OPINION: 10 things to consider in the voting booth

1. The world is quite likely on the brink of a global depression. “Free market” economic policies are the key to understanding this crisis. Barack Obama has rejected these policies. John McCain now blames individuals, greedy Wall Street executives, even Bush, to hide his complicity and support for these policies, while offering the same economic policies Bush pushed for the past eight years. We are early in the crisis. Electing Obama can be like electing Franklin Roosevelt in 1930, not 1932. Electing McCain will be like electing Herbert Hoover in 1930, not 1928, something that no rational electorate would do.

2. Barack Obama has shown modern leadership ability. He works collectively, makes decisions carefully, establishes broad policy outlines and then seeks specific policy solutions that fit the outlines and changing conditions. John McCain is impulsive and reckless, prone to make and then reverse snap judgments, lacking either a broad policy outline or specific policies that are consistent with that outline.

3. Barack Obama has experience working with trade unions, urban community organizations and metropolitan business elites to get things done. John McCain is a senator and former congressman from Arizona, an anti-union-shop “right to work” state. McCain was chosen by and has represented the Arizona elites, the “right to work” business executives, real estate developers and bankers from the beginning of his political career. He has no record of working with and supporting the interests of the trade union movement, the large Latino population or the Native American population of his state.

4. Barack Obama has already shown his leadership ability by choosing Joe Biden, a senator with extensive experience, especially on foreign policy matters, who complements Obama’s abilities, a serious heir apparent to the presidency should that become necessary. McCain has chosen Gov. Sarah Palin not to complement his candidacy or be a realistic heir apparent for the presidency but on the hunch that she would get him female votes and solidify the support of religious right Republicans. Given insurance company actuarial statistics, the chances of Palin succeeding to the presidency through the death of the 72-year-old McCain are much greater than the chances of Biden succeeding to the presidency by the death of the 47-year-old Obama. What a Palin presidency would mean to the U.S. and the world deserves to be a consideration for voters, even if it obviously hasn’t been a consideration for McCain.

5. Barack Obama opposed the Iraq war and occupation as an Illinois state senator even before Bush launched it and has continued as a U.S. senator to seek non-military, multilateral approaches to foreign policy questions. John McCain strongly supported the Iraq war and military occupation and has always sought military solutions first to foreign policy questions.

6. Barack Obama has addressed the people’s economic crisis and has called for public investment in the economy, aid to states and localities, and tax reform that will erase the Bush tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy. McCain and Palin have called these policies “redistribution of wealth” and “socialism,” name-calling of the kind that right-wing radio talk show hosts who run interference for Republican candidates usually specialize in, not candidates themselves.

7. As president, Barack Obama would almost instantly reverse the extreme decline in U.S. international prestige. He would be seen as a major break with the inter-related history of militarism, racism and support for the rich and privileged throughout the world which has long undermined respect for the U.S. As president, John McCain would be seen globally as another Bush, another cowboy politician irrelevant to either the present global crisis or the aspirations of the people.

8. As president, Barack Obama would, through regulatory revitalization, send a signal to transnational corporations, banking institutions and brokerage houses that the U.S. will act to reverse the “casino capitalism” that has produced trillions in global losses over the last month. This is something capitalists will not publicly praise, but it is something that they know, as they did in the Great Depression, that they need and cannot do for themselves. As president, John McCain would make gestures and look for scapegoats and try to swim with the Bush policies until the economy finds itself under water.

9. As president, Barack Obama, who has already brought millions of new and mostly young people into the political process, would raise the standard of understanding and debate in U.S politics. Through increased popular participation, an Obama administration would make the country a “better democracy” to the benefit of all, including intelligent conservatives, who will be, as they are in other countries, compelled to seriously articulate their views rather than watching passively as others reduce their views to calculated flag-waving and name-calling.

10. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, it will be an enormous victory for all Americans against what has been the single greatest roadblock to progress and unity in U.S. history: the effects of a racism born in slavery, continued through legal segregation, and maintained today overtly in some areas of life, covertly in others. If John McCain wins, given the disastrous Bush policies and the enormous economic crisis the nation and the world faces, it can only be understood at home and abroad as a victory for that racist history, institutions and ideology, sending a message globally that the U.S. electorate prefers to live in and with the prejudices of the past rather than look rationally at the present and face the future.

Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University.