In 2008, The Chronicle’s independent editorial board resoundingly endorsed Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States. Obama’s subsequent victory—which placed a black man in our nation’s highest office for the first time in history—was the fruit borne by a campaign of change, bipartisanship and much-needed healing after eight years of squandered money and goodwill. There were high hopes for the newly elected president, especially among many young voters who saw their 21st century outlook reflected in Obama’s history and personality. At Duke, nearly 700 students packed Sanford to witness his historic election.
Today, in 2012, we yet again endorse Obama but under much less idealized circumstances. After four years in office, Obama has not fulfilled his promise to reconcile the divisive and toxic political climate in Washington. Congressional Republicans have made bipartisanship near impossible, but Obama himself has been a disappointment in some regards. While we like Obama for his obvious intelligence and cool temperament, his strengths can also be his weaknesses: Obama sometimes believes himself too intelligent to play politics. His temperament is sometimes too cool to engage Americans emotionally and certainly too cool to face down his bloodthirsty political opponents.
Nevertheless, we have no choice but to endorse Obama in the face of the alternative Mitt Romney. Our endorsement ultimately came down to values, which dwarf our relatively trivial misgivings about leadership styles. No matter how uninspiring Obama’s 2012 campaign has been compared to the 2008 campaign, it has offered a more heartening vision than that proposed by Romney’s campaign, which has been run on the values of an increasingly extremist Republican Party.
Duke is fundamentally built upon values of equality, fairness and community—values we believe are embodied much more in Obama than Romney, who may have embodied them at one point in time but has since been swept into the winds by his radical base. The issues speak for themselves.
Duke students care about fighting discrimination. Obama’s first piece of signed legislation was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps protect women and minorities from wage discrimination.
Duke students care that our LGBT community is treated with fairness and dignity. Obama helped end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. He also endorsed marriage equality.
Duke students care about college affordability, especially the nearly 50 percent of undergraduates who receive need-based aid. Obama reformed the federal student aid program, saving the government $60 billion, a third of which were put into Pell grants, which benefit more than 10 percent of Duke students.
Romney’s campaign has proven that he simply cannot match Obama’s commitment to these crucial values. Romney’s emphasis on “real economy” private equity experience, his shortsighted worldview and indifference to the “47 percent” are not the solution to a nation still in slow recovery from a near economic catastrophe. These are not the values we hold. These are not the values we believe most Duke students hold. Obama may not be a perfect candidate nor a perfect human being, but his values are superior. Thus, we emphatically endorse Obama to be re-elected president of the United States.