Opinion » Ted Rall

Powerless No More

The left's case for boycotting Obama in November


Three years in, it's obvious to all but the most willfully obtuse liberals and progressives that their 2008 votes for President Barack Obama have not paid off.

The president blames obstructionist Republicans for his lack of action on, well, everything. His blame-the-GOP argument would be plausible if not for one thing: Before the Republicans swept the 2010 midterms, Obama had enormous political capital, a supportive media and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. Had Obama wanted, he could have governed to the left. Far to the left.

The economy was in freefall. We lost 600,000 jobs the month he took office. We would have gone along with anything he asked for, including a new WPA program and permanent jobless benefits.

Obama didn't govern like a liberal because he didn't want to. He didn't want to because he's not a liberal. Many progressives are angry. They want to send Obama and his fellow phony Democrats a message next November. But they don't know how to counter the central argument of the two-party trap.

There hasn't been a liberal presidential nominee for 40 years. Mainly this is because liberal voters are willing to vote for right-wing Democrats. A lot of liberals are asking me how to counter the two-party trap argument.

Here's what I tell them: First and foremost, your vote cannot and will not put Rick Perry, Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin in the White House. Mathematically speaking, your vote is purely symbolic.

Point two: Democratic Party strategists take liberal voters for granted. Democratic leaders obsess over "Reagan Democrats," "soccer moms," "security moms" or whatever catchphrase equates to "swing voter" during a given year--people who might vote Republican one election, Democratic the next. As for liberals, progressives and leftists, Democrats ask: Where else are they going to go?

Refusing to vote for Obama answers their question: If you don't stop taking us for granted, we will take our votes elsewhere--whether to the Republicans, a third party, or limbo, boycotting the process altogether.

Point three: Voting for immoral leaders makes you immoral. It's one thing to be duped, it's another to knowingly vote for a politician you know will promulgate policies you believe are wrong.

Knowing what you know now, a vote for Obama in 2012 would be a vote for torture, extrajudicial assassinations, drone attacks, corporate health care, doing nothing about jobs and staying in Iraq. A liberal who votes for Obama would be directly responsible for the torture, killings and suicides of the desperately unemployed.

The two-party trap is the sort of sick game that sadistic concentration camp guards like to play. "I'm going to shoot this old man or this little boy. You decide which. If you refuse to choose, I'll shoot both."

There is only one way to deal with ideological terrorists: Don't. Let evil scum do what they like. If the guard shoots both, it's a terrible crime--but the blood is all on his hands.

For a progressive, voting for Obama is like asking the guard to shoot one person rather than two. In the short run, it seems like the right decision. In the long run, the man and the boy die--and it'll partly be your fault.