Why I’m Not Voting for President Obama

Source: Reuters via The Atlantic

Four years ago I voted for then-Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States.  I will not be voting for now-President Barack Obama this time around.  I could go into lengthy detail but I suspect no one wants to read that, so I’ll summarize by generally saying that I’m opposing Obama from the left (which I guess makes me a member of the “professional left”) and in general I think he’s been too conservative, and all too willing to perpetuate the status quo as far as corporate dominance of our domestic policy and a foreign policy that violates both foreign sovereignty and our basic civil liberties.

Here I’ll produce three bullet lists.  The first list is stuff that Obama (along with Democrats in Congress) has done that is as fine and good as conceivably possible.  The second list is the “well it’s okay, but it could’ve been a lot better/stronger” category.  The third list is stuff he did that’s just plain bad.  While I appreciate the good and okay stuff that Obama and other Democrats have accomplished and give them due credit for having done so, the stuff on the bad list is so bad that it outweighs the good/okay they have done.  In particular, there are two actions committed by Obama that I find egregious enough to disqualify him from my vote, and those two actions were committed on Obama’s own initiative, without overt Congressional pressure (and possibly with Congressional support).  I will point out those two actions in the “Bad” list below.

 

Good:

  • some rhetoric defending the role of government, and advocating for a more active role for government
  • a lot of communitarian “we’re all in this together” rhetoric, which leads to rhetoric as to why government has and should play an active role in national issues (e.g. “you didn’t build that”)
  • strengthening regulatory agencies, and generally running the government machinery in a competent fashion
  • student loan reform, which is awesome
  • some parts of Wall Street reform (e.g. the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
  • many parts of Obamacare (e.g. ending discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, young adults being allowed to stay on parents’ insurance plans, new medical loss ratio rules, ending lifetime caps on coverage)
  • budget passed in 2009
  • auto industry bailout
  • Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
  • CHIP reauthorization
  • DADT repeal
  • rhetorical support for same-sex marriage (though let’s face it, the Joe Biden interview forced his hand)
  • ending torture
  • ending restrictions on stem cell research

 

Okay:

  • 2009 stimulus, which was barely adequate but would’ve halted the economic downturn much more effectively had it been at least $400 billion larger than it was
  • some parts of Obamacare (e.g. Medicaid expansion, which could’ve been bigger)
  • much of Wall Street Reform was progress but still inadequate; we need an actual reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, which we didn’t get
  • Cash for Clunkers, which was good but could’ve lasted longer
  • unemployment insurance extensions (at least the ones that didn’t come with scummy tax cut deals), which were very important to me personally, but I feel like there should’ve been a more comprehensive safety net for the unemployed
  • Obama and the Democrats’ job initiatives in general were inadequate; what we really need is WPA-style direct government hiring like we had back in the Great Depression
  • pushing for climate change legislation (though I don’t like cap-and-trade, and would prefer cap-and-dividend)
  • pushing for immigration reform
  • Race to the Top (mixed bag with too much emphasis on charter schools)
  • Obama’s Supreme Court nominees

 

Bad:

  • rhetoric that echoes conservative anti-government themes (in weird contrast to the pro-government communitarian rhetoric he deploys at other times), for example see here
  • the individual mandate portion of Obamacare – President Obama ought to listen to Senator Obama.  I will add this caveat: My opposition to the individual mandate has lessened recently in light of promising new data coming out of Massachusetts showing premium growth slowing down.  I look forward to Obamacare’s full implementation to see if it can in fact control premium growth.
  • the lack of a public option in Obamacare
  • The way Obama handled his part on health care was just bad.
    • poor salesmanship and failing to effectively counter the conservative “I got mine so you’re on your own” frame that was applied to the debate
    • Obama’s flip-flops on health care, of which I have counted seven
      • was against the individual mandate, then was for it
      • was against taxing high-end insurance plans, then was for it
      • was for the public option, then was indifferent to it
      • was for publicly broadcasting negotiations, then was against it
      • was for transparency, then was against it and cut backroom deals (see below)
      • was for prescription drug importation, then was against it
      • was for prescription drug price negotiation, then was against it
  • refusal to push for the Brown-Kaufman amendment to break up too-big-to-fail banks
  • the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, and contributing to deficit anxiety in general
  • budgets passed in 2010 and 2011 that cut spending
  • free trade agreements
  • wasteful war in Afghanistan – see Cenk Uygur’s and Keith Olbermann’s explanations
  • offshore drilling
  • cracking down on marijuana dispensaries
  • all the terrible people Obama picked for his administration (e.g. Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Timothy Geitner, etc.)
  • the uncalled-for dismissal of Shirley Sherrod and Van Jones
  • a generally bad relationship with the “professional left” and a distorted, negative view of their criticisms
  • a total lack of transparency when it comes to deals that reinforced conservative policy
    • 2010 Bush tax cut deal
    • 2011 debt ceiling deal, which I opposed
      • the Social Security and Medicare cuts that Obama proposed way too eagerly (they were his idea; Republicans weren’t even asking for them)
      • health care deals
  • Obama has generally been a disaster on civil liberties
    • cracking down on whistleblowers
    • NDAA for FY 2012, which codifies indefinite detention of American citizens deemed by the Obama administration as “terrorists”
    • drone strikes
      • no, they don’t make us safer
      • no, they aren’t precise enough to avoid civilian casualties (unless you totally change the definition of “civilian” as the Obama administration did)
      • yes, they make life deadly and miserable for innocent people
      • yes, there is evidence that strikes may be deliberately targeting rescuers
      • yes, there is evidence that strikes are fomenting anti-American sentiment and helping with al-Qaeda recruitment
      • yes, Obama and his administration has failed to even clearly acknowledge, let alone explain the rationale for, these strikes and the innocent deaths they cause (as well as the other civil liberties violations they’re committing)
      • assassinations of American citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki, not to mention Americans killed as “collateral damage” or for no apparent reason at all (like al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son Abdulrahman) – this is the other really bad thing that makes me refuse to vote for Obama

The deal with the hospital lobbyists and the assassination of American citizens are just so wrong on so many levels. (I focus on the hospital deal in part because it got even less attention than the similar pharmaceutical deal, but yes you can throw in the pharma deal as well.) The hospital deal represents the worst of politics – the President making decisions in secret with unelected, unaccountable actors whose clout rests almost entirely on the fact that they have tons of disposable money to throw around.  The assassination of American citizens (heinous terrorists or not), without trial or even rigorous public justification, represents a fundamental violation of our civil liberties, and it expands on an already-existing precedent for dismissal of Constitutional concerns.  In both cases, the acts themselves are matched by the lack of transparency surrounding them, and the seeming lack of concern for the negative implications involved with those acts – in fact, if anything Obama is boisterously proud of the assassinations he’s ordered.  And then Obama and his associates lambaste his critics on the left for being dissatisfied.

So who am I gonna vote for instead?  Mitt Romney?  Ha!  If you’re complaining that your steak is too dry, you do not follow up by asking for a shit sandwich instead.

In California there is usually the choice of voting for a Green Party or Peace and Freedom Party candidate, but this time I’m voting in Payne County, Oklahoma.  I looked at the sample ballot provided for Payne County, and much to my annoyance there is no other option besides Obama and Romney.  I’m not even given a space to write-in someone.  So I’m just gonna have to honorably abstain from this presidential election.

NOVEMBER 5 2012 UPDATE: I should note that there are two outstanding minor party candidates running to the left of Obama this year, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.  Both would make terrific Presidents (head-and-shoulders above Obama) and I would be happy with either of them in office.  They seem to be very close to each other on the issues, and because I don’t have the time right now to really parse out what I would assume to be the very minute differences between the two, I’m gonna do a bit of a cop-out and offer a double endorsement.  I endorse both Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson for President of the United States.

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