As Americans, we have a fundamental right to vote and to support candidates, parties, and positions of our choosing.
But voting and political advocacy aren’t just a right. They’re also a weighty responsibility. Sometimes we support candidates or positions that result in great harm.
For example, during the presidency of George W. Bush, our nation systematically tortured prisoners. This has been known for years, but only recently did the US Senate release a report enumerating the heinous acts performed under the direction of the highest officials in the US government.
Not only did our nation torture, it also initiated a fraudulent war against a nation, Iraq, that was unrelated to the attacks of 9/11. Moreover, that war was planned long before those attacks. The war resulted in the loss of over 4000 US lives and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Some reputable estimates are that over a million people died. The war wasted trillions of dollars and incited anti-American hatred and jihadism.
People who voted for Bush & Cheney bear responsibility for those outcomes. (Not all conservative voted for Bush & Cheney, but most conservatives did, I’m sure.) People who supported Bush & Cheney in 2004 are especially culpable, because by then the facts had become available about the fraudulence and recklessness of the war.
Do you conservatives apologize for your support of Bush & Cheney? Do you acknowledge the injustice of their acts?
In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, thinking he’d be a transformative president who would turn a page on the corruption, class warfare, and war-mongering of his predecessors. Things didn’t turn out that way. Obama protected the torturers, the war criminals, and the crooks of the financial industry. He prosecuted whistle blowers. He surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies. He escalated the war in Afghanistan, instigated drone attacks in several nations, and meddled in the Ukraine and other countries. He compromised early and often. He failed to lead. The health care plan he chose as a centerpiece of his domestic policy was devised by the Heritage Foundation. His passivism and centrism helped the Democrats to get a shellacking in 2010 and again in 2014.
Still, most of the responsibility for the shellacking is borne by Congressional Republicans who opposed every policy initiative Obama proposed, often with unanimity. Republican intransigence, and the opposition of conservative Democrats, resulted in the Affordable Care Act being as bad as it is. Basically, Republicans forced a bad health care plan on the American people and then blamed the Democrats for problems with the plan.
But Obama can’t just blame the Republicans. He was a poor leader who chose many bad policies. And as Obama recently said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”
This was clear to me by 2010. So I did not vote for Obama in 2012. And now I regret having supported Obama in 2008.
But the choices in 2008 were not good. Hillary Clinton and John McCain were (and continue to be) more hawkish and more friendly to Wall Street than Obama. At most I could have made a protest vote, for a candidate with no chance of winning. Besides, om 2008 I was deceived by Obama’s speeches and campaign propaganda.
So, I apologize to the American people and the world for voting for Obama in 2008, though I plead naiveté and ignorance. Had I supported Obama in 2012 I would have been more culpable — as were those who supported Bush & Cheney in 2004.
Perhaps many of the conservatives who voted for Bush & Cheney in 2004 knew that he wasn’t so good but figured that he was the lesser of two evils. Indeed, one day in 2006 a Republican coworker came into the office and said, “Yeah, Bush and Cheney have done a terrible job. ” He shook his head and thought for a moment. “But I still wouldn’t vote for a Democrat, because they’d be even worse.” I really don’t understand that attitude, given how horrible Bush & Cheney were.
We live in a sick society, and our political system is nearly dysfunctional. People have become so disillusioned with the system that they don’t bother to vote. Turnout in 2014 was the lowest in 70 years. The candidates our political system delivers for national office are almost uniformly horrible.
Our health care system is insanely expensive and is less effective than that of many industrialized nations.
Our campaign financing system invites corruption, thanks in part to the five Supreme Court justices who voted in the Citizens United ruling that money is a form of speech.
Scientists tell us that global climate change threatens the health of the planet. But many Republicans in Congress think climate change is a liberal myth.
Concentration of wealth and the national debt continue to rise (though the rate of the rise of the debt has slowed down during the Obama administration). Many corporations avoid taxes by stashing money overseas. The tax rate for unearned income is lower than for earned income. But Republicans in the next Congress plan more tax cuts for rich people. Is that fiscally and morally responsible?
Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation, and the state Supreme Court has held the legislature in contempt for not adequately funding education. But voters continue to elect Republicans who work to maintain tax breaks and to oppose progressive taxation that would benefit the middle class and the poor.