Did Obama Just Lose My Vote?

This is serious. I’ve been saying for quite a while that Obama has not yet earned my vote and I am quite happy voting for Nader to help strengthen efforts toward a multi-party system. However, I voted for Obama in the primary here in Texas and was excited to vote for the first viable African-American candidate in the U.S.

Also, this is the most important election in years, if for no other reason than the necessity to populate the Supreme Court with judges who will protect civil liberties unlike those Bush has appointed or McCain would appoint.

While I have continuously lambasted the lack of character Hillary Clinton and her husband have shown during the primary season, I would not say I have been sipping “Obama Kool-Aid.” I understand that his “Change We Can Believe In” slogan is only as effective as his ability – to put it simply – to get things done. And politicians have to work together to accomplish progress. (Unless you’re President Bush, in which case you use the 9/11 attacks and existence of terrorism to scare Americans and politicians alike into marching behind your efforts to make the U.S. more of an authoritarian regime than ever before. Ugh, the thought makes it difficult to keep my coffee and chocolate granola cereal down.)

Obama is a politician first. With a degree in Government, I never lose sight of this. While Democrats fall in love (and Republicans fall in line) we must not forget that politicians must operate within the existing confines of the Washington Dance. This will inevitably lead to widespread disapointment with Obama, when he’s president, because he simply cannot please everyone and will have to compromise in order to accomplish certain goals. A president must make decisions when no option is the right one. It’s a hard gig – the hardest one in the world; I thoroughly recognize this.

However, much of my free time this week has been spent trolling the internet for a reasonable justification for Obama’s approval of the new FISA Act of 2008. Of course, I already have my fair share of underlying bitterness because the Democrats have performed disgracefully since taking control of the Congress. They are inexplicably banner ankle-grabbers again and again despite Bush’s record disapproval ratings. Yes, they do not want to seem weak on national security, but they are greatly underestimating the American people’s desire to have their civil liberties protected in this era of heightened danger.

Congressional members have far more concern with the length of their federal careers than casting the appropriate vote – rendering them impotent in the areas of war profiteering (Diane Feinstein’s husband is a defense contractor and why she still enjoys support in California, I have no idea. BTW, she vote AYE on FISA as well), criminal activity at the executive level (erasing emails, Karl Rove and Harriet Miers refusing to testify, Valerie Plame, fixing EPA reports and much, much more), reforming health care and national energy policy, policing unfair lending practices and allowing the establishment of a credit industry that works against the American people, not for them. It inexplicable that Congress has utterly failed to inhibit Bush’s harmful activities when the majority of Americans do not favor his policies in the slightest. It is frustrating and goddamned ridiculous.

So, Obama is Change personified, right?

Apparently, not so. Yes, I have read his blog on The Huffington Post regarding his FISA vote, which proffered no substantial logic for his approval of the bill. A few gems from the piece are:

Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I’m sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have.

The problem with our agreement on the vast majority of issues is that his vote on the FISA bill illustrates his inherent weakness and willingness to compromise when no comprise is needed simply to prove (which he fails to do with this vote) that he is strong on national security. This “aye” was unnecessary, dangerous, wrong, hurtful and potentially, yes, a deal breaker. Especially when assessing the guts of the bill, along with those who voted against it. On The Huffpo website, David Bromwich provides a very concise, yet in-depth look at the governmental powers granted with this legislation. I strongly recommend reading the blog and the readers’ comments below.

Among the senators who opposed the vote are Biden, Boxer, Dodd, Clinton, Byrd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Kerry, Leahy, Reid and Levin.

The bottom line is that political agreements with a candidate are moot if the candidate does not have the political strength or fortitude to operate in accordance with that agreement.

Of course, Obama’s folding on FISA was a political calculation – that’s practically consensus. And I wish he could offer an honest defense of his vote; but, alas, this theater of election season would lead any such candor to damage the candidate.

Obama will be elected president barring any unforeseen, intensely damaging and highly unlikely circumstances. Though the media portrays the presidential race as close – it is a facade. McCain’s chances of succeeding in November, in my opinion, are around 1 in 5. Incumbent parties do not win when the economy is in the tank – mentally or not (and it’s not mental, Phil, when milk, bread, cereal, gas and all other necessities are more and more expensive and the dollar is weaker and weaker). McCain is not galvanizing and voter trust of most election issues points toward Obama. I wish Obama the best and will be hopeful as he takes his oath of office.

Furthermore, I applaud Obama’s willingness to work across the aisle and understand there will be areas in which he will break with Liberals. Support of faith-based community initiatives, for one (and this coming from an agnostic).

The FISA Act, however, is so detrimental to democracy itself, my respect for not just Obama himself, but the very idea of Obama has been irreparably damaged. I would encourage hardcore Obama supporters to keep this particular vote of his in mind when daydreaming of the days to come as he takes on the heavy mantle of President of the United States of America. Perfection at this level does not exist and any romance with a candidate will certainly abate over time.

I would never cast a vote for McFlip-Flop, nor would I ever stay home and waste a voting opportunity. Also, I am a thorough, complete supporter of a multi-party system. While I wanted to vote for Obama – and was excited to vote for him – my decision was not cast in stone. It still is not cemented. However, the odds I would pull the lever in support of him this November are greatly diminished. Truthfully, I am ever more looking in Nader’s direction.

If Obama’s political contributions continue to decline, I encourage him to address his FISA ’08 support with increased seriousness. This is no small issue for those of us who follow politics and government activity.

This weekend, I plan on purchasing Obama’s two books and will begin reading them with a large grain of salt. Perhaps this will allow me some insight behind this recent mind-boggling decision of his.

As of this point, Obama is not Hope and he is not Change We Can Believe In. He is merely Better Than Bush, but isn’t everybody else?

6 Responses to “Did Obama Just Lose My Vote?”

  1. 1 Marc
    July 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

    If you want my take on the “political” reasons for why he voted its Nancy Pelosi’s fault. As speaker of the House she would have been responsible for crafting another bill prior the august renewal run out on wiretapping laws. He didn’t want to buck her game and run down the huge responsibility of forcing the House democrats to write up a likely ugly ugly bill, written with hardly any committee review after FISA fails. Obama publicizing a no-vote on the bill would have meant a real hard time for the rest of the Senate Democrats to oppose them and a possible failure of the bill.

    Other reasons are that had he simply didn’t want to make FISA the debate between him and McCain, but the economy, energy, environment, health care, etc….

    This still doesn’t make me the least bit happy of course, but they are the excuses.

    However, I have a whole different set of complaints with the candidacy of Nader, though not because of the Democrats usual reasons (sinking Gore) but more that he makes a mockery of the 3rd party system, not help it.

  2. July 11, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I getcha, marc. but FISA ’08 would have passed without his vote or a nay vote. He simply could have not voted (like McCain) – which wouldn’t have been a stretch considering how many votes he’s already missed this year and last. Though, I’d rather he vote than not at all.

    Furthermore, the democrats should have had their shit together and drafted a better bill before this line had to be crossed. I know it’s election season, but for chrissakes – stand up for the values of your constituents and do what we freaking elected you to do! This was a clear abdication of duty that simply handed Bush more of the power he’s proven to mishandle and abuse.

    Now, instead of having the FISA debate with McCain – which could have been easy one using two words: civil liberties – Obama’s having the flip-flop one, which swing voters are eating up as a justification to vote for McCain (“sure he’s a flip-flopper, but so is Obama”) – which I see a lot here in Texas and across the South. Integrity is more important after all we’ve been through with Bush.

    I have many complaints with Nader as well, but as independent candidates go – he’s at the top of my list. His work on behalf of consumer rights is commendable and we need viable third parties now more than ever. Democracy is healthier with increased choice – Nader or no.

  3. 3 Marc
    July 11, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Well M,
    Ive been kicking around my brain the start of some kind of campaign… beginning with a post for why their was immediate love for Obama amongst young people.

    I has a lot to do with the mischaracterization that young people are more apathetic than ever before when in reality its not a political apathy but an apathy attached to both parties.

    I was raised a Democrat, and in all that time I can remember being proud of my party, proud, not just lukewarm agreement, one time. When Bill Clinton refused to sign the budget and shut down the government. Since I was 18 I’ve been a registered independent and very very active on the issues.

    What I cannot believe that the Democrats haven’t learned from the Rovian revolution is that voters really do care more about character than issues. And its not because the electorate is too damn stupid to know better, its because the people out there cannot believe that the candidates can’t feel as strongly about an issue as the people who vote them into office. This is precisely why social conservatives across the plains feel lukewarm about McCain, because after spending a day or two blockading an abortion clinic they get dishearted when he only hums and haws about Roe v. Wade. This is precisely why I’ll feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back when after a lifetime of voting people into office on their environmental credentials, i’ll likely be upset when the Senate Dems flop on offshore drilling.

    It is precisely why that Bastard Bush sits in the White House now, because whenever someone questioned his ridiculous beliefs he put on that queer sneer let go of that famous snicker and let everyone know exactly why he feels justified in having them. And miracle of miracles, people voted for them.

    Obama, with his speeches and his smiling, charming defenses was able to garner the same enthusiasm and support as Bush did, and if he keeps it, it will be why he has won. It is precisely why young people became engaged once again. When Hilary and Obama had a knock down drag out over the nomination, people became excited because for once it didn’t seem like a fight to have their hands on the reign of power but a fight for who would have the privilege of representation of the people. However, I know with FISA he took the wind out of yours and my sails a little bit, and left us questioning. The rest of the Democratic party never put any wind in there to begin with.

    So want to discuss this some. If FISA has really upset you i think we should coauthor some blogs about inspirational, populist politics. Find other bloggers to do the same. Cause the Dems need to realize when they are polled as “weak” its not weak on defense, or foreign policy or on spending, its a failure to show their own backbones.

  4. July 11, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    very good comment and very good idea. i was hoping that with obama, this would finally be one election where we didn’t have to choose the lesser of two bad apples. i’m afraid that notion is coming to an end – though i expected it to following January 21 ’09.

    the democrats don’t trust Americans to agree with them, support them to take the necessary stops to prevent the repubs from making poor decisions.

    we would support them if they would prevent bush’s funding from the war and call on the executive level to instead use the billions of dollars they’re overpaying the contractors with to appropriately fund the military.

    we would support them if they said, no FISA 1978 is enough to protect this country and this so-called “compromise” is actually bogus.

    we would support them if they loudly proclaimed their intent to end Bush’s unfair tax-cuts for the wealthy.

    we would support them if they acknowledged the inherent need for regulation of America’s monopolistic corporations.

    but they don’t trust us to support them and are so focused on their respective re-election and so scared of the government and can’t see the forest for the trees and utterly burdened by their misconceptions of the voting populace.

    they do not speak up, but rather wait in the wings like frightened puppies until America is so fed up, we demand they step forward.

    they are useless, they have no backbone, we cannot leave our future to their failed strategies.

    we must support independent parties that will remain strong under lobbying pressure and the threat of failure.

    i would absolutely coauthor blogs about inspirational politics, but cannot be trusted to leave out dirty language – so you might want to take that into account.

    don’t you hate it when bloggers make every sentence a paragraph?

  5. 5 Marc
    July 14, 2008 at 8:42 am

    As for the sentence paragraph issues, its almost biblical, ten commandments style. I say leave it.

    Also, I say more cussing is exactly what we need in inspirational politics, gets the blood up.

    If you would like to do more, shoot me an e-mail.

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