I voted for President Obama in this last election, but it didn’t have to be that way.
While I was an enthusiastic Obama supporter in 2008, I quickly got discouraged, mostly for civil liberties reasons and for his failure to repeal the Bush Tax Cuts. In 2010, I was disillusioned enough that I thought I wouldn’t vote for President Obama unless Sarah Palin was on the ballot. In 2011, I supported former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in his Republican primary campaign. I sent him money and considered switching my party affiliation so that I could caucus for him in Alaska.
Honestly, if Gary Johnson had been the Republican nominee, I would have voted for him over President Obama. Despite Governor Johnson’s questionable ideas on federal budgets and his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, he had a much better record on civil liberties and was willing to end the drug war and start dismantling the Military-Industrial complex. Of course, Candidate Obama had a much better record on civil liberties and executive power, but if at first you don’t succeed, try again with a candidate who shares your values. On civil liberties and executive power, I have more in common with Gary Johnson.
By 2012, it was clear that Gary Johnson would NOT be the Republican nominee. So I flirted with the idea of voting for a third party.
In the meantime, the top-tier Republican field became clear – there was no one to fight against indefinite detention. Far from renouncing torture, they planned to bring it back. When they discussed Bush foreign policy at all, most of the candidates believed we hadn’t been aggressive enough. We needed to start new wars. We needed more surveillance of the American people, not less. The torturers in our midst deserved our thanks and praise.
Then they finally nominated Mitt Romney, who praised Dick Cheney as a man of great wisdom and brought on many GWB officials as his security advisers. The very same people who brought us waterboarding and an invasion of a country in the name of the Two Towers that had nothing to do with 9/11, nor did it have a nuclear weapons program. Not that the mere existence of a program to produce nuclear weapons is an accepted cause of war.
It wasn’t enough for Romney to emulate the failed Bush approach on foreign policy, he also had to emulate the failed Bush economic and budget policies that contributed to the 2008 collapse while converting the budget surpluses under Clinton into record deficits.
Then there were Governor Romney’s vows to reverse the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and resume the waste of witchhunting servicemembers and his pledge to violate states rights by working for a federal constitutional amendment to forbid marriage equality.
Finally, there was Governor Romney’s well-documented tendency to simply “say anything” that he thought would be helpful to his campaign.
In the end, as frustrated as I was with President Obama, as much as his support for the surveillance state and protection of Bush Era torturers infuriated me. I had to vote for him. Because a vote for Romney, or a candidate incapable of winning a national election, ensured a return to the national nightmare we mostly escaped from in 2008.
What might win me in 2016?
– Be fiscally responsible. Balance the budget FIRST. Prioritize our spending. THEN consider tax cuts. Don’t try to sell me tax cuts as a part of deficit reduction. Been there. Done that. Doesn’t work.
– Cease hostility to marriage equality. Either respect all marriages before the law OR terminate all marriage benefits under law and get the State entirely out of the marriage business. Use domestic partnerships to manage status of children, etc. Leave marriages to the clergy.
– Stop legislating against gays and lesbians. Consensual private conduct is not a proper matter for government regulation.
– Respect States rights on drug laws and other areas that don’t infringe on the freedoms of others.
– Work for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act and laws that allow the indefinite detention of human beings without charge or trial. Embrace this plank and you’d probably have my vote even if you did nothing else.
– Provide meaningful oversight on drone attacks and other covert activities done in our name.
– Embrace the idea that we ought to live by the same rules we set for other nations. If something is wrong for someone else, it is wrong for us.
– Stop running campaigns on the basis that your opponent isn’t “really American” or “doesn’t understand Anglo Saxon values.” Also, stop comparisons to Hitler and Stalin unless you can document incidents of genocide or forced collectivization.
– Finally, in public or private, don’t assume that political opponents are “Takers” and you are the “Makers.” Nominating Paul Ryan in 2016 won’t work for you. Or me.
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