Misunderstanding why I won’t vote for Obama a second time

Last week, Andrew Sullivan’s article about how foolish Obama’s critics are was posted and reposted on my social networking feeds. It received enough praise and positive comments that I feel the need to write my own response.

First of all, I am not registered with any party.  I believe in evidence-based policies for dealing with issues like the national debt, not ideological ones. I call myself a liberal because I’m in favor of equal rights, ending the Drug War, legal and easily accessible abortion services, and anything else that would dramatically minimize human suffering. I also supported Obama in 2008, but will not be voting for him again later this year.

According to Sullivan’s article, former Obama supporters like myself lost faith in his administration because we’re “deluded” and “misunderstanding Obama’s strategy” and “projecting unrealistic fantasies” onto him.  From the article:

From the start, liberals projected onto Obama absurd notions of what a president can actually do in a polarized country, where anything requires 60 Senate votes even to stand a chance of making it into law. They have described him as a hapless tool of Wall Street, a continuation of Bush in civil liberties, a cloistered elitist unable to grasp the populist moment that is his historic opportunity. They rail against his attempts to reach a Grand Bargain on entitlement reform. They decry his too-small stimulus, his too-weak financial reform, and his too-cautious approach to gay civil rights. They despair that he reacts to rabid Republican assaults with lofty appeals to unity and compromise.

While Sullivan’s defense of the stimulus package and Obama’s stance on gay rights were well-reasoned, he had no real argument prepared for the president’s continuation of Bush-era polices, such as denying habeas corpus for military detainees in Afghanistan.  Regarding Obama’s handling of Wall Street’s criminal activity, Sullivan weakly framed the fact that Obama discouraged fraud investigations of Wall Street as necessary for the stability of the financial sector.  I would love to know Sullivan’s evidence for this claim, as well as the reason he did not see fit to mention the fact that some of Obama’s most generous campaign contributions came from JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs, nor the fact that his two most recent Chiefs of Staff used to work for two of these Wall Street giants.  Perhaps it’s a “misunderstanding.”

Later in the article, Sullivan justified Obama’s illegal military action in Libya and his signing indefinite detention into law (both of which Sullivan objects to) by claiming that torture was ended under the Obama administration.  Even if that premise made any sense, I can only assume that Sullivan disagrees with the many legal scholars who consider keeping a man charged with no crime in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, only to be stripped naked every night, to be cruel and unusual treatment amounting to torture.  Of course, Sullivan also described the fact that Obama pulled American troops out of Iraq on time as an accomplishment of his administration, despite the reality that Bush set the military withdrawal time table and that Obama fought it, so perhaps assuming that he and I are using the same definitions of words is “deluded” of me.

Last, of course, are the lawless and destructive actions of the Obama administration that Sullivan left out, such as assassinating an American citizen without due process and increasing the use of unmanned drones in countries we are not openly fighting, which frequently kill civilians.  Perhaps Sullivan decided to omit these facts in order to paint Obama as “a pragmatic, unifying reformist” rather than a secrecy-obsessed, Wall Street-backed, centrist who has extended or surpassed every Bush-era Executive overreach and infringement on civil liberties.

Oh sorry, my assumption that a man who campaigned on reestablishing the rule of law would roll back the Bush-era transgressions would be me “projecting unrealistic fantasies on a candidate.”  My mistake (and I won’t let it happen again).

4 Responses to “Misunderstanding why I won’t vote for Obama a second time”

  • Good post, though I don’t agree. I guess for me it comes down to this: U.S. presidential elections are not referendums on the current President, they are choices between two alternatives. I don’t see any action other than picking Obama over any of his possible challengers as reasonable.

  • Aimee

    I remember when I was excited to vote for a president, not just grudgingly voting against whatever horrorshow the GOP puts on the ballot. Sadly, we’re out of Clintons unless Chelsea decides to give it a run in a few years.

  • Alex

    I like this post a lot. I’m also disgusted by the way Obama has handled nearly everything to do with civil liberties and foreign policy. But I have to agree with Ilya: I’d rather see another Obama term than see any of the current Republican candidates gain power. At least Obama supports Roe v. Wade, equal pay for equal work and some gay rights (probably marriage too, although he won’t admit it for political reasons), and opposes teaching creationism in schools or privatizing Social Security. That’s more than you can say for the Republicans.

  • D

    Yup, the joys of playing a fixed game. The only reason why I’m voting for Obama is, because while he may drop the ball, at least he’s not actively attempting to dismantle all the things we enjoy (like funding for PP and unemployment). If he loses this election, The Republican Party WILL WIN and such hideous dismantlings will increase. I wish I could vote for Vermin Supreme, but unfortunately the only choices are Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich. This is the price we pay for a prettier version of authority.