The attacks on Obama coming from Mitt Romney have been counter to fact, which is one reason Romney continues to fall further behind in the polls. This does not mean there is not legitimate criticism to be made of Obama’s record. The Republicans are not going to criticize Obama where it is deserved as their positions are generally worse. Today Connor Friedersdorf has done what the Republicans never do–present legitimate criticism of Obama. While the criticism is legitimate, I still do not feel it justifies his decision not to vote for Obama.
Friedersdorf criticism is essentially based upon Obama’s foreign policy moves such as the use of drones in Pakistan, killing of an American citizen (although it is significant that the targeted American was working with al Qaeda) and sending troops into Libya without Congressional authority. The criticisms are all valid but I think that it is naive to ignore the difference with the party which moved the country to the right on these issues as opposed to the one which failed to reverse these measures. In an atmosphere in which we do face real dangers, and the Republicans are prepared to blame any future attacks on a Democratic president for not taking all the same actions they advocate, I don’t believe any president after George Bush would have behaved very differently. My bet is that if any Democrat short of Dennis Kucinich ad been elected his supporters would now be having similar complaints, and I’m not entirely convinced that even Kucinich would have wound up doing things much differently.
This is hardly justification for all of Obama’s policies, but it is a fact of life in our two party system. In our two party system, either a Democrat or a Republican will be our next president. Friedersdorf’s idea of voting for Gary Johnson is a meaningless protest. At least hopefully it will be meaningless, as opposed to the Nader vote in 2000 which helped give us George Bush, the Iraq War, and all of the national security nightmares which Friedersdorf is right to be concerned about.
If there were really no difference between the parties today then such a gesture would be understandable. The fact is that there are major differences between the parties and there is no major issue where having a Republican in the White House would not make matters far worse.
In a two party system you are not going to get everything you want, and it makes little sense to be a one-issue voter or to demand ideological purity. The next president will likely choose the next three Supreme Court justices. I would far rather that this be done by someone who believes in our heritage of separation of church and state, supports a woman’s right to control her own body, and does not support the teaching of creationism in the schools. It is not hard to imagine the harm that three more conservative Republicans would do on the court.
On health care we would risk returning to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage to those with medical problems. We would see the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. We would see further redistribution of wealth to the ultra-wealthy, which is dangerous both to a market economy and to democracy. In this political climate I’m not sure whether Obama could do much about climate change, but I would certainly prefer a party in power which understands the challenges it poses as opposed to a party which denies the problem.
While I personally would prefer Obama over Romney on national security issues, there is plenty in Obama’s record to object to. The same is true with regards to the drug war. Even if we were to consider the parties equal on these issues, there remains major reasons why Obama is far superior to Romney. That is how voting is done in a two party system.