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.