Sunday, December 7, 2008

Why I Sold Out My Vote to Obama by Alison Ross

Months and months ago, I posted here and here that I would NOT capitulate to a vote for a corporate Democrat in the presidential race. Indeed, I have fervently backed Ralph Nader's third candidacy, owing to his fierce adherence to integrity in politics and staggering record of lifelong altruistic civil service. Ralph Nader will always be "An Unreasonable Man" in the sense that he is so tragically misconstrued by tiny, benighted minds.

And Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich (for whom I voted in the primaries) and their ilk will ALWAYS reflect my socio-political conscience, as they are the TRUE principled progressives who accept NO corporate donations - why SHOULD they, in a so-called democracy, where it's the *people's* interests (morally, spiritually, financially) that are supposed to be reflected? - and who unfailingly cleave to core democratic values.

And really, it's sad that such voracious voices of veracity will likely always be marginalized in our culture. Because of our corporate-dominated media, Nader and Kucinich and other shimmering beacons of truth goodness and beauty exist only on the fringes of the democratic dialogue, because they speak out against the monied interests who have sinisterly imposed themselves into our system, destabilizing democracy and rendering it a crude mockery of equity and justice.

Despite paltry media coverage, Nader ended up garnering nearly a million votes and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, all from American citizens. And he did not yield even under the most caustic criticism, especially from those who claim to embrace democratic values the most - the Democrats. He cultivated a highly creative campaign, replete with YouTube video messages, inventive fund raising ideas, and relentless campaigning in all 50 states.

So yeah. Ralph Nader embodies true democratic ideals in the way that they were conceived from the inception of this country, and yet, because of the corporate-choked media, which DOES shape public perception, and because of our damned antiquated electoral college system, which precludes third parties from having a substantial say in the "democratic" process, and because of the fact that monied interests control the political machine, and because, in the end, people are so WILLFULLY BLINDED to reality - Nader gets an egregiously unfair shake, when all he really wants to do is set things right in this country. He is not driven by ego - quite the contrary. And I encourage anyone who scoffs at that remark to delve into the history of what Nader has achieved for this country (Ralph Nader Wikipedia). NO politician past or present has served his country in such a staggeringly selfless way.

Much to my chagrin, however, despite my fierce and fiesty advocacy for Nader's presidential run, I sold out my vote to Obama, a corporate Democrat. I betrayed my own sense of ethics.

It didn't happen easily. It didn't happen without desperate deliberation on my part. And it didn't happen because Obama's ideals magnificently mimic my own socio-political conscience. Certain aspects of his platform, of course, resonate with me, but there are many troubling things about his policies as well, as meticulously detailed below in Ralph Nader's Open Letter to Obama.

Indeed, I was conflicted about my vote until the very last possible minute, when I punched Obama's name on the screen. And even after I hit his name and had voted for all of the other various candidates and initiatives, I went back to try to change it to a write-in for Nader, but to no avail. I could have asked one of the poll workers to help me, and indeed they would have, but I decided against it. I decided - what's done is done. I voted for Obama because I felt "forced" into it to a degree. For even though we always have a choice - do we really, in this so-called Democracy, which is eclipsed by the electoral college and parodied by corporate interests?

The prospect of a McCain/Palin regime frightened me. Sure, Obama is centrist in many respects, even leaning toward neo-con views in some regards (we have Clinton to thank for propelling the Democrats further to the poisonous right), but obviously McShame represented regressive ideals to a large degree, while at least Obama cherishes some progressive values. For example, he has a rough timetable to end the war in Iraq, and he has stated definitively that he will shut down Guantanamo Bay.

And for all we know, he may end up being a much more progressive president, possibly in the vein of FDR. FDR, granted, capitulated to pressure when the populace was absolutely brought to its knees by corrupt interests during the Great Depression, but at least it forced him to insert some socialist programs into the system, some that linger to this day, despite audacious action on the part of some self-interested politicos to erode such humanistic ideals.

And of course, Obama's election is historic for many reasons, not the least of which, of course, is because he is African-American/bi-racial. We should never vote based on race or gender alone, naturally, but it is significant that, in this, a country that once executed brutal slavery practices and that for so long severely squashed the rights of black people, a majority of white voters elected him to office.

And the movement, too, that was behind Obama's candidacy was compelling. It constituted a largely very progressive base, which at times confounded me because of course Obama's record as a corporate Democrat is disconcerting at times. But I do deeply understand that if he has such a progressive movement behind him, then we can hopefully keep him somewhat vigilant, whereas McCain was a lost cause altogether.

At the same time, we must not fool ourselves about Obama. We must not succumb to the dangerous delusion that he is anything remotely close to being a progressive icon.

It is Ralph Nader who is the progressive icon, and it is Ralph Nader who should be president. I don't give a shit what anyone says about that, because it's the truth, and anyone who cares profoundly about humanity and democracy and yet counters that Ralph Nader (or someone of his ilk) should be president is in depressing denial.

Below, Ralph Nader's letter to Obama that illustrates in stark detail all of my grave concerns about an Obama presidency, even as I acknowledge his superiority to McCain:

November 3, 2008
Open letter to Senator Barack Obama

Dear Senator Obama:
In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words "hope and change," "change and hope" have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not "hope and change" but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity-- not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an "undivided Jerusalem," and opposed negotiations with Hamas-- the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored "direct negotiations with Hamas." Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote "Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state."

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League's 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: "There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President."

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, "of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. ...Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli's use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli's assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its 'legitimate right to defend itself.'"

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government's assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on "the heart of a crowded refugee camp... with horrible bloodshed" in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate-- Uri Avnery-- described Obama's appearance before AIPAC as one that "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama "is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future-- if and when he is elected president.," he said, adding, "Of one thing I am certain: Obama's declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people."

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled "Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama" (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled "Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque." None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans-- even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to "tumultuous applause," following a showing of a film about the Carter Center's post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the "middle class" but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the "poor" in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke "change" yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the "corporate supremacists." It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics-- opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)-- and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. "Hope" some say springs eternal." But not when "reality" consumes it daily.

Ralph Nader

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)
"Maxims for Revolutionists")

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