Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I was an Obama voter in 2008. Why I will not be voting for him again this time

My daughter has gone with me to vote since I toted her as an infant to the polls. She is now 8, and she looks forward to going with me. Barack Obama is her favorite for president, and she looked on last time when I voted for him. She will be going with me again this week to vote, and it will be hard because I will have to let her down gently and explain to her why I will not be voting for President Obama for re-election.

When I think of the choices determined for me in this election I feel a fatigue very close to that I hear in the voice of this 4-year-old, whom I met this morning on YouTube:

I'm tired of them, too, Abby. Indeed, they are tired choices. And yet, the politically-plugged-in adults chat up Obama's race with GOP challenger Mitt Romney as if they are so far apart on so many issues that this is a clear, black-white moral decision. The reality is that regardless of which two of these privileged men take the White House, little will change.

I believe that because I see that little changed from George W. Bush to Obama. It was not like I was unaware of this risk in 2008, but I put my concerns aside and enthusiastically voted for Obama anyway. Risk realized.

No bankers went to jail for the 2008 economic melt down. In fact, the banks are bailed out and bigger than ever. Obama did nothing to make them smaller and to shelter us from Too-Big-To-Fail Syndrome. Obama has not even reformed his own economic policy, continuing the Bush practice of hiring advisers from the finance sector, some of whom dismantled the regulations under Clinton that paved the way for our economic crisis and malaise. Obama's is a conservative economic policy. He did not spend as much on economic recovery when he had the clout to act boldly as great presidents have, choosing instead the failed path of trying to entice resistant Republicans to join him. I consider any chance he had to be a great president gone.

Given where we've been
where else could he go?
Bush's human rights abuses are not only still in play with GITMO detainment, but Obama doubled down by signing a defense appropriation bill that gives him and any president who follows the power to arrest any American without recourse to their constitutional and universal right to a trial. Likewise, Obama has out-Bushed Bush on the use of drones: the Democratic president does not share Dubya's relatively thoughtful concerns that using drones opens us up to grim political consequences in the future. So how wrong I was 4 years ago when I bought the logic that Obama was less likely than John McCain to use unmanned drones on Muslim targets and manufacture more terrorists in the process. And Democrats in general have been a lot more negligent in counting Obama's drone kills than they were in tallying Bush's Iraq War causalities, which smells like cynicism to me. In his three bipartisan debates with Romney, Obama refused to address his use of the "flying robots of death", but Romney said he supported Obama's droning practices, even though it has caused civilian casualties. That endorsement tells me all I care to know on the abuses of this president's foreign policy.

On the domestic front, Obama did pass healthcare legislation, although it was modeled after healthcare legislation that Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts. And Obama has departed from the Bushian ineptness of disaster response, choosing instead the Clintonian realism of generating political capital by quick and decisive aid and relief. Given the side that Romney's bread is buttered on as well as his recent red-meat tirades on FEMA, I suspect a Romney White House would return to crass indifference in disaster relief. Obama is funding charter schools and privatizing public education around the country at a clip that must only dissatisfy Republicans insofar as it does not include the next logical step: vouchers for private schools. Outside of his foreign and justice policies, Obama's education policy is the biggest failure of them all and disconcerting to me as a public school parent. His commitment to charter schools is an abdication of progressive principals on education open to all. Stylish and in-fashion business models of innovation do not guarantee equal access to education for all and behind them lays the Republican will-to-kill public schools.

Hence, I am tired of this choice. I want to be able to say to my daughter, "We have a game-changer, someone who will shake up the board, not just shake up the etch-a-sketch." I long for a choice whom I believe will follow up on progressive campaign promises rather than governing toward the fence-straddle, and hence, toward the Republicans, like Obama has. There is no chance I'll ever vote Republican, and President Obama is not the viable option for me that he was in 2008 because his GOP-lite approach is realized. The last (but not only) straw for me was Obama signing away our civil liberties.

Try to convince me that a vote on a third option is a vote for Romney and a vote for things to get worse than they have the past four years. That is no less an attempt at voter suppression than is requiring a picture ID. If enough people are persuaded by your argument then they won't vote for more progressive candidates and liberals stand less of a chance of winning and influencing the political process. Hence, we keep our status quo. That is not change we can believe in.

Some of the same Obama supporters who claim that things would get worse under Romney claim that Mitt is a flip flopper. But they can't have it both ways: either he is an dangerous extremist who will use more fully Obama's fleet of flying robots of death or he is a equivocator who, like George Bush the Elder, is opportunistic and willing to sacrifice his scruples on the altar of expediency. I tend to think that Romney is more of the latter, and I think we would see a retread of patrician Bush I with the same sort of Bush II we have seen with Obama. Outside of disaster relief and vouchers, I just do not see the vast difference between Obama and the Republicans that Democrats project, and part of that is Obama's fault for stubbornly striving to embrace rather than to fight the GOP even when he had numbers on them in Congress.

I intend to vote for someone. Most likely it will be Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who is saying what I want to hear from a presidential candidate on ending the drone wars, resurrecting habeas corpus, human rights and social justice, correcting and regulating Big Finance, guaranteeing healthcare for everyone, and pursuing diplomatic solutions first in foreign policy. Rocky Anderson, of the Justice Party, emphasizes many of the same course changes as Dr. Stein, plus he was a two-term Mayor of a major American city, so he will likely be keen to the affects of federal policy on metropolitan issues. Those are the two I've narrowed down to. Those are the two I endorse in 2012, and if I vote for either one my vote will not be wasted because it will be cast for change I can believe in, change hoped for in 2008 and change that can be achieved.

The hard part will be trying to explain the complexity of my vote to my daughter somehow when she has been influenced already by the false dichotomy of this two-party system.

UPDATE: Well, I voted for Dr. Jill Stein, who was arrested on Tuesday for trying to take food to protesters in a sit-in protest against Big Oil's Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. Dr. Stein, again a bona fide presidential candidate, was arrested previously for trying to attend the presidential debates. Third parties may get no respect in our flawed system, but at least one of them got my vote for the first time.

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