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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

On Race and Elections

November 8, 2012 3 comments

I lost a friend on Tuesday (and no, it wasn’t America). To be fair, it was more of an acquaintance; I barely knew her. But we’ve been in touch on a superficial level for quite some time–facebook friends, IMs, text messages. She often checked in on me while I was deployed, and just last week I frequently checked in on her while she was stranded in a flooding, powerless house in New Jersey. Our communications were more frequent than they were deep, though, and we almost never actually saw each other. Still, I considered her a friend on some level and planned to visit her soon. That was before election day.

I have to start out by explaining that I really hate when race is brought into conversations. I know that it is still more of an issue than many in America want to admit, but I also feel that it is less of an issue than many people allow it to become. I think that frequently, race is brought up in conversations where it has little or no place–such as recent assertions in the sports world that the “only” grounds for comparison between rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and 2nd-year quarterback Cam Newton is that they are both black. The fact that the two both accomplished a statistical feat that hadn’t been done since the 1940s obviously is no basis for comparison. But I digress. The point is that I don’t like it when race is made to be a central factor on topics around which I think race is probably only a fringe factor. And that’s why I’m so reluctant to say that this election–and elections in general these days–really are a racial issue.

That brings me back to my friend–well, the girl who was my friend. The morning of the election, she wanted to talk about how I was voting. She’s a registered Republican, so I knew that she would be disappointed with my choice. But I had absolutely no idea what was coming next. It started with quips such as “Obama only won because he’s black.” I believe strongly that the only way to draw people out of a bubble of ignorance is to engage them–and to do so tactfully and peacefully no matter your disagreement. The next hour of my life challenged that notion of tact and restraint to the core.

I was informed that Obama “bussed the monkeys and apes out of the ghettos” in 2008. I was told that the only people who vote for Obama are “ghetto trash, white trash, the Spanish, and the Jews.” I personally was told that I was “nasty” because a girl I dated in high school was half-black. And of course, I was fed the line “I have plenty of black friends.” I attempted at great length to get to the root of how she could say such things and then work with and socialize with black people. I tried to find out if she ever shared any of these views. She told me that she knows that she is racist, she doesn’t care, and that “plenty of people” feel that way–they just don’t admit it.

We’ve all seen the racist anti-Obama Twitter feeds (do NOT follow that link unless you want to see very offensive, NSFW language), but this was the first time I have ever experienced such things first-hand; things said not just to draw attention to yourself or to be “funny” on the faceless internet, but as a core belief unshakably being hurled at me by someone I actually know. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to being speechless. And the story ended when, before I regrouped, she ended our “facebook friendship” out of contempt that I am not a racist. This last step fully blew my mind. I had just lost a friend–one that I would have cut from my life anyway–because she decided that she could not carry on a relationship of any kind with someone so tolerant.

Alright, I know. This is all anecdotal. I am in no way asserting that this is the dominant rationale of people voting against Obama. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to vote for Obama. But a friend of mine currently in Europe informed me that in Ireland, the election is being covered largely on the basis of race. And then the aforementioned conversation happened. And then I watched the election results and reactions. More and more, I could not avoid hearing about and thinking about race–but in a wholly different context than outright racism. The dominant discussion about electoral math has now become one of demographics. And while women had their day in the sun during the election, the Hispanic vote and the “minority vote” are winning the conversation about the future, most famously summed up by Bill O’Reilly’s statement that “the white establishment is now the minority.

What shocks me about these conversations is how taken for granted it is that racial voting blocs will remain in tact. The idea that Obama might help usher in the beginning of a post-racial society–even by the most conservative estimates of what that phrase means–are all but a joke now. Lost in the conversation is an effort to level the field to an extent that ethnicity ceases to be an electoral fault line. Conversations about “getting the Hispanic vote” seem to revolve around how best to pander and which issues are most welcoming of the group–as a whole. It all leads me to believe that in regards to race relations–both structural and social–we not only aren’t moving ahead but may even be taking a step back.

A very wise, close friend of mine often reminds me that it was only one generation ago that segregation and civil rights and race riots were the norm; that expecting the nation to heal from these fissures this quickly might have been too much. Maybe it’s not surprising when they bubble to the surface again from time to time. But my reaction to that (my hope, maybe) was always that it should be expected to subside within another generation as the last remnants of such a divisive era move on leaving behind a more tolerant, less wounded society. Given the discourse surrounding the election, I worry that we may be keeping alive these strong divisions for another generation. It’s rare to hear me say this, but… I hope I’m wrong.

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An Open Letter to Fox News Viewers/Readers

November 7, 2012 4 comments

Hello readers,

This is not intended to be a post preaching to the choir. If you are here to laugh at Fox News, then I don’t need you to keep reading. There are many people who I know and love that actually do get the bulk of their news from watching Fox News, reading their website, reading Breitbart.com, listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and other similar methods (but no differing). If this sounds like you, please keep reading. I’d like to talk to you. This is not about the content of the election or the issues espoused by different candidates, but about the information you received. Most of you seem relatively surprised with the results of Tuesday’s election. Many of you professed a great deal of confidence in Governor Romney’s chances on Tuesday night. This troubles me greatly, and I think it opens up an opportunity to understand just how cut off from reality reaffirming media bubbles can become.

You see, this election was not much of a surprise. In fact, according to those who paid a great deal of attention to what was going on in state polls and early voting, the election went almost exactly as expected. Take this quote from The New Yorker’s John Cassidy Tuesday morning:

The vast majority of pundits, academics, and forecasters agree that Obama will win. Indeed, there is a broad consensus about his likely margin of victory in the electoral college: 303 to 235. In addition to myself, a number of prognosticators have settled on these figures. They include the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi; the Slate blogger Matt Yglesias; the Huffpo’s Pollster tracking model; the Web site PredictWise, the consulting firm CabPolitical. Most other forecasts are grouped around the 303-235 projection. Early Tuesday morning, Nate Silver’s 538 model was predicting Obama 315, Romney 223; Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium had it at Obama 309, Romney 229. Larry Sabato and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics were predicting that Obama would do slightly less well but still win. Their figures for the electoral college: Obama 290, Romney 248.

(the whole article is worth a read)

I’ll note that Sam Wang and Nate Silver’s projections stem from expected value models, which are averages of different possible outcomes, not state-by-state projections added up. Looking state-by-state, Nate Silver got everything correct right down to Florida being too close to call with a slight Obama lean. What you see here is a consensus prediction around the exact outcome that occurred. By nearly every detailed, analytical prediction, the only source of disagreement was generally around Virginia and Florida’s results. In addition to human projections, betting sites and market forecasts such as Betfair and Intrade gave Obama strong odds as the favorite.

This information is not meant as a means of gloating. This is just some evidence that the information available regarding this race led to a very easily-predicted outcome. Even as a novice non-pollster, I read enough to feel very confident in the outcome of the election. When I posted a reactionary blog post at 11:23 Tuesday night–just eight minutes after the earliest call of the race (NBC followed shortly after by Fox News)–it wasn’t because I am a very fast typist, and it wasn’t because I wrote a reaction post for either result. It was because I was so sure of the outcome that I planned ahead for it, accused by some of my more worrisome or superstitious friends as possibly jinxing the whole thing.

The reason I want to be clear that this outcome was predictable is that you should by now be wondering why you didn’t see this coming. Why were you fairly sure that Romney would emerge victorious? I think we know the answer. The answer is that Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, and Ben Shapiro told you that Romney was heading for a win–some said a landslide. Unskewedpolls.com explained that the polls (which proved right) were inherently biased and presented its own, very different results (which proved wrong). Any prognosticator or pundit who projected an Obama win–or even a toss-up–on the airwaves that you watched or listened to or in the articles you read were instantly countered with hard theories about why those predictions would prove incorrect. Every poll they chose to report was an optimistic, right-leaning poll while ignoring that it was often a statistical outlier. You were inundated with information about this election that pointed to a Romney win–and maybe even a big one.

And that brings us here. In the information age, you can pick and choose where you get your information. There is more knowledge and data available than ever before. The sources that you have chosen were wrong. They weren’t even close. Many, many other sources got this right. The correct sources were ignored or discredited in your world. This leaves me wondering: is there any such thing as information accountability? Is there a reward for getting things right? A punishment for getting things wrong?

The truth is that the election is not the only issue in which this happens. However, the election provides the clearest opportunity to point out the discrepancy between what you’re being told and what is actually happening. This discrepancy is real. This is not an attack from the “lame stream media.” If you found yourself caught by surprise–both by the Obama victory and by the relatively easy margin of the electoral victory–then you now have the evidence right in front of your face. If I found out that all of the news I had been receiving for the past several weeks was completely tainted by an ideological desire to promote a false version of reality rather than reporting the information that was readily available about the true situation, I would cease to use that source. I’m left wondering, will you?

Gingrich has already admitted that “the whole group of us” got it wrong. Was it a coincidence? I leave you with this admission from Byron Allen of WPA Opinion Research, and a final thought:

As a researcher, I’m sad to admit that I let my hopes overtake the data.  The facts, based on well-conducted survey research, always pointed to an Obama win.  But many Republicans, me included, tried to find a way to argue that the data didn’t mean what it said on its face and that Romney would still win.

(emphasis added)

The election coverage by the right-wing media outlets was deliberately misleading and was proven incorrect. In a world with information at your fingertips, don’t make the same mistake again. Look for different sources. Yours are failing you.

Sincerely,

Max

An Open Letter to Elected Republicans

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Hey guys,  I know it’s been a little bit of a rough day/night for you, and I want to be sympathetic, but I won’t pretend I’m not pretty pleased with the outcome. We all know that you and I have our differences. I imagine losing the presidential election to the incumbent despite poor economic conditions is pretty sobering. You’re probably looking in the proverbial mirror wondering what went wrong. More importantly, you’re probably wondering where does the party go from here. You tried the maverick in 2008. You swung right with the Tea Party in 2010. You went with prototype president version 2.12 in 2012. And yet, Barack Obama is still the president.

There are a number of possible reactions. Was Romney too moderate? Should the party push farther to the right? Maybe the party should continue to blur the lines between being a Republican and a Libertarian. There’s always the option of using a vast media propaganda machine to undermine the legitimacy of the 2012 elections, thus undermining the legitimacy of the Obama administration (thus also undermining the entirety of the American political process, but that’s collateral damage deemed worth it to many). Of all the reactions that you could have, however, I would like to offer one simple suggestion.

Govern. I know, it sounds crazy, right? But after 4 years of trying tooth and nail to limit the actions of the government and the administration, you’ve received a loss. The plan did not work. In 2014, and again in 2016, if you want to make gains and see results, perhaps you should consider giving the people something concrete for which they can vote. Show us that you can work with others and not just against them. We understand that you’re really good at obstructing. We realize that the congress elected in 2010 passed the least amount of legislation of any in recent history by a long shot. Well done.

Now, in a center-right country with a weak economic recovery, you still lost to a Democrat. Maybe what’s missing is the “center” in the center-right. Maybe the rigid adherence to ideology at the expense of results is holding you up. Maybe, over the next two to four years, you should try to give the people something to vote for instead of someone to vote against. Move on from this loss quickly; don’t dwell on the election and try to undermine its results or question its mandate. And when you move on and return to legislation, don’t point fingers across the aisle, but instead look inward and ask, “what can I do within my principles and within the legislative reality that will improve my country?” Try for collaborative accomplishments. I promise you, this strategy more than any other will lead to the results that you want. Until/unless that happens, look for more of the same: a center-right country begrudgingly electing Democrats.

Good luck,
Max Gross

On The Second Presidential Debate… and how stupid it was

October 17, 2012 1 comment

Tonight was a fun night to love politics. I went to an event where a room full of policy students watched the debate together. There was some mild frustration, there were a lot of laughs, and there were some tense moments that drew audible reactions. And somewhere in the middle of it all, it hit me just how stupid this whole spectacle was.

Look, there are plenty of issues to discuss from the debate. There were plenty of potentially big moments. The fact checkers will assuredly be busy. But does any of it matter? Much as cable news has devolved into entertainment, so too has political discourse–and no longer only from the talking heads. The candidates for the highest office in the land themselves are engaged in entertaining the viewers.

In the first debate, Mitt Romney was “aggressive,” which meant he interrupted. That scored well, so now everyone interrupts everyone–each other, moderators, and I’m pretty sure Obama interrupted himself once, though that may have just been a stutter. Romney said he had binders full of women, and the internet lit up with a facebook page and a blog of memes posted before the debate even ended. Obama said that the gang-bangers should be deported, and facebook newsfeeds and twitter went wild. I’m part of this. I enjoyed it. I thought that it was all pretty hilarious.

Did you see what happened when the candidates got a chance to talk to a Hispanic voter? The one who asked about undocumented workers? Did you catch her name? Because the candidates sure did. They each asked her name. Romney asked, checked, re-checked. Then Obama got his chance, and also checked to ensure he had her name right. We need the Hispanic vote! We better get that name right!

And the bickering. When are we going to learn that the only way to moderate a debate is to bestow upon the moderator the power to turn off microphones? The most blatant abuse was when Candy Crowley stated that she had to move on, and Mitt Romney said, point blank, “No.” That was the trend all night. Talking at each other, over each other, over the moderator, around the topic, off the topic, returning to topics long-since-passed.

Zingers. One-liners. Gaffes. Social media trends. Focus-tested word choice. Oh, the focus-tested word choices. You say “illegal,” I say “undocumented.” The middle class has been “crushed” and “buried.” China “cheats.” The term “good-paying jobs” was big tonight, and has always bothered me. How is that grammatically correct? Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. If something is describing how something else pays, why don’t you use the adverb? I’m getting off track, and that’s exactly the point.

Tonight, I was a commodity. I was marketed to. Tonight, focus groups and advisers went to work to win my allegiance. And I was not convinced; I was instead entertained. This is similar to when you go to see the latest action movie and within minutes decide that it’s clearly a comedy even though it wasn’t intended to be. “So bad it’s funny,” you might say. Tonight, politics was so bad that it was funny. If only it wasn’t supposed to be so important.

On Taxes. I’m So Sick of Writing About Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan

October 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I think I’ve finally made sense out of the rhetoric about Governor Romney’s tax plan; of the independent reports and of the “6 reports” that disputed the first report. I think I know what’s going on. It was hidden in Romney’s answers tonight, of all places. Listening to President Obama and Romney discuss Romney’s tax proposals reminded me of the old Highlights Magazines in doctors’ office waiting rooms. There are two pictures side by side, and you have to pick out the differences. They’re subtle, but they’re there. Did you hear it? Were you listening?

Here it is. Obama talks about the tax rates for the top 2% (generally couples above $250,000; individuals above $200,000). If you cut those tax rates by 20%, as Romney proposes, then there don’t appear to be enough deductions to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue just from that bracket.

However, Romney talked about the top 5%, and maintaining the same share of the tax burden as they currently pay (about 60% of income taxes). Now, first of all, maintaining the same share of the tax burden does not rule out a tax cut if everyone else is also getting a tax cut. But that aside, the 5% versus the 2% is how they make the numbers work. If the top 5% are getting deductions eliminated, then revenue neutrality can be achieved even if the top 2% are getting a cut, paid for by reduced deductions for the 95th-97th percentiles (the next 3%).

I don’t know the general income numbers for those percentiles, but I have a hunch that it lines up fairly well with Martin Feldstein’s defense of Romney’s plan which called for eliminating deductions for all those making over $100,000 a year. And thus, if you make between $100,000 and $200,000 as an individual or the equivalent tax bracket as a couple, Mitt Romney’s tax plan is likely to hurt you. And that’s what we learned in tonight’s debate. Obama’s plan hurts the top 2%. Romney’s plan will probably help the top 2% on the backs of the next 3%. And hopefully, I’ll never write about Mitt Romney’s tax plan again.

On What I Don’t Like About Barack Obama

October 1, 2012 4 comments

This is part 1 of a 3-post, pre-debate series on my feelings about each candidate and why I am voting the way that I am voting this November. Part 2, “On Why I am Not Voting for Mitt Romney,” can be seen here. Part 3, “On Why I am Voting for Barack Obama,” can be seen here.

This post could actually be much longer than many would expect, so I’m going to try to limit it to some bullet points with a short explanatory paragraph (or three). I think these might be in order of importance, but if you were to ask me tomorrow, the order might be different.

Health Care

This is a common complaint about the President, but my issue here is not the reform law itself. Assuredly, I think it is a flawed piece of legislation but it will do much more good than harm, and my opinions on the legislation could fill an entire post (and probably will later). But what I take issue with is the timing of and decision to pursue this bill. In my opinion, that decision has tainted and derailed Obama’s entire presidency.

In short, the economy was bad and the stimulus was a step but it was not a jobs bill. The country was in crisis and the Democrats had a lot of political capital. They could have passed a bill very similar to Obama’s jobs bill that was deemed too little, too late before dying in Congress. They could have passed some proposals mentioned by Bill Clinton, as well as others, to reduce the friction between the unfilled jobs and unemployed workers. They could have passed any number of bills that would get the economy moving. And once the economy moved, they would have the political capital to do other things.

However, Obama and the Democrats passed a health care bill that doesn’t fully go into effect until 2014. They passed a health care bill that was a legislative battle played out in the public. And they spent every ounce of political capital that they had to do so. Even if it does well, the results will be too far down the line to re-earn any of that lost capital. If the biggest legislative achievement of 2009 led to a better economy in 2010, then the Democrats likely could have passed whatever health care bill they so chose when they continued to pick up seats. Instead, we have a controversial bill that is the rallying cry of the opposition and a slower-than-possible recovery.

The Treasury/Federal Reserve

I have now read enough about the financial crisis to know that there were, in fact, many credible economists, regulators, and even bankers who understood that the subprime mortgage bubble was going to be a problem, and who had been trying to get the attention of everyone they could to warn about it. In the wake of the crisis, Obama opted for continuity and insider knowledge in his Treasury and Federal Reserve appointments instead of for fresh faces who would bring a brand new philosophy. I cannot understand walking into a mess, finding out who watched over the mess being made and then asking them to watch over the clean up. I was very disappointed with this.

Indefinite Detention

I don’t think that I need much of an explanation here. Obama signed a law allowing indefinite detentions, along with a statement that he would not use them. A lot of good that will do when someone else is in charge and the law of the land now allows such great potential for abuse.

Leading from Behind

This oft-quoted and repeated phrase (I believe John McCain said it first) generally is considered nothing but a right-wing talking point. However, I sort of agree. My outsider observation is that especially in the first 2-2.5 years, Obama liked to stay “above the fray” on several controversial issues, allowing the fight to play out in Congress. Then, Obama would swoop in and try to reconcile what seemed to be irreconcilable differences. This allowed Obama to appear as the adult in a room full of children, but it also allowed for a heightened tone of division and tensions both in Congress and in the media. Eventually, as the grown up in a room, you want to get to the point where the kids are breaking up their own fights; that can only happen with superior leadership. I understand that the congressional Republicans are obstructionists. I understand that they announced in 2010 that the top priority was to make Obama a 1-term President. But I think there is a form of leadership that would have worked better over the past 3.5 years than the one Obama took. I think Obama too often let the fights go too far before stepping in.

Drone Strikes

I have mixed feelings about this. I applaud the ability to win on the battlefield with minimal risk to American troops. But if we’re going to make liberal use of such technology, we better be certain that we can keep our own skies 100% safe by the time our enemies get similar technology.

The Campaign

This campaign has been ugly. The Obama camp has been as grossly misleading as the opposition on several occasions, and therefore, lost the ability to more forcefully call out the similar ugly moves and out-of-context statements made by the Romney camp.

The Debt

I fall into the category of thinking that complaining about the deficit during a recession is akin to complaining about the water bill while putting out a fire (I think I got that line from Paul Krugman, but I can’t be sure). So I understand that the debt was going to rise through this time period. However, I cringe when I hear “deficit reduction,” because by definition, it does not go far enough. The deficit must be eliminated in order to reduce the debt, and that’s more where my heart is. I don’t think that’s even on the to-do list of an Obama administration. And so while I understand much of the failings in this regard during the first term, my inner debt hawk won’t let this issue go unmentioned.
Read part 2, “On Why I Will Not Vote for Mitt Romney,” here.

On What I Wanted to Hear from Obama

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

President Obama gave his official acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, and it was by normal standards, a good speech. It was a good speech in the same way that candidate Obama was known for giving good speeches. It was full of hope and optimism; it was level-headed and mostly fair-minded; it provided a laundry list of goals. But it was not an effective speech. In my mind, the convention speeches exist not just to rally the political base, but also to grab onto what few undecided or loosely-committed voters are left in the process who may be tuning in for the first time–or who at the very least will be hearing about politics somewhat more than during non-convention weeks. In this regard, I think Barack Obama failed.

As I noted about the Republican National Convention last week, there are always certain goals in terms of themes to hit and arguments to be made during the course of a convention. In my unprofessional opinion, the goals for the president this week should have been to 1) cast a positive light on his record and 2) explain how his next four years would be better for the American people than Mitt Romney’s next four years. This approach would still allow him to attack the policies of his opponent, but would also fight back against two key arguments made by his detractors: that he is avoiding his record because he has nothing to brag about and that he lacks a clear vision for America’s future or the ability to deliver on that vision. Embedded in that task, though, is to also make a case for his vision.

Seen through that light, I can’t say that I was overly impressed. The speech started out very strong, with a simple reminder that campaigns can wear on all of us as minor issues become major distractions from the real job at hand. He also did an excellent job of subtly highlighting his vision for the role of government (though I thought it should have been far less subtle). In fighting the notion that he is nothing but a big government quasi-socialist, Obama stated that “not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.” He clarified that government “has a role” in preparing the American workforce for the jobs that are available at home, but added that “teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you’ve gotta do the work.”

However, it wasn’t all shying away from government. Obama also stated that “those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it’s leaner, and more efficient, and more responsive to the American people.” (emphasis added). Meanwhile he called on the notion of citizenship and working together to push back against the idea that he attributes to his opponents: “that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing.” These lines were probably pretty good and should probably have been included in any version of his speech.

But enough about what he did say. Let’s talk about what Obama should have said. If I were Barack Obama, early into the speech I would have addressed my opponents’ biggest criticism head on. I would have stated that “my opponent claims that I have no record on which to run. My opponent says I’m running away from my record instead of running on my record. So let’s address my record as president.” Then, issue by issue, I would follow format of 1) What I’ve done; 2) The positive effects of that action; 3) What still needs to be done; 4) My plan to accomplish part three.

For instance, Obama could have said of health care that he signed into legislation the largest health care reform bill in modern American history which will extend coverage to X number of people, end denial based on pre-existing conditions, set up transparent insurance exchanges in each state. However, more must be done to slow the rising costs of health care and to ensure that Medicaid and Medicare become financially viable. My plan to do so is ______.

On the military, Obama could have said that he ended the war in Iraq and ordered the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden, but we still have troops in Afghanistan and terror remains a force against which we must be vigilant. With the input from my military advisers, I have a plan to wind down the fight in Afghanistan and on the home front, [insert security plan here].

On the financial collapse, he could have outlined the purpose and intent of the Dodd-Frank Act, the mortgage relief plans and settlement, and how they helped… but also what they failed to accomplish. And then he could have laid out an idea for how to accomplish more on those fronts (especially the home markets).

On jobs, he could highlight the reversal from job loss to job gains and the declining trend of the unemployment rate, but stated the obvious that too many Americans are still without work. Instead of using this as an opportunity to mention that his jobs bill is still stalled in Congress, he could have re-stated or re-packaged some of the more popular ideas from the bill as a means to move forward.

By now you get the idea. The point I’m making by dragging this exercise out for so long is two-fold. First, you’ll notice that I left a lot of blanks in there. That’s because even after beginning his speech by criticizing his opponents for stating what they want to do without how they want to do it, Obama’s speech mostly went on to do the same. That is a very basic mistake that was picked up on immediately by Fox News and several others.

Secondly, though, is to highlight that on virtually every single issue facing the country right now, a plan has been hatched, action taken, progress made, and more is left to be done. I have yet to get around to writing my blog about what I don’t like about Obama and his presidency, so for now you’ll have to take my word that I think he’s solidly mediocre. I think he has made mistakes. I think the recovery could have and should have gone better. But I also do not think he is moving the country backward because all observable data save the national debt tells me that isn’t the case. On every single issue, work is being done. I didn’t even mention energy (higher domestic oil production, lower foreign reliance), women’s rights (I’m talking Lilly Ledbetter, not contraception), gay rights (repealed don’t ask, don’t tell), and a host of other issues.

If I was Obama (or even his speechwriter), I even would have stepped into the debt conversation last night. I would have said that I hate debt and deficit as much as anyone, but that our country was in a crisis and it needed help; that George W. Bush, John McCain and Barack Obama all saw that reality–and there’s not much on which all three of those men agree. I would have acknowledged that debt caused more challenges for the future, and that now that we are on the road to recovery, the debt issue has to be tackled. On that note, I would have been certain to point out that no tax cut (to my knowledge) has ever reduced a deficit. Even when accelerated growth occurs, it is not enough to supplant the lost revenue. But I would have focused on making it known that skyrocketing debt was a function of the crisis and that since the initial bailouts, government spending has grown at only a snail’s pace.

Such a speech would have made clear to the American people that 1) Obama has a record and cares about the issues important to you, 2) Obama has moved in the right direction toward mutually-agreed-upon goals, 3) Obama is not so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the shortcomings of the past three years, and 4) he has substantive plans to make the next four years better than the past three years. If I felt those four things were true, it would be pretty easy to vote to give this man more time. Absent those things–which is the reality of his speech–you have to wonder if maybe he is a bit out of touch (like his opponent). Absent them, if you were on the fence going into the night, you might still vote against his opponent, but you probably won’t vote for your president.