One of my political lists broke out into an impassioned and occasionally contentious debate yesterday over a basic question: do you plan on voting for Obama in 2012? (Actually, the original phrasing was more along the lines of “how could you possibly vote for Obama in 2012?”)
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the conduct of Mr. Obama’s first term, it isn’t hard to understand where the question comes from.
- He has continued Bush’s wars.
- He has failed to close Gitmo, as promised.
- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Don’t ask.
- Race to the Bottom (or, let’s take Bush’s dumbass No Child Left Untested and double down on “accountability”).
- He led the handover of trillions of dollars to the financial institutions that created the largest financial crisis since the Depression.
- He has reasserted the government’s right to torture.
- And now he stands on the brink of bargaining away Medicare and Social Security to the Koch Brothers’ towelboys in Congress.
- To those who argue that this is the best he can do under the circumstances, the response is fairly straightforward: losing a fight is one thing, but surrendering before it starts is quite another.
Obama is objectively and demonstrably to the right of Richard Fucking Nixon and short of bomb-bomb-bombing Iran it’s hard to imagine what President McCain could have done that would have been much worse. So do I understand the frustration from people who invested so much of themselves to elect him? Do I understand where the question comes from?
Yes, I do. And the idea of voting for Barack Obama next year sickens me.
Of course, I’m a pragmatic guy. There are no announced or prospective Republican candidates on the horizon who inspire anything but stark terror. In my “Shootout at the DC Corral” piece last year, I acknowledged those who make the “Republicrat” argument, asserting that there’s no difference between the two parties. I also noted that while the GOP and Dems aren’t different enough to suit me, there by god are differences.
There’s a gunfight going on and I’m in the middle of it. The progressive Democrats are right there with me. They share many (if not all) of my views on what we’re fighting about and I can trust them. Sadly, they’re not the most effective of allies. There are a few tough nuts in the bunch, but most are useless in a fight. Either they’re weak-willed, or they’re bad shots, or they’re fervently in favor of running up a white flag so they can negotiate away what little position they have. Right now, they’re behind me all the way. Operative words: behind me.
Over to the right there are the Blue Dogs and some other assorted moderate Democrats…. Now, they came up here to the corral with me. They fought with me in that bar fight the other night. They say they have my back. But they’re actually related to the people we’re fighting against on their momma’s side. They shoot, but they never seem to hit any bad guys. And, often enough that I’m starting to suspect that they’re doing it on purpose, they’ll “miss” really badly and nearly hit me. I have to be honest – I’m not sure I quite trust them.
Then, on the other side of the corral you have the Republicans. And those motherfuckers are trying to kill me. And you. And our families. And our friends. And anything they don’t kill, they want to loot, rape and/or sell into slavery.
Me? I don’t exactly know what it would mean to “win” the fight. Mainly I just hope I get out of here alive.
Forget good vs. bad. Forget bad vs. worse. We’re now deep into worst vs. worsterer, if you will.
I have observed in the past that our political system often affords us the opportunity to “choose” between getting shot and getting shot twice. Getting shot twice is obviously worse, but the president has dedicated the last couple of years to changing the equation. Anymore it’s like a choice between getting shot 19 times and getting shot 20 times. In theory, 20 is worse, but in practice the margin is a whole lot thinner and you have to survive being shot 19 times before the alleged benefits begin kicking in.
So, to the question: will I vote for Obama again? Some issues and theories I keep kicking around:
- Division of power. A lot of Americans, for better or worse, seem to like the idea of keeping power somewhat divided between the parties. Given that we were founded by people with a pathological distrust of centralized authority, perhaps this is to be expected. So would I sacrifice the White House if I thought it would lead to the GOP being evicted from control of the House of Representatives, for instance? Maybe. The Dems seem to be better in the role of opposition (“better” being a purely relative term here). A lot of if and rationalization and perhaps desperate hope in this equation, I know, but it’s something to consider.
- Send a message. The Republicans never lose sight of their base. Obama began pissing on those who elected him the day he took office and he seems to have been born with a bottomless bladder. If we’re ever to have the kind of responsive leadership we need – which is to say, leadership that responds to the best interests of the public instead of the financial interests of Wall Street – it may require us to demonstrate that we’re willing to suck it up and sacrifice those who don’t get it. Yeah, we’ll suffer for four years (not that we aren’t suffering plenty already), but the next guy (or gal) will come through the door knowing that there’s a price to be paid for stiffing those who put him/her in office.
- Scapegoating. Things are bad, especially on the economic front. Not getting a lot better as we come to terms with something called a “jobless recovery.” At some point even the bread-and-circuses (hold the bread)-anesthetized American public is going to snap, and when it happens they’re going to grab the torches and pitchforks and head for the big castle up on the hill. When this happens, you don’t want to be the guy in the big castle up on the hill. So maybe 2012 would be a good time to punt and let the Republicans position themselves for the beatdown.
- The dark before dawn (long view). I’m a long-term, big picture thinker. Long-term, as in I think about generations, not years. To the extent that I see no way of America getting from where we are to where we need to be in the next four, or eight, or even 20 years, and to the extent that I see our system as just about dead to the possibility of incremental improvement because of how thoroughly it has been co-opted by the richest of the rich, then the question becomes “do we have to hit rock bottom before we realize the error of our ways?” I don’t do despair, but there’s a part of me that does think that we’re fucked in the near-term (although I’d love to be proven wrong). If I come to this conclusion, then there’s a good argument to be made that the sooner the bottom falls out the sooner the recovery can begin. From this perspective, the worse the Tea Party idiot we elect in 2012 the better.
- The dark before dawn (short view). As before, only I have underestimated the intelligence of the American public and they learn their lesson quickly. Still requires the GOP to take the White House in 2012.
- Bad is worse than worse. Bear with me. Given a choice between bad and worse, it seems obvious that you’d take bad. But what if the dynamics are such that bad is self-perpetuating? Enabling, even. Maybe it’s like if your daughter is addicted to crack and is ruining her life. She asks you to bail her out after she gets busted for hooking yet again. Well, she’s your daughter, and letting her rot in jail is pretty damned bad, so you bail her out, which doesn’t solve anything, but she’s not rotting in jail. Have you helped her, or have you taught her that the next time she winds up in jail for tricking she can count on you to bail her out? Follow me? What I wonder sometimes is whether the US public’s continued willingness to accept the lesser of the evils actually guarantees the continuation of the phenomenon. Hey, think the power-elites, they ordered the maggot sandwich last time. This year I bet they’ll order grilled shitloaf if we put it on the menu (because the only other option is ripe roadkill with a side of getting shot in the face).
I don’t know. In the end, I don’t live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida so my vote isn’t likely to count. In that case I’ll be safe enough casting a protest vote for whoever lands on the Green ticket. If it turns out that Colorado winds up as a battleground state in a tight election, then I have some hard-core soul-searching to do.
Ultimately, though, I can’t shake the feeling that something dramatic, something earth-shaking, something seismic aimed at the very heart of the system is going to be required to break the cycle of corruption and incompetence and butt-ignorance that shapes the course of American political and economic life.
<br /> <a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5227265/”>Will you vote for Obama in 2012?</a><br />