Back just before the election (October 26th, to be exact), one of my favorite political cartoonists, Matt Bors, published this cartoon:
Matt was running a Kickstarter to raise money for an upcoming book at the time, and one of the donors, someone he considered a friend, retracted his $250 donation and cut off contact over this. $250 is a big chunk of change to fork over for a book. It’s also a big chunk of change to take back over an opinion, especially when you consider that Matt was no stranger to taking Obama to task for drone warfare.
Now that we’ve established that, according to the Democratic base, criticizing Obama was off-limits in the run-up to the election (not to mention strongly frowned-upon for the entirety of the past four years), when is it acceptable? Now that we no longer have to worry about electing or re-electing the first Black president (or any of the other insane justifications I’ve heard), can we criticize him for what his administration has done?
Back in 2008, I put a lot of thought into the candidate I was backing from among the initially crowded Democratic field. I examined my priorities and weighed them against the stated positions of the candidates, and came up with Bill Richardson, who agreed with all of my deal-breakers except capital punishment. He dropped out early, so I shifted to John Edwards who agreed with me slightly less than than Richardson. Once Edwards bowed out, I grudgingly moved my support to Obama. I did not donate to the campaign, and I did not volunteer for the campaign. I voted for him, but I wasn’t going any further than that.
Fast-forward to 2012, by which time I was so disgusted with the administration that I refused to repeat that vote (I voted for Jill Stein). I had a host of reasons – Indefinite detention, drone warfare, milquetoast healthcare “reform,” repeated capitulation in the face of an increasingly shrill and out-of-touch minority, especially when he had the mandate and numbers to quash their obstruction, and the ever-increasing seizure of power by the executive. When I voted for Obama in 2008, there was one thing that made it all OK – he was a Constitutional scholar, a professor who intimately understood the document and promised to return to its precepts after the eight years of shredding it took. That lasted all of a few months. Nearly all of the Bush-era abuses of Constitutional authority remained, and a number were expanded. I was not about to vote in favor of that.
Now, I was told by many people (including my State Senator, who described my position as “masturbatory”) that a vote for “Not Obama” was exactly the same as a vote for Romney. I viewed this as the height of flawed logic. I understand that we’re kind of stuck with our first-past-the-post system, but that doesn’t put the onus on me to vote for one of the two major parties simply based on a blind taste test, especially when there were three other parties on the ballot. The onus is on those parties themselves to make themselves palatable. Just because one party took positions favorable to rape and murder is not enough, should not be enough, to compel me to vote for the other party – which, incidentally, itself took a favorable position on murder, as long as the murderees were brown and in other countries.
So, getting back to the question – is it safe to come out now? Can I openly criticize the President and his horrifying policies, or is that setting up Democrats for failure in 2014 and 2016? And if not, will it ever be safe to express an opinion out of lockstep with the party and not be branded as a country-destroying lunatic by people I who might otherwise agree with me if the President doing these things was a Republican?