protection and 3) that health care is a basic human right, not a luxury good.

    2. The assumption that new is better drives me nuts. You really have to look qualitatively at what is being offered as a solution. The fact of the matter is, we Americans want instantaneous gratification, a magic pill for all the ills in our country. Nobody wants to hear the “stay the course” message (except when it’s Reagan). Like small children, we stomp our feet when we don’t get what we want right away. I heard numbers from the Democrats (thank you, finally, Mr. Clinton) and demagoguery from the Republicans. Demagoguery doesn’t solve economic problems, either. It does laugh in the face of smaller government since somebody is going to have to regulate all these uteruses (uteri?) running amok.

      1. I’m seeing a T-shirt here, or maybe a band name…Uteri Running Amok!

        In my earlier reporting on healthcare issues, and on gun use/control, I’ve seen how gutless many politicians are, terrified to alienate their big $$$$ supporters and lose their votes, when their JOB is to create policies that will benefit those who voted for them, long-term. Much change is incremental and does, indeed require time and patience.

    3. No, not every need, but some needs. It is actually not good for society as a whole to have uneducated, impoverished citizens who are unable to find a productive place in society. It causes problems for other people. Expensive problems.

      1. Enlightened self-interest works for me as long as it includes a social safety net. Many people fall into financial disarray after that tedious phrase of “playing by the rules.”

        The rules are not created by them to begin with.

  5. I’m a left-leaning independent who thinks the Democrats have a plan which is much more than the Republicans are putting forward. I get the impression that Obama wanted to be a reforming president but was genuinely surprised at the level of opposition he came up against and has struggled to figure a plan to get his goals accomplished. I think he is a gifted speaker, but honestly, he was shown up by the FLOTUS and former President Clinton who defended his record better than HE has done up to this point.

    1. It’s often been said that Obama, for a variety of reasons, is not great at explaining or defending himself. I agree with you on that. Did you know he’s a TCK? A third culture kid? He shows many of their characteristics, good and bad. Many Americans do not find him sufficiently relatable.

  6. Oh, and I believe that the marriage between the conservatives and the hyper religious is one that they (the politicians) will come to rue. It’s lowered the effectiveness of political dialog and the ability of legislators to reach equitable compromise. Besides which, the religious right is trying to force people to go back on issues long resolved. I saw a protester the other day on the news dressed in full turn of the century suffragette regalia holding a sign reading, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.” So say we all!

    1. That meme pops up on my FB feed a lot. It is an issue that makes me apoplectic.

      In 1976 (!) in Canada where I attended university we then all knew about, and had ready access to, the morning after pill. Women in this country seem to have no ability (!????) to FIGHT hard and collectively for our most basic rights.

  7. You don’t need to apologize for your beliefs no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on.
    Good choice, by the way. Romney would be a disaster for this country..and for the world.

  8. antsjuices

    So you don’t want Romney elected because you hate the rich? Listen, i don’t know how you do things in Canada, but int he US if your hire a contractor and he doesn’t do the work, you don’t hire him again. Obama has been a do nothing President when we needed a man with a plan (not some nice speeches). He doesn’t deserve a second term because he doesn’t deserve a second chance.

    1. Um, no.

      Did you read my post in its entirety? My single greatest opposition to Romney and his party is their insistence on trying to remove from women the legal ability to control their reproductive choices. The rest is annoying but that’s my dealbreaker.

      I am happy to hear other, civil opinions. I am not willing to engage in false arguments. Nowhere does my post say “I hate the rich.” I have zero tolerance of anyone unwilling to acknowledge others’ real needs. In Canada, in the U.S. and anywhere else.

  9. Oh, I’m voting for Obama, no doubt about that! Republicans are living in a weird dream or hallucination, and I don’t want any part of it! I don’t want them ruining the economy, regulating the women and girls I’m friends and family with, or anything else! And that trickle-down theory? If I give you $25,000 will you give nearly all of it away? Not likely, so why do it on a grander scale with millionaires!

  10. Obviously I cannot vote being a Canadian, but I wish I could. I see regular anti-Obama posts on facebook on a regular basis. It has me wondering if people are racist or did they simple believe that it would only take four years to fix the nightmare created by the Bush administration. When Obama was elected, the rest of the world took a deep and relaxing breath and thought, FINALLY! Americans became friends again and the trusted neighbour to the south. I hope he gets to stay.

  11. I admire you for broaching this subject so candidly. If I were to vote, I would vote for Obama.

    I haven’t made that decision yet. Issues like the U.S. military’s drone attacks, the indefinite detention of prisoners like Bradley Manning (and all the nameless — darker skinned “terror suspects”), the rate of incarceration of people convicted of non-violent crimes, make it increasingly more difficult for me to accept politics as usual.

    There are Republicans in my extended family. Since I crumbled into a crying fit whilst failing miserably to defend the merits of, then presidential hopeful, John Kerry back in ’04, we’ve entertained an unspoken agreement to stick to common-ground topics. I periodically hear conservative tinted near-jargon code words coming from young family members — teenagers I love — and it’s painful. They were born in crisp new uniforms on second base (heck, stealing third) and tend to sound critical of those who strike-out. I’m sure I spouted plenty of misinformed and hurtful opinions when I was a teenager — so I keep telling myself to be patient with them.

    From the very personal to the broad end of the spectrum — it all seems dismal to me.

    Elizabeth Warren — maybe she can help me recapture my hope for brighter days.

    1. Thanks for such a long and thoughtful comment!

      I am not 100% in favor of any politician or their platform, which is why I’ve chosen to be able to not vote. I’ve yet to see a candidate that moves me to do so. But I find Romney and his ilk so utterly repugnant in every way. While I admire fiscal conservatism, I also believe in creating and maintaining a much more level playing field than now exists…with him in power, be afraid, be very afraid IF you are not already doing just fine. Millions are not.

      I LOVE Elizabeth Warren. Talk about someone speaking truth to power. Swoon. 🙂

  12. Deviess

    I hate that my comment lacks a little diversity but I too plan to vote for president Obama in the coming fall.

    While in 2008, he showed great promise for change, I admit he failed to live up to the standards he set (not the first candidate to do so, in his defense)

    However, my motivation this year is not the hope for change but the fear of it. Republicans have set up a platform in which I feel move this country backwards and force people to re-fight battles they already won. When I have to fight my contraceptive to be covered by my health insurance, fight for what is considered rape, and why I choose not to bring a child in this world, I can’t help but feel a tinge of deja vu. But especially with the latter of those battles, I think the debate is justifiable but gone about in the wrong way. That decision alone is a terrible and difficult one to make, but it should be left to the soon to be mother and not a panel of men who knows not of or does not care to hear of her circumstances.

    And now I have to worry if my vote is going to be counted and hope that I do not have to fill out a provisional ballot with the chance that my vote for a leader migh not to be counted.

    Obama may not be the best, especially at politics, but at least he gives the the feeling that he’s fighting for my best interests. Mitt Romney? I think he’s too busy worrying what others in his party think of him and to me not is not a quality of a leader but someone who could be easily manipulated and who changes their mind and policies based on polls. And just like in 2004, the current leader may not be the best but his opposing candidate sure isn’t the new answer.

    Sorry about the long comment but yeah that’s my opinion.

    1. “my motivation this year is not the hope for change but the fear of it. Republicans have set up a platform in which I feel move this country backwards and force people to re-fight battles they already won. When I have to fight my contraceptive to be covered by my health insurance, fight for what is considered rape, and why I choose not to bring a child in this world, I can’t help but feel a tinge of deja vu.”

      Exactly. Thanks for making the time to comment.

  13. As a left leaning female American, I’m deeply saddened–and terrified–by so much of what I see happening today. We are sliding backwards, instead of moving forward. I’m not thrilled by all that Obama has/has not done, but I think I’m realistic, no one could have “fixed” our economy in 4 years without a magic wand, and I don’t hesitate to say I believe he is the (way) better choice. I’m honestly confused by how many people (women, low/middle income, those with chronic health conditions) are arguing against their own interests.

  14. I wonder, as well, why women and the poor and the sick would/will vote for a wealthy man who has NO idea what it means to struggle and whose party is only interested in cutting taxes and spending, regardless what that money is spent on. I moved here in 1989 with an optimism about that major life choice that now looks increasingly foolish and ill-considered. I see just about zero compassion anywhere in the political sphere and millions of people who continue to struggle, and mightily.

    Now in my mid-50s, it’s not a great time to make any major move, though. Sigh.

  15. Caitlin, I take voting seriously, and each time a Republican wins, I think of moving to Canada. I am also scared that President Obama will not be re-elected. I never wanted to be wrong about something other than that. No woman in their right mind should vote for Romney. I heard someone on NPR say they supported Mitt and Ann Romney–especially Ann because she “looks like a real first lady.” I thought that was a racist remark, and I’m angry at the reporter for not asking, “what does a first lady look like?” Michelle Obama is one of the best first ladies we’ve had.

  16. The Republicans seem to be in denial about an awful lot of things, and the more I read about certain people in the party, and their views, and even recently about Paul Ryan (who I’d never heard of until recently), the more appalled I am. Almost every single thing about them feels wrong – their ridiculous statements about women and their vaginas and rape (most prominently), their desire for further tax-breaks for the super-rich (what? WHY? The rich aren’t the ones who are feeling the brunt of unemployment and recession)… So much of it is unbelievable. I can’t imagine that women out there can actually vote for Romney, though of course there will be (possibly many)… It seems like the ultimate showdown between forward-thinking liberalism and an awful sort of backsliding conservatism. And I really hope the former demographic comes forth in all its numbers.

    1. Amen to all of this.

      The challenge is that Republicans look to the rich and see themselves; their worldview seems to validate all their belief systems. Democrats are trying to the playing field level and it’s not. It’s increasingly tilted so steeply that a lot of people are falling off.

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