Obama, Romney represent their parties well

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, October 25, 2012

Many voters don’t identify with either political party. They say, “I vote for the person, not the party.”

That’s seen as a virtue, but it may not be such a good thing, because the party to which a candidate belongs is very important in shaping his or her policies. They are the people who help get them elected, so when a President takes office, he owes a lot to them.

President Obama and Mitt Romney are pretty good representatives of their parties. When we elect either one, we get his party — and its history.

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In 1923, Republican Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” Completing the term of Warren Harding, Coolidge and his successor, Herbert Hoover, gave America 12 years of business-oriented Republican government.

For awhile folks did pretty well, especially bankers, the oil industry, and manufacturers, as automobiles and other new products were built and sold. Stock speculators did especially well.

Sound familiar?

Then, as in 2008, it all came crashing down and the nation fell into the Great Depression. Part of the cause was wild stock speculation, but also farm prices and workers wages that didn’t keep up, so folks couldn’t buy the products businessmen wanted to sell.

When Franklin Roosevelt took over as president in 1933, unemployment stood at 25 percent and businesses and banks were going broke. He and the Democrats in Congress put people back to work building bridges and roads, created Social Security, set a minimum wage employers have to pay.

All these programs put money in people’s pockets, which in turn helped businesses come back when folks started to spend. It took four years, but unemployment was cut in half in FDR’s first term — well before any spending on World War II.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” the British statesman Edmund Burke pointed out.

So, when Republican George W. Bush allowed the reckless speculation on Wall Street, cut taxes mostly for the wealthy, held wages down, and announced his plan to privatize Social Security, the economy reacted in 2008 the same way it did in 1929.

It crashed.

The budget surplus he was handed by President Clinton, turned into a huge deficit, thanks also to the two wars Mr. Bush started in the Middle East, and a prescription drug program which allows corporations to set the prices without any negotiation with government.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, once mostly in the South, became more open and diverse, championing workers, women, and minorities. It passed laws that ended discrimination and raised wages. Democrats also created Medicare and Medicaid to help senior citizens and low-income people pay for health care.

Democratic diversity made it possible for an African-American, born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, Los Angeles, and Chicago — named Barack Hussein Obama — to become America’s President.

Following the example of Roosevelt and other Democrats, Obama secured legislation repairing America’s infrastructure and putting people back to work. It was a smaller program for a somewhat smaller economic collapse, but the results were similar. The economy improved, measurably.

Now, in 2012, the Republican Party has chosen businessman Mitt Romney to try to unseat Obama.

Romney promises to “save” Medicare by partially privatizing it. He woos small business by implying that they alone built their businesses. He offers more large tax cuts, which benefit mostly the wealthy, whom he calls “job creators.”

He and his running mate, Congressman Ryan, opposed Obama’s jobs programs, though Ryan then asked for some of the money for his district. They intend to cut most government programs, including all funds for Public Broadcasting — giving absolute control of our electronic media, and the flow of vital information, to a few private corporations.

Of course, it’s hard to win an election promising policies that mostly benefit big business and the super wealthy, so we’ve seen a huge, corporate-funded campaign of vague promises and smears against President Obama — he’s a Muslim, not born in America, and his programs have made the economy worse — none of which are true, but do fuel a powerful backlash from those who are threatened by diversity.

Obama and the Democratic diversity are probably on the right side of history, but we won’t know until November.


Jack Burgess is a retired teacher of American & Global Studies and a native of southern Ohio.