Will you vote for Obama (again)?

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 />

Categories: Politics/Law/Government

Tagged as:

29 replies »

  1. A seismic shift:
    28th Amendment – mandatory publicly financed elections (no more special interest money) – no corporate spending on elections – clarifying that money ≠ speech.

    These are just ideas being discussed for another amendment. Lots of groups are thinking and talking about this since the Citizens United decision last year.

    Free Speech for People
    Common Cause
    Move to Amend
    Code Pink
    Alliance for Democracy
    Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

    • I like the public financing idea, and would personally go farther than that myself. But it’s a magic wand solution – there’s just zero way it’s going to happen. In the near term, anyway – 100 years out, if we’re still here, maybe….

  2. “There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.” – Edgar Allen Poe

    Will we or won’t we take that plunge and either vote Republican or not vote at all? Just how bat-shit crazy can this country get? Sometimes I imagine it’d be rather entertaining to watch the frothy-mouthed tea partiers get exactly what they want.

    And, Sam, I agree that we’ll have to hit rock bottom before enough people realize they’ve been hosed. Maybe I’m too cynical, maybe Tuesday’s got me down, but I think we’re in for your “dark before dawn (long view).” As for the “short view” and underestimating the American public’s intelligence – nah, we’ve all had that thought before and been proven wrong.

  3. As someone approaching 30, this presidency has served as the great political disillusionment of my lifetime. I donated money to the campaign – granted, only $40 or so, but even that was a personal first – and I celebrated President Obama’s inauguration on the Mall in D.C. believing we had a legitimate shot at a leader whose priorities hinged on the question of what’s right and what’s wrong rather than a jaded political analysis of which potential donors to solicit. Although he’s done it more articulately than his predecessors, President Obama has upheld the great American tradition of catering to those with the authority, the money and the power. Immediately after the inauguration, in came the same old folks who have been running the country the last 30 years and out went many of those whose work, whose ideas and whose passion made his candidacy look like the sort of insurgency I still believe we need. We’ve changed little, if anything, about the way our economy operates. We haven’t taken appropriate measures to hem in corporate greed or Wall Street gambling – the biggest factors in ushering in the recession – and we haven’t sufficiently protected the working people of this country. More and more I’m convinced that we’ll only get more of the same until until we tear up the structure underlying the way campaigns are financed and turn elections from the ‘who’s the most well-connected and well-financed’ Miss America contests they’ve become into the legitimate decisions they ought to be. But I suppose even then we’d still be lacking an engaged and informed electorate. Even then, Sarah Palin would have her idiot’s chance.

    • Neil – thanks for a very thoughtful take. I agree with just about everything, except that I haven’t been surprised. A lot of us saw it coming (although I’ll admit that while I expected more of the same, I perhaps didn’t expect THIS much more of the same, if that makes sense). A lot of people got caught up in the charisma and didn’t look at the man’s record. If they had, well, he’s turned out to be pretty much what he’s always been.

      But your comments on financing? Yeah, no doubt. And your note on Palin points up the need to fix our education system. You can’t fool all the people all the time, unless those people are really dumb….

  4. God, I hate that word pragmatic. It has meant negotiate and compromise everything to the point where you stand for nothing(Hollow victories ain’t my thing). Myself? I have no intention of being pragmatic. I’ll be writing in Sanders. I may not win but at least I’ll be able to live with myself as someone who didn’t insist on contributing to the demise of my own country by voting for worst or worster.

  5. This one is a tough one. As you point out, the sooner we wreck this Tea Party bus, the sooner we can hit bottom and get on with fixing the system. Still, I can talk the talk, but come November 2012, I don’t know if I can bring myself to walk the walk and vote for Bachmann. It gives me shivers, just contemplating it. If Obama can goad Pakistan into going to war with us, that might be my personal tipping point. It looks like he’s trying his damnedest right now.

  6. Let’s see what pragmatic has brought us thus far. Pragmatism gave us a health care bill that sucks and that did nothing to control costs. Pragmatism has us on the brink of messing with a social safety net that has had surpluses and has contributed zilch to the deficit. Pragmatism has rolled back women’s reproductive rights in numerous states and on a federal level cut funding on birth control. Pragmatism gave the banks tons of money which they utilized to give themselves bonuses but does not allow us to bail out those foolish foolish homeowners who should have known the economy was going to implode. Pragmatism means we pay for wars that were unneeded to begin with while cutting funding on WIC and food stamps because we only have enough money to continually drop bombs on people. Pragmatism means we don’t raise taxes on the rich because they create jobs. I could go on and on about the horrors of pragmatism and our Very Serious People who insist on pragmatism.

    You may not have meant it to be a horrific word but pragmatism has had a horrific impact on this country. It’s become synonymous with allowing the GOP to frame the debate and being to timid to actually FIGHT for your belief system.

    Nope, I’m a proud idealist who believes that some things shouldn’t be compromised away(and no I did not vote for this disaster of a President in 2008, I’m one of the Cassandras who jumped ship when I saw half the party carry the guy across the finish line at the cost of the other half that wanted a floor fight.)

    • cwaltz: This is all fine, and I certainly share your frustrations. My point is much simpler – you don’t get to define my words and meanings for me.

      If it makes you happier, pretend I said “practical” instead and consider the word in the context of my entire post.

    • As a self-avowed pragmatist, allow me to say that Iraq was anything but pragmatic – pragmatism would have had us ignore Saddam as the tinpot dictator he was while actually putting our blood and treasure into Afghanistan where and when it might have done some good. And not raising taxes on the rich is quite possibly the opposite of pragmatic.

      As for your other criticisms, they’re all fair. But ask yourself this – was it because people who are using the term are frame pragmatism into something it isn’t, or is it the problem actually pragmatism? I’d argue the former, but I’m admittedly biased.

  7. Look at the bright side: A President Romney really won’t be any worse than what we’ve got now, and in certain respects he might even be a tad better. I mean, I could be wrong, but I think it’s a safe bet that in the end Big Money will put down Bachman, Pawlenty, et al, and ramrod the corporate stiff to the fore.

    It’s really too bad that there’s no Dem with the talent or the spine to challenge Hope’n’Change. Then again, if they **did** have those qualities — why would they be Dems?!?!?

    • Hell, before I die I’d be thrilled to live in a country where someone like me might actually be electable. You know, someone who’s smart, opinionated, and not a bazillionaire. Given how screwed up we are, though, we might be lucky to have that happen by the time my great-grandchildren die….

  8. No mention of theTyrannosaurus rex in the room … Declining Oil (it’s no longer PEAK Oil).

    Any political/economic/state of the nation article that does not take this into consideration will be inaccurate.

  9. As a moderate, I voted for Obama precisely because I thought he could stand up against his base, that is something pretty rare in politics. I admit, it is less of an admirable trait when viewed from the perspective of said base, though.

    I think John Boehner actually wanted to do the same in regards to the “grand bargain” but it looks like now he is caving to the Rick Cantor, Tea Party view.

  10. Hahahahahaha … vote for Obama … hahahahahaha

    Not if there was a rabid, Democratic precinct captain holding a gun to my head in the booth. But i also made a vow, right after the 2008 election, that i would never vote for a member of either party again, so to some degree it has nothing to do with Obama.

    But he’s worse than Clinton. “Pragmatism” was just a code word for triangulation and taking the Democratic party somewhere to the right of Eisenhower Republicanism.

  11. Obama’s defeat in 2012 could make this even worse if progressive elements fritter away their principled opposition in uncoordinated and ultimately meaningless gestures. The worst gesture would be to vote Republican, but it’s almost as bad to abstain or to write-in (unless the write-in candidacy is organized). We need to coalesce around the most viable third party in each state and/or around a single write-in candidacy in each state. It’s improbable that a third party or write-in could win even a strongly progressive state, but a vote of 20% or more would be almost impossible for the political elite and even the mainstream media to ignore, particularly if it tips Electoral College results. If we remain uncoordinated, the political elite and the media will triumphantly interpret the 2012 results as confirmation of the country’s “innate conservatism” or similar rot that they continually try to sell in the face of highly inconvenient facts to the contrary. The power elite are really counting, with good reason, on the citizenry aroused by the Bush era who voted in unexpected numbers in 2006 and 2008 to stay home disillusioned in 2012 as they did in 2010, only more so. Obama, for his part, already cynically figures that he’ll pick up enough so-called “independents” to make up for the “rarely participating” voters he snared in 2008 and add them to the grumpy but unfailingly loyal yellow dog Democrats to win re-election. Only a coordinated threat to Obama’s “post-partisan” coalition has a real chance of shaking the system’s complacency.

  12. Excellent post! I agree, I can’t vote for a guy to the right of Reagan and Nixon. It’s a total betrayal of my principles, my country, my fellow citizens, and all of humanity. I refuse to make the devil’s bargain. Let the Democratic party implode and the country go to hell in a handbasket. My country has abandoned me, and therefore, I must do what I think is necessary to save it and myself — vote for someone I can tolerate, who doesn’t churn my stomach, or don’t vote at all.

    • I’m not sure what problem Ron Paul solves. I mean, if we’re casting meaningless protest votes, why would we cast them for a guy who’s so completely out of step with the social freedom side of the Libertarian equation?

  13. I agree with Ryan Michelle: let the silly Bachman woman win, and thus speed up the race into the abyss; and with Neil who reflects the same sentiments as mine, just posted somewhere else. I have never been so invested and disillusioned in a president. I guess we really DID not know who he was, and I still don’t. Except that he is like Bush with polish (no pun intended). I wish Dennis Kucinich would rund again. Otherwise I will vote Green or for Bernie Sanders as a write in. Sadly I cannot really detect any significant differences between republicans, democrats, and teapartiers any more.

  14. Why is Obama to blame for all of this mess. Why doesn’t he speak out and say that this came from former President GEORGE BUSH, Can’t the public understand this and stop blaming someone who did not cause this mess. GEORGE BUSH bankrupted all of his busines ventures and his father’s friends had to bail him out. What is wrong with the American people are they blind.