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Why Not To Vote For Barack Obama

Jewcers in North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota still have a chance to cast a vote in the Democratic party's primaries and caucuses. Here are a baker's dozen substantive reasons not to support … Read More

By / May 6, 2008

Jewcers in North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota still have a chance to cast a vote in the Democratic party's primaries and caucuses. Here are a baker's dozen substantive reasons not to support the senator from Illinois:

  1. He has at least rhetorically embraced a phony, cringe-inducing populist critique of free trade glaringly incompatible with his consistent history of economic liberalism (especially since he got religion on markets from Austan Goolsbee).
  2. Admirably, he rejects the notion that the economy and society are zero-sum games, in which one man can prosper only if another struggles — but he has marred this mutualism by scapegoating foreigners.
  3. Relatedly, he's been signaling support for corrupt bargains to protect the power of the odious Teamsters Union and free them from legal oversight.
  4. According to the Congressional Budget Office, his domestic policy proposals would add trillions of dollars to the national debt, perhaps as much as $1.9 trillion.
  5. He has caved in to the lowest, cheapest sort of fearmongering by giving credence to the paranoid quack notion that there is a link between autism and vaccination (a cave-in, by the way, that makes the country less safe to the extent that anyone follows up on even candidate Obama's vote-scaring).
  6. He has tried to shade away from his admirable position in favor of diplomatic engagement with hostile regimes in Tehran, Pyongyang, Havana, and elsewhere.
  7. He has not very deftly fled from an admirable and courageous position in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.
  8. He sometimes runs away from an equally admirable position in favor of breaking up the power of the teachers unions with merit pay, charter schools, and experimenting with vouchers.
  9. At the Democratic presidential debate in Nevada in January, he had an opportunity to repudiate the pernicious Solomon amendment, which reinforces a policy of weakening our national security by blackmailing schools into supporting state-sanctioned discrimination. He declined the opportunity.
  10. His plan to navigate through the subprime mortgage meltdown involves potentially expensive direct subsidies to struggling borrowers. In addition to their expense, such subsidies potentially encourage moral hazard (i.e., in this case, reckless borrowing and lending.)
  11. In addition to the subsidies, Obama proposes lifting statutory restrictions on bankruptcy courts imposing binding renegotiations of home mortgages, thereby opening the door to unforseeable risks to investors and potential legal challenges.
  12. He supports a "windfall profits tax" on oil companies, which is either an ugly pander to populist resentment of oil companies, or more alarmingly, is a token of a general principle that the government can dictate how much profit an industry is entitled to make.
  13. He's largely unwilling to defend Second Amendment rights except in cases where it's uncontroversial.

And these are just reasons that move me. There are plenty of other substantive reasons not to vote for Obama for those who don't share my priors. For example, if your top priority for the next presidential administration is an escalated war with Iraq, a new hot war with any of Iran, Syria, or North Korea, and/or a new cold war with Russia and China, Obama's not your candidate. Ditto if, instead of beginning long overdue improvements in the country's infrastructure and mass transit, you'd prefer the energy policy version of the Nigerian Letter Scam.

On the other hand, if you do share my priors, then despite his imperfections, Obama is better than either of his rivals on nearly all the issues on which he's flawed — sometimes by a wide margin. On other issues, though his position isn't perfect, it's still vastly better than anything a major party presidential candidate has ever offered.

But see? Cogent, substantive criticism of Obama that doesn't resort to race-baiting or redbaiting, and is at least minimally relevant to justified grounds for voting decisions, isn't that hard after all. I just did it, and I like the guy.

Now, how about you try this exercise out on your candidate? If you're supporting Clinton or McCain (or Nader), I can help. 

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