With a nod to George Orwell: All presidential elections are equally important, but some are more equally important than others.
The 2012 election falls into the “more equally important than others” category.
Not because of the economy. Mitt Romney repeatedly promises on the campaign trail to create twelve million jobs in the next four years, but most analysts believe the economy will add roughly that number by 2016, no matter who occupies the White House.
That’s assuming the next president does not do anything to get in the way of an economic comeback, which a President Romney might accomplish with his ill-advised tax cuts for the wealthy. Fortunately, it’s likely a Democratic-controlled Senate would frustrate his plans.
So the economy is likely to get better in the near few years, regardless of who wins on November 6.
Long-term economic health is another matter. One of the most disconcerting recent trends is the increasing income inequality in America, a trend rarely discussed during this election. President Obama has made fleeting references to the disparity in wealth, worse now than at any other time in our recent history. His emphasis on middle-class tax cuts coupled with higher taxes on the wealthy and his backing of regulatory reform may slow if not reverse the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.
Ten thousand dollars says Mitt Romney does not worry about the wealthy getting wealthier while the poor get poorer.
A Romney presidency would mean further evisceration of the middle class and leave the poor worse off. His promise to repeal Obamacare would contribute to the impoverishment of millions of Americans who would have to pay more for health insurance or go broke if they have a catastrophic health problem, while millions more would get ill or die prematurely.
A President Romney might not be able to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, again thanks to a Democratic-controlled Senate. But his control of the regulatory apparatus in the executive branch could make Obama’s triumph in providing health insurance for millions of Americans meaningless. If Romney wins in November, 40-50 million Americans would again be without medical insurance, and America would again be the only developed country to fail to provide health care for all of its citizens.
A President Romney would cut Medicaid, a lifeline for millions of working poor. Not only that, millions of Medicare recipients rely on Medicaid for long-term care in their declining years. Further, Medicaid successfully controls costs throughout the health care system because it is an efficient dispenser of medical care.
A President Romney would push for repeal of Dodd-Frank, which would again allow banks to make risky loans, endangering economic stability.
Women would be losers if Romney wins. Don’t expect a Romney administration to fight for equal pay for equal work, but expect a Romney administration to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides health services for millions of women. Expect the war on abortion rights to intensify.
Expect minority rights to suffer. President Obama, who sadly did not push immigration reform in his first term, is likely to stress new legislation in the next four years; former Governor Romney would not. He likely would make life more difficult for millions of undocumented workers, and he is certain not to advocate the “Dream Act.”
Mitt Romney is committed to the Defense of Marriage Act, so the push for same sex marriage will suffer. It’s safe to say gay rights will not be high on the agenda of President Romney.
Finally, the next president is likely to appoint several new justices to the Supreme Court. Romney appointees would strengthen the court’s conservative bent, jeopardizing abortion rights, minority rights, voting rights, affirmative action, regulatory reform, and more. The future of the Supreme Court may be the most important matter at stake in the election.
Some may think Mitt Romney is a moderate at heart who had to run to the right to gain the Republican nomination, but would govern more to the center. Don’t believe it. While it may be difficult to determine what Mitt Romney really believes, candidate Romney has tied himself to the most conservative wing of the GOP. President Romney would be in thrall to the right.
A President Romney would govern as if he were a severe conservative. After all, the only important thing for Mitt Romney is to be able to board Air Force One.