Seeing Things From the Other Side

If you look at the polls, about 50 percent of the country want Obama reelected, and about 50 percent want Romney to replace him. Can half of the American people be so grievously wrong?

I have quite a few conservative friends who, believe it or not, intend to vote for Obama this November. In law school, we require that our students be able to argue both sides of a case. That inspired me to try to formulate the strongest cases for Obama’s reelection, and see what the best counter-arguments are from Ricochet.

1. The Economy – Yes, the economy is in bad shape. But the recession, which is the worst since the Great Depression, did not start on Obama’s watch. Continuing the policies of the Bush Administration, Obama took swift action to bolster the financial system and to prevent the collapse of firms that would have provoked a cascade throughout the economy. The worst thing would have been to have done nothing. The trendline is clear — the economy is improving; it is only Obama’s bad luck that the recession was so deep that it has taken three years to climb out of the hole.  

2. Obamacare – Yes, Obamacare costs a lot of money and involves a large increase in the size of government. But no one thinks that the health care market works efficiently. The American people certainly do not want to have a free-market approach; they clearly reject efforts to cut back on Medicare and Medicaid. Our system cannot sit halfway between a free market and the government-run systems that most of the rest of the western world uses.

All scarce goods, like health care, must be rationed. Do we allow the markets to ration to it or do we use a different system, because there are certain things about health care (we cannot predict when we will need it or how much we will need; everyone should have access to a minimum amount) that make it imperfectly regulated by supply and demand? Obamacare just moves us toward the same system that our European and Asian peers have long used.

3. Foreign Affairs – The United States has overstretched itself for the last 10 years. We are still the indispensable nation, but we have to align means and ends. Right now, because of the economic crisis, the nation’s means cannot achieve the messianic ends set by the last administration. A realist would argue that the United States should focus on the major industrial regions of the world (Asia and Europe) by allying with different states to maintain a balance of power, and keep its hegemony in its own region (the Western Hemisphere). In the Middle East, which is important for its oil, we should husband resources by allowing our allies to do the heavy lifting.

Oh, and if he hasn’t repeated it enough — Obama got Osama.

  1. Anselm-Chin Jeres

    Pt 1 – Slowest recovery ever…

    Pt 2 – No matter how inefficient the private sector runs a program, the government never runs it more efficiently… (not to mention part of the private sector inefficiency is directly related to an over-abundance of oversight and restrictions)

    Pt 3 – Cutting redundant programs that are draining resources will allow us to maintain that balance of power in the world to tilt towards our safety and economic well-being…

  2. The King Prawn

    1. Obama argues that Bush got us into this mess yet he is continuing the same Bush policies to get us out? He can’t have it both ways.

    2. Adding even more inefficiency will not help the distribution of the scarce good of healthcare unless ones goal is absolute equality, even if it is equality of denied treatments and early death.

    3. Libya. Also, disengagement and abandoning out interests is not the same thing as maintaining a balance of power.Bonus.

    Obama has probably never fired a gun, and since bin Laden died from a gunshot it is not possible for Obama to take credit.

  3. Sleepless in Wisconsin

    #1  Among other things, the economy is made up of many large businesses,  many more small businesses and consumers which are all making choices every day.  I haven’t heard anyone say that they aren’t expanding their business, hiring or buying due to George Bush, or how things were four years ago.  But, I have heard them hesitate due to Obamacare, increasing red tape and high gas prices. 

    #2  Healthcare has a key component: people.  Doctors and nurses are not goods to be rationed across the population.  Government rationing may sound good for the recipient, but how does it sound to the doctor or nurse being rationed.  How long will the existing ones stay and where will the new ones come from?  (and I know a doctor in his forties that will quit before he lets the government take away his conscience rights)

    #3  An ambassador dead for the first time in over 30 years.  Allies are not rallying to the White House to support or defend us. 

    Obama took a break from golf to have Osama killed after 3 years.  Pardon my lack of enthusiasm here.

  4. Western Chauvinist

    I have quite a few conservative friends who, believe it or not, intend to vote for Obama this November.

    I’d like to respond to these arguments, but I have to go stick my head in the oven.

  5. Freeven

    You’ve convinced me. Obama is the not-Romney I’ve been looking for.

  6. bagodonuts
    1. Crisis management is no substitute for sound, stable governance. Most of the emergency measures that Obama performed were started by the Bush administrations (stimulus spending, TARP, Fed rescue, etc.). Some of these were benign, some less so, and we may argue about which were which. But the goal is to get the system functioning again, then allow clarity and predictability to return to the markets by reducing the role of government. That never happened. What’s more, Obama is intent that it never happen. As a result, we have a Japan-like (non-)recovery.

    2. There is no reason to assume that markets won’t work in medical insurance and health care. The current system of employer provided insurance wasn’t even designed to provide health care; it was a work-around for other government regulations (wage and price controls) in wartime. This legislation has “unintended consequences” written all over it.
    3. There is nothing wrong with allowing allies to shoulder defense burdens. This would recognizing who our allies are. Throwing allies (strategic ones like the UK, Israel and Poland, or allies of convenience like Mubarak and Qaddafi) under the bus, while “resetting” with Syria, Venezuela, and Russia, does no good.
  7. John Grier

    Econmy:  You knew it was bad when you signed up to run for office.  If the stimulus was not large enough for “critical mass”  why did you OK it?  There is a difference between taxes and revenue … Open up Federal land to oil & gas exploration (Land leases = $revenue) and get the USA to produce an abundance of oil, coal, & gas, then sell it to others (for $revenue and reduce the trade balance).

    Obama Care;  Why push through a bill that incorporated everything?  How about 1) Getting Medicare to run effeciently and get rid of waste?  2) Set up sliding-scale clinics to cover “Emergency Room” visits?  3) Mitigate over-the-top law suits?  4) Just take one step at a time?

    Foreign Affairs:  Accept the fact that many countries will not like us.  Some just want to flat out eliminate/kill us – or control us.  Select our allies carefully and know our enemies even better.  Get out of the United Nations.

  8. Bryan G. Stephens

    If someone is willing to vote for Obama, they cannot be conservative. I would challenge them on the very idea that they were conservative to vote for someone so far on the left as Obama.

  9. Lucy Pevensie
    Western Chauvinist

    I have quite a few conservative friends who, believe it or not, intend to vote for Obama this November.

    I’d like to respond to these arguments, but I have to go stick my head in the oven. · 6 minutes ago

    WC, you and I on the same page again.  Any extra room in your oven?

  10. Southern Pessimist

    I won’t argue with your three positions but I entirely reject your supposition that you have have conservative friends who are going to vote for Obama. I had dinner this past weekend with a very prominent lawyer from Chicago who has known Obama since they were in Law school together at Harvard. He has actively supported him in many ways in the past including fund raisers in his home and he is voting for Romney this time around. He claims Rahm Emmanuel is a fiscal conservative so that says something about his liberal tendencies.

  11. Sandy
    John Yoo: 

    I have quite a few conservative friends who, believe it or not, intend to vote for Obama this November. 

    That would be the Berkeley version of “conservative?”  

  12. Sabrdance

    Yeah… if this is the argument, then the answer to the lead question is “yes.”

    Surely there is a better argument for Obama than “It’s not my fault!  You really wanted this mess!  And anyway, nobody could do better!”

    I’ll take my chances.

  13. Mister D

    I reject the notion that the economic conditions should be laid solely at Bush’s feet an policies. There were numerous bad policies put in place by Congress as well. It was the liberal tendency (one Bush shared) to **** around with the market that caused the biggest problems. Obama is only likely to toss more gas on the fire.

  14. mareich555
    1. The economy was not in that bad a shape.  Reagan inherited a worse economy and in fact the recession ended by Q1 2009 – before Obama was sworn in.  Employment is a lagging indicator

    2. There is no evidence that the health care system is ‘broken’.  No one is denied treatment.  (Please, no canards about expensive ER treament – total ER costs amount to less than 2% of all health care.) Obamacare is a solution in search of a problem.
    3. We have gone from  being feared and respected to ignored in foreign affairs.  Libya, Egypt and Syria are just the tip of the iceberg.  We have no allies in the ME except for Israel (a country smaller than New Jersey).  What other ally we had, Egypt, we threw under the bus and encouraged a take over by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Also, by actively curtailing domestic oil production we are now seeing events spiral out of control in a region where we no longer have any influence.
  15. mareich555

    Please name one Bush policy that caused the recession.  If anything, Bush delayed the normal business cycle.

  16. Ryan M

    John -

    Please indulge me with an answer to this question.  Even giving them the full benefit of the doubt, I do not understand how a person could vote for Obama and still be considered, in any meaningful sense, a conservative.

    What justifications have your conservative friends given for voting for Obama?  Maybe they have very good reasons, but I cannot think of any.

    As a lawyer myself, I fully understand the idea behind arguing the other side – it is something I do frequently, actually, if for no other reason than to understand (oh, and also because I am a conservative criminal defense attorney!).  But your devil’s advocacy above does not include any positive reasons to vote for Obama.  They are only excuses for why maybe things aren’t his fault, or why some of the things he’s done aren’t that bad.  But he’s not running against himself; he’s running against Romney.  He needs to be the better of two choices, and I simply do not see how that view is defensible from anything even approaching a conservative perspective.

  17. TucsonSean

    at this point if your ‘conservative’ friends are voting for Obama, they have ceased to be conservative.  Just call them liberals.  There is no way you can be conservative and vote for Obama, unless you are drunk when you stumble into the booth.

    They might pretend to be conservatives for appearance, but inside they harbor sufficient liberal leanings that voting for this failure is preferred.

  18. Mendel

    Prof. Yoo is indeed onto something with the healthcare point.

    No one can claim that our previous healthcare payment system resembled anything like a free market: the government was already the largest payer, costs were arbitrary and utterly opaque, tax incentives were exactly backwards, and private health costs were rising much too quickly, making it impossible for many to begin to pay for their own care.

    People have been clamoring for change for years, yet the Republicans have cowardly refused to do anything except expand Medicare and tepidly support HSAs for a few people.

    Obama stepped up where Republicans feared to tread.  Did he give us something much worse than what was there before?  Of course.  But taking a bad action is often rewarded by voters over total inaction.

  19. Mendel
    Bryan G. Stephens: If someone is willing to vote for Obama, they cannot be conservative. I would challenge them on the very idea that they were conservative to vote for someone so far on the left as Obama.

    Without naming names, I would kindly request that Prof. Yoo describe who these “conservatives” are, with what criteria they define themselves as conservative, and how in the world they can justify voting Obama.

  20. Miffed White Male

    1:  what data are you looking at where you see a “clear trendline”  that the economy is improving?

    2:  I reject the premise that this was the worst recession since the great depression.  I would nominate the late Carter/Early Reagan economy as worse than the late Bush/Early Obama economy.  We may have just gone through the worst financial crisis since the Depression, but that’s a different matter.

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