Four years ago, President Obama won the presidency while promising hope and change. Under George W. Bush, America seemed to stop being a country that respects freedom and the rule of law. Bush held suspected terrorists indefinitely without any hope of a trial, spied on American citizens, violated our rights under the Patriot Act, used torture liberally, and ran a secretive government. Americans voted for Obama hoping he would change all that. He didn’t, but many Americans decided they didn’t care, and re-elected him anyways. Why?

The 2008 Democratic Platform said that the Bush administration put forward a “false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. The Democratic Party […]will restore our constitutional traditions, and recover our nation’s founding commitment to liberty under law.” It added, “We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of ‘inherent’ presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years.” “We will close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay…” “We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus…” Obama and the Democratic Party platform of 2008 promised a new era of accessible, open, non-secretive government, government which limited rather than expanded the discretionary power of the executive. None of these promises were kept. Maybe Obama and the Democrats were lying to us in 2008, or maybe on January 20, 2009, they changed their minds.

Executive power increased under Obama. Obama persecuted whistleblowers who threatened to expose his administrations misdeeds. Obama continued the regime of torture and abuse. He even claimed for himself—and for all future Republican presidents—the right to assassinate American citizens. Obama terrorizes and murders innocent Pakistani citizens. Obama fights battles and commits acts of war against foreign nations without Congressional approval, even when there is no imminent threat to national security.

Still, Americans decided they didn’t care, and re-elected him anyways. Why?

Let’s be clear—some Americans did care. Some Americans are very troubled by Obama, but find him preferable to Romney despite that. They vote for Obama with heavy hearts.

However, over the past four years, polls have shown that most Americans have simply become comfortable with warrantless wire-tapping, torture, bullying, and assassination. 2012 Obama supporters have a different moral outlook from 2008 Obama supporters. Most Obama supporters just don’t care that Obama does this kind of stuff, even though when Bush did it (and did less of it), it made them furious. Why?

Perhaps they think, “Well, Obama’s such a great guy. If he does this stuff it too, then he must have good reason. After all, he gets daily CIA briefings and we don’t. He knows more than we do.” If you genuinely think this way, then I submit you must now apologize to George W. Bush for your previous protests. To be consistent, you must say, “Bush was right and I was wrong. He knew what he was doing and I didn’t know better. The fact that Obama does the same and more shows Bush was right.”

Or, perhaps the explanation is what psychologists call “intergroup bias” or “in-group/out-group bias”. We are biased to view our side as good and the other side as evil. We are biased to make excuses for our side and damn the other side for slightest transgression. Obama, in his foreign policy and in his behavior toward intelligence gathering, has simply been an extension of George W. Bush. If Bush had had a third term, he probably would have acted much the same as Obama. The Left would have condemned him for it. But if (from the Left’s perspective) our guy does it, then it must be okay.

The United States once claimed to be a symbol of freedom, of respect for the rights of all people, and of respect for the rule of law. The 2012 election proves we have no right to wave this banner.

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  • dundun

    What I don’t understand, though, is that how can the Left claim him as “their” guy when he so blatantly violates so many of the Left’s supposed principles? How can any self-respecting person still claim that Obama is on their side and Bush/Republicans are on a different side?

    I wonder how much of it just boils down to just straight up ignorance of current events: most people I know who voted for Obama simply didn’t believe me when I listed his egregious offenses against civil liberties.

    So yeah, it’s an us-versus-them mentality but I wonder how many people aren’t even making excuses for the “us” side because, let’s face it, they don’t even know what “we” are doing in the first place–they just like to heap abuse on anyone with an (R) next to their name. It’s a sporting event, and the prize is a pile of dead Pakistanis and a nice fat checkbook.

    • Jecemis

      It parallels being a sports fan. When some is a homer of their team, they always see their team w/ rose-colored glasses. They only see the good because they need to remain positive. Any stimuli contradictory to that goes by the wayside … they don’t pay attention to it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001620023965 Michael Krueger

      It’s simple. They were never left, liberal, progressive, or humanitarians.

    • spartan2600

      The “Left” seems to include anyone who isn’t supportive of the Fascistic Republicans. The left today includes what was regular right-wing 40 years ago, and today’s right wing was far-right as long ago.

  • Jecemis

    Cognitive dissonance. This is the most disturbing factor of this election for me. The double standard between Bush and Obama is mind blowing. If Obama were a white Republican the same folk who voted for him would be calling for him to be jailed for war crimes as they did w/ Bush 4 years ago.

    • Sean II

      I’ll go one further, and say that a white Democrat wouldn’t get this much of a pass from his own base.

      Some of my best friends are progressives, and one thing I’ve learned about them: the need to SEEM free of racism is a top priority, for which they will travel far out of their way, saying and doing many frankly ridiculous things.

      I mean, someone who is ACTUALLY not a racist can criticize Obama as an individual, and never feel guilty about. And why should he feel guilty? Not being a racist doesn’t mean taking a pledge never to criticize any black person for any reason. It can’t mean that.

      But someone who is merely striking a pose, someone who mostly is faking it from a position of deep political ignorance, someone who has adopted leftist tropes and progressive opinions as part of a general strategy to make himself APPEAR important and thoughtful and morally sound (in other words, a left-leaning median voter) – someone like that can’t afford to take any chances.

      He needs to give the president the benefit of every doubt, and ignore even the most obvious crimes and misdemeanors, because supporting THIS particular president is a key part of his self-image, and his social signaling strategy.

      Geraldine Ferraro was quite right to warn that her team was so “caught up in the concept” of Obama they became unable to see who he really was, and who he probably wasn’t.

      Naturally, in the finest tradition of democracy, she was denounced as a racist and told to shut the fuck up.

  • Fritz

    Of course, “the United States” did not claim to be anything, because there is no such entity as “the United States.” Unless you mean “the government of the United States,” which is whatever it happens to be at the moment, operating (very loosely) in accordance with laws adopted by a majority (often slim) of a majority (often slim) of voters — and more often, in accordance with rules written by bureaucrats operating almost at will within the loose guidelines of laws adopted by slim majorities representing slim majorities. The idea of “respect for the rights of all people” is a left-wing pipe dream, and it has nothing to do with the purpose of the government of the United States, which ought to be (but isn’t) the protection of Americans and their legitimate interests, even if it means running roughshod over other people.

  • good_in_theory

    When did the United States ever have the right to wave a banner of respect for freedom, rights of all people, and respect for the rule of law? It certainly has claimed it for quite awhile now. I’m not sure there’s been a period in history in which it actually had a “right” to make those claims, in the sense that in making those claims it would be saying something true about the actions of its government(s).

    • Sean II

      Brennan merely said the United States “once claimed” that banner, not that we were ever actually entitled to it.

      I believe the point of his post was that now even the aspiration seems to be dying.

      If all that 2008 talk about transparency, putting a check on executive power, not trading liberty for security, disavowing torture, restoring the right to trial, ending the drug war…if all that was really just Team Blue code-speak for “George W. Bush is monkey-eared Christfag”, then something very sad has happened.

      Broken promises are a fact of political life, but when voters don’t even notice or care if the promises are broken, that’s just depressing. When voters don’t even require promises to believe in something, it might be time to start formulating a suicide plan.

      The whole of this campaign can be understood by picturing Obama as an abusive husband, standing in a tank-top on the front lawn, soaked in the stench of beer and adultery, patronizing his bruised and neglected base: “Where you gonna go, girl? It’s getting cold now. Come on back inside. There’s nothing waiting for you out there. There’s nobody coming to get you. Come on. I’ll let you make me dinner if you act right.”

      I mean, he didn’t even have to promise anything, he didn’t have to buy flowers, or clean the garage, or pick his clothes up off the floor, or sober up, or let her change the channels for an evening. He just counted on the fact that she had nowhere else to go.

      • Excalibre

        What’s your point? We only have two choices. The GOP and its voters have shown their love for the all-powerful security state. It’s not like a vote for Romney is a vote against that.

  • GU1

    Bravo! Mr. Brennan, I wish you were an Op-Ed columnist for the N.Y. Times.

    • Jessica Flanigan

      right? what a good post!

  • kejamo

    Now that he no longer has to worry about getting re-elected I predict the real Barack will step forward and enact positive change that we haven’t seen the likes of since FDR. Long live the Anglo American Empire! It ain’t purdy, but its the best we got.

  • Javier

    Jason Brennan surely knows that most voters–both democrat and republican–have always been fine with serious restrictions on civil liberties in the name of security. So, there is absolutely nothing surprising about that. But it’s more troubling that the elites of the democratic party don’t seem to care much about Obama’s abuses.

  • Jod

    Quite right. We plug our nose and vote for O because R promises to torture, to kill more people with robots, and to show even less regard for civil liberties. I think you’ll find that most of the left is pretty Disappointed with O, but finds itself in a deeplyright wing country, so it settles with a guy who does have some (admittedly few) leftish accomplishments.
    Those who think o is the progressive messiah are deluded, but I don’t meet very many of them.

    • Tedley

      I didn’t happen to catch any statements from R where he promised “to torture, to kill more people with robots, and to show even less regard for civil liberties”. Could you enlighten us as to when or where he did? I thought he ran a campaign which was too polite and didn’t hit O hard enough on real issues.

      • brandonrg

        Weren’t most of his foreign policy advisers straight from the Bush admin.? And I believe he explicitly said he’d reverse Obama’s EO on torture.

        • rufuslevin

          no….he and others do not categorize waterboarding as “torture”..that was a democrat definition to demonize Bush. Obama continues to have “black” overseas detention and torture centers operatiing…what do you think was going on in Libya on 9-11?

          • brandonrg

            That is the common definition of water boarding, not something made up to demonize bush.

      • David T

        Well, I don’t think Romney ever took back his “double Gitmo” statement from a few years back.

        OTOH, I am not sure that that was much worse than Obama’s plan–frustrated by Congress–to “close Gitmo” since basically the way Obama proposed to do it was by creating “Gitmo north”…

        http://www.salon.com/2012/07/23/the_obama_gitmo_myth/

  • greg byshenk

    I am at a loss to know who on “the left” this refers to. Yes, many (most?) voters don’t seem to care that much about the current administration’s warrantless wiretaps and the like, but so far as I am aware, they didn’t seem to care that much about the last administration’s, either. Among those who -do- care, and those of “the left”, almost all seem to be in the category of “very troubled by Obama, but find him preferable to Romney despite that. They vote for Obama with heavy hearts.” Indeed, there has been considerable discussion and debate on “the left” about whether one can justifiably vote for Obama in light of such concerns, with some concluding that they cannot. Among those I know on “the left”, -all- who voted for Obama did so as “the lesser of two evils”, because on issues such as those discussed here, Romney was at least as bad, if not worse.

    • Phil P.

      Indeed. During the “considerable discussion” you mention, I have been at a complete loss to understand why so many of the critics of the left/libertarian Obama supporters don’t seem to recognize this. We are (or may be) unhappy with Obama along any number of policy axes, but the alternative was somebody who was going to be even worse along *all* of the political dimensions important to us. So we voted Obama. What about that is hard to understand? It certainly does not translate to “Americans decided they didn’t care” or some manifestation as “intergroup bias” as JB suggests. Nobody could possibly convince me that voting for Romney would be an action for change in support of the liberties we all desire. Just the opposite.

      • dagny

        What a great example of self delusion- I voted for Obama therefore anything he does can be justified by claiming that the other candidate would be worse. What would worse look like? Who has Romney had killed with predator drones? There are honestly some ” political dimensions” that justify overlooking murder, as long as it happens in foreign countries?
        I was a ” hippie” anti war believer in the 60s. It seemed so obvious that the war was wrong, all we had to do was leave and all would be well. And so it seemed to be true.
        A few years later PBS had a documentary where they interviewed survivors in Vietnam. I watched stunned as survivors described the hell that followed our pull out. Each had a different story, but each one ended with a horrified cry “what happened to you? Why did you abandon us?”
        My eyes were opened. I did not immediately change all my political beliefs, but I did realize one important thing- I saw that I had been wrong. Not only that, a lot of things I had been told were wrong. I realized I had been accepting what people said, and much of it was lies.
        I am not sure what liberties you desire that Romney would not support, but ask yourself this- has Obama actually done anything to support them, or is it, like his support of Gay Marriage, simply talk?

        • greg byshenk

          “What would worse look like?” Well, Romney did -not- propose an end to warrantless wiretaps and other such violations, nor an end to drone activity, nor an end to targeting “terrorists” with them, and indeed -did- propose -more- military spending and -more- aggression internationally.

          If one objects to candidate A because he has done X, Y, and Z, then supporting candidate B who also endorses X, Y, and Z — plus P, Q, and R, that you object to, seems (to me, at least) to be a silly position. And suggesting that B is preferable because he hasn’t actually -done- X, Y, or Z (because he hasn’t yet had the opportunity) seems sillier still.

        • purple_platypus

          I think you’ve comprehensively misunderstood the post you’re ostensibly replying to. Who said anything about justifying or overlooking anything? That’s precisely what his entire post was about NOT doing.

        • Phil P.

          I’d like to point out that I neither said nor implied anything remotely close to the following: “I voted for Obama therefore anything he does can be justified by claiming that the other candidate would be worse.”

          Look, if I thought there was a real possibility in the current US electoral system to achieve my desired long-term political changes by voting strategically *against* most/many/all of my political preferences in the short term (i.e. in this case voting for Romney instead of the lesser-evil Obama), I’d do it. As best I can tell, this is what you and many on the left criticizing those of us who voted for Obama are suggesting we do. Or at least withhold our votes, which in my swing state would have been functionally equivalent. But I just can’t construct a model of political change in my head in which the shorter term negatives–in my assessment some VERY serious negatives–lead to the political outcomes we desire in the longer term. Call me a somebody who “overlooks murder” all you want, but as I see it I’m voting to prevent even more murder (among other things).

          There has been some historical discussion about the nationwide post-Goldwater conservative movement efforts to seed & support candidates for local offices, with the idea that these candidates would eventually become candidates for state and federal offices. Pretty clearly they had some success.

          This makes a lot more sense to me than meaningless protest votes. Particularly since I think there are a fair number of good left-libertarian policy arguments to be made at the lower levels of government.

    • Tedley

      You must not pay any attention to the mainstream media, because Mr. Brennan’s point fits them to a ‘T’. And the majority of those working in the MM are clearly left-wing.

    • Hugo

      I kind of understand the “lesser of two evils” argument. I dont like it but I understand it, and I could even see myself voting at some point because of it. Its good to make a moral stance because long term is the best strategy, but sometimes there can be very positive to make some short term gains that justify voting for the lesser of two evils.

      BUT there is a clear line and voting for a murderer is one of them. Obama has been signing murdering orders. He has killed innocent people. Thats not a thin line, that is as big as you can find. Voting for a murderer because he is the lesser of two evils, is still voting for a murderer and to a big degree justifying his actions. Anyone using the lesser of two evil argument has no heart.

      • greg byshenk

        And that is exactly the argument that some on “the left” made. On the other side of the argument, others pointed out that not voting for -this- ‘murderer’ is to assist in the election of -that- ‘murderer’, who as Phil P. points out below, “somebody who was going to be even worse along *all* of the political dimensions important to us.”

        And on neither side of this argument is it an instance of “intergroup bias”.

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  • http://twitter.com/gshevlin gshevlin

    It goes back way beyond even the times of George W. Bush, to the era of Senator Joseph P. McCarthy, where a bullshitting blusterer spent the best part of 3 years running amok and convincing political leadership to conduct witch-hunts up the wazoo and foment boycotts and mean-spirited un-American activities, while a narcoleptic media reported the events like a bunch of nodding dogs. It took a couple of tough-minded Army lawyers to derail the McCarthy Express, after the rest of the country had nodded along with the campaign. So, when people point out that Americans have been signing on by default to an era where their personal freedoms have been eroded, my response is: Yes, but when was it any different? I remind people all of the time of the McCarthy era, and I am constantly amazed that many of those people have seemingly forgotten all about it.

    • rufuslevin

      turns out McCarthy was mostly RIGHT…and he was derailed by the FBI because he took on the former SOS generals from WWII that had become the CIA, and who created a major propaganda operation in the USA with the complicity of major media and journalists. He was brought down through J. Edgar Hoover’s machinations, not a bunch of lawyers.

      • Excalibre

        And you’re an example of the problem. A huge portion of people, probably a majority, favor an all-powerful state that has the right to condemn anyone at will for perceived ideological “failings”. If someone associated with the wrong people, holds or ever held the wrong beliefs, it’s appropriate for the State to step in and destroy them. We’ll never have anything else as long as we keep rewarding this.

  • ThaomasH

    Yes, Obama has not done many of the things that he promised to do (or attempt), but one must look at the political context. There has been zero political pressure from Republicans to restrict assination of US citizens abroad, to try QSM in civil court, to close Guantanamo, etc. Chosing him with a “heavy heart” was the best alternative.

    • rufuslevin

      blame the GOP and Bush for Obama’s failures…same song, second verse..sameole junk

      • ThaomasH

        No, I’m blaming Bush and the Republicans for their faults and failures: Iraq, Guantanamo, torture.

        Thomas L Hutcheson

        • ftidus12

          Which means you must also blame those who continued and/or expanded those crimes. So you must also blame Obama and the Democrats for the Middle East disasters, Guantanamo, Torture, Assasinating Civilians, etc, etc.

          • ThaomasH

            I would wish to know which Mid-East disasters Obama is accused of and for which actions or inaction before blaming him.
            Guantanamo?  Obama did not fight Republicans as hard as he should to lose it, but his blame is secondary.
            Torture? No he changed the policy.  He should have brought criminal charges against Bush and other torturers, but that would not have been politically feasible.  Only a minor fault for that

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • ftidus12

            The drone assaults, the assassination of American Citizens without trial, the never ending parade of blown up weddings and birthdays turned funerals simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Need I go on?

            He paid lip service to stopping the torture, nothing more. What he did was simply provide a smoke screen to dissuade further investigation. A perusal of the “new” policies reveals that far from “fighting” or “banning” these inhumane policies, he has given torturers a wink and a cover via new loopholes to protect them from prosecution. So no, there too he stands as the primary accused party.

            http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/torture-under-obama

            He claimed that closing Guantanamo was a primary objective of his. Yet, his administration (Democrats, not the Republicans) imposed harsher restrictions on detainees such as greatly limiting the amount of time and visits that a lawyer can have with his client while imprisoned for alleged “terrorism”. As for claims that “he is doing his best/he is reducing the number of prisoners!”, this is nonsense, because he has merely transferred prisoners from Guantanamo to other US military extra-judicial detention facilities such as Bagram AFB (which the UN has repeatedly cited him for). Not only are the conditions in these gulags worse, but detainees are being kept out of the reach (and eye) of US Courts. This is no “minor fault”. This is a bloody hand print at the scene of a homicide.

            http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/29/obamas-detention-policies-are-worse-than-guantanamo/

            http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2012/11/obama-appeals-to-set-rules-for-guantanamo-lawyers-148240.html

          • ThaomasH

            It’s always difficult to discuss relative bads because which ever side you take can possible give aid to the other (bad) side.
            Still …..

            Is it not worse to have created Guantanamo than not to shut it down?

            One American citizen assassinated is one too many but was Obama the first and most egregious to to do so?
            Drone attacks?  Yes worse than GWB

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • ftidus12

            Okay, let’s play that:

            Is it not worse to have created many extra-judicial military prisons in the vein of Guantanamo than to have created the one prison in Guantanamo?

            Is he the first president to have murdered his own citizens without trial outside of a Civil War? No. Is he the first president to do so without censure? Certainly seems like it. Further, is Obama the president to have expanded (and abused) a system which grants him the ability to do the same thing to other citizens without reprisal? Yes.

            This isn’t a matter of relativistic morality, Hutch. This is a case of evil being perpetuated by the highest office in the land. It isn’t a matter of cheerleading for something as petty as “sides”. It’s a matter of calling a spade and spade, and an abuse of power, an abuse of power. If a man was not silent when G.B did this, than he should certainly not be silent when B.O did the same (and more).

          • ThaomasH

            I’m happy to share in all of those denunciations.  Let’s not discuss relative badness of the two administrations, though we can retain our respective opinions.

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • ftidus12

            I repeat: This isn’t a matter of relativistic morality. This is a case of evil being perpetuated by the highest office in the land.

          • ThaomasH

            Evil and good have been perpetrated by the highest office in this and every other land since the Fall.

            Thomas L Hutcheson

          • ftidus12

            And each every one of them must be held to account. Every drop of innocent blood, every violation of the inalienable rights bestowed upon the children of this world, must be answered for.

            The current administration especially has many crimes it must be held accountable for(sinking to lows that rank among the greatest cases of Democide perpetuated by the American Government since it’s formation).

    • Damien S.

      And AFAIK Obama *did* order a halt to torture (at least our own waterboarding; “extraordinary rendition continues”, and Manning was treated very badly, but then so are common criminals in state prisons), and tried to close Guantanamo in the sense of moving prisoners to the US, but Congress blocked that.

      Presidents: not omnipotent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=522145029 Lou Richards

    OK. Who should we have elected then?

    • martinbrock

      The devil we don’t know as well seems worse to me, if only marginally worse, but libertarians have nothing to gain from conventional politics. We’ll never change the nature of the state, and if we wait for the state to free us, well never be free. Any libertarian with an ounce of sincerity wants to withdraw from the state, not to master it, but most of us have less than an ounce. We’re like the Christian who, upon reading the sermon on the mount, decides that his faith is unrealistic but drops a dollar in the collection plate anyway, just to keep up appearances.

  • Jason

    I think the point is where was the primary challenge? Where’s all the screaming about abuses? Where are the protests? Why are none of you insisting that Obama and his Cabinet be hauled before the United Nations to face war crimes charges? Why are there no chants of “Obama lied, and people died.”? Were the complaints really just nakedly political?

    Either it’s a big deal, or it’s not.
    And if you can hold your nose and vote for someone you think is a war criminal, it’s apparently not.

    • Excalibre

      Any plausible primary challenge would have destroyed his presidency and his chance for reelection. It would have guaranteed Romney the election.

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  • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

    Fantastic column.

  • Dain

    I accept the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument on display here, because it makes sense sadly enough. But that only applies to the voting booth.

    The test of in-group bias, cognitive dissonance and the like would be to observe Obama supporters not on election day or among mixed company (including Facebook), but instead enjoying dinner together in the Berkeley hills. In my experience the criticism of Obama is rife when it isn’t distracted by petty ‘racist’ gaffes by some goofy marginal conservative.

  • rufus levin

    Since ONLY SWING STATES determine the actual elected candidate…then CLEARLY the rest of the nation MUST demand that the owners of the determinate electoral college VOTES must immediately institute totally strict and bipartisan monitored and audited voter registration and ID laws and implement them or have their votes invalidated.

    When only a few states are capable of determining the outcome of elections…then forget about “disenfranchising” minority voters ….and focus on DISENFRANCHISING ALL OTHER VOTERS….ALL RACES, GENDERS, CLASSES, AND LOCATIONS.

    That an election is STOLEN does not mean MERELY fraud…it means lies and misinformation pumped with millions of dollars into a selected LOCATION.

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  • Excalibre

    We weren’t offered a choice of a (potentially electable) candidate who was opposed to the surveillance state so logically it was impossible to take that into account in our electoral calculus, no matter how important it was to us.

  • j_m_h

    [Sorry if this is a duplicate post -- the first doesn't appear in the comments that I can see.]

    Jason, less that 30% of voting age Americans voted for Obama, less for Romney. We’re generally fed up with both parties but due to the systemic bias to allow minority rule we can do little to change things.

    If people want to see improvements in out political processes and government behaviors then we need to start changing the structure of the election process to require representatives have majority support.

    • Damien S.

      While I think the electoral process is vary suboptimal — I’d like to start with Congress changing the law so House delegations are elected by proportional representation, then Senate by approval voting, and the popular vote compact for the Presidency, weekend voting, and federal supervision of federal elections + provision of reliable voting machines (optical scantron style)

      — I think you’re making not entirely justified conclusions. The fact that 40% didn’t vote doesn’t necessarily indicate they’re fed up with the system and want better choices. That’s certainly true of some, but there’s also others: people who are just apathetic and don’t care in general; people who found it too much trouble to vote (couldn’t get off work, lines too long, sick); people who don’t think it’s sensible to make the effort to vote; people who live in safe states and don’t think it’s worth their particular effort to vote. (If you’re a Democrat in California it’s tempting to not bother, though if enough people did that then it wouldn’t be a safe Democratic state. If you’re a Democrat in Utah it must be really tempting to not bother to vote; there’s arguably no point until polls of registered voters start approaching equality.) How to say which influence matters more? Need more data.

      One datum would be whether swing states have higher turnout than safe ones. Eyeballing http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2008G.html suggests yes. 2012 data is very incomplete, but what little there is is also consistent. The site also notes the difference between turnout as a ratio of the voting age population (all residents), and of the actual voting eigibile population; your “voting age Americans” is in between, still counting felons and overseas Americans.

      People not voting because the main outcome seems known isn’t perfect in terms of voter engagement and also races lower on the ballot, but it’s not as deep a flaw as “we hate the system and the choices it gives us”.

      • j_m_h

        I see why your this as a causal relationship but I don’t claim that because less that 30% support Obama that everyone is fed up. I think on only need to look at the satisfaction ratings Congress gets, or politicians in general get, to reach the conclusion that most people are fed up with what we get for government.

        I don’t support your suggestion of proportional representation. I think that approach simply leads to increases government for special interests rather than government for general interests. In short, proportional representation is merely a mechanism that will result in the growth of government rather than control of government.

        I do think there are ways to address special interests needs but that needs to be accomplished by government functioning as an enabling structure (reducing costs of organizing and pooling resources) and not via the path of government as the active agent.

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  • jacksmind

    Why? Because McCain/Romney was so much worse.

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