Obama long ago lost the support of those of us who voted for hope and change. He has lost those who are anti-war, who wanted single payer health care, who wanted the wealthy to pay more taxes. He’s lost environmentalists, progressives, Occupiers, and citizens concerned about constitutional liberties and international law. Because Romney is unfit to be president, many are planning on voting for Obama as the lesser of two evils.
But Obama, even during his current campaign, provides strong reasons for us not to vote for him. In the first of three articles, I focus on the three top issues with voting for Obama.
A key issue covered by the mainstream media is jobs. Obama says he is in favor of increasing jobs, but what the mainstream media do not tell us is that he may be negotiating a free trade agreement that will further outsource jobs. Even though these negotiations are being done in secret, details have been leaked and articles written based on these alleged leaks.
One such article reports: "While in the spotlight .... Obama is critical of jobs being sent overseas but at the same time his U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, who works out of the executive office of the president, is negotiating a secret treaty behind closed doors – the Trans-Pacific Partnership – known as ‘NAFTA on steroids’. This is a corporate trade agreement that will result in massive outsourcing of jobs."
A second key issue not covered by the mainstream media is the diminishment of our liberties and rights under the Obama administration. Under Obama, secrecy in government has become worse than under any president for over 50 years. Secrecy is one enemy of democracy, since it prevents citizens from being informed about our choices of representatives and what is being done in the name of "we the people."
Whistleblowers threaten the veil of secrecy. The same Obama who had praised and encouraged whistleblowers as a candidate in 2008 has come down very hard on whistleblowers after his election. Consistent with this attack on one of the foundational pillars of a democratic citizenry, Obama in the past year has threatened any activist, dissenter, or critical journalist with indefinite detention without trial. This policy is on hold only because public critic Noam Chomsky, journalist Chris Hedges, peace activist Daniel Berrigan, and others have successfully challenged its constitutionality of this in a federal court. Obama is still fighting for his right to indefinitely imprison. His attorneys are appealing and have triggered a “constitutional showdown between the president and the judiciary” that will likely reach the Supreme Court.
Just last week, the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents raided multiple activist homes in the Northwest looking for anarchist literature. I assume I need not worry about colleagues who teach about anarchism, defend anarchism as a political theory (philosopher Robert Paul Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism is a classic), or who cite anarchism as one of their academic "specializations.”
Yet as one organizer with Occupy Seattle said after the raid: “I was just doing research on the old Pinkerton strikebreaking paramilitaries, so it’s kind of funny, you know, to have that old Red Scare history burst through my front door at six AM.” Despite my light-hearted referral to colleagues, there is nothing light-hearted about this very dangerous and chilling inroad into our Constitutional liberties, nor about a very un-American expansion of police powers.
More broadly, the Democratic Party has significantly weakened its position in its 2012 platform on civil liberty issues of indefinite detention, warrantless surveillance, the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo Bay, racial profiling in fighting terrorism, and torture. Obama himself has broadened the tools of surveillance on Americans, approving the use of drones anywhere in the United States. Even Dick Cheney, an advocate of the unitary executive, did not have the chutzpah to put such chillingly repressive policies into operation.
A third key issue, pushed under the radar except for factoids about terrorists killed, involves the legality, morality, and usefulness of terrorizing Afghan, Pakistani, and Yemeni civilians with death suddenly flaming down from the sky. Former President Jimmy Carter claimed that both Republican and Democratic administrations have violated 10 of 30 provisions set out in a universal declaration of human rights that was forged after World War II. These violations include killing people with unmanned drones.
“We have now decided as a nation that it’s OK to kill people without a trial with our drones, and this includes former American citizens who are looked upon as dangerous to us,” Carter said. “Not just terrorists, but innocent participants in weddings and so forth that happen to be there. I think this is acting in a way that turns people against us unnecessarily because there is a great deal of animosity about the United States that is unnecessary, in my opinion, because our drones are performing these things.”
A report from the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law) provides numbers: “from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children… [and] also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals.” Killing civilians and creating enemies are not the only problems with drone warfare. The report tells us that “drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.”
Drone warfare over Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan raises two troublesome questions. Firstly, is this state terrorism? And secondly, should we vote for any candidate who favors this policy when our votes will be a mandate for what seems both immoral and counterproductive?
These three policies raise doubts that Obama is an advocate for the 99% or for the ideals which not too long ago made America a beacon of hope for the world. These issues also raise questions about how “lesser an evil” Obama is as a candidate.
While I don’t want to jump to the third article, it is relevant to point out that Jill Stein would “re-formulate all international trade relations and commerce as currently upheld by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), [and] the World Trade Organization (WTO)…. so that the growth of local industry and agriculture has the advantage over foreign corporate domination.” Regarding our liberties, she would insist on our Constitutional rights and “revoke the 2010 re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act, including “John Doe” roving wiretaps and the “library records” provision.” Finally, regarding our drone warfare, she finds that “the arrogance with which the Administration dismisses the concerns over this weaponry is truly disturbing” and she would end drone warfare.
In the next article in this three-part series, I will look at the beginning of the Obama administration, prior to the Republicans winning the House. Did these first two years show Obama to be an advocate for the 99%?