Web Only / Features » October 26, 2012
In Defense of the Undecided Voter
In a complicated election, are the waverers really the simple-minded ones?
Barack Obama has always been a thumb-to-the-wind politician who shrouds corporate-backed policies in the veneer of altruistic liberalism. But I voted for him because in 2008 he presented the best opportunity for change.
A confession: I recently received my Colorado ballot but, even though my state will play a key role in the presidential election, I still haven't voted. Yes, I'm one of the oft-ridiculed undecideds, and here's why .
I am a left-leaner who previously voted for Barack Obama with clear eyes. Having looked at his record, I knew he was no progressive, much less a Marxist, as his conservative detractors claim. He has always been a thumb-to-the-wind politician who shrouds corporate-backed policies in the veneer of altruistic liberalism. But I voted for him because in 2008 he presented the best opportunity for change.
Sadly, that opportunity was missed. Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post documented this week, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated “constitutional lawyer.”
Now, four years later, Obama and Democratic Party-affiliated media outlets are demanding that voters ignore this record, or at least believe that a President Mitt Romney will automatically make things worse.
For liberals, that belief certainly has some merit. On economics, Romney proposes punitive trickle-down policies to reward the wealthy “makers” with new tax cuts and punish impoverished “takers” with cuts to public services. Likewise on social issues, he stands against same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose an abortion.
That said, there are far more similarities between the candidates than differences. They both support entitlement cuts, corporate tax cuts, the Drug War, expanded fossil fuel drilling, privatizing education, warrantless surveillance, extra-judicial assassinations, drone warfare, increased military spending and continued foreign interventions. Hence, my undecided status, and my perseveration on a prospective question: Does America need an opposition or not?
Based on the last four years, we know that when pushing his Romney-like priorities, President Obama in his second term would face almost no serious opposition from Democratic-aligned organizations, media outlets, politicians and activists. Those forces have repeatedly proven they put party over principle. Indeed, just like first-term Obama passed extreme civil liberties policies and a national version of Romney's insurance-industry-coddling health care bill without much liberal pushback, second-term Obama would be able to freely legislate those priorities upon which he and Republicans agree. Worse, fellow Democratic politicians would see Obama's electoral success as further proof that they, too, can support those conservative initiatives without fear of losing liberal voters' support in the future.
By contrast, we know from George W. Bush's second term that a President Romney will likely face a massive organized opposition. Why? Because the same Democratic apparatus that gives Obama a pass will suddenly see a partisan self-interest in frustrating the Republican president.
This, of course, is not to encourage liberal votes for Romney. After all, I'm floating just one possible–though likely–scenario. Additionally, the reason I still lean toward Obama (or a third-party candidate) is because, as mentioned above, Romney is decidedly worse than the current president on a few critical issues.
However, the overriding point is that for left-leaning voters, this election choice should not be seen as easy. It should be viewed as a complex decision about policy outcomes within the context of opposition politics. And here's the inconvenient truth: with such similar presidential candidates, a lack of liberal opposition to a reelected Obama is arguably as frightening a prospect as a Romney presidency.
Sure, like the pundits, you can smugly ridicule us undecided voters as stupid–but with the stakes so high, the rubes are those who make such an impossible choice out to be so simple.
Never has independent journalism mattered more. Help hold power to account: Subscribe to In These Times magazine, or make a tax-deductible donation to fund this reporting.
David Sirota, an In These Times senior editor and syndicated columnist, is a staff writer at PandoDaily and a bestselling author whose book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything was released in 2011. Sirota, whose previous books include The Uprising and Hostile Takeover, co-hosts "The Rundown" on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. E-mail him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.