Many Obama supporters have been challenged to explain why they voted for Barack Obama. Some answers may be obvious: he’s a Democrat, he’s liberal…for many it may be as simple as party affiliation or ideology. Some of President-elect Obama’s detractors have accused his supporters of voting for him because he’s African-American and they simply wanted to “be a part of history” without paying attention to issues and ideas. Frankly, no one needs to offer any comments or reasons as to how and why they cast their vote. But in the spirit of sharing information (as well as shutting people down), I feel compelled to share the reasons why I voted for Barack Obama.
President-elect Obama is a democrat and a liberal, as am I. I voted for a leader who holds similar beliefs and values. I support abortion rights, gay rights, and stem cell research. I know that President-elect Obama is pro-choice and will support gay-rights legislation. I also know that President-elect Obama’s position on stem-cell research reflects my belief in and concerns about this issue. Additionally, he and I are of similar age and come from somewhat similar backgrounds in terms of blue collar ethics and social privilege. With this in mind, I can predict that President-elect Obama will approach his job in a way that assures me he can and will relate to normal, “average” Americans.
Here are a few of my “off the beaten path” reasons why I voted for Barack Obama:
NAMI: National Alliance for Mental Illness. Comprehensive, accessible mental health care is issue number one for me. Then-Senator Obama answered the 24 questions posed by NAMI with comprehensive specificity, whereas Senator McCain declined (the campaign stated it was their policy NOT to respond to questionnaires) to answer the 24 questions, opting instead to give a one-page reply that addressed NAMI’s concerns in general terms. “Obama supported additional funding for a range of research and treatment initiatives, including expanded funding for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, "accelerated investment" in the National Institute of Mental Health for research on mental illness, and greater funding for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and other initiatives to prevent suicide.”
Additionally, the Obama camp “voiced support for several pieces of legislation which focused on mental health and addiction care. Obama endorsed the Keeping Families Together Act (HR 687 and S 382), which aims to end the practice of families of seriously mentally ill children who cannot afford the care their kids need from surrendering custody to the state so the minors can receive treatment (Psychiatric News, March 2, 2007). The legislation would authorize grants to states to pay for the care of such children and allow them to remain in the custody of their parents.”
AARP: As with NAMI, AARP provided a questionnaire to Senators Obama and McCain. Senator McCain answered AARP’s questionnaire, something he declined to do for NAMI, citing campaign policy. However, Senator McCain declined to take a position on any of AARP’s policy statements. In direct contrast, then-Senator Obama indicated his stance on all of the policy statements provided by AARP. He pledged to support causes important to AARP members, and offered specific solutions to some AARP member concerns. In response to a question about long-term solvency for social security programs, Obama said “I will be honest with the American people about Social Security and the ways we can address the long-term shortfall. I will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries and oppose efforts to raise the retirement age and stand firmly against privatization. I believe that the first place to look for ways to strengthen Social Security is the payroll tax, which only applies to the first $102,000 a worker makes.” Senator McCain’s response to the same question was to say that he would work with congress on a bipartisan basis to address social security; he offered no specifics.
Frying Pan-Arkansas project and the Colorado River basin project: President-elect Obama and his transition team are soliciting input from citizens, engineers, and scientists regarding energy and the environment. What impressed me the most was the listing of these two western water issues/projects (among others) under job opportunities on his transition team website. As a native southern Coloradoan, I know all too well the importance of water in my state; I also know this can be a contentious issue among the western states. It’s almost a shock to have a leader who specifically cites the importance of obscure yet important issues such as these, and more importantly solicits input from the very people whose lives are affected by these issues every day.
Predatory lending practices and credit cards: I’m a renter so I haven’t had to deal with the home mortgage crisis, but I know several people whose lives have been turned upside down by ARMs and foreclosure. As for credit cards—several years ago, my then 18 year-old son received several credit card offers along with his college acceptance letter. These offers were sent to a young man with no income other than financial aid and money from mom and dad. Fortunately I was able to intercept all offers (pre-approved), but it made me angry that credit cards were being issued to young people with no income and no ability to assess the realities of interest and debt.
There are many, many more reasons why I voted for Barack Obama, but space and time are prohibitive. This is a representative cross-section of the multiple issues that factored into my decision to vote for Barack Obama. Along with his messages of hope and change come realistic solutions to real problems, and honest answers for the tough questions.