Political choices will shape future of love, health, war

Politics is about choices that matter for people’s lives.

Who will get health care, and who won’t get treatment until it’s too late? Who will be able to marry, and who will be denied this legal bond? Who will face faraway combat, and what troops will come home? Who will have bright opportunities, and whose dreams will be thwarted?

While candidates are fond of saying “This is the most important election of your lifetime,” this year the results will truly be far-reaching.

The presidential race will determine the fate of the programs that have enabled generations to live in dignity and security. Mitt Romney and his House Republican running mate pledge to end traditional Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Federal programs that protect our food supply, fund medical research, bring food to elderly shut-ins and support families with disabled children would be severely cut.

Anyone who expects Romney to revert to his former moderation would be disappointed. If elected, he would avoid disappointing the Republican base, which would not re-nominate him if he does not sign the Ryan budget.

President Barack Obama’s first act in office was to sign a law protecting equal pay for equal work. As a candidate, Obama promised to end the war in Iraq, pass health care reform, and get Osama bin Laden — and then he delivered. Taken overall, Politifact rates 17 percent of his promises “broken,” a strong record given the nation’s challenges and the recalcitrant Congress.

Unemployment has fallen from the depths of the recession begun under George W. Bush and, in the last year, the deficit has decreased. Even as Obama protects the nation’s pledges to seniors and veterans and expanded Medicare coverage, his is the only credible debt-reduction plan.

Maine will also fill the Senate seat now held by Republican Olympia Snowe. At this point, it’s clear either independent Angus King or Republican Charlie Summers will win.

Summers signed onto the Paul Ryan-Grover Norquist approach involving big cuts to key programs, coupled with a redistribution of income upward. His approach is unlike the more moderate Snowe, who has not done anything to help his candidacy.

In the recent debate in Bangor, Summers departed from the Maine tradition exemplified by Margaret Chase Smith’s stand against deceitful attacks. Summers falsely accused King of supporting natural gas, a very cheap energy alternative, because King sits of on the board of a Maine engineering firm that focuses on natural gas just 2 percent of its time.

Should King win, he will probably find the Senate as frustrating as Snowe. However, King will be a fresh, pragmatic voice, not one inclined to simply sign on to a pre-existing agenda or balk at compromise.

Within Maine, should Republicans retain both houses of the Maine Legislature, they would be emboldened to enact more of their most controversial proposals. Since 2011, these include a health insurance law written by insurance companies, restrictions on voting and cuts in health-care funding.

Our state will also decide whether to embrace marriage equality. Right now there are plenty of families in Maine with gay and lesbian parents. Their parents care for them just as heterosexual couples do, waking up in the middle of the night to comfort them, helping them with homework and taking them to recitals, religious services, the doctor and sports events.

Every study that compares child-rearing by homosexual and heterosexual couples shows that parents’ sexual orientation has no effect on how kids do. Opponents’ claim that these families don’t pass muster had their chance to demonstrate this in court, and they failed. As an attorney in California’s Proposition 8 case said about the testimony presented in federal court, “When you’re up on the witness stand, eventually there’s no place to hide, and when you can’t hide, discrimination falls.”

Today gay and lesbian couples get married in more and more countries and states, expanding happiness. Meanwhile, every religious institution decides for itself whether to marry gay and lesbian couples. Some do, and some don’t.

While the historical trend is moving decisively toward greater inclusion, Maine can be a state that values all loving couples today and that supports everyone’s rights to commitment, security and dignity.

What’s the 2012 election about? Love and life and sickness and health, who picks judges with lifetime appointments, whether wars begin or end.

Don’t forget to vote.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.