An Abstained Vote for the President

Tuesday I am supposed to caucus with the Democratic Party and cast my vote for the candidate who will represent us. The presumption is that we all support President Obama in his reelection campaign. I’ve gone back and forth between whether I vote for Obama again. For me, criticism of state violence is not only one of my central political tenets but also religious tenets. Judaism has been a major source of critiquing not only the state violence perpetuated by the United States but Israel as well. My conscience tells me that it would be inexcusable for me to vote to reelect an administration whose policies are often similar to or exactly the same as the policies of the Bush administration. It is not merely a question of disappointment or disillusion with the fact that Obama didn’t turn out as the progressive that I had hoped. When it comes down to it, most politicians with that much power employ Machiavellian realpolitik. It is also to say that the administration itself has also been stopped at every point by a Republican senate and house. The Obama administration has had to ostensibly compromise and even after compromise the Republican party has refused to support him out of some misplaced sense of appearing purist.

On domestic policies, I was disappointed that his administration abandoned stronger versions of healthcare. We’re a wealthy industrial nation. We offer every citizen thirteen years of education paid for by the government, we should be supporting initiatives that give affordable and effective healthcare to all of our citizens. This is a Jewish conviction that shares similarities with Islamic thought. Blessing is not meant to be hoarded. Rather, material blessing from God demands that we bless others in turn. The Obama administration has effectively refused to support single-payer system as Max Baucus explicitly tabled the single-payer system without any discussion of it. While reformist attitudes have argued that we need to work up to a single-payer system and create the infrastructure for it, I believe that the infrastructure for it already exists and not only that but the majority of our population actually does support it, especially if you call it “medicare for everyone.” Moreover, I think that the Obama administration has largely pursued technocratic free-market policies and not ostensibly being rooted in issues of social justice. Again, I actually think on economic issues that our population is more to the Left than voting would have us believe.

This turns me to issues of surveillance, indefinite detention, due-process-free policies, and the continuation of the so-called war on terror. The one plus I can grant to the Obama administration is a stronger position on torture. At the same time, we have seen the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and conflicts in Libya that have resulted in the continued loss of human life. The Obama administration remained silent on the massacre in Gaza. Moreover, it seems abundantly clear that we will go to war with Iran in the upcoming year as an ally to Israel, resulting in even greater loss of human life. While I would argue that war dehumanizes not only abroad but also at home generally, it is clear that the war on terror has increased orientalist rhetoric within our homeland. We have seen a social dehumanization of Muslims, Arabs, and Sikhs. The Obama administration has continued the policies of the Bush administration, ones that many of us on the Left critiqued when Bush was president of the United States. It seems contradictory to shift my stance simply because a Democrat is in office. This is the worst sort of identity politics.

With that said, I cannot in good conscience, or as the Quakers would say, I feel moved to vote against the Obama administration this time around. Perhaps I will change my mind due to other circumstances, such as the potential for the House and the Senate to be Republican controlled. At the same time, I remain convinced that voting to reelecting Obama would result in a serious compromise of my own principles.


2 thoughts on “An Abstained Vote for the President

  1. It’s beyond foolish to abstain voting for him just because he’s not always talking about Israel. Every Republican candidate is talking about cutting foreign aid to every country, and that’s the least crazy talking point they have. My thinking is that he’s bound to push for more progressive policies in a second term, when he doesn’t have to worry about a reelection and more of the ancient conservatives have died off.

    • I think you misunderstand my point, actually. My criticism is not that the Obama administration doesn’t talk enough about Israel, although I think that the administration should criticize Israeli state violence against the Palestinian peoples. I think that the plight of Palestinians is largely ignored by not only the United States government but also major media outlets as well. It should be addressed considering much of our foreign aid goes to Israel in the form of military technology.

      However, my largest contention with the Obama administration is that it continues and in some cases expands the foreign policies of the Bush administration. These are policies that we as progressives or leftists or whatever left political identity most likely took strong stances against when President Bush was still in office. We have seen wiretapping, censorship, and surveillance. The war in Afghanistan escalated under the Obama administration as well as drone attacks in Pakistan and Libya. These are all areas in which the Obama administration has direct control over, unlike healthcare for instance, which is also partially determined by congress. Moreover, I did indeed articulate that some of the issues with his administration were not directly his fault, but also because of the Republican party itself (and I should add, some conservative Democrats).

      Overall, my issue is not with what the Obama administration hasn’t been able to do per say but the foreign policy stances it has taken, which in turn, has affected many of our domestic policies, particularly in regards to civil liberties. All of this has meant a considerable loss of innocent human life abroad and human rights abuses. I just cannot wait for a hypothetical second-term to hope that the legislation he pushes is somehow more progressive. And again, I am not sure that Obama’s foreign policy will become more progressive in his second-term considering that with each passing day it seems clear that the United States is positioning itself for a war with Iran.

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