This feels almost dirty to admit in retrospect but, in 2008, I voted for Obama.
There are three things you may be thinking right now. One thought that you may be having, the thought that mirrors my own, is, “Yes, he was quite disappointing from a progressive point of view.” The second possibility is that you were never swept up in the Obama-rama in the first place and odds are you have a bumper sticker on your truck saying something about how a Prius is for pussies, right next to a sticker that says something like, “How’s that Hopey Changey thing workin for ya?”
The third possibility is that you also voted for Obama in 2008, have no idea why I would feel dirty about having done that myself, and are planning to vote for Obama again in the next election. Of each of these possibilities, this is the one I find to be the most upsetting.
I certainly understand why progressives would desire to like Obama. I wanted to like him, too. On the surface, he is exactly the type of person you would want as your leader. He is wildly intelligent, charismatic, a truly fantastic speaker with a voice and timbre that has the power to mobilize the previously un-mobilizeable, and the things he says he stands for are many of the things that I stand for. When Obama ran for election, his stance aligned with mine and most other progressives almost perfectly. He came out as against the Iraq war, spoke about the need to close the gap between the extremely wealthy and the hopelessly impoverished, he expressed a clear desire to end U.S. sanctioned torture camps like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, he supported women’s rights – all in all, he seemed like a too-good-to-be-true candidate. And I fell for it.
Had I dug a little deeper, perhaps I would have noticed the very troubling signs that were all-too evident. I would have seen that the donors to Obama’s campaign were not exactly the grassroots extravaganza that it was made out to be. Certainly, Obama raised an unprecedented amount in small donations, however these only amounted to a quarter of his total fundraising. The rest of his campaign, of course, was bankrolled by the same cronies that buy every election. As Marie Cocco at Truthdig writes,
“The rest of Obama’s money comes from the same high-end donors who’ve always played a disproportionate role in campaign fundraising. And both Obama and McCain are taking advantage of a loophole that allows their biggest contributors to give as much as $70,100 in combined contributions to their campaigns, to national and state parties and to various other campaign entities.”
It couldn’t have been more obvious, yet I was hypnotized by that smooth voice and I’ve always been a sucker for a big vocabulary. It pains me now when I look at sites like OpenSecrets.org which lists the top donors for each campaign. Obama’s top donors in 2008 include Goldman Sachs, Harvard University, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Time Warner, GE, and Morgan Stanley, to name a few. As a comparison, John McCain’s bankroll for that year looks hauntingly similar – Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and so on.
According to OpenSecrets, Obama has relied even more heavily on the financial sector for his re-election campaign than he did for his campaign in 2008.
Of course, dirty money is not the only reason I feel dirty about my voting history. Obama’s record while in office has been less than stellar from a left or progressive point of view. In fact, it has been deplorable. His record on immigration is staggering and information released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says that in 2011, under Obama’s regime, nearly 400,000 people were deported, the highest total in the agency’s existence.
Unfortunately, the deportations are not the worst of it. Last September, the CIA launched a drone attack in northern Yemen, killing Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged member of al-Qaida and a wanted man by the U.S. His death would be fairly commonplace if not for one little fact – al-Awlaki was a U.S. born citizen. Again so it really sinks in – a U.S. born citizen. The drone also killed others, including Samir Kahn, co-editor of a pro-al-Qaida magazine and also a U.S. citizen.
I’m sure this means nothing to people who consider the world in only the limited means of “terrorist bad – must kill.” However, those with even a slightly developed left brain should easily see the issue here. Never before has the president been able to authorize the very intentional killing of an American citizen. This unprecedented action may seem unimportant – we are simply killing terrorists like we always do – however, entirely subverting the very American ideal of due process, of a trial with a jury of your peers, of innocent until proven guilty – these, in a mere moment, have been degraded, rendered meaningless. Afterall, what does it say about us if our constitutionally granted rights only apply to some of us? What good are our rights if they are not granted regardless of race, or color, or religion, or even the rightness or wrongness of an act? The law is meant to apply equally to all, regardless of the morality of the person who breaks that law. A murderer, even one who is unquestionably guilty, is still given the same rights as any other citizen in a court of law. Why should this not apply to citizens who are alleged members of a terrorist organization?
On December 31, 2011, Obama made an even further step to the Dark Side and signed the National Defence Authorization Act or NDAA. This bill authorizes the military to carry out “counter-terrorism” domestically. Domestically. What this means is that not only are U.S. citizens abroad (like al-Awlaki) unsafe from the U.S. military, so are U.S. citizens within the country. If you are deemed a terrorist or are suspected of aiding terrorists, you can now be indefinitely detained without trial and you can be shipped abroad to one of our fine extraordinary rendition sites around the world, such as Guantanamo Bay – you know, that place Obama promised he was going to shut down.
Chris Hedges, writer for Truthdig.com, wrote of the bill,
“Section 1031 of the bill defines a “covered person”—one subject to detention—as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”
The bill, however, does not define the terms “substantially supported,” “directly supported” or “associated forces.””
It is appalling and frightening to me that this bill was passed, yes, but what is even more frightening, is utterly chilling in fact, is that not enough people are outraged at this complete mutilation of their civil liberties. This last point is the heart of my argument here and the real reason for my anger with those fellow “progressives” who say that Obama will be once again winning their vote in the 2012 election because he will be, “better than having a Republican in office.” This to me is the most perverted view of politics that one can take – to think that the party a candidate affiliates himself with in name is more important than the actual actions that he takes. To make the choice to vote for a Democrat, simply because he or she runs on that ballot, is absurd. What’s more, I’m not sure I see the difference between these Obama apologists who disregard his odious policies, and the tea party that disregards the disastrous policies of the Republican party. What is clear is that I will most certainly not be giving Obama my repeat vote this year and any “progressive” that does is no better than the tea-bagging women who give their vote to the misogynistic Rick Santorum.
So, this 2012, Rock the Vote! For whom, you say? I haven’t the slightest.