Today, I am voting for Barack Obama for President of the United States.
This will be the third time I have voted for him. I voted for him in the 2008 Maryland primary. I voted for him in the 2008 general election. I have not had a single doubt in my mind that I will vote for him again today. The only time I have ever doubted it was in the 2008 primary, when I felt torn between him and Hillary Clinton. Not once has my vote “mattered.” In 2008, I lived in Baltimore, a city that is predominantly African-American and was hugely supportive of Obama, and I have always lived in blue states.
But this vote still means a lot to me. A vote is a symbol, and this President has been hugely influential on my life. One of Obama’s healthcare reforms–letting a child stay on a parent’s insurance until they are 26–meant that when I learned I had a pancreatic tumor, I was able to get the best treatment. I was 23 and underemployed. If it wasn’t for President Obama, I would have faced a dilemma that many have faced and will continue to face–do I plunge myself and my family into crippling financial debt, or do I take a risk with my life? I was very lucky to have an insured parent–that’s not something I take for granted. But nobody deserves to be in the position of feeling like they cannot afford to live.
As a woman, I believe that a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for death. It’s almost certain that a Supreme Court justice will be appointed in the next four years: if Mitt Romney makes that decision, it will be a justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade. Without Roe v. Wade, abortion will become illegal in many states. Unfortunately, criminalizing abortion does not make abortion rates go down. It simply forces women into risking their own lives. This is unacceptable.
President Obama understands that reproductive rights are not the rights of a “special interest group.” Birth control is an economic issue–and not just in the sense that many women have spent thousands of dollars on it. Birth control allows women the economic freedom to get an education, to work a job, and to determine how many children they have. All of these have been tied to economic growth. This does not just affect us here in the United States, but across the world: Mitt Romney has promised to reinstate the global gag order. This means that women in developing countries will also have their reproductive rights denied to them–and they will be severely disadvantaged in their economic empowerment.
President Obama is also a supporter of fair pay practices for women. He does not believe that my work should be less valued because I am a woman. I don’t believe that either. President Obama also believes that a family is defined by love, not by gender. Mitt Romney does not respect the basic human dignity of the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community. He does not think they are capable of being parents. This is a horribly degrading view that marginalizes thousands of people–and keeps children who desperately need loving parents away from those parents.
President Obama has also spoken about climate change and understands that it is a real problem that we need to address. As I write this, early on the morning of November 6th, it is hovering close to freezing in New York City. Thousands across the area–including my parents and other people I care about–are without power, huddling under blankets to keep warm. Another storm is coming. This week, I saw my home become a disaster zone–and I saw a President step up to take on the challenge. Romney has spoken about the need to de-federalize disaster relief, in the name of small government. In some things, I also believe in small government. What I don’t believe in is a government that stands by while its citizens face a freak storm–which has been linked to climate change–and freeze and starve to death. In fourteen months, New York City has taken the unprecedented steps of closing its transit system and evacuating neighborhoods–twice. As Bloomberg said in his endorsement, if this is a trend, it’s not sustainable.
I do believe that Mitt Romney is a smart man who has business acumen. I believe in capitalism. I also believe that the government has a role in capitalism–making sure that the free market economy does not leave some to live without the basic dignity of human beings. Taxes are part of the social contract. When you have reaped the most from our economy, you also must give back the most. You give back because you may be on the bottom one day, but even if you are not, you give back because we are human beings. We are social creatures who are stronger as communities than individuals. Mitt Romney has nothing but contempt for those who struggle financially–even though he is directly responsible for many of those struggles due to his tenure at Bain Capital.
On a less ideological level, I believe that President Obama understands that economically, we cannot go back to where we were pre-2008 and have it be sustainable. Bubble economies are never sustainable. I wish that President Obama had been able to pass more comprehensive reform. I wish he had reinstated regulations of Wall Street. I give him credit for containing the damage. I give him credit for understanding Keynesian economics, which is what helped us out of the Great Depression and what will help us out of the Great Recession. There is no easy fix for our economy. Those who cling to the idea that we can easily and quickly get back to where we were are, quite frankly, delusional. We built a castle of cards in this country, and it has collapsed. President Obama wants to build something solid, that can last. Mitt Romney simply wants to start stacking the cards again.
Four years ago, I stood in a Baltimore intersection at midnight as people cheered in the streets. Nobody had planned to come to that intersection, it was a natural progression as people could not contain their pride and excitement. We had elected the first African-American President of the United States. Unfortunately, since he has taken office, he has faced a vitriolic campaign of racism and xenophobia. There is no other way to read the birther movement. He has faced a movement bent on opposing him at every turn–and despite that, he has done well. He has done historic, great things. The fact that he has “fallen short” of the message of hope and change is not a reflection on him, but a reflection on the nasty political rhetoric in this country.
Four years ago, I was overcome with emotion. Today, I am even more emotional. I am full of anxiety, like many others I know. This election is about life and death to me. It’s about my own life. It’s about the lives of many women who will choose between bodily integrity and an unsafe abortion. It’s about the lives President Obama saved by pulling us out of the wars. It’s about the lives of the young LBGTQ people in this country who, if Romney wins, will be given the message that their rights do not matter. It’s about the lives of those in Staten Island, and the Jersey Shore, and the Rockaways, and Coney Island, and Long Island–who are rebuilding what they can with the knowledge that this may happen again.
I am voting for President Obama because I believe in the dream of America. I believe that we have not achieved that dream yet, but we have made huge progress in the two hundred and thirty-eight years since that dream’s inception. We have a long way to go. We have to solve our justice system and our penal system. We have to give full rights to the LGBTQ community. We have to fully enfranchise everyone, and be sure that our electoral system most accurately represents the people of this country. I would not be opposed to a system that gave third parties a bigger voice.
But a vote for President Obama is a vote for progress. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for going backwards. On this cold morning the choice is clear. I don’t know what the future of this country holds, and I understand that the unknowable is terrifying to many, especially those who have it relatively well now. But if we keep going backwards, we’ll keep ending up right back here.
Written by Jess Mary Aloe
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