It is not fear. It is simple, compelling logic. We have two major political parties. Until that great gettin'-up morning, when purists on both sides of the ideological ditch manage to create workable third parties that look like something more substantial than organized unicorn hunts — which won't happen until we have proportional voting, and I wish you as much luck with that as Lani Guinier had — we always will have two major political parties. One of them is inexcusably timid and tied in inexcusably tight with the big corporate money. The other one is demented.
This is not "fear" talking. I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on the grounds that a one-world government threatens our "liberty" with its insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy. When you see a lunatic wandering down the sidewalk, howling at the moon and waving a machete, it is not fear that makes you step inside your house and lock the door. It is the simple logic of survival. Fear is what keeps you from trying to tackle the guy and wrestle the machete away from him. And, as much as it may pain some people to admit it, the president is the only one stepping up to do that at the moment.
It is vitally important that the Republican party be kept away from as much power as possible until the party regains its senses again. It is not just important to the advance of progressive goals, though it is. It is not just important to maintain the modicum of social justice that it has taken eighty years to build into the institutions of our government, though it is. It is important, too, that that you vote for one of these men based on whom else, exactly, he owes. Who is it that's going to come with the fiddler to collect when you get what you've bargained for?
Barack Obama owes more than I'd like him to owe to the Wall Street crowd. He probably at this point owes a little more than I'd like him to owe to the military. The rest he owes to the millions of people who elected him in 2008 — especially to those people whose enthusiasm I neither shared nor really understood — and he will owe them even more if they come out and pull his chestnuts out of the fire for him this time around. He may sell them out — and, yes, I understand if you wanted to add "again" to that statement — but they are not likely to revenge themselves against the country if he does and, even if they decided to, they don't have the power to do much but yell at the right buildings.
On the other hand, Willard Romney owes even more to the Wall Street crowd, and he owes even more to the military, but he also owes everything he is politically to the snake-handlers and the Bible-bangers, to the Creationist morons and to the people who stalk doctors and glue their heads to the clinic doors, to the reckless plutocrats and to the vote-suppressors, to the Randian fantasts and libertarian fakers, to the closeted and not-so-closeted racists who have been so empowered by the party that has given them a home, to the enemies of science and to the enemies of reason, to the devil's bargain of obvious tactical deceit and to the devil's honoraria of dark, anonymous money, and, ultimately, to those shadowy places in himself wherein Romney sold out who he might actually be to his overweening ambition. It is a fearsome bill to come due for any man, let alone one as mendaciously malleable as the Republican nominee. Obama owes the disgruntled. Romney owes the crazy. And that makes all the difference.
In his time in office, Barack Obama has done some undeniable good for people. There are auto workers in Ohio with jobs, and women making equal pay, and young people freed from the burdens of health care because of some of the president's policies. And he is running on that record, making the case for his second term based on the good he has done for people in his first. In his only time in elective office, Romney also did some good for people. He reformed the health-care system in Massachusetts in a way that made him far more popular up here than he ever will be again. And he has spent seven years now running against the good he did for people. What kind of a politician does that? What kind of a man does that? A politician who has counted the debts he owes to the people to whom he owes them, and a man who is willing to hock everything about himself just to get even.
This is not "fear" talking. This is simply the way things are. It is important to stand against the people and the forces to which Willard Romney owes his political career. It is more important to do that than it is to do anything else. It is more important to do that than to salve my conscience, or make a statement, or dream my wistful dreams of a better and more noble politics. And that is why, today, I will vote for Barack Obama, not because of the man he is not, but because of the man his opponent clearly has become. I will do so without enthusiasm, and without a sliver of doubt in my mind.