It was a good feeling last week, standing among thousands of Barack Obama supporters at the president’s Ybor City campaign rally. Most of us couldn’t see the man himself, but it was just as good being able to see each other. We were white, black, Hispanic, straight, gay, young, old, — a testament to the diversity of Obama’s voter base, and certainly a more multi-cultural mix than anything seen inside the Forum during the RNC. It looked, in fact, like Tampa Bay.
Yes, I said “we.” No surprise to regular readers of this publication, probably. But when I stopped to talk with a random sampling of attendees before and after the rally, I asked them to imagine otherwise, that I was undecided. What would they say to convince me to vote for Obama?
“It’s not about black or white, it’s a right thing,” said Tavares Levarity, 37, resplendent in an “I Heart Michelle Obama” t-shirt. The Romney campaign, he explained, is based on “F &F: Fear and Finance. He’s for the haves, not the have-nots.”
Anita Jackson, 52, worries about what a Romney administration would take away.
“They’re talking about privatizing Medicare — somebody’s going to make a lot more money, but it’s not going to improve care.” She decried Romney’s threats to Planned Parenthood and PBS. “Planned Parenthood is not all about abortion.”
The need to protect women’s rights came up in almost every conversation.
“Don’t you think that women should have a choice?” asked Andy Broughton, 39, here from the UK with his wife Veronika, who is Czech. He followed up with a question that has even more resonance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: “Do you really think that no government is a good idea?” And speaking from his perspective as a visitor from across the Pond, he added bluntly: “We’d hate to see Romney win the election. I think it would be a disaster for the world.”
Brian Wasielewski, 35, and AJ Padron, 23, both gay, were incredulous that any LGBT voter would consider not supporting a president who abolished Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and supports same-sex marriage. Their friend Marissa Wyant, 32, was unequivocal: “If you give a shit about equal rights and civil liberties, you can’t vote for Romney.”
Erin and Todd Yorker summed up the fundamental problem with the Republican candidate.
“I don’t think you can trust anything he says,” said Erin, 39.
“He’ll say whatever you want him to say and then do whatever he wants to do,” added Todd, 40.
I’ve heard arguments from moderate Republicans that the Romney we see now is not the Romney we’d see as president — that the anti-gay, anti-abortion, saber-rattling right-wing persona is just an act, that he’s been adjusting his positions even as the race has progressed, showing us the “real” Romney.
To which I say, “Really? That’s your argument? You want to vote for someone because he’s a liar?”
And that’s not a stretch, that term “liar” — from lies about Obamacare and lies about Obama’s welfare polices to his most recent flat-out falsehood about Jeep and China, Romney’s campaign has been raining bullshit (thank you, Jon Stewart) for months.
And we can’t buy it. Just about every index of economic progress is now looking up — slowly, to be sure — but the direction is clear. The mess we’re in can be traced directly to policies propounded by the Bush administration, yet these are the same policies Romney wants to revive.
And when it comes to social issues, thanks, moderates, but I think I’ll stick with a president who has a proven record in support of tolerance, as opposed to a guy who I’m supposed to believe will suddenly open his mind when he’s bathed in the cleansing light of the Oval Office.
Finally, this presidential election and many other local races are about trust.
I trust Bill Nelson a hell of a lot more than I trust Connie Mack.
I trust the moderate records of Jack Latvala and Tom Lee, both of whom deserve to win their races for the Florida Senate.
I trust Nancy Argenziano, Dwight Dudley and Josh Shulman, all of whom belong in the Florida House.
I don’t trust the state legislators who gave us 11 verbose amendments that don’t mean what they seem to mean, and therefore urge you to vote No on all 11.
I don’t trust the right-wing campaign to oust three fair-minded justices from the Florida Supreme Court, and therefore urge you to vote yes for merit retention of Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince.
In Hillsborough, I don’t trust Ronda Storms’ motives for jumping into the race for Property Appraiser, nor do I believe she is as qualified for the position as Bob Henriquez. Vote for Henriquez.
There is absolutely no reason to trust Craig Latimer’s opponent for Supervisor of Elections, Rich Glorioso, who as a state rep voted to limit voters’ rights. Talk about no-brainers: Craig Latimer is the only reasonable choice in this race.
Here’s another indisputable choice: Kevin Beckner has proven himself as an able, thoughtful county commissioner in Hillsborough. The hate campaign of his opponent is shameful.
And another candidate for Hillsborough County Commission who has won my trust through his civic-mindedness and indefatigable energy is Mark Nash, who deserves to join Beckner on the commission.
On the Pinellas County Commission, I trust that the re-election of Ken Welch and the election of Janet Long and Charlie Justice will help this commission stop marching in lockstep with tea-party paranoia.
And here’s one more recommendation: Vote.
I met a local restaurateur on the day of the Obama rally, a young single father who told me he’d never voted in his life. He said a vote in this election really wouldn’t matter much to his daily life.
Here’s news for you, sir: More than perhaps any election in your lifetime, this one matters. Any of these races, from the president on down, could come down to just a few votes.
One of those votes could be — should be — yours.
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