Monday, January 02, 2012

How Barack Obama lost my vote on New Year's, 2012

In 2008 I wrote here that the determining factor for choosing to cast my vote for Barack Obama in the Tennessee Democratic primary over Hillary Clinton was the extent to which he could shift away from repeating the conservative talking point that people were angry exclusively at politicians. All I needed was for him to acknowledge the populist point that corporations also deserved blame for the national anguish. I eventually voted for Obama in the primary (and then in the general election) because I heard him start to touch on the powers ordinary people were up against both inside and outside of government.

I knew he had his limitations. He still emphasized working with Republicans after America threw the bums out. His campaign contributions came from finance industry giants who dropped us into the recession. He wasn't the perfect candidate, and I did not expect him to be.

But 4 years ago I did not expect him to do what he did this weekend. In 2008 I never would have predicted that he would become more like George W. Bush on human rights than I had imagined he could. Jonathan Turley, a highly regarded constitutional legal scholar, sizes up the presidential damage:

President Barack Obama rang in the New Year by signing the [National Defense Authorization Act] ... with its provision allowing him to indefinitely detain citizens. It was a symbolic moment to say the least. With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating, Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country ....

Ironically, in addition to breaking his promise not to sign the law, Obama broke his promise on signing statements and attached a statement that he really does not want to detain citizens indefinitely.

Obama insisted that he signed the bill simply to keep funding for the troops. It was a continuation of the dishonest treatment of the issue by the White House since the law first came to light ....

You do not “support our troops” by denying the principles for which they are fighting. They are not fighting to consolidate authoritarian powers in the President. The “American way of life” is defined by our Constitution and specifically the Bill of Rights. Moreover, the insistence that you do not intend to use authoritarian powers does not alter the fact that you just signed an authoritarian measure.

In signing the NDAA, Obama crossed a line too far for me to consider voting for him again. I won't be voting Republican, but I won't be voting for Obama. Otherwise, I'm not sure what I'll do come the election, but I cannot ignore in the Obama Presidency what I could not tolerate about Dubya's. Obama chose Bush's Orwellian world over his constitutional obligation to defend our basic rights, to preserve the Bill of Rights. In the parlance of civil religion, NDAA is the unforgivable sin.

The irony here is that what I first responded so critically to--that Obama defined the national problem as exclusively that of the actions of politicians--is in 2012 the problem with the re-election of Barack Obama. It took a president to sign NDAA and fundamentally unravel our right not to be detained for speaking our minds, for nonviolent assembly, for social protest, for any reason at all. It took a president to make indefinite detainment without expectation of due process the law of the land. As he used to say in 2008, the politicians have become the problem. He is a self-fulfilling prophecy in 2012.

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