A Counterpoint to High-Minded Objections to Voting for Obama

Yesterday, I spent hours and hours trying to reconcile figures in a series of spreadsheets. It was every bit as fun as it sounds.

This is an annual exercise that wouldn’t happen in an organization with the right incentives towards investing in information technology or basically any other asset whose internal rate of return doesn’t exceed that of the political cycle. You’re welcome, taxpayers of Colorado!

Anyway, having finally figured out the culprit in a forensic accounting effort of the first order, I was mentally shattered and had no idea what to write about to entertain our loyal readers, WHOM ARE LEGION.*

*not intended to be a factual statement

Fortunately, Magic Sam had stumbled across an article in the Atlantic Monthly that was crying out for a response. Not a rebuttal necessarily, but a response.

A counterpoint, if you like.

I really do encourage you to read Conor Friedersdorf’s strong take on the upcoming presidential election titled “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama”. For those of you who are too lazy/time-crunched, young Herr Friedersdorf wrote a tight, controlled argument against voting for Barry Hussein’s reëlection, not out of any affinity towards Mittens, the Duke of Lower Mormony but rather because of a series of foreign policy decisions by the incumbent president so objectionable that, as far as the author is concerned, they constitute dealbreakers.

Your correspondent will readily concede that there have been developments in Bammerz’s prosecution of our hostilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya that are so troubling with respect to the notions of civil liberties and a restrained Executive Branch that some people will feel obligated to communicate their disapproval in the only formal channel to which they have access: the ballot box.

Mr. Friedersdorf is perhaps the most articulate of the many hundreds of thousands of people who are deeply let down by the contrast between Barry Obama’s inspirational 2008 campaign rhetoric and the harsher reality of governing a deeply messy democracy entangled horribly in the affairs of faraway nations.

He anticipates several objections to his line of reasoning and does his level best to dismiss them, including the one I had in mind whilst reading the article: that however disconcerting Mr. Obama’s precedents are, come January 2013 there is every chance that Sir Just-For-Men® will engage in more foreign military adventures, more drone strikes against brown-skinned peasants, and more extrajudicial killings of American citizens who have cast their lots with militant Islamic insurgencies.

The author concedes that Romney might well be worse than Obama in these respects, but also demands we acknowledge the possibility that he might not continue Mr. Obama’s proto-Orwellian drone war. After all, we didn’t exactly foresee Barry turning into the Angel of Death, so who knows what Mittens would actually do?

That’s a fair point, but we also don’t know what Obama himself will do should he gain a second term. In one of very few weak points in his argument, Herr Friedersdorf reminds us that there is much uncertainty with respect to what a President Romney would do but he appears to take it for granted that Obama’s objectionable foreign policies will continue.

Rather unusually for the Atlantic, this article is heavy on moral philosophy. As a justification for his likely voting for the Libertarian former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson (or not voting at all), the author appeals directly to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative:

“[A]ct only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

I have a lot of sympathy for wanting to protest vote for Gary Johnson or the former Louisiana congressman/governor Buddy Roemer, whom in a sane world would both have been formidable candidates for the nomination of a major party.

The author is quick to dismiss the “utilitarian” instincts of those who would hold their noses and vote for Obama as the lesser of two evils. HOWEVAH, in this world there are consequences for voting symbolically. By that very same Categorical Imperative, those who stay home on election day or cast ballots for third parties are collectively responsible for the outcome.

If the outcome is the coronation of Mittens I, Knight Commander of Real ‘Merica and Her Self-Justifying Foreign Military Empire, Señor Friedersdorf and those inclined to vote his way are likely to have a lot to answer for. While it’s important to acknowledge uncertainty, and it’s a fact that politicians rarely do exactly what they say they will do, in the event that enough people otherwise inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate refuse to vote for this particular Democratic candidate they must be ready to accept responsibility for the practical effects.

In all probability these effects include, but are not limited to, at least some of the following:

  • A further erosion in the standard of living of the median American family, which almost necessarily implies that those on the margins of society will be in truly dire straits;
  • Weakened regulations on polluters and megabanks and all of the attendant consequences;
  • A continuation and possible escalation of ‘Merica’s ruinous, lost War on Drugs™;
  • A strengthening of the hand of hard-line elements in the Israeli government, which will prolong the apartheid of the Palestinians and destabilize the region even further; and
  • Another land war in Asia whose collateral damage would dwarf Mr. Obama’s drone war.

That is not to say that it shouldn’t be done, but that the author needs to be prepared to answer a utilitarian critique of voting according to Kantian duty ethics. If you think that voting “morally” somehow absolves you from having to eat the shit sandwich that is the American political process, think again.

You cannot avoid eating the shit sandwich. You can’t refuse to eat it by voting your conscience, not even if you are registered to vote in a solidly blue state, as I am almost certain Mr. Friedersdorf is.

One way or another, you WILL eat that shit sandwich. For four years Barack Obama has had to eat one shit sandwich after another, the parting gifts of ten administrations before his. Dealing with Congress, the single most inept organization in American history that just happens to control upwards of a fifth of the economy, is a daily dose of organic, grass-fed shit on artisan whole grain shitbread.

I’m not an apologist for B. HUSSEIN, but if you vote against him solely because of certain elements of his attempt to (eventually, please God) get us out of the quagmire in Afghanistan, you’re basically washing your hands of the entire political process.

That does not make anything better, it just emboldens those who would enthusiastically make our many problems worse.


  1. So let me get this straight. Just because we hired the President to clean up the mess of 10 prior administrations, that means we can just let him deport millions, charterize our schools and bomb Pakistanis?

    • Hola chica! Given that Lord Romney will probably deport millions more, charterize *every* school if he had the chance, and bomb Iran for his buddies Bibi and Sheldon, those progressives who sit this one out will have to think hard about what to say to the women Mitt would force into back alleys, the homos who would be re-relegated to second class citizens, and the underclasses caught up in the drug game -> prison -> broken families -> educational nonattainment -> drug game -> prison cycle.

      Yes, there is no escaping the shit sandwich of ‘Merican realpolitik.

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