As a libertarian, someone who believes in limited government on all fronts â€“â€“ in economic policy, social policy and foreign policy â€“â€“ I rarely have good choices when it comes to political candidates. So when I look ahead to the mediocre candidates running in this yearâ€™s statewide and federal elections, I want to learn from my past experience.
More than a year ago, on these very pages, I endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential contest. With the one-year anniversary of his inauguration last week, and with his first State of the Union coming up tomorrow, Iâ€™ve been looking back on that decision.
The more I reflect on my vote for Barack Obama last November, the more I regret it.
To begin with, I wonâ€™t deny that my choice to vote for a Democrat was in part inspired by the failures of the Republican administration of George W. Bush. Add to this the fact that, while Democrats tend to seek greater government control over the economy, their rhetoric is usually better on social freedoms and foreign non-intervention, and the balance tipped gently in the Democratsâ€™ favor.
On top of this, when my Libertarian Party inexplicably nominated former Congressman Bob Barr, an ex-CIA analyst best known for expanding the drug war and stomping on gay marriage, I was left with a choice between the lesser of multiple evils. And yet, like many, I saw some hope and the possibility for change in Obamaâ€™s campaign, and so I publicly endorsed him, donated to his campaign, and voted for him in November.
When I made my endorsement in the Collegian, I argued that Obama understood the importance of a humble foreign policy, having opposed the war in Iraq.
As president, he has since dramatically escalated the war in Afghanistan, sending tens of thousands more troops to the territory thatâ€™s been the undoing of world powers for millennia, and has launched military action in Yemen, killing civilians with missiles from afar under the tired guise of â€œfighting terrorism.â€
I argued that Obama, while a Democrat, demonstrated some libertarian instincts by opposing, during his campaign, a health care plan that would mandate insurance for all individuals and impose fines on those who didnâ€™t buy insurance. And yet the health care reform plan, which he backed and which passed the House and Senate in different versions last year, features exactly such an individual mandate as its centerpiece.
I argued that Obama, based on his work in the Illinois legislature, would respect civil liberties and equal rights for all. But when it comes to adhering to the rule of law, he hasnâ€™t been able close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and has in fact expanded the detention program at Afghanistanâ€™s Bagram Air Base.
His administration has actually gone to court to defend Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, the two most glaring manifestations of anti-gay policy by the federal government.
The one small light for freedom thatâ€™s come from the Obama administration is the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the federal government wouldnâ€™t prosecute marijuana growers or users who acted in compliance with state laws. This has led, in California and in Colorado, to an explosion in medical marijuana use, sales and availability.
But when you have to look to pot for progress from a president, you know youâ€™re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I knew Iâ€™d be disappointed with President Obama on some level. I didnâ€™t expect it to be this much, this quickly. The next year of the Obama administration doesnâ€™t look like itâ€™ll be better, as the presidentâ€™s major priorities seem to include on enacting a climate change bill that will sell permits to pollute and a financial regulatory bill that will continue to bail out irresponsible bankers.
Iâ€™ll have to continue to look for small lights amid the depressing darkness. And, when it comes to future elections, my cynicism about political officials, briefly set aside during the Obama campaign, is back in full force.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry graduate student. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org._