I have been asked why I do not support Obama, despite the fact that I am a liberal. I do not intend to write long posts on the topic, because it keeps me from doing other projects. But I will try to respond a few times, here. The following pretty well sums it up. I know this author errs in a few spots, but not enough for me to nit pick.
I’m not voting for Obama in 2012
By Chris Clarke on 2011 08 15 at 5:18:14 pm
Or at least not unless he changes from who he is today.
The first time I voted in a Presidential election was in 1980. I wasn’t going to. Carter had disappointed me, responding to criticism that he wasn’t warlike enough by ramping up the sabre-rattling. Four months before the election he’d signed Presidential Proclamation 4771, which reinstated registration for the draft. All men born January 1, 1960 or after had to register. I was born just a few days after that cutoff. Carter made me choose between disobeying the dictates of my conscience and becoming a felon. I chose the latter, and the resultant damage to my education and subsequent career unfolds to this day.
But my housemates were heading to the polls as I was heading home from work, and they said the unthinkable: that Reagan was actually winning. Shocked at the unbelievable idiocy of our countrypeople — who would vote for a psychotic monster like Reagan? — we trooped off to the polls to lend our support to Carter getting his share of New York Electoral votes. The historical record shows that we needn’t have bothered: Reagan carried New York rather handily. But I did cast my vote for Carter.
So I am capable of strategic voting even when I am thereby voting against certain of my own direct interests. Just so you know.
I haven’t always voted for the lesser of evils. I mean, I did vote for Mondale in ‘84, Dukakis in ‘88, and Kerry in 2004. But when it’s been prudent to do so — for instance, when my adopted state of California was not in play — I voted my conscience, or or at least I did as closely as I could. I voted for Nader in 1992, ‘96 and even 2000. I might have voted differently in 2000 if I hadn’t been living in a state where Gore got a 12-point lead. I don’t know. Despite the reflexive bleats of Democratic diehards when this topic comes up, NAder didn’t cheat Gore of Florida’s electoral votes nearly as handily as Gore did himself. More than 200,000 registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush in 2000. Gore didn’t even carry his home state of Tennessee. Nader was far from the biggest reason Gore didn’t become President.
In any event, I’ve voted for Democratic Presidential candidates throughout my life when I thought my vote would make a difference. Every time I’ve done so it has been out of fear that if the Democrat lost, things would get worse.
And as it turns out they’ve gotten worse consistently anyway.
When I first started paying attention to national politics in any kind of systematic, critical way, Nixon was President. He was, of course, Evil Personified, an imperialist, reactionary, conniving, amoral, disingenuous, Machiavellian, rabid sweaty weasel in a cheap pinstriped suit. Now I wish I could vote for the 1972 Nixon instead of any of the choices we have now. It took a while to realize that with the exception of Carter, every single President we’ve had since has been to Nixon’s right. Nixon who signed — and more importantly, fought for — the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Nixon, who in between waging undeclared wars in three countries brokered peace with China and detente with the Soviet Union. Nixon, who tried to get universal health care enacted. If not for Watergate, we might have had socialized medicine in the US.
I celebrated when Obama was elected, in part because Bush was such a nightmare and in part because of the historic importance of the US’s First Black President. But Obama, derided by the Know-Nothing Sector of the US electorate as a “Socialist,” who holds Reagan as the former President he most admires, is emphatically to Nixon’s right.
Obama’s administration has continued some of the most heinous practices of the Bush administration, especially with regard to torture. Despite Obama’s pledge to withdraw from Iraq within 18 months of his ascension, 31 months into the Obama administration we still have troops in Iraq and likely will in 2012. With new wars in Libya and Yemen, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has taken Bush’s two wars and doubled the total.
In environmental matters, the arena I know best, Obama is demonstrably worse than Bush. He talks a better game about climate change, but has nonetheless continued to do the bidding of the oil and coal companies, flogging “clean coal” (which does not exist except in coal company PR strategies), pushing to allow Canadian tar sands extractors to pipe their superpolluting oil into the US, and vowing to increase offshore oil drilling even while the BP Deepwater Horizon spill was in progress, on which matter his administration utterly screwed the pooch.
In the realm of endangered species, Obama falls short of Bush as well. As near as I can determine in a short survey of the news, the Obama administration has protected 66 species under the Endangered Species Act in the two and a half years since the inauguration. Of those, 48 are Kauai endemics cleared for listing by the Bush administration for which the Obama administration gets credit due merely to the timing of the paperwork, and six are birds not native to the United States that were listed a few months back so as to streamline enforcement of international trade violations. Listing of domestic species, which is the main point of the ESA and the main irritant to American businesses, ground to a halt in the last two years.
Obama’s one big environmental initiative, a huge program of subsidies for developers of “alternative” energy sources, in fact constitutes one of the largest Federal pushes for de facto privatization of Western public lands in the last 100 years. millions of acres of the West, and of eastern National Forests and shorelines as well, have been put on the auction block for energy developers to choose among. While such a policy might be understandable in the context of a 180-degree U-turn away from fossil fuel development, no such U-turn is happening. Big Solar and Big Wind aren’t replacing anything: they’ve merely become one additional way for business to extract value from public lands while the coal mining and oil drilling and natural gas fracking go on as scheduled.
I’ve been tracking environmental assaults on the western landscape since the late 1980s. Obama’s energy policy is, for the California deserts and a number of other places, pretty much the Apocalypse. We’re talking about the complete industrialization of many millions of acres of public land — your land and my land, as the song has it — on a scale Bush never would have been able to get away with.
On a scale Bush never would have been able to get away with. Why? Because this is what happens in America: Republicans take the White House and progressives and liberals get outraged, we get scared, we band together (in between petty internecine squabbling) and we mostly work to forestall the worst excesses of the GOP. We organize. We harness the better impulses of the American people and make some changes in the names listed on the White House stationery.
And when a Democrat takes the White House, four fifths of that liberal coalition goes to ******* sleep. It happened after Clinton got in, and after Carter got in, and it’s happening now with a vengeance. The Democratic rank and file figures their guy’sin power and they can go back to watching So You Think You Can Dance. Angry progressive blogs that savaged the right wing in 2000-2008 for making the Iraq war happen now seem to have had that same war largely swept from their list of concerns, even though it is now apparently endless and has three siblings.
There are differences between the two parties. Despite the usual straw man, no one — except college students new to leftism and maybe Alexander Cockburn — ever really says there’s no difference between the parties except as the most shortened of shorthand. In point of fact, there’s as much difference between the parties as there is between clockwise and counterclockwise on a ratchet wrench turning a bolt. Turning rightward tightens the bolt. But you don’t want to break the handle by pushing too hard, so you relax and turn the handle back to the left. The wrench loosens a bit, if ineffectually — the bolt doesn’t move, but the pressure eases up. And then comes the next push to the right, tightening the bolt still further. Each cycle has its new status quo, its period of tightening up and release, and the result in the end? The leftward relaxation has merely made the rightward clampdown possible.
Democratic loyalists point out that if we don’t vote for their guy, the worse guy gets in. This is clearly true. But it also manifestly creates conditions by which the lesser evil will, over time, get more and more evil. We see this now in that we’re likely to be asked to vote for a man who has us involved in four concurrent wars, continues torture and rendition and denial of habeas corpus, offers up Medicare and Social Security for cuts as a compromise (another victory Bush could have only dreamed of), and would preside over the largest paving of the deserts in history — simply because his likely opponent is ******* batshit insane.
It’s a worse choice every single time. Every single time the difference is clear, and every single time both candidates are more loathsome than their counterparts four years previous. How many people reading this wouldn’t vote for 1972 Nixon in a heartbeat as the Democratic candidate in 2012? How much worse will it have to get before we say “enough!” How many more cranks of the ratchet wrench do we want to go through before we look in the box for a better tool?
A few days ago on Google+ I posted a preliminary list of qualifications a candidate for office must have before my conscience would even consider letting me vote for him or her. It was incomplete and I’m still working on it, thinking that someone out there might care.
In order for me to vote for any candidate for office, that candidate:
•must neither openly nor tacitly support the use of torture in any circumstance.
•must pledge to defend women’s access to abortion against any threatened limitation, whether that obstruction be political, religious or economic.
•must pledge to oppose the enshrining in law of social discrimination against any group of people based on gender, ethnicity, sexuality, language, religious belief or lack thereof, disability, social class, or other arbitrary division.
•must agree that the rich – who have after all profited most from the country’s natural wealth, infrastructure and financial policy – ought to pay their fair share of taxes.
•must at least hold as an aspiration the provision of a tolerable standard of living to all people in the US, including shelter, food, clothing, education, health care and access to communication, regardless of the individual’s ability to pay.
•must support the continued existence of labor unions.
•must pledge not to punish individual migrants for the failures of the country’s immigration policy.
•must at least pledge to value the ecological integrity of the United States’ landscapes over the possibility that profit might be extracted from them.
•must possess at least a high-school level understanding of science, especially regarding but not limited to crucial topics such as climate change and evolutionary biology.
•must oppose any interference in the routine and proper teaching of science in our public schools by religious groups.
•must abide by the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
On completing the first draft of this list I had two simultaneous and equally disheartening feelings.
1) This really is an insultingly low bar for my conscience to insist on.
2) There are very few politicians who could satisfy a majority of the conditions set out here, and almost none — maybe Grijalva — who could meet them all.
But we have to start somewhere, because this road goes nowhere good.