I went to the polls last night planning to vote for Barak Obama. Like many of you, I credit Obama for improving our economy and our reputation abroad, while making it perfectly clear that he remains cold-blooded enough to use force when necessary. I think he's done right by Israel, and brought the country forward by reforming health care. I am in favor of gay marriage and I don't want a president who picks up the phone when an evangelical or T-Party whacko calls. So, the choice was clear, I thought.
Yet when the moment came to fill in my ballot I vacillated. Here's why: I don't have any special understanding of the economy. Though, I read piles of non-fiction there's never anything on my nightstand about money or banking. I understand finance, I think, about as well as the average GOP Jew understands foreign affairs or civil rights or the history of Judaism, which is to say, my grasp of it barely rises above the comic book level.
And that's what made me, at the very last second, think twice about voting for Obama. See, my GOP Jewish friends know quite a bit about money. They take money very seriously. Several have more than a lot of it. While I subscribe to TNR, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker, they read things like Business Week, the Economist, Cranes and Forbes. As a result, I know enough to spot the flaws in their arguments against Obama's foreign policy and his overall political philosophy, but I'm on much weaker ground when the conversation turns to the economy*. Unanimously, these wealthy GOP Jewish friends of mine opposed Obama, and because they are not bible-thumpers, fundamentalists, or T-Party morons, their objections came down to one thing: His plans to revitalize the economy and increase our incomes. And because I'd like to be wealthy, but recognize my shortcomings in this area, I hesitated.
* An example: I can usually win an argument about the morality or pragmatism of universal health care, but not disagreements about the underlying economics. I have no doubt that reforming health care is the right thing to do, and I think I can prove it. But I have no idea if we can afford it, or if implementing it will harm or help the economy
To buy time, I went to the bottom of the ballot first and made my picks in the local races. As always, unless I knew the candidate personally. I picked Green or Socialist, or Working Families candidates -- not because I want a fringe, likely insane, candidate to win, but because I want the eventual winner to see a vote for progressive politics. And then it was time to vote for a president. For whom shall I cast my meaningless vote, I asked myself. Do I want wealth or freedom? Money or respect for science, facts and reality? Lower taxes or longer life expectancy?
Once I phrased it like that, the answer became obvious. I pulled the lever for Obama, and went home with a smile.
PS: Want me to vote Republican? Nominate Jack Donaghy.