Thursday, October 04, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #76 - Part 4

Elections 2012: Why I am not voting for Barack Obama

So the election is coming up and I figured I'd tell you what I'm going to do. First, I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: I am not voting for Barack Obama. I cannot stand the idea of voting for Barack Obama.

Anyone who has seen this show - anyone who has seen this edition of the show - can’t imagine I would have anything good to say about Witless Romney and Paul Rantin'. But you should also realize that the list of crimes - some of them philosophical crimes, some of them moral crimes, some of them possibly legal crimes - the list of crimes of which Barack Obama is guilty is long and gets longer by the day.

"Crimes?" Isn’t that rather strong? How about I defend that with a revised version of something I told you a month ago. Here are 10 reasons I will not vote for Barack Obama.

One. He has presided over a massive expansion of government surveillance of our personal lives. Warrantless wiretapping, warrantless surveillance, has quadrupled during his administration. The National Security Agency is about to open a new center designed for the specific purpose of intercepting, deciphering, analyzing, and storing vast swaths of the world’s communications moving across both foreign and domestic networks.

Two. He has engaged in an unprecedented attack on whistleblowers. The Obama administration has already charged six people under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking classified information. That is literally twice as many such cases as were seen under all previous administrations combined across the entire history of the act, which dates to 1917.

Three. He promised the most transparent administration ever. He has instead established the most secretive administration of modern times, with major programs and policies - especially as related to the use of military force - carried out without public debate or even knowledge.

Four. He has engineered the widest, most serious expansion of executive power ever, to a degree Bush and Cheney only dreamed of. He has taken every excess they claimed on presidential authority, secrecy, the bogus "state secrets privilege," and more and has done as much or worse.

He claimed he was against the Patriot Act but when it came up for renewal, he supported it. Under the National Defense Authorization Act, which he signed, he has the power to indefinitely detain without trial or even charge, anyone he in his personal, unreviewable, judgment deems to be giving "substantial support" to some terrorist or "associated forces," whatever they are.

He has even asserted and acted on the authority to kill anyone, including American citizens on foreign soil, without trial or any sort of due process, if again in his personal, unreviewable, judgment that person is a terrorist.

Five. Our Nobel Peace Prize president is a warmonger. He waged war on Libya in violation of the War Powers Act. He tried to pressure Iraq into having US troops there after the withdrawal deadline. He has waged secret wars in Yemen and Somalia. He has dramatically expanded the drone war on Pakistan that daily terrorizes the people of northwest Pakistan and in which, despite official lies about "precision targeting" and "surgical strikes" and "civilian casualties in the single digits," has killed hundreds of innocent people and more die almost daily.

Before Obama entered office, there had been one US military strike in Yemen. During his administration there have been as many as 110. Under George Bush, there were 50 drone strikes in Pakistan. Under Barack Obama, there have been 300. Under Bush, there were over 400 casualties from those strikes. Under Obama, there have been five times as many.

Six. He has failed to prosecute war criminals and torturers. After coming into office loudly declaring "nobody is above the law," Obama immediately set out to actively shield the war criminals of the Bush gang - including those who tortured prisoners - not only from criminal prosecution, but from Congressional investigations and private civil suits as well. Even where prisoners were killed, there is no punishment, no prosecution.

For six years, from 2001-2007, the US maintained what amounted to an officially-sanctioned torture regime. And from across all that time, all that torture, all those torturers, all their enablers, only one person is being prosecuted for anything related to torture. His name is John Kiriakou. He didn't torture anyone. He's one of those six whistleblowers I mentioned and he's facing 45 years in prison - for telling us about the torture.

The message from the Obama administration is clear: Do the dirty work, kidnap, kill, imprison, torture, and we’ll cover for you. Destroy the evidence of that, we’ll cover for you. Let the public know what is being done in their name, well put you in prison effectively for the rest of your life.

Seven. He has beaten the war drums against Iran, talking about "red lines" and staging large-scale military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf. This despite the fact that US officials will admit when pressed that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. He has already initiated a cyberwar on Iran, using computer worms to attack its infrastructure. That is something the Pentagon says would be an act of war if directed against the US but because we're doing to to Iran,the White House regards it as a great foreign policy success.

Eight. Afghanistan. Out now. Not over two years of pointless death and blood and havoc for us but far more for Afghans from now, now. Every day he does not get out is a new moral crime.

Nine. He has failed to prosecute Wall Street crooks. Instead, from the beginning of his term he has surrounded himself with Wall Street hacks and insiders. In fact, the administration went so far as to specifically refuse to follow up on criminal referrals from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and a Congressional report, both of which presented clear evidence of fraud.

Ten. Barack Obama wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. He wants the so-called "Grand Bargain" that would sacrifice the poor and the elderly on an altar of "deficit reduction" in exchange for a few token tax increases on the rich - which shouldn't even be called increases because they would in fact be putting an end to what were supposed to be temporary reductions. He wants that "Grand Bargain" enough that he has whined that he doesn't get enough credit for being so willing to make it.

I am not voting for, I will not vote for, Barack Obama. I'm voting for Jill Stein of the Green-Rainbow Party.

But as soon as anyone says that, you can be sure - you can be sure as the Sun rising in the east - that the response will be a sneer of "What, so you'd rather Romney won?"

In fact, it's so sure that it doesn't matter what the election is for or when it happens or who is involved: Suggest you are voting for a third party and you will get "Oh, you'd rather fill-in-the-blank-with-the-name-of-the-evil-rightwinger-de-jour won." Followed quickly by some haughty reference to the foolishness of "wasting your vote."

The proper answer to the first part is "Of course not, don't be an idiot." To the second, it's "It's never a waste to vote for what you believe in." As Eugene Debs said, "I'd rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don't want and get it." And voting for Barack Obama is voting to get all those things I just listed.

Now look - I'm a moralist but I'm also a realist, including about myself. I admit that if I lived in a toss-up state, and I don't mean a "swing" state, which means it sometimes goes one way and sometimes another, but a toss-up state, one where the election was truly up for grabs, but if I lived in a toss-up state - which I don't - I would be tempted to vote for Obama. I'd have to do it with my tongue because one hand would be covering my eyes and the other would be holding my nose, but I probably could do it. Note that the word "could" rather than "would" in that sentence was chosen deliberately.

But there is more involved here, more involved with voting, than the immediate practicalities of the next two or four years.

Some people talk about not voting for Obama or any other Democrat so they will lose in order to "teach them a lesson." The lesson it is intended to teach is that there is a price to pay for ignoring us. There is a point to the right beyond which you can't pull us.

But I have to point out here that I'm not talking about, as some do, "teaching them a lesson" by not voting, so they'll lose. I think that's idiotic. Not voting as a means of protest fails because the protest remains invisible to its target. All they see is a lower turnout, which might inspire a bigger get-out-the-vote campaign next election but will not inspire soul-searching; in fact it's more likely to push them further to the right in hopes of picking up a few more votes in the supposed "center" - which of course now has shifted to the right.

On the other hand, voting, voting for third parties, specifically one clearly to the left of Obama, can teach that lesson about a price to be paid because every such vote is at least potentially one that the Democrats could have had if we and our votes had not been taken for granted or worse, dismissed.

(Indeed, historically that is the role third parties have played in the US: proving a base of support for certain ideas, a base sufficiently large to threaten the electoral position of one of the major parties, which had to shift to respond to that threat.)

There is a story on that point I have told a number of times: Some years ago - 1984, to be exact - I was running for Congress as an independent. I was running against a moderately liberal Democrat trying to keep his seat in a moderately conservative Republican district. (This being in those distant days when the phrase "moderate Republican" still had some rational meaning.)

One time he asked me if I wasn't concerned that I would take enough votes from him so that if the election was close the Republican would win. I started to answer but before I got out more than a couple of words, he waved me off with a grin: "Never mind,"  he said. "That's my problem, not yours."

Exactly: his problem. And those who want a third party voter like me to vote for Obama have exactly that same burden: It is their problem, not mine. My burden is to find the candidate I can best support, the candidate who best expresses my convictions, my beliefs, my hopes, the candidate I think best embodies what I want to see happen. If Obama supporters want my vote, they have to give me a reason to do it, a reason for Obama strong enough to outweigh the reasons against, a reason that must go beyond "He's not Mitt Romney." That is, beyond arguing that despite everything, you still have to vote for Obama because he's "the lesser evil."

Which brings up the whole issue of "lesser evil"-ism. We often hear that the lesser of two evils is still an evil, which is true, but the real problem is not so much that a particular "lesser evil is still evil," but that every time we do that, every time we settle for the lesser evil, we set that as a new standard. It is the new baseline, the new normal. Several folks have commented on how Richard Nixon  could not get the Republican nomination today because he would be regarded as "too liberal" and not long ago one prominent blogger noted how in a number of ways the GOP platform of 1956 sounds liberal by today's standards - not just as compared to the Republican platform but to the Democratic one as well.

Then there is the argument "we have to vote for Obama now and then we'll protest like hell later." Which is utter nonsense; it makes even less sense than the lesser evil line.

Now in one sense I can agree with part of the argument, in that I believe that on-going social disruption, being in the streets, "no business as usual," is our best (and necessary) weapon no matter who is president, no matter who is in the majority in the House or the Senate. But that's not what most of the Obamabots raising the "vote now, protest later" cry mean by "protest." They mean angry blog posts, tut-tutting op-eds, testy tweets, and the occasional sternly-worded petition. All of which they will do - as long as it doesn't hurt the chances of any Democrat in any election.

All those things - blog posts, op-eds, tweets, petitions, letters to Congress, letters to the editor - all of those things and more can and do have their uses. But unless they are connected to the kind of social disruption that the Kewl Kidz and Obamabots sneer at - "like, hey, man, that's so 20th century, y'know?" - why can't, why shouldn't, the Democrats just ignore the posts, the op-eds, the tweets, the whatever since we have repeatedly shown we will support them anyway no matter what they do as long as they can find some way to say they are not quite as evil as the other guys?

If we are to stop slowly slipping backwards, if we are not to be satisfied by the occasional uptick in the course of the overall continuing decline, if we ever are to actually, truly, reverse that decline, if we are to actually, truly, reverse the decline that has seen economic inequality steadily increase and real median income gradually decline across presidencies and parties for over 30 years, the decline that has seen our privacy slowly stripped away even as government secrecy increases, the decline that has seen civil liberties increasingly limited and the ability to protest increasingly restricted, the decline that has seen a nation that once claimed to be a light unto the world become a blight unto the world, if we are to actually, truly, reverse that decline, then at some point "the lesser evil" will have to cross over into "just not good enough" and therefore "no." Some folks have already crossed that line; I am right up against it. (Which is why I said I "could" vote for Obama in a swing state rather than I "would" do so.)

Yes, there is a risk: You could lose. You could lose big, with all that entails for others who get harmed as a result.

But unless we are prepared to take that risk, unless we are prepared to risk losing, we will never win in any way that reaches beyond the short term. Josh Marshall, no radical he, got it right a couple of years ago:
The key condition of political success is almost always a genuine willingness to lose well.
Put another way, every time we settle for the lesser evil, we are saying that our greatest hope for the long term is that things will get worse more slowly than they otherwise might (which is precisely what "vote for Obama because God forbid Romney" is arguing).

My hope is at a low ebb - but I'm not willing give up what hope I have by limiting my focus to merely not losing (rather than actually winning), which is what too many in the Obama camp would have me and those like me do.

I am voting for Jill Stein. I will not vote for Barack Obama. Don't even ask me to.


1 comment:

JayV said...

Larry, hope you are well. I like this post especially as it reinforces for me why I wouldn't vote for Obama either.

Been busy mostly in preproduction for a sci-fi thriller feature length movie DeadFi is shooting in the late Spring, 2013.

And my friends and I from OccupyBurlington (which is mostly dormant) have been picketing the main Citizens Bank branch in Burlington gettin' on 5 months now. It's the most bailed out bank (fully owned by RBS). We encourage people to move their $$ to a credit union. No real firm figures on how many we've convinced (it's a credit union friendly town), but it's certainly not good PR for Citizens.

All the best. -Jay

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