Memo to my dad

So, instead of catching up on all the blogging I wanted to do, I just spent 45 minutes last night working on a memo to my dad to convince him that he really needs to be voting for Obama.  Not a good investment of my time, but I can at least share it here.  It’s very personalized to his particular concerns based on our recent conversations, but there’s plenty of general points.  As for the mentioned articles I’m sending him, they are most prominently Mann and Ornstein’s great piece on the modern GOP, David Frum’s great New York magazine piece, a couple other Op-Eds and various policy comparisons.  It’s long, but if you are curious…



To: Robert Greene

From: Steven Greene

Re: 2012 Presidential Vote



Okay, I prepared this especially for you because I think I have a pretty good idea of your political viewpoints after 1) being your son for 40 years; 2) our recent conversations.  I think if you honestly read the attached articles and reflect on them, you’ll see that you should vote for Obama because he comes much closer to representing the course that you think government should take.

1) Read the Mann and Ornstein piece.  The simple fact is that the Republican party has moved way right and Democratic party has moved only modestly left.  Ideologically, you are at most, a 1980’s Republican.  Ronald Reagan would literally be an apostate in today’s Republican party.  There is nothing truly conservative about today’s Republican Party.  In their efforts to dramatically change government, the budget, and the relationship between people and the budget, they are radical.  They have shown time and time again that their fundamental value is lower taxes for rich people.  There was no interest in shrinking government when Bush was in office, just lowering taxes.  With Obama in office, they want to eliminate programs Democrats like, i.e., Medicaid, social safety net, not actually shrink government.  Obama has tried time and time again to get a compromise to cut spending and raise taxes but the entire Republican party is completely committed to never raising any taxes ever.  You know that’s true and you know that’s absolutely unsustainable.

2) You are concerned about our long term fiscal health.  So am I!  As a an expert in American public policy, I can tell you that far and away the key driver of these concerns is health care spending and Medicare.  Obamacare attempts to reign in these costs!  It is predicted to save billions and billions in it’s second decade.  Romney has promised to repeal it, which non-partisan experts agree will increase the deficit.  If we get health spending under control, we are probably 80% of the way to solving our long-term problems (that and modest tax increases).  Obamacare is far from perfect, but it is a solid first step.  And any serious health policy expert will tell you that there’s no evidence that Romney/Ryan proposals will successfully contain health costs.  Market-based solutions are great when they work.  They simply don’t in health care.  The evidence from advanced democracies around the world, though, is incontrovertible that more government involvement is what brings down health costs.  Kathleen and Mitt Romney can deny this all they want, but the evidence is beyond a doubt.

3) Many pundits have said the US Government is basically a health insurer for old people and a giant military.  Other major source for cuts is defense.  Yet here Mitt Romney wants to increase dramatically.  While the US Military already spends more than the next 10 countries combined!  Enough said.

4) So, how to do all this while cutting taxes all around?  Cut non-defense domestic discretionary spending (i.e., everything but Medicare and Social Security) from 12% of the budget to 3% of the budget.  That’s nuts.  That means food inspections, highways, air traffic control, the FBI, national parks.  Everything.

4a) And it certainly means dramatically less government resources to help people such as your own son and grandson.  Yes, this is personal.  A vote for Romney is truly choosing to embrace an extreme individualistic ideology that says that the families of people like Robbie and Alex are in this on their own and should not really expect much help from government.  I choose to believe that, ultimately, we’re all in this together.  And I think you do, too.

5) Environment.  You admitted that the best way towards energy independence is conservation.  Not even part of Romney’s agenda.  Sure we need more exploitation of domestic resources.  But ask yourself who you genuinely trust to do this in a responsible way?

6) Foreign policy.  Any honest foreign policy expert will tell you that Romney’s foreign policy is basically Obama’s with meaner words.  That’s just not serious.  If you watched the debate, you know he basically admitted as much.  “Meaner words” is not actually a foreign policy that works in the real world.  I know you understand that the world is a lot more complicated than that.

7) Back to the first point.  You want to vote for Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts.  Being a governor of a state that is 80% Democratic means that you actually have to be moderate and pragmatic to get things done.  And to look much more like a 1980’s Republican.  As a political science professor, I can tell you that there is absolutely no reason to believe he would govern a country with a Tea Party-dominated Congress in the same way he governed in Massachusetts.  none!  Mitt Romney has shown that he will adopt politically expedience ideological positions.  Fine, but you have to understand that when you are a Republican president facing a Republican Congress who’s agenda has already been driven by the Tea Party for the past two years that this means the politically expedient thing to do is to go along with the Tea Party agenda.  There’s really no other choice.  You may not want it to be true– in fact I can tell that you don’t want it to be true– but any Republican president right now, due to the structural nature of American politics, would essentially have to govern as a Tea Party president.  If you don’t think that’s so, ask yourself why he spent the whole primary season bowing to Tea Party ideology and not once breaking ranks with the far right of the Republican party on any single issue.

8) I gave you a lot to read.  Please consider that I spent a lot of time compiling and highlighting this material because it’s important to me.  And to you.  And to your grandkids.  At least make sure you read the highlights.

9) Yes, plenty of other people close to you will be telling you that you should vote for Romney.  But only one person close to you is telling you who to vote for based on both 1) an extensive series of discussion about your own political beliefs (plus a life-time of observing them); and 2) the truly specialized knowledge that comes with working as a Political Science professor for over a decade.  A few years answering constituent mail for a Congresswoman is not exactly equivalent.  I’d like to think that you believe my many years of education and the fact that understanding politics is my full-time job are worth something.

Okay, I’m done.  The simple fact is that if you read these articles and honestly reflect on their implications and your own political beliefs, you will come to see that you should be voting to re-elect President Obama.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Memo to my dad

  1. itchy says:

    All we need is several more thousand of these in for each swing state. Get on it.

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