In Defense of Obama

I write this with a heavy heart: It is no time for progressives and radicals to be high-minded.

Since Obama has taken office, he has held onto many of George W. Bush’s policies, especially in terms of foreign policies and executive power. This was on display in the last Presidential debate. Mitt Romney agreed with President Obama’s policies on Osama Bin Laden, sanctions against Iran, the war in Iraq, and the Syrian civil war. Romney also expressed support for drone strikes and a close military alignment with Israel. Much of the subsequent media coverage focused on the perceived moderation of Romney’s foreign policy.

What I find to be more accurate is that, as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote in Forbes, Romney found it awkward to “critique an essentially hawkish foreign policy as a hawkish Republican.” It is not that Romney agrees with Obama. It is that Romney agrees with George W. Bush.

We see how Obama has maintained the Patriot Act, the fact that he has a kill lists and authorized indefinite detention, both for Americans and for foreigners, how he advocates drone strikes and has issued more deportations than at any other point in history… How can I defend this center-right incumbent as a leftist? How can I defend him as a progressive?

And yet, when he is facing a far-right challenger, who is willing to say anything and everything to get elected, I can defend him. I can defend him when he has passed a healthcare law that will ensure millions of Americans (although not undocumented immigrants) have access to healthcare coverage and aren’t discriminated against for pre-existing conditions. I can defend him because of the Dream Act Relief measure he passed, granting a level of protection and legal recognition to potentially millions of undocumented teenagers and young adults. I can defend him when he protects women’s rights to make decisions about their bodies, government investment in education and research, and investment in infrastructure.

We leftists have to fight for Obama’s reelection because under Governor Romney we will see every single one of our causes decimated. How can leftists waste a vote on Jill Stein, who will never be president, while Mitt Romney is a heartbeat – or a vote – away from the Presidency? Someone who has advocated for the self-deportation of undocumented immigrants by enacting E-Verify at each stage of employment, someone who supported the Key-Stone XL Pipeline, someone who wants to lower taxes on the wealthy while cutting deductions for everyone, someone who opposes Roe vs. Wade, someone who opposes gay marriage, someone who truly, deeply believes the role of the United States as the world’s patriarch? Is there any position he holds that is not completely offensive to progressives?

Obama does not represent all or even most of our aims, but Romney represents everything we oppose. This is no time for idealism: too much is at stake. When the polls are this close, when winning or losing New Hampshire means regressing back to the “foreign policy of the 80’s, social policies of the 50’s, and the economic policies of the 20’s,” how can leftists even consider withholding their support from Obama?

I understand standing up for principles and acting with a conscience. But thinking that one is not implicated in an election by refusing to vote or by casting a vote for a third party candidate is misguided. As citizens of the United States, as beneficiaries of American power and American empire, we are all implicated in this system of oppression. Deciding not to vote, or to support a third party, does not clear a conscience. It does not absolve any guilt; it does not free one of responsibility for so many future deaths from drone strikes. It does not free one of responsibility for the families torn apart by the prison-industrial complex, or the children who have no access to decent education.

When candidates are auditioning for the role of the President, an office that is by nature conservative and tasked with running the US Government, we as leftists cannot expect a perfect choice. The way the country stands now, we can only hope to keep things from becoming much worse much faster. When we give up our voices and sacrifice the difference we can make for misguided ideals, we prove to be everything that conservatives label us as: out of touch, immature, and privileged.

~by Nina Rojas


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