As November approaches, both online and offline conversations around the 2012 Presidential election are heating up. This also includes discussions by some on whether to vote at all. Many constituents, especially American Muslims, feel that President Obama has disappointed them, thus they will abstain from voting to help re-elect him for a second term. Still, others, a small minority, believe they should not cast a ballot because both parties have chosen to distance themselves from American Muslims.
As an American Muslim, I was happy to vote for Obama four years ago, because I, along with many Americans, wanted a change from the failed policies of George W. Bush. I was also happy to hear that Obama, who had a Pakistani roommate, grew up in Indonesia and had Muslims in his family. Although he himself is a Christian, he is much more aware and knowledgeable about world cultures – which is needed for the leadership of America in today’s world that grows smaller each day. I was also happy to hear that Obama would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and try to work for a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.
Obama won the election against John McCain with a safe margin (but close enough that the Muslim vote potentially could have swayed the election, especially in the battleground states). This was a historic election, since Obama is the first African-American to be elected as President. This is one of the moments I am most proud to of as an American, since no other western country has elected a minority race or ethnic group to the highest position of government before.
Now four years later, many people, especially American Muslims are disappointed that President Obama was not able to keep all his promises. To those, I will give you some reasons why this happened and also why we should give President Obama a second term in order to continue the good work he has done to help our country get back on its feet and move in the right direction.
- Before Obama took office, the economy was steadily losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now we have seen consistent job growth for 30 consecutive months. Obama also saved the US Auto Industry, while his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, wanted to let it die. Although it was a very unpopular move to give federal money to the Auto Industry, Obama stuck with it and in turn saved 1 million US jobs and the government loans that were made to auto companies were paid back ahead of time.
- President Obama decided to tackle one of the major problems - the American Healthcare System. The last time a US President was able to successfully pass major healthcare reform was in 1965 with President Johnson’s introduction of Medicare and Medicaid. Since then, most political experts consider major Healthcare reform as political suicide, but President Obama still decided to take it head on and was able to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). It is not perfect by any means, but definitely a step in the right direction for America, where healthcare costs are some of the highest in the world. With "Obamacare," health insurance companies cannot charge women more than men for the same coverage. Parents can keep their children on their family health plans until the age of 26. Seniors on Medicare will have free preventive care services and also lower prescription costs. Romney said he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and most likely allow Health Insurance companies to go back to running wild and abusing people who have pre-existing conditions.
- President Obama and the Democrats, although far from being perfect, are an inclusive party. Anyone who watched the conventions of the Democrats and Republicans can see the GOP convention attendees as a monolithic group. The Democratic convention on the other hand, was the exact opposite. It featured people of all colors, backgrounds and religions - including American Muslims. Unfortunately, the Republican Party, over the past 12 years, has moved to the extreme right, openly attacking American Muslims who serve in the US Military, Congress and other government positions. People such as Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman and others who are deeply involved with the current direction of the GOP, are self proclaimed Islamophobes who flaunt their Anti-Muslim hysteria. President Obama on the other hand appointed several American Muslims to his administration including Farah Pandith, the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States and Rashad Hussain, who serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group representing 57 nations.
- President Obama ended the War in Iraq and also started to draw down troops in Afghanistan. By 2014 a majority of US troops will have left Afghanistan. He also ended the use of water boarding by US military prisons. President Obama has decimated Al-Qaida by taking out their leader Usama bin Laden - one of the worst terrorists of the 21st century. Some Muslims complain that Bin Laden should have been captured alive and tried in court. Let me respond this way: Usama bin Laden admitted to destroying the Twin Towers in NY on Sept 11, 2001 and was the major cause of all the problems we now have here in the US (and other western countries). We should be happy that Bin Laden is dead and that Al-Qaida and other extremists are weakened around the world, especially in Pakistan, which has suffered a lot due to their extremism.
- If we really want change in the way that we are seen and perceived in our own country, then we need to step up and get involved in the US political system. We really have no right to complain, because we haven’t really been involved in the affairs of our countries domestic policies (we have no influence at all in foreign policy at this point) and only became "active" for the past 12 years. While other minority groups have spread their influence and diversified their skills in fields such as media, law, politics and education, we on the other hand are disproportionally involved in medicine, computer science and engineering, and to top it off, we do not donate any money to political campaigns or lobbyists like other minority groups do. Then we complain because we voted once or twice, forwarded some emails and donated $20 for Obama's campaign and then expect the whole world to change in our favor! Sorry it doesn't work like that my friends. US Foreign policy has been developed over decades and policies that were put in place over 70 years ago are still affecting decisions made today.
If you want to give up on Obama because you feel that he disappointed you, then don't vote for Obama. But keep in mind that by not voting or voting for a third party candidate instead is basically giving your vote to Romney. Romney will not only take your free vote, but he will not do anything at all to help American Muslims out. Romney’s foreign policy team is made up of Islamophobes, Pro-Military Extremists and War Hawks who are just waiting to attack Iran (by the way the government of Israel wants Romney to win as well because they felt Obama was too tough on them). But if you care about what is going to happen to this country that we have all either been born into or have come to for a better life, then we should not only vote, but also vote for the only candidate who can relate to us as a minority and has already listened to many of our concerns as American Muslims and has followed through on many of these items. That candidate is President Barack Obama. Now go out and vote for him on November 6.
This article is part of the “Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!” series, which is running on Altmuslim at Patheos, Altmuslimah, Illume, and Aziz Poonawalla’snews and politics blog on Patheos. Click on this special topics page to view all articles in this series and add your comments. Tweet your thoughts on this article, on the series, and on the 2012 elections at #MuslimVOTE.