Five years ago as President Barack Obama made his initial run towards the White House I was not a supporter. At that particular moment I was a supporter of fellow progressive Ohioan and Catholic (I spent 4 years in Catholic school during my elementary years) Dennis Kucinich.
No one, including myself, figured that the guy who envisioned the “Department of Peace”, reported seeing UFO’s, is a vegan with a wife 30 years his junior and stood with his heart deeply planted in the hearts of the struggling working class people worldwide, could possibly win the democratic nomination. But that didn’t stop me from buying buttons and bumper stickers, a “Dennis is my homeboy” sweatshirt and continuing to be an active and vocal supporter of the former congressman.
My support was based in integrity. I had someone on that stage that represented my sentiments, spoke to my issues and represented a political position that I was deeply aligned with. It wasn’t until the Democratice National Convention that I became a supporter of Obama.
Do you remember Dennis’ rousing endorsement for Obama and the democratic party? It was that moment that I got on board. Then Hilary and Bill Clinton put aside their hurt feelings and gave great speeches supporting this mixed heritage, self identified African-American man. Then upon hearing this Black man with an Arabic name speak at the end of the convention I completely bought in.
On that fateful day, November 4th 2008, I was one of the many African-American people who cried tears of joy and disbelief that this beautiful Black family was headed to the White house. It was an astonishing achievement for the country and a clear sign that the people in our country wanted to create a different America.
Then the reality of his presidency set in and I wanted to cry different tears. These would be tears that would represent my own personal disillusionment, forgetting after all that the United States is a military based empire. Then, also, these tears would be for the many people that would be harmed by his policies.
Remember he had a commitment to closing Guantanamo Bay? That ended quickly. Then he allowed once crooks like Larry Summers to lead his economic advising team. The he caved on the public option, giving insurance companies 30,000 new customers and giving the people basic reprieves that – within a moral society – would have been had many years ago. Then he ramped up the war in Afghanistan and the bombs rained on men, women and children who – although Muslim citizens – were not terrorists. He ended the war in Iraq then pulled a page from George W. Bush’s foreign policy and invaded Libya with lone executive decision.
Do I need to mention the Keystone XL Pipeline and continued offshore drilling after BP’s oil disaster? How about his war on whistleblowers? Speaking of war, since when was there a war on Pakistan? Yemen? When people walked to the ballot the other day, did they even think about the “kill list” that he holds so closely? A kill list that includes killing – not taking to trial – American citizens (minors)?
Now, there was a moment during this year’s Democratic National Convention where I felt that it was important to support Barack Obama considering the further right beliefs of his opponent. I was really moved by President Clinton’s lecture on economic policy as well as the strength of character of the Bidens, Obamas and Clinton’s.
Then a couple of days later I read this piece by Conor Friedersdorf on why he refused to vote for Barack Obama, and it really returned me to my position of voting with integrity. How could I possibly cast my support behind a man who was ruthlessly continuing the arrogant thuggery handed down to him by George W. Bush and the many presidents before him? Am I only to cast my vote for marginal satisfaction? A few crumbs that fall off the table from the feast that the vast majority of us are not invited to?
Yet and still I flip-flopped. My growing disgust of Mitt Romney persuaded me to register to vote in Ohio, as I was living there at the time and wanted to put my vote behind Obama in a state that he needed to win. I was concerned about the reality of Obama being a band-aid and Romney tearing away the band-aid and pouring salt into the wound.
Then time passed and my position solidified. I refused to vote for him. I could not, with good conscience, put my support behind a man who “soothes with rhetoric and kills people in secret” as Friedersdorf put it so bluntly.
So … I didn’t vote. I’m mad at myself for not researching the ballot measures that I could have thrown my support behind (especially here in California where the hopeful repeal of the death penalty lost), but I am not mad at all for not supporting someone that I clearly do not believe in.
Actually, the post election love affair with President Barack Obama is so sickening that I can hardly stomach it.
It is hard for me to put into words the level of ridiculousness, but, let me try.
The delusional concept of race is at the heart of this election. It is as if “the problem of the color line” that W.E.B Dubois talked about in 1903 is the very issue that created the polarizing voting blocks on November 6th, 2012. Many Black people, who are still enthralled by the fact of there being a person that looks like them in the White House will not yield their vote no matter how many innocent people he kills here and abroad. It’s as if many white people who are afraid of losing their majority status will cast a vote for Mitt Romney even though they may figure he will not be a significant difference.
Thus, we symbolically end up with a narrow margin victory that says that most Americans really do want to live in a different, more progressive world.
But … really … can Barack Obama or the political establishment even make that happen? Where was Obama when Wisconsin/Ohio union workers were striking, rallying and crying for help? How about when police nationwide were thumping the heads of occupy protesters and openly pepper spraying them in the face? There were movements that were created over the last four years, where many people were in the streets making their voices heard, getting arrested and beat up and what did it truly change? Our president sat back silent with h is kill list, continued his war against innocent people and talked about the things that he can do if he is given a second term.
I feel that it is vitally important that we deal with things as they are, not how we wish them to be or how we imagine that they could be if certain conditions were created. President Barack Obama as a violently fierce war president is mere symbolism. The actuality of his presidency has not been much different than that of George W. Bush. We could actually say that he is “Bush Lite”. The fact that we are willing to make concessions because he’s a “Democrat” and we don’t want the other team to win is so childish that it is clear to me that nothing in our political establishment will change until it is completely dismantled.
Yes, I’m pissed. Many of us think that we have done a great thing by rallying support behind Obama, but the reality is that we continued the same politically partisan bullshit that has been going on in this country since its inception. The fact of the matter is that this partisan idiocy and support for the lesser of two evils will not cease until we stop endorsing it.
In closing this, my last words on this election season and its divisive continuation of wounds so deep that we cannot escape their presence in everyday life, let me leave with the words of Sohail Daulatzai as he referenced Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” and this now passed election:
While there are those who claim that voting for Obama is the practical thing to do and that to either vote for a third party or to not vote at all is “impractical” and “misguided”, Malcolm might turn the tables and ask how “practical” is it to vote for either major party when the violent forces that define them are so intractable and resistant to change, let alone transformation?
And when confronting such forces, and recognising the others in the past who have tried so valiantly, how practical is it to continue to invest and commit to this process and expect something different? Isn’t that “impractical” and the path to irrelevance?
What kind of world do you want to live in, and do you really feel like your vote reflects that?