Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Cynic's Endorsement of Obama

I don’t mean to upstage Colin Powell or Warren Buffett or Matt Damon, but Barack Obama has now earned perhaps the most important endorsement of his political career. After a long and agonizing debate with myself, in which I’ve employed every dirty trick in the book to win me over, I’ve decided to end my campaign for the presidency. I’m releasing all my delegates as soon as I can find the key to their leg irons. In addition, I’ve decided to stop urging my readers to vote for a third-party candidate or, for those who can spell, to write in their own names. I hope that, like me, they’ll lend their support to Barack Obama.

I’m not completely happy about this decision. Obama strikes me as a spineless Machiavellian liar, not unlike almost every other person in Congress, particularly the current breed of Democrats who, for political expediency, chose not to try to impeach a pair of known dangerous criminals. As I’ve written here often, many of Obama’s ideas and policies make me gag. I’m disgusted by his intertwining of religion and politics, and I’m dead-set against faith-based initiatives, which he gleefully supports in flagrant disregard of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I’m still pissed off about his vote giving telecoms immunity against prosecutions for the spying they did on American citizens, acts which flout the Fourth Amendment. I’m frightened by his saber-rattling against Pakistan, an alleged “friend” of the United States, and his knee-jerk support, without any substantive explanation, of Georgia against Russia. I’m uncomfortable with his wishy-washy stands on abortion, gun control, and the death penalty. And I hate that he was one of the loudest voices in favor of the sucker-punch known as the “bailout.”

But, in the total picture, I think that Obama is at a moral level so far above John McCain as to make it imperative that he win. For one thing, a world increasingly at odds with – and afraid of – America will breathe a sigh of relief if the “Country First” candidates fail. The McCain/Palin campaign, with its constant thuggish chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.,” has been exploiting the worst crypto-fascist instincts in the jingoistic portion of our citizenry. And, while Obama’s overwhelming support among blacks is an indication of a kind of racism, it’s definitely not the same kind to which the Republicans have been playing. With its demonization of Obama, right-wing speechifying often sounds, to my ears anyway, like a veiled encouragement of lynch-mob mentality: He’s not one of us. They can throw hundreds of cute winks, adorable smiles, and thumbs-up gestures into that rhetoric; they can intone, over and over again, the falsely amiable my friends and the phonily homespun doggonit, youbetcha all they want; they still convey one message: He’s not one of us. The implication? Run him out of the neighborhood.

After eight years of monkey government, we clearly need a leader now. One of the best yardsticks we have for measuring a candidate’s ability to lead is the kind of campaign that he or she runs. McCain’s campaign seems as if it’s being conducted by people who have ADD; it lacks focus, and constantly shifts its tactics in reaction to the polls. Obama’s campaign, on the other hand, has stayed on-target since the first: It’s my time, now. That was the strategy when he announced his candidacy, and it hasn’t wavered. His people have been throwing around that extremely effective bullshit for almost two years, and it has resulted in unheard-of contributions – both from the usual favor-shoppers and the so-called “little guys.” A seeming nobody has successfully taken on the power brokers in both parties; can anyone doubt that he knows how to lead?

Normally, that kind of leadership, built on empty promises, would be chilling. Under usual circumstances, I’d look at it as potentially dangerous, the bedrock of a tyranny. But Obama’s calculatedly anti-divisive speeches have taken off some of the edge. With the exception of the Democrats’ usual bugbear, big business – and, of course, the obviously crooked and incompetent Bush administration – he singles out no group for scorn, blames no one for our two wars (three if you count the bogus “war on terror”), our economic fiasco, our catastrophic energy policies, and our infrastructure disasters. In America, big business can always take care of itself; it needs no help from presidents, or the congress, or my wallet. I don’t have to protect it through my vote. And the Bushies, as far as I’m concerned, should be brought to justice for their crimes against the state and humanity.

My final reason for throwing my admittedly trivial support behind Obama is the specter of a Sarah Palin presidency. John McCain’s age, in and of itself, doesn’t put me off. But, clearly, he has health issues; anyone who has watched his performances during the entire campaigning process can’t fail to be aware that he’s not as well as he should be. He dodders, hems and haws, spouts words that he has to weasel out of sometimes only hours later, exhibits an impatience that may well be generated by the slowly failing workings of his body. If he’s elected, and if he dies or becomes unable to perform the duties of his office (two possibilities that seem unnervingly likely to me), a proudly ignorant, unworldly, religious fundamentalist hockey mom will take over in the White House. She’ll bring her “go team” sports mindset with her. Everything she does will be filtered through her glib us-against-them vision. When issues arise that can’t be divided simplistically into two sides, she’ll do so anyway, and take one of them quicker than you can say “Joe Sixpack.” She wouldn’t be a president to inspire national trust at a time when we so badly need to feel that; she’d be a hometeam fanatic, rooting unreasonably for Americans who are “one of us.” I’m not – and neither are you. By definition, no freethinker is.

Do I agree with everything Obama says? Nope, not by a long shot. Do I believe that he’s honest? Hardly. Do I think that he’ll solve all our problems – or even most of them – in four years? Give me some credit for not being a moron.

But the alternative is so horrific, so unthinkable to me, that I will vote for him. I hope you will, too.


James Robson said...

Hey, I can't vote, but believe me, from outside the US, the choice seems even clearer.

Lynet said...

Well, sweet holy fucking reason. The 'admiration' part of my 'cautious admiration' for Barack Obama just went up a notch -- although I know this endorsement probably owes as much to Sarah Palin as to Obama himself.

Don't worry, I promise to wind up the 'cautious' part to keep the balance.

Anonymous said...

I happen to agree with what you've written here, which is a good thing, since I was your running mate. Maybe we can pull out our campaign gear in another fours years. Better yet, maybe there will be no need for us to do so.

The Exterminator said...

... from outside the US, the choice seems even clearer.
I'm glad to hear that you think so. Bear in mind, though: Yours is exactly the kind of comment that gets the most hateful xenophobes so up in arms. U.S.A. U.S.A., U.S.A., Deutschland uber alles.

I think it's a shame that America is a country where a candidate can be considered admirable merely because he or she doesn't appeal to the troglodytes. Still, that seems to be the way it is, at least in this election. I refuse to live in a cave for four years.

Frankly, I thought you'd already left the ticket when you got so pissed off after Tina Fey decided not to mimic you. In any case, we're still on the same team, and I'm sure we'll be running together again in the future. Remember: It's the Theocracy, Stupid! I see no reason to dump that slogan if Obama wins.

PhillyChief said...

Sometimes you have to go with the lesser evil. Were you to stay in your cave, Pres. Palin and her goons would find you, and you'd disappear to some work camp, in the name of god and country.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you beat me to it. The next thing on my to-do list after catching up on posts from the weekend was to write this exact post. Thanks for doing it for me.

tina FCD said...

You know, I'm glad I stopped by here. I trust your judgment. I can....can't I?
Damn, now I have to take the Exterminator/Chaplain banner off my site.

Unknown said...

I voted for Nader in the last two elections (and don't anyone tell me its my fault Bush won both times, the Democratic candidates lost of their own accord), but this time I'm torn between Nader and Obama.
Unfortunately, even after reading your post, I'm still torn. Something inside me just doesn't feel right voting for somebody just so that the other guy doesn't win. It just comes back to the whole voting for the lesser of two evils thing (although I don't think Barack is entirely evil) and I think that is one of the biggest mistakes we, as voters, make in this country.
When everybody votes this way, we all lose, every time.
Maybe I'm just not cynical enough, I think people need to vote for the candidate they like the best, not the candidate they dislike the least.

The Exterminator said...

As you know, the lesser-of-two-evils would not normally be an argument that would work on me. But, yeah, in this election the balance of evil is very heavily tipped on the McCain/Palin side. So rather than voting for exactly the "right" candidate (myself), and then waiting self-righteously for the blackshirts to pull me screaming from my cave, I'm hoping that my vote will help prevent those goon squads from being formed into governmentally sanctioned groups.

I've read your follow-up post, and I agree with most of it. I urge all my readers to check it out.

I particularly like: I have no allegiance to America’s government. I have no allegiance to America. But my participation in the government does not jeopardize my non-allegiance.

I trust your judgment. I can....can't I?
Oh, of course. My judgment is fan-fucking-tastic. I'm also pretty good at solving Sudoku puzzles.

I've made dozens of arguments like yours. However, read my response to Philly. Although I hate to say it in so many words, I don't think that this election is the right one for sticking rigidly to one's ideals. That's what I've tried to explain in my post.

Unknown said...

Ex, I do see your point. I guess what I was saying is that if I do end up voting for Obama, that I think I'll feel weird for the next four years, kind of dirty, like I just did something I know I shouldn't have done. Its hard for me to explain, but I hope you see my point.
On the other hand, living in Iowa, I know how important my vote could be. But then I start thinking about the odds that my one vote would make the difference and it seems almost infinitesimally small.
Then I followed your link to Davo's post and down below, Philly makes a good point:

Our days are filled with choices of varying evil. Are you sure your clothes never came from a sweat shop? Was an indigent beaten to provide your coffee or produce. What’s your carbon footprint...

Granted I do make sure a portion of the coffee I buy is fair trade and I make an effort (albeit a relatively small one) to reduce my carbon footprint, but our days are filled with choices of varying evil, and maybe the election is no different. Who am I to be all high and mighty, always voting for a third party? Besides...

...if Obama wins, you know that I’ll be in the front line of his critics the day after he’s elected. I’ll see you there, too, I’m sure.

...with Ex around to keep things in line, how bad can it get? ;)

Unknown said...

On a side note, I noticed that I can't use the blockquote HTML tag. Does anybody here know if there is another tag that I can use to the same effect?

Anonymous said...

I think Scotty hits the nail on the head for describing the tension: Either do what you believe is right and know that it's not going to make a bit of difference, or do what you feel is wrong but not as bad as the alternative and live with the guilt of knowing you helped cause this.

The Exterminator said...

Well, I don't think I'll feel "kind of dirty" voting for Obama, although I'm certainly not happy about it. What would make me feel dirty is if the crypto-fascists take power and I hadn't done what little I could to keep them from doing that. If Obama gets in, I'll be watching for you in the front lines. Maybe all of us who commented here could go grab a beer after we protest whatever it is that we'll be protesting.

The blockquote HTML tag won't work in a Blogger comment. I set off a quote by using the HTML italics command, which is an i between sideways carets (whatever those characters are called) to begin, and a /i between carets to close. If you don't understand what I mean, I'll bring some sideways carets with me on Nov. 5 to show you. By the way, I hear that they're big treats for sideways rabbits.

I think if you do what's "right," you may have to live with the guilt of passively causing whatever disaster occurs. I, myself, voted for Nader in 2000 -- and would do so again under the same circumstances. But once Bush got into office, and I saw the criminality and deceit that permeated his government, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had insisted on an "ideal" candidate in 2004. I swallowed hard, and voted for Kerry -- even though I believed (and still believe) that he would have been a sucky president. As I said above, sometimes the lesser of two evils is so much lesser, that you have to support it.

Anonymous said...

My uncle (well, my father's cousin, which makes him my second uncle or third cousin or . . . Sorry) once said that he was sometimes ashamed of being a Republican, such as when he held his nose and voted for Nixon in '72. But no way no how was he going to vote for a Democrat. Ever.

I held my nose and voted for Clinton. Though I don't agree with all of Obama's platform (especially the faith-based-bull and the idea of expanding the war in Afganistan), I don't need to hold my nose when I vote for him. Yes, the alternative to Obama is horrific. But Obama, as a center-right candidate (at least, to the rest of the world he's center-right), he is definately acceptable. Not liberal enough for me, but maybe liberal enough to matter.

John Evo said...

Ex wrote: After eight years of monkey government, we clearly need a leader now.

Really, sir, in defense of our primate relatives, I have to object to this.

You know, go back and read just your second paragraph and then try to guess who you endorsed in this post! You're a funny man. I guess that's why I like you.

Obama has a number of issues that piss me off as well. But I honestly think I'll never have the opportunity of voting for someone who wouldn't. So it's not JUST "lesser of two evils". I see some genuinely promising aspects to the possibility of an Obama presidency. I honestly think he is not only well positioned to end up being a great president, I think he represents enough positive characteristics that he really could be just that.

Believe me, FDR, Lincoln and Jefferson ALL would have pissed me off on some issues. That doesn't mean they weren't great. I totally agree with Colin Powell's assessment of him.

And I continue to be very, very fearful for his personal future. And ours.

The Exterminator said...

Not liberal enough for me, but maybe liberal enough to matter.
Well, to reflect the issues that are important to me, I would have written your sentence as:
Not civil libertarian enough for me, but maybe civil libertarian enough to matter.

You know, go back and read just your second paragraph and then try to guess who you endorsed in this post!
That's why I wrote more than two paragraphs.

bullet said...

In my eyes, Obama is just a smooth talker with slick handlers and a giant machine that may have figured out what it's doing, for a change. He's what Bill Clinton would have been had Bill made his base in NYC or Chicago. You know, if, instead of trying to diddle everything that moved, he cavorted with shady figures and party bosses in the smoky rooms.

I just prefer "the evil you know", I guess. Lesser, greater, does it really matter?

Venjanz said...

Ex, you partisan hack! Who passed you the Kool-aid? If McCain didn't get your vote with his famous "Wear Sunscreen" speech, there is no reasoning with you.

PhillyChief said...

In my eyes, it seems far easier to make snarky character attacks and allusions to GOP fantasies about people than actually weigh in with facts, Mr. Bullet, and what's with party loyalty? I'll never understand that. People loyal to a party are simply tools, like the religious.

John Evo said...

he cavorted with shady figures and party bosses in the smoky rooms.

Might as well go ahead and tell the WHOLE story:

Then, running down to the mosque for prayers and instructions from the mullah, burning a flag, calling Reverend Wright for counseling, and then attending the Leon Trotsky Study Group.

The Exterminator said...

I don't really care whom you support, but that's an awfully dumb comment from an alleged skeptic. First of all, you provide no evidence that Obama is a smooth talker; personally, I think he sucks at public speaking. Second, who are these "slick" handlers he has, and in what way do you distinguish them from the "slick" handlers in the Republican campaign? Third, is "cavorted" a rationalist's word? Fourth, who were the "party bosses," where were the "smoky rooms," and what exactly made them smoky? It sounds to me like you're just spouting a lot of baseless right-wing claptrap. We atheists should avoid empty slogans and discuss ideas; you haven't done that here.

As far as preferring "the evil you know," did you support Clinton over Bush? Surely, after watching Bill's eight years in office, you knew him better than Bush. If you had the opportunity, would you vote for Stalin over Ivan Sixpackanov? Clearly, if you've read any history, you know much more about Stalin than about Ivan, whom I just made up. So that "evil you know" nonsense is just another empty slogan.

Drivel like those examples is far beneath you.

Why don't you address what I said in the post?

I did agree with McCain on his "Wear Sunscreen ..." speech, but I draw the line on his continuation: "... because you don't want to get too dark."

... it seems far easier to make snarky character attacks and allusions to GOP fantasies about people ...
Welcome to the wonderful world of America's "informed" electorate.

You forgot that he probably stopped for watermelon, fried chicken, and a homosexual liaison on his way to the abortion clinic.

Anonymous said...

Ex: I can see that. Same candidate, different priorities. Works.

John Evo said...

Ex -

Was he on his way to the abortion clinic to perform abortions? Or to blow the place up? Remember, he IS a committed Christian Muslim Terrorist.

Unknown said...

I have reached the same conclusion. Although it won't matter in Kansas.

The Super Sweet Atheist said...

I reached a similar conclusion and voted for a Democratic president for the first time in my life. In 2004 my vote for Bush felt it was the lesser of two evils but this year my vote for Obama feels more like hope to me.

BTW, I live in Texas so, like Kansas, it won't matter.

PhillyChief said...

I'm not sure what evil Kerry represented other than being mind numbingly boring.

The Exterminator said...

Actually, I'm not surprised that you reached a similar conclusion. I can't see how any rational person could think otherwise. That's why so many well-known conservatives have either come out for Obama or, at very least, expressed grave doubts about the Republican ticket. Frankly, unless a person is totally ignorant, I can't understand what would motivate him or her to vote for McCain/Palin.

Being mind-numbingly boring is pretty high up on the evil chain, as far as I'm concerned. Anything that deadens people's minds is antithetical to what we rational atheists stand for. See my previous post: Epicurus's Epigram on the Problem of Mind-Numbing Boringness.

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