Friday, November 30, 2012

My Responsibility

A couple of weeks before the election, I read Conor Friedersdorf's essay 'Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama'. I posted it to Facebook. I wanted people to read it.

In the election, I voted for Barack Obama. I don't have buyer's regret. I'm happy he won, although I admit the Romney campaign worked far harder to lose my vote than Obama did to win it. (I know I could have voted for a third party, but I looked at the two politicians who actually had a shot of winning and found Obama preferable enough that I wanted to influence the two-man race directly.) So why did I propagate Friedersdorf's essay?

Because I thought people needed to get the best anti-Obama case straight-up. Friedersdorf's not a silly Rush Limbaugh type going on about the government giving kids free birth control (and notably, he didn't find Mitt Romney acceptable either). Instead, he goes straight for the jugular, attacking the most uncomfortable aspects of Obama's foreign policy. A Republican President arguably would have been just as bad, but that's a weak excuse.

Friedersdorf did not convince me not to vote for Obama, but he did make me think. He made me more aware. That is a very good thing.

I'm a fan of both of podcaster Dan Carlin's shows. In the last episode of his political podcast Common Sense before the 2012 election, he said something to make me pause. Carlin, who is of the opinion that both major political parties are hopelessly corrupt, said that while he couldn't stomach the idea of voting for either Obama or Romney, he thought that if he had to choose one or the other, he would rather see Romney win.

Carlin is concerned about the erosion of American civil liberties under the banners of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, two 'wars' that he feels have done immense damage to American society. He doesn't think he would approve of Romney's policies any more than Obama's. However, he does feel that civil libertarians on the Left -- a large and substantial group -- would hold Romney accountable for the same actions that they give Obama a pass on. There would be far more demands from civil society to expose the government's dirty laundry under a Romney administration than there are under an Obama one.

Putting aside the issue of whether Obama has really been so bad for civil liberties or not, I do believe Carlin is basically right here. The three main points that Friedersdorf makes against Obama in his essay (terrorizing Pakistani civilians, extrajudicial killing of Americans, and authorization of military forces without Congressional approval) are ones that would have made many Democrats absolutely furious if the President for the last four years had been George W. Bush or John McCain.

This isn't some pathology endemic to left-wingers. What about all those Republicans who cheerfully went along with whatever George W. Bush did for eight years, but when Barack Obama became President they decided Our Country Is In Danger because of Ballooning Debt and Losing Our Basic Liberties?

That's why I've made a decision:

I stand by my vote for Barack Obama. I believe he was the clear better choice. But, you know those bumper stickers and T-shirts you can buy that say, 'Don't blame me! I voted for [name of loser of last election]'?

Well, I voted for Obama and I'm happy he won. Please, blame me.

Don't bother hurling random anti-Obama crap at me. What blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say bears no relation to reality.

No, I want to hear the real stuff. I want to find out about government policy that makes real people miserable. I want to hear about the people who die. I want to hear the bad things my government is doing.

I don't want to be one of those jerks who thinks it's OK for the government to misbehave as long as the guy I voted for is in power.

I want to know the bad things. I want to be made aware. I voted for this government. It's my responsibility.

1 comment:

J said...

Frankly I'm skeptical of the "we give Obama a pass" argument. Though true to a degree, I think most Dems would not have been too upset over the killing of Awlaki even under Bush, and the drone attacks over all are no where near the scale of the Iraq war. I think an overlooked benefit of reelecting Obama has been a general leftward shift in the political discourse, potentially bringing things like the drones closer to being debated topics.