An undecided voter on President Obama's convention

Summary:It's the Democrats. What could possibly go wrong?

Barack Obama

Finally, near the end of Thursday night, it was time for the President to step up to the podium. By this time, we already knew what he'd be claiming as accomplishments: the auto industry bailout, the healthcare reform legislation, the death of Osama bin Laden, an increase in job creation, a claimed turnaround of the economy.

But the entire theme of the convention was "forward," so where would the man who wanted to remain President take the dialog? Could he make the case that he was the better choice than Mitt Romney? Could he make the case that he did a good job these last four years? And how would that barely-experienced "hopey-changey" candidate present himself once he's had four years of the most brutal on-the-job training?

As I listened to the President, I noticed a theme I haven't seen in years being introduced back into the dialog: the importance of American manufacturing. Obama talked about the manufacturing jobs that have come back to the United States after being outsourced. Now, admittedly, there are still a lot more jobs being sent overseas than being brought home, but it's a start.

Even though many of us in the information industry are aware of the importance of what Steve Jobs once called knowledge workers, it's clear that unless America actually builds things, we're giving up our strength to foreign competitors. Unless we actually control our means of production, we are destined to become vassals to the large manufacturing nations.

That's why statements by Obama like "We are doing what America does best. We are making things again," are so important.

Another issue I don't recall Governor Romney bringing up is climate change. According to Obama, "Climate change is not a hoax." That's pretty obvious to almost anyone with eyes. Of course, the reasons for the changes and the methods of dealing with them are subject to enormous debate, but we're going to have to pay attention to this issue in future years.

It's clear that four years have seasoned Obama. It's almost painful watching old YouTube videos of the younger man talking about cooperation and how the parties will get along, and then watching this man, after four years in the White House, talk about the realities of the pushbacks from Congress.

On the other hand, with that seasoning in hand, Obama was able to clearly differentiate himself from the Governor on the area of foreign affairs, describing his competitors as, "They're...new." Foreign affairs were barely mentioned by Mr. Romney or Mr. Ryan, where President Obama clearly discussed issues of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

He also reflected on the challenges in the United States and how it's time to spend on our own infrastructure, by saying "It's time to do some nation-building right here at home."

Neither Biden nor Obama truly answered how they'd pay for all the social programs they support, but instead spent considerable time trying to show that the opposition couldn't pay for debt reduction, either. While they criticized the Romney version of trickle-down economics, they didn't spend nearly as much time and attention on how they'd stop borrowing from China and how they'd cover the costs of these programs.

Final thoughts

President Obama didn't win my vote with his speech, and neither did any of the other speakers. Nor did they move the needle any closer to their side. I think I'll need to see how the candidates debate each other, watch them side-by-side, to truly get the measure of who I think would be better for America.

But I did notice one very interesting difference between the two parties: the Obama speech was very inclusive of all Americans and the Romney speech was very angry about the Democrats. It was a very different tone, one coming from a President and one coming from someone who'd very much like to be President.

I find myself getting pissed because the Dems want to pay for this social program or that social program, this entitlement or that entitlement, this benefit or that benefit.

They're all valid and helpful, but where's the money coming from? What I don't hear is whether the actual systems we have in place are working, how we can keep costs down, and how we can filter the enormous waste out of the system.

The Democrats honorably want to help Americans, but they don't seem willing to fight the hard fights with the people they're so willing to keep paying off.

By contrast, the Republicans don't seem to want to pay for much (except unreasonably high tax breaks for the super wealthy), and seem willing to watch most Americans suffer if it means they get to spout their ideology and keep their cash.

I keep thinking the question is whether we want a CEO to run the largest enterprise in the world, or whether we want someone more focused on the well being of that enterprise's constituents? I really don't know, because the enterprise itself can't be bankrupted, or it will help no one. A sinking ship can't carry either its passengers or its crew.

On the other hand, CEOs serve to generate shareholder value and, in the case of America, those shareholders are usually the superwealthy individuals and corporations. Which leaves the rest of us out of the loop.

And so, here's what we're looking at. The Democrats are more inclusive and the Republicans more angry. The Democrats have social programs to show for their time in office and the Republicans want to repeal them. The Democrats have skyrocketed the debt and the Republicans want to stop spending on almost everything except military expansion.

The Democrats had two years where they ran everything and accomplished nothing. The Republicans had eight years in office, where they almost destroyed everything. Which is worse?

As you can see, I'm still not a fan of either party. There are only a few events left before the election, and I'm left with this very disturbing realization: come January 20 next year, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be president.

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:

Topics: Government, Government : US

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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