Yesterday, Conor Friedersdorf (Twitter) wrote an amazing piece for The Atlantic in which he explains why–no matter how liberal he is–he is not voting for President Obama. He writes:
Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.
I found this link on Facebook through J.R.D. Kirk. I absolutely agree with every word of this post. I shared it to my own Facebook wall, and….wow…I got some major pushback, mainly over my inclination to vote for a third-party candidate. People through around the same phrases I’ve heard the past few weeks about “wasting my vote” and “throwing it away” and “de-valuing it”. I found this odd for a few reasons.
First, Conor’s post–title and all–is pretty much exactly what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, and many of the commenters yesterday had read that post then and didn’t react the same way. Secondly, I’ve been writing about this stuff for a long, long time. I don’t know why this stuff was such a surprise to some of the commenters.
Anyway, nevertheless, I love those that give me feedback (and honestly, they did make me think a little harder about what I was saying yesterday, even though I ended back where I was). I need it. But, so that those of you can get in on the action, I’ll post my comments on that post here as well. I hope it spurs some more spirited thoughts. Have fun.
To Democrats that would say that you must vote for Obama or waste your vote:
What to Conor’s point in the piece of there being a moral line across which a candidate cannot cross and still have our votes? Could Obama do NOTHING to lose any of your votes?
Is there nothing to you that’s more fundamental–nothing more important–to who we are as Americans than tax policy or even social policy? Shouldn’t our stance as Americans on this issue be more important than any other preferred policy of Obama? Honestly, whoever gets elected will only have four (again, ONLY FOUR) years of frustrated and Congressionally-halted attempts at bringing about their policy preferences. No one candidate’s “vision for America” is ever what becomes reality. The only thing that has become reality, under Obama, are the things that Obama has asserted is BEYOND judicial or congressional oversight. None of the scariest things about Romney can he do without having to go through Congress. Obama’s evil, though, is unilateral and far more then mere theory. Is there nothing of ultimate importance to any of you?
To those that say a third-party vote is disregarding the value of your vote:
I’m still astonished that you all would see my perspective as the greater disregard of the value of our votes. How cheap does it make your vote–how much of its inherent preciousness and value do you waste by compromising like that? Does not every substantive national change begin with the quiet non-utilitarian work of a few? And once again, if this was a policy thing, I’d get your point. All things being equal, if my only difference was tax policy or even defense spending, I’d still try and swallow my frustration and vote for one of the major candidates. But this isn’t mere policy at stake; this is a moral issue with implications and ramifications far deeper than anything Romney could do on his worst day.
To those that say that the American government has always done shady things and Obama is no different and that I’m suffering from a lack of historical perspective where things will eventually correct themselves, so I shouldn’t worry so much:
Look, I get it. But some things did change with Obama. Two main things: American citizens killed and the President being open about it. I know that no administration has clean hands. Others have killed American citizens (albeit covertly), and most every one of them has disregarded civil liberties. And I hope I’m wrong, but I look at the history of nations such as Rome, and we are exactly where they were right when their nation took the biggest turns that they would not recover from: fat, comfortable, distracted, and awash in meaningless entertainment such that as long as people still got their festivals and feasts, they couldn’t care less what happened at a governmental level. People don’t care because it’s not affecting their day-to-day life. And so, I can’t wait around, wasting my vote (in my opinion), waiting for those too busy watching “Honey Boo-Boo” to wake up.
I have to wonder how much tyranny has been birthed and was allowed to continue under utilitarianism and arguments of “lesser evils”. And, no, I don’t think Obama is a Socialist, nor a Muslim, nor a secret Kenyan plant to destroy us. I’m not being silly or conspiratorial. These are real things with real consequences for our national security, international credibility, and domestic policies. I HATE the demonization of the “other” that goes on far too much in politics today, but this is beyond that. These are the things that Obama himself brags about and is proud of.
For those that worry I’m sounding too much like a tea-party “Liberty Movement” or radical libertarianism, or wonder how my Christian views influence this thought:
As far as “liberty movement” or libertarianism goes, I don’t think I can buy in to that completely either. Honestly, if it weren’t for this particular set of things (that I’ve been following for a couple of years now), Obama would have my vote. And I agree, Christianity is not contingent on “liberty”. It can and has flourished in every political system. I’m not a “libertarian” in any comprehensive sense. I just think a line is crossed when the President reserves the right (with no oversight and based on evidence still considered classified) to unilaterally kill American citizens. Why is it a bad thing to try and not have four more years of that?
To those that think the things in the article are unsubstantiated rumors and he offers no evidence of what he says:
This is not conspiracy theory. It’s not underground right-wing propaganda, nor radical over-analyzing and paranoid assumptions based on vague phrasings. These are facts. These are actions. Every major publication in the country has written about these things. These are not just whispers on terribly-designed conspiracy websites. These are positions that the Executive genuinely think are appropriate and under their purview; it’s a certain perspective on the war powers of the Executive that I think crosses a moral line that our country should have no part of. I don’t know why that is such an offense to people.
Here are some articles on the stuff Conor talks about:
- New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones (The Guardian-Glenn Greenwald)
- U.S. Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric (NYTimes)
- Anwar al-Awlaki’s family speaks out against his son’s death in airstrike (Washington Post)
- Obama Signs Controversial Defense Bill On New Year’s Eve (Mother Jones)
- Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will (NYTimes)
- I’m a one issue voter: specific abuses of Executive power (Me)
To Conor’s point about Libya:
The problem with Libya isn’t that Obama intervened in the first place. It’s the fact that he felt like he could do it even after Congress refused to authorize him to do it. It’s part of the continued belief that his administration is not accountable to either of the other two branches. A very good argument could be made for intervention in Libya. There’s not a very good argument for setting the precedent of going against Congressional oversight for war-like powers. When Presidents have moved forward with military actions when Congress hasn’t declared war, it’s under the War Powers resolution which gives the President the right to move forward without express Congressional consent. But that’s very different than moving forward in spite of express Congressional forbidding.
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