Why I am Not Voting for Barack Obama

I have in the past pursued a strategy of voting for Democrats to keep Republicans out of office. The Democratic Party does not represent my interests and I have never been a member of the party, but they have in the past been better for working people, minorities, and women than have Republicans. At least that is what I have believed to be the case. Of course, I will not vote Republican in 2008. But I have decided that I will not vote Democrat. I am convinced that an Obama presidency will be worse for working people, minorities, and women.

Obama supports restrictions on abortion in a manner contrary to Roe v Wade, even mocking women who pursue abortions out of mental distress as having the blues. Obama agrees with the right-wing Supreme Court justices that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms to be found in the Bill of Rights, thus undermining the ability of state and local governments to defend communities from gun violence. Obama advocates expanding taxpayer funded religious organizations, a violation of the First Amendment, which requires government to remain segregated from religion. Obama defends Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Obama voted to expand the ability of the Executive branch to spy on Americans, undermining the Fourth Amendment. Obama has made speeches effectively calling for an end to the civil rights movement, blaming the victims of racism for their woes and telling them to pursue strategies that will keep them on the bottom of American society.

The fear that those voting for Obama have of McCain concern war and abortion. They’re afraid McCain will stay the course in Iraq, when we need to get out. And they especially fear that McCain will apppoint justices hostile to abortion rights. I fear these things, too. But, on the question of Iraq, I cannot trust Obama to withdraw the troops. He has made so many claims contradicted by fact or later reversed by his campaign that nothing he says is to be believed. He deceived the south-side Chicago community for years. I expect him to return from Iraq with a different opinion than held before he left. But even if he doesn’t flip-flop on this, he will if he is elected president. He has already stated that he will redeploy troops now in Iraq to Afganistan. His bellicosity on war with Iraq and his uncritical support for right-wing Israel policy in the region tells us that he does not represent a substantial departure from John McCain.

On the matter of abortion, here I have a genuine concern. But there are reasons to not make this election about a single issue. First, Obama has said he supports restrictions on abortion in a manner contrary to Roe v Wade and other federal laws. Abortion is not necessarily safe with this guy. He is insensitive to women’s issues generally. Second, and more important, John McCain, because he is white, male, and pro-life, will face stiff opposition from feminists and other concerned parties if he tries to appoint ideological justices. He may be able to accomplish it, but it will be difficult. Obama, on the other hand, with liberals sacrificing their core principles just to support this man out of a need for a symbolic accomplishment, and with his stated goals to bring Republicans and Democrats together on this and a range of issues, Obama is a risk for putting a centrist justice on the Court.

This brings us to the major reason why I cannot vote for Barack Obama for president: his politics is to erase differences of opinion for the sake of unity. He wants to bring everybody together and find a workable center. But there is no workable center. There is only right and wrong, and centering everything—which is already too far right—allows for a wealth of wrongs to be unloaded on the public and many more to remain. Restricting abortion is wrong. There is no center position on this. Either you support the right of women to be free from state control of their womb or you’re a tyrant who believes the government ought to force women to have babies. It’s an either-or that is clearly attached to a right-wrong. State control over the womb is the most extreme form of tryanny. Mixing church and state is wrong. There is no center position on this, either. Either you support the right of individuals to be free of religious control or you’re a tyrant who believes in forcing religion on people in programs funded by citizens. This is a secular society. Religious societies are tryanny. Religion has too much say-so already.

Take these two together and one can see the danger in Barack Obama. If we allow religious views to mix with state in the degree that he advocates, and if this means that the prevailing religious hegemony takes the leading role in shaping policy, and it will mean this, and that hegemony is Christianity, then abortion rights are immediately in crisis because the more intense a person’s Christianity the more intense is their desire to control women. Christianity as a form of social organization is a patriarchal nightmare for women. Homosexuals are also threatened by this development. 

The Second Amendment only grants states the right to arm men in the context of a well-regulated militia. This meaning of the amendment is unambiguous. It is worded in a way that makes perfectly clear the intentions of the framers. And since militias are ill-prepared to carry out any useful purpose—assuming we mean something different from the National Guard—there is no rational reason that any citizen should have a gun. Individuals own guns because there are no laws forbidding them to. There is no right that allows them to own guns. There is no center position on this. There is no compromising the Bill of Rights.

The same is true for the Fourth Amendment. Our right to privacy is the arguably the single most important right in the entire Constitution. You cannot comprise, as Obama did, on restricting the government from looking into our private lives. Read the amendment. There’s no wiggle room. There are no exceptions for national security. Obama voted away a fundamental right. This is the vote that made it impossible for me to vote for Obama. 

Back in July, Obama slammed the Supreme Court for upholding a ban on late-term abortion. He said it was part of a concerted effort to roll back women’s reproductive freedom. Now he supports a ban on late-term abortion. Feeling good about your endorsement NARAL?

Kerry’s supposed flip-flopping was largely an invention of Republicans. Obama’s flip-flopping is an invention of his desire to win the White House principle be damned. Obama was against the embargo on Cuba before he was for it. Obama was for decriminalizing marijuana before he was against it. Obama was against cracking down on businesses that hired illegal aliens before he was for it. Obama was for Jeremiah Wright before he was against him. Obama was against union contributions to presidential campaigns (calling them “special interests”) before he was for them (when unions started contributing to his campaign). Obama was for the DC gun ban (saying that is was constitutional) before he was against it (after the Supreme Court struck it down). Obama was against immunity for corporate evesdropping before he was for it.  Obama was for public financing of elections before he was against it. Obama was against the death penalty (voting against the death penalty for gang-related murder) before he was for it (for crimes that do not involve murder). Obama was for a gas tax holiday (voting for two of them in Illinois) before he was against it. Obama was against Nafta (said it was bad for workers and that he would force a negotiation) before he was for it (blames heated campaign rhetoric).

In light of these facts, there is no reason to suppose on the range of issues that concern me that McCain would be worse than Obama. Indeed, on some issues, Obama would be worse (the civil rights issue is most disturbing). 

I have been flirting with either the Green Party or the independent run of Ralph Nader. I need to think about it some more. Whatever my choice, if McCain wins, I will have no regrets.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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