Patriot’s Day politics

Tricorn hat
In colonial garb

With Barack Obama and Mitt Romney officially declaring their campaigns for the 2012 presidential election, we can expect U.S. politics to be even more polarized in the months ahead. I’ve made no secret of my liberal leanings, but I expect incumbent Democrats in the White House and the House of Representatives to provide more than progressive rhetoric.

I hope that Pres. Obama and congressional Democrats can show the public that our government can perform an important role in protecting the poor and the environment, reform itself for greater accountability, and promote national interests abroad without immediately resorting to military intervention.

By the same token, I expect Republicans and conservatives to push for deficit reduction, trimming of middle-class entitlements, and fair trade. Libertarians and so-called Tea Party activists should keep pushing for a smaller federal government, but they need to understand that certain things, like defense, taxes, and Social Security, are best established on a larger economy of scale.

I disagree with some Democrats’ alarmism and intractability, which have contributed to government shutdowns. I also take issue with some Republicans’ phobias against taxes, social policies, and cultural inclusiveness. Instead of arguing endlessly over Planned Parenthood (rather than agree to disagree over abortion) and privatizing Medicare and Medicaid (health care reform deserves careful analysis and swift action, not posturing), both parties should tackle the bigger problems of the federal budget and our trade and fiscal imbalances.

Many Democrats have looked the other way regarding corrupt labor unions, undermining their own support, while many Republicans have done the same regarding wasteful military spending or lax financial regulation. Even if we can’t agree about the causes or extent of global climate change, can’t we concur that pollution and dependence on increasingly expensive fuels are bad?

Is banning marijuana or smoking in bars (presumably all-adult, alcohol-serving establishments anyway) really as important as making sure that a generation of young Americans avoids obesity-related health care costs? Do Donald Trump’s rantings about Obama’s citizenship or concerns about entertainers’ “wardrobe malfunctions” deserve as much news media attention as the complex struggles for people around the world for civil and religious liberties?

Despite our diversity, Americans still have more in common than they believe. We all want secure jobs, affordable health care, safe food and transport, and the freedom to speak our minds. We want a world safe for democratic values to thrive, and I hope that each election cycle can help us sift through proposals to pursue all of these goals.