A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Thoughts About The Presidential Election, Break Out The Tin Foil Hats

One thing that social media has shown me is that we have lost the ability (or maybe never had it) to engage in civil discourse about politics. Seriously, some of your heads are going to explode if you don't take a deep breath. There are people whose entire existence online is to attack the President, or support the President. Do you have nothing else to say? It’s pathetic, and it comes from the false collective notion that “you” are wrong and “I” am right. Actually, today it’s more like “YOU ARE TOTALLY CRAZY AND I KNOW THAT BECAUSE I AM TYPING IN ALL CAPS.” Everything is a conspiracy against your guy, those that don’t support your guy “don’t get it,” and if I’m not scared of my guy, I’m doomed.

I keep hearing that “this is the most important election.” Really? Was there any Presidential election that wasn’t important? Have we not had important wars in our past (Revolutionary, Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, did I miss a few?) or important financial issues (The Great Depression, Gas Crisis, recessions, did I miss a few?) Every Presidential election is “the most important,” that’s how we try and sell participation in voting – which is woefully low in the United States.
One of the problems in this country is that we believe we are divided down a straight line of Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats. Not true. Most people are in the middle. The social liberal/financial conservative has been looking for a candidate for years. The problem is that candidates don’t win unless their party is behind them, and each party, Republican and Democrat, have to pacify the extreme right and left wing.

This country was never created to be run by religion, but don’t tell that to some right-wing conservatives. Paul Ryan said he couldn’t separate his religion from his politics. Where was the outrage from the Republicans? You haven’t heard much about that comment since it was made.  This country was also built on the notion that if you work hard, you can be successful. I’m not a big fan of the “rich vs. poor” fight that is raging now, but the liberal democrats believe that part of America’s problem is that the rich need to pay more taxes. While there may be a valid economic argument that the “rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” the answer to America’s problems aren’t found with the “rich,” the so-called “1%” or “2%” or “non-47%,” or whatever. Raising taxes on the so called “rich” may make everyone else feel better, but feeling better doesn’t make your life better.
The problem, as I see it, is that most people have no idea what they are talking about. They are not “crazy” or “stupid,” or “out of their minds,” they are simply uninformed. They latch on to one issue and one message that they heard on an ad or from their friend. The main problem we have in this country right now, is not abortion, or the “rich,” or gay marriage. The problem, as I see it, is that we are creating nothing, and spending too much. We need to start building and manufacturing again in America, start giving serious incentives to keep jobs here, and stop spending ourselves into oblivion. And don’t tell me that one party can do that better than the other. History disagrees.

First, the question that should govern who you vote for (assuming you’re not a party hack that only votes “D” or “R”) is not “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” A better question is: “will you be better off 4 years from now if you vote for your guy?”
If you’re smart, the answer is “who the hell knows?” Many thought Carter was the answer after Nixon, and that Clinton was an idiot from a small southern state who could never manage the national economy, and that Reagan (a Democrat turned Republican) was a moron actor. Bush I said he wouldn’t raise your taxes, so has Romney. Obama promised a lot of hope and change, and has disappointed many, including me.

If you think the President of the United States will make your life better, you stand a good chance of being disappointed. If you are relying on the government to make your life better, that’s your first problem.
So, you say “I’m going to vote for the person that won’t make it worse.”

Make it worse for whom? The country, or you?
You, of course. We generally don’t care about everyone else, we care about us, we, our family.

This election we seem to have two questions – who will get me a job and who will not raise my taxes.
I’ve left out those of you who constantly belly ache about someone taking your gun away, because you all need to realize that no one is going to do that. You can have your guns, as many as you want, any kind you want, and no one will take that away. Personally, I don’t care if you own a gun or 30 guns. I don’t like assault weapons as I seem to think their only purpose is to assault, but if you think that taking away assault weapons is the first step to making gun possession illegal, you can continue advocating for everyone to be able to have an assault weapon or 4. Just stop saying that if they take away your guns that only criminals will have guns, because as a lawyer, I find that argument to be stupid. If they take away anything (meaning it is illegal) then by definition, only criminals will be in possession of said item that is “taken away.” So every time a group of people, kids, whatever, are shot to death by some deranged gun owner, yes, you’ll have to make your case for guns, but I’m serious, don’t worry, it’s never going to be the law in America that we can’t own guns. That Second Amendment is precious to many people, and don’t forget that too many politicians are bankrolled by the NRA for any significant change to occur. But I could be wrong. I don’t think I am.
Now about taxes.

Most Americans don’t pay taxes, I hear. I pay taxes. Come April, I don’t get a check, I write one. I hate paying taxes. I think it’s unpatriotic for any American to want to pay more taxes. I won’t call you “crazy” or unfriend you on Facebook, or anything like that, but really? I don’t want to pay more taxes, but that’s not my only concern. Plenty of people are “one-issue” voters. “He’s going to take away my Medicare,” “he’s going to raise my taxes,” “he’s going to get me a job.” They run those ads for one reason – because they know you are stupid.
I hear if Obama is re-elected my taxes are going up and that if Romney is elected, I will not pay more taxes. I don’t believe any of it, and if both statements are true, I’m still voting for Obama. Here’s why:

I am disappointed in things Obama has done and not done, but I don’t believe I will be better off with Romney.

I am concerned about the future of the Supreme Court and our federal court system. I heard Romney say on that “I appoint prosecutors,” when talking about appointing judges. That’s a problem for me, not because I don’t support prosecutors becoming judges, (many of whom make better judges than former defense lawyers), I do. I give money to prosecutors running for judge, and write letters on their behalf when they are seeking appointments. But to have a President that has already closed the door on non-prosecutors becoming federal judges (does that mean civil lawyers are excluded too?) is a deal breaker for me. When I was debating my vote and then heard that, it ended it for me. But it’s not the only reason. You know all those politicians that say there “shouldn’t be a litmus test” for judges? I agree with their public pronouncements (even though most of them are lying.)

I also believe that Romney is a critic of Obamacare simply because his party wants it gone, even though it is similar to Romney’s health care bill in Massachusetts. That’s called hypocrisy. Is Obama a hypocrite, probably. Most politicians are. But I’m not turning over the keys to the USA to a guy who is making it a central focus to pimp for his party on an issue he probably feels differently about.

I’m also tired of the gay marriage hypocrisy. I’m going to give credence to those that don’t support gay marriage because they don’t believe the definition of marriage should be changed. But let’s get real, the two predominant philosophies surrounding gay marriage are that one, you don’t care if gays marry, or two, you hate gay people. Again, I know and believe that some of you actually feel that gay marriage shouldn’t be legal because no one should have special rights, but most of you who say that are homophobic. I don’t know why more people against gay marriage won’t just say they are simply against gay people. Well, actually I do know why people don’t say that.
And although I don’t think abortion should be used as a form of birth control, I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I’m OK if you don’t. Two of my closest friends are pro-life with no exceptions. It’s OK, we can still have a drink and a good steak together.

I bring this sensitive topic up because when we in Florida went from a moderate Republican (now Independent but really Democrat) governor to a conservative Republican who, like Romney touted employment as his highest priority (“Let’s Get To Work!.”) – we spent a legislative session slogging through at least a half-dozen abortion bills and another half-dozen attacking the court system. Watch, if Romney is elected (and he very well may be), you’ll see a ton of social-based legislation take over the “jobs” agenda real quick.
If I believed we could have a Republican administration that would focus on small business, manufacturing, getting people back to work, I would consider Mitt Romney. But I see the extreme right wing of the party ready to pounce on the courts and social issues, like they did here in Florida, and I’m not going to be a part of helping to put that administration in to the White House.
Even if it costs me money.

Non-anonymous comments welcome.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.

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