As we approach the end of October, anxiety levels are rising all over the world.
On the one hand... there's the world, worrying about the consequences of a possible Mitt Romney victory on November 6.
On the other hand, there are some 100 million or so Republican and Tea Party and Libertarian voters scattered across the United States, worrying about the prospect of the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Aside from our mutually rising anxiety levels, though, what are the actual stakes in this election? Both sides agree that it is the Most. Important. Ever. But what specifically are we worried about?
For a good article that spells out the scenarios for post-January 20, 2013, in terms of economic policy, see Jonathan Chait's article in New York Magazine. In brief, Romney could very well pass the Ryan budget through reconciliation (requiring only a majority in the Senate) and rewrite tax laws favoring the wealthy and corporate interests. On the contrary Obama could very likely manage to raise taxes on the wealthy; he may be able to institute a version of Bowles-Simpson. He will have leverage he has never had before to do all this, because of the so-called "fiscal cliff" built into last year's Debt Ceiling resolution (a particulaly ingenious strategic move, according to Chait so long as he is re-elected).
Those are big stakes.
But I want to focus on all of the other aspects of Romney and Obama's contrasting agendas. Other than the economy, what else will be affected?
1. Our Sense of American Identity Will be Splintered under a Romney Presidency.
Over the past four years President Obama has nurtured a sense of America as a pluralistic, tolerant place, in which the prejudices of yesteryear are backgrounded and a sense of our common good is foregrounded. But this worldview may be threatened by a more us-vs.-them mentality under a Romney presidency. Mitt Romney believes, and has said as much, that religious faith and freedom are inseparable. So, we have to assume, nonbelievers will not be highy valued in the public arena (while believers certainly will be -- God references will no doubt abound, even more than ever, in speeches). Meanwhile, gays and lesbians will be relegated to second-class status again, possibly leading to a concerted effort to enact a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Futhermore, the poorest in our country, those most struggling, will be understood to be failures -- those "victims" of the 47% -- rather than our worthy fellow citizens with their backs against the wall. Immigrants, particularly those with brown-skin, will of course be seen to be suspect (see Romney's endorsement of the Arizona state law empowering police to ask for I.D. if under the impression that someone is possibly undocumented).
2. The Denial of Climate Change Will Go On
President Obama did not manage to pass Cap-and-Trade. But at least his administration has funded green technologies more than any other President. Romney mocks such efforts, as he did in his Convention speech. He celebrates traditional energy resources, and urges the nation to expoit them fully (implying falsely, as he well knows, that this will lower prices at the pump, when in fact oil and gas prices are set by world demand -- rising).
3. The End of Truth-Telling
As we know from his decade-long campaign, Romney does not value truth-telling very highly. He values achieving ends (which, to be fair, he no doubt considers good). His religion blurs the distinction between truth and fables intentionally -- Mormons do not dwell often on the specifics of their creed and its truth-claims. It is no surprise that Romney fits so well in the culture of Bain Capital: he is a salesman at heart, willing to say almost anything to close a deal. President Obama, on the other hand, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to speak honestly about the decisions he faces. He often explains the trade-offs and chain of thoughts that led him to a certain policy choice. It doesn't help so much politically (Americans, like all human beings on the planet, respond more to sound-bites and catchy one-liners). But it has set a tone for our political culture all the same. This progress will be wiped out.
4. Health Care
My wife will lose her health care (she has a pre-existing condition) under a President Romney, and we will face cancer without any help again. This will be difficult for our family. But many millions of other Americans will suffer far more than we do. Children will lose their parents. Parents will lose their children. People will lose their houses, their employment, their basic dignity, as they face misery and illness without any help from their fellow-citizens.
College loans, Pell Grants, all of that will be cut deeply under the Ryan plan if it is passed.
Investments in science and technology will decline -- to make way for that Romney/Ryan tax refrom favoring the wealthy.
...So don't go telling me that both parties are the same and your vote doesn't make a difference.
These are some of the reasons I am worried. How about you?