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Voting for Obama: Some Disappointment, No Regrets

One year ago today my friends and I watched as Barack Obama took the oath of the President of the United States. It was a happy moment for me. I worked on his campaign and donated more money to various campaigns in 2008 than I had in all the elections before.

The inaugural anniversary plus the President’s recent drop in the polls and public criticism (including here) from the left offer an opportunity to explain why I’m disappointed but absolutely not regretful about how I voted in November 2008.

My disappointment with some aspects of President Obama’s performance is tied up with my greater disappointment with the Democratic Congress. Especially in closing Gitmo prison, a place I still insist is an affront to traditional American values. The number one reason it is not already closed is due to Democrats refusing to allow funds to transfer prisoners to the United States. I have disappointment with Obama here too. NOT because he ignored legislation to close it anyway, but because he insists there is a class of prisoners who can be held for life without trial. I view this mostly as a sop to his conservative critics, and a pretty ineffective one at that. On the Gitmo issue, I’m also disappointed he hasn’t filed a suit about the constitutionality of Congress essentially denying trials to people who scare it.

I have other areas of disappointment, particularly in President Obama’s continued use of presidential signing statements that purport to set aside parts of statutes he sees as infringing on his power.

But while I am disappointed in some ways, I expected to be. No one is a perfect match for me or anyone else. I also saw that we in the progressive movement would need to watch President Obama’s actions and criticize as needed. As I said the day after the election:

We in the progressive movement have won a significant victory. We have elected a man who emphasized respect for opponents while attacking their positions. We have elected someone who has promised to restore the rule of law and see other nations as real partners instead of vassals and evil non-entities. We have given him a Congress more likely to help him to implement his policies.

Perhaps more importantly, we have won a victory for hope against fear. This election, combined with the election of 2006 shows that the days of winning based on striking fear into the hearts of people have gone away for now. This election showed that people were more interested in hearing candidates talk about solving the country’s problems than casting their opponents as America-Haters.

But we can’t stop there. And under no circumstances must we take up the Right’s role of blind support for the President no matter what he does. Barack can count on me to support him as he closes Gitmo and ends the occupation of Iraq. But if he suddenly sees these things as absolute necessities for America or if he decides that continuing warrantless surveillance is a good thing, I pledge to be just as loud in denouncing him as I was of the unlamented George W. Bush. I elected a leader committed to the rule of law, transparent government, and engagement with the world. If Barack Obama turns out not to be that man, I’ll happily donate to a primary challenger in 2012 and even to the eventual Republican nominee unless it is Sarah Palin.

This passage also shows why I don’t believe I made the wrong choice over a year ago. For the most part, the President is not governing through fear nor is he demonizing his opponents as intrinsically evil or immoral. Only once in the past year have I heard any member of the Administration suggest that the opposition party was aligned with terrorists. This was wrong to say, but at least it wasn’t a frequent utterance of the Vice President. On some of my other key interests we are making progress:

  • We are actually withdrawing from Iraq and so far haven’t let the insurgents determine our timetable.
  • Investments for renewable energy have increased.
  • We have more constructive relationships with our allies.
  • We are acting more like grownups towards our enemies such as Iran, replacing the scared refusal to talk of past Administrations that seemed to think that we could merely wish our enemies away by not talking to them.
  • More and better government produced data is being released to the public.
  • We’re taking baby steps away from reflexive classification and have emerged from the assumption that information is better kept from the public.

If you looked through my posts for the election season, you’ll see that I focused on why we should vote FOR Obama and not AGAINST McCain. So I won’t start talking about the alternative Administration that we might have seen. Despite things I find disappointing, I find the overall performance of the President this year worth my vote. If I knew then what I knew how, I’m not sure I would have put in as many volunteer hours or contributed as much cash, but I still would have voted for him.

Since I get a fair number of referrals from The Immoral Minority, I know this blog sees a lot of Obama voters. What is your take on the President’s first year? And would you vote for him again? Why?

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4 Responses

  1. Yes, I too have had disappointments, but given those who ran against him — I’d vote for him again (and work hard to get him elected) in a heart beat!

  2. I volunteered and actively campaigned for President Obama. Overall, I have been happy with his leadership, and I would campaign and vote for him again.

    I don’t think the American public has any idea what kind of a mess he has had to deal with after taking over from George W. He told us that change would take time. He told us it was like trying to turn around an ocean liner, not like turning a sail boat.

    We have very little patience. This health care reform has taken some time and it’s not even close to being passed. But we forget, oh how soon we forget, that no president has been able to get health care reform legislation this far?

    He is one of the few politicians I can actually listen to…still.

  3. I would easily pull the lever for Obama again. I am slightly disappointed in a few things–I think he could have sold healthcare better, I wish there would have been a larger stimulus package, I wish there would have been more money allocated for the light rail (I’m really crossing my fingers that that will get more attention soon!), I wish there had been more tangible progress on gay rights, and I think beginning to address some aspects of the immigration reform would have been nice.

    That being said, I’m younger and have a number of friends who lost their jobs. A number of them were surprised at that, because of the stimulus package, they were able to extend some of their unemployment benefits beyond what they would have received. I like how our President talks to us like we’re adults, and I think he’s a like chess player–he’s always a few moves ahead of where the general public is, and I can appreciate it, as things unfold. I think a lot of what Obama is trying to do is move more slowly to make some of the change permanent, and also to look at the issues differently. I also really appreciate how he is the first President in a number of years to tackle homelessness with some vigor, and I really like how he and Michelle have raised awareness with military families.

    I have a lot of disappointment with Congress in general–the democrats have had way too much infighting and an inability to accomplish legislation, and the GOP has no ideas and just wants to vote no to spite the President (or so it seems).

    The country has a lot of problems, but I think that we have the best guy (possible) in office to tackle them.

  4. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for commenting. Feel free to stop by anytime. I agree with you that we have the best guy (possible) as President to tackle our many problems. I also like that he talks to us like adults and I share your opinion on Congress. I’m still very troubled on executive power and civil liberties practices that seem to be holdovers from the last administration. But overall we are inching in the right direction and that still beats the last eight years. It’s just not enough to keep me cranked at my 2008 enthusiasm.

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