Forget the Economy: How to Pick Who to Vote For Tomorrow

The “economy” has been widely hailed as the main concern on the minds of the American people. Unfortunately, the simple truth of the presidency (according to the constitution and according to modern reality) is that the president has very little power to affect the economy. His power in this domain almost exclusively rests with the bully pulpit: the persuasive power of the loudest megaphone in Washington DC.

The following are the powers and roles of the president as I see it, and how that effects who I’ll vote for tomorrow (Tuesday, November 6, 2012):

  • Nominate Supreme Court justices. To me, this is the biggest reason not to mess around with your vote and choose the party that best represents your views on policy, domestic and foreign. In the next four years, it’s possible that we will see 4 justices retire. Ginsburg is 79, Scalia is 76, Kennedy is 75, and Breyer is 74. Gibsburg and Breyer are left-leaning on most issues, Scalia is famously right-leaning, and Kennedy is often the swing vote.
  • Start wars without declaring them. On at least 125 occasions the president (throughout U.S. history) has deployed troops without authorization from Congress. In my book, this is where Obama’s cool and collected approach is very important. I hope, that if Romney wins, he has a similar approach. Even if I disagree with the decision, I hope the decision is made through a careful deliberation process that’s influenced by balanced reason and not blind ideology.
  • Bully pulpit: Really, most of the president’s power lies in the fact that we all pretend that he is important (because the media pretends he is important) and thus give him “power” by listening to him. He can use his giant megaphone to influence Congress, public opinion, and international relations. What’s very important to remember, however, is that this power of persuasion grows exponentially in a time of real crisis (such as a terrorist attack or a natural disaster). At those times, we tend to take off our partisan hats and follow the words of the commander and chief with loyalty and unwavering determination. Hence, we want to pick a president who is best in a time of crisis.

I have many friends who are voting for Obama and many who are voting for Romney (though I’m not speaking to them this week for fear of mutual destruction). I even have one friend who is voting for Gary Johnson, who despite being the goofiest politician I’ve ever heard, is quite brilliant. I’m personally voting for Obama, despite many of my objections to what I saw in the last four years, because:

  • I want to maintain a balance of left and right on the Supreme court.
  • I want less undeclared wars not more, even though both candidates I believe will be far more hawkish than I would like.
  • I want a president that the rest of the world likes, respects, and wants to work with. In poll after poll, Obama beats Romney about 80% to 20% in the rest of the World. The gap is biggest in countries that our close allies, except Israel which is one of the only countries where Romney leads (with a whopping 57% to 22%).
  • As a scientist, I am depressed at the blatant disrespect towards science in the Republican party. I’m not talking about global warming or stem cell research or evolution. I’m talking about fundamental scientific research. I wish this wasn’t so, but it certainly makes me lean heavily to the left on this issue, where science is rightful seen as the main force of progress and economic growth that made this country what it has come to be throughout the 20th century.

I try not to grow cynical about politics, but it’s damn hard… Please make sure you vote tomorrow, not for any reason, but because it may help spark a conversation with a friend about a political issue you both care about. Who knows, that spark might start a fire.

0 thoughts on “Forget the Economy: How to Pick Who to Vote For Tomorrow

  1. tjkopena

    My limited understanding is that political science fairly strongly supports the notion that the power of the bully pulpit is really no power at all. The president does have great ability to set the basic outline of the agenda on economy and other domestic issues, but otherwise have very limited capacity to effect immediate change. So, those powers you list above really are their critical points.

    1. Lex Post author

      That’s very interesting. I would love to see a good study on the ability of the president to influence Congress and the opinion of the public with just his words (speeches, interviews, etc). I have a sense that the infotainment media (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, etc) and even the Daily Show and Colbert Report look to the president to drive their content in positive and negative ways. So perhaps the most powerful effect the president has comes from the fact that the eye of the media is always on him.


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