Barely a month ago, I started attending a Methodist church in my neighborhood. Like other majority-black churches here in Washington, D.C., the topic of the election was never far from anyone's minds--or their prayers. The foremost request: the re-election of President Barack Obama.
I haven't gone to a Hispanic church in years, so I don't know if the subject's arisen in the same way there or not. But the prayers of my African-American Methodist neighbors showed them to be deeply worried about the prospect of a change of occupant in the White House.
In moments like this, the separation of church and state is dwarfed by other concerns--in this case, the turmoil a potential Mitt Romney presidency could provoke in a number of social, educational and health-care programs which could be affected by proposed Republican cuts (in the name of reducing the deficit), or by Romney's promise to repeal "Obamacare," a law which has given access to health care to 9 million previously-uninsured Latinos.
I--as a Latina voter and a registered independent--share those concerns.
The minute I set foot in this country from Puerto Rico I registered as an independent. Many moons, and many elections, have passed since then, and I've voted for candidates of both parties. I reject the blinders of partisanship: I look at the candidates for themselves and their proposals.
And it's been several years since any Republican ticket has made me as uneasy as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan do.
I'm disgusted by Romney's fickleness, his resemblance to a weathervane shifting in the wind. I don't see conviction in him. His immigration policies worry me, as does the company he keeps. Take his choice of Arizona law SB 1070 author Kris Kobach as his immigration advisor--or of Kobach's "attrition through enforcement" policy, in which harsh laws and aggressive policing are used to induce immigrant workers to "self-deport", as the cornerstone of his campaign's immigration policy.
I'm offended by his profession that he doesn't have to concern himself with the 47 percent of the country that doesn't pay taxes--saying they consider themselves "victims"--without thinking who that 47 percent includes, like the troops that Romney and the Republicans praise so much. It infuriates me to think that his policies would benefit the wallets of his billionaire colleagues at the expense of the middle class and the poor.
Ryan, for his part, made me wary before he was chosen as Romney's running mate--when, as a rising Republican star, he proposed a budget that would (once again) find the savings to reduce the budget deficit in cuts to the programs most needed by the country's working class and its minorities.
Ryan wants Social Security privatized and Medicare cut. An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the Ryan budget, as passed by the House of Representatives in March 2012, made 62 percent of its cuts (about $3.3 trillion) to programs for the "have-nots"--including Medicaid, Pell Grants, and others.
Nor do I like the war drums I keep hearing whenever either half of the Republican ticket starts talking about Iran or Syria. I remember too well George W. Bush's insistence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore we had to intervene--and we all know how that turned out.
I was an Obama voter in 2008, and there are certainly issues I wish I'd seen him pay more attention to--primarily the immigration reform he promised. I've criticized him for expanding controversial programs of collaboration with state and local authorities in immigration enforcement, which have been one cause of the rise in deportation rates under his presidency. But I also understand that advancing a proposal on the scale of immigration reform requires both parties--and the last thing Obama has had over the last four years has been bipartisan cooperation.
I'm saddened by the slow pace of the economic recovery and by the continued scourge of unemployment, but I understand that much of what's going on in the economy today is a response to the failed economic policies implemented during the Bush presidency, and of the two Bush wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq) that helped create the deficit.
Another thing that worries me: in the four years since Obama's historic election, we've seen a new chapter unfold in this country's dark history of racism, which is even more visible now on many fronts than it was in 2008. The campaign has energized a right-wing base that, while they may not be enthusiastic about Mitt Romney himself, sees the opportunity to remove Obama from office. In the words of Jason Thompson, son of Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin: "we have the opportunity to send Barack Obama back to Chicago--or Kenya."
Whatever disillusionment I have toward Obama pales beside the dispiriting image of Romney and Ryan in the White House.
And so, when I go to my neighborhood church, every time I hear a prayer for Obama, for his reelection and for the chance to complete his agenda, I say: Amen.
Maribel Hastings is senior advisor to America's Voice