Over the past year, near-constant election coverage has whittled the U.S. presidential race down to President Barack Obama’s and Governor Mitt Romney’s stances on specific domestic issues and, in particular, energy security and the GOP’s “War on Women.”
Romney’s platform leaves much to be desired on domestic and foreign policy issues. His plans to turn Medicaid over to the states and repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act will whittle away at the U.S.’s already feeble welfare system. If vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) record is in any indication of what Romney’s budget might look like, it will include more extensive budget cuts to critical social programs—all in line with what the Republican Party has pushed through over the past few years.
Progressives are right to be deterred by Romney’s commitment to preserving current defense spending levels, promoting domestic drilling, and decentralizing social welfare programs.
While these are certainly important issues, what gets lost in the pandemonium is a critical look at Obama’s record on inequality, civil liberties, and justice here and abroad. Based on these issues and more, progressives should vote for Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala.
Obama’s policies have only served to foster, rather than diminish, inequality. In the wake of the 2008 housing crisis, Obama oversaw the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a bill which, combined with the associated Federal Reserve actions, underwrote corporate profits at the expense of the millions of Americans whose home equity had collapsed due to risky investment behavior. The Wall Street bailout was intended to prevent a cataclysmic failure of massive banking institutions, but it did not include any debt-relief provisions to help the Americans who, together, lost $5-7 trillion in savings. Corporate profits have bounced back to record highs, while home equity, which holds the bulk of people’s wealth, has basically stagnated at 2008 levels.
Meanwhile, Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for the upper 2 percent. The result: greater economic inequality than under Bush, with 93 cents of every dollar of income growth going to the top 1 percent.
On the campaign trail four years ago, Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In 2012, he signed the National Defense Authorization Act, codifying indefinite detention without trial for the first time in U.S. history. Upon signing the NDAA, Obama attempted to reassure the public that he would “not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” Even considering this enforceable promise, the 2012 NDAA sets a dangerous precedent. Equally important, it indicates a lack of regard for basic civil liberties.
While waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers at home, the Obama administration has escalated the war on terror abroad, employing drone technology with appalling alacrity. Drone strikes allow for immediate, accurate assassination—without any semblance of a trial or due process. The Obama administration invokes national security to justify these killings. It is true that targeted drone strikes have killed a number of al-Qaeda operatives around the world, but any security advantages gained by those actions are easily outweighed by the radicalizing effects the strikes have on affected populations. Each civilian killed in an American strike only pushes those populations into the arms of extremists and hampers our diplomatic efforts around the globe.
In 2010, Obama placed American citizen and al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki on what has been become known as the administration’s “kill list.” He was killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Two weeks later, his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was killed by another targeted drone strike in Yemen. The administration recently invoked the actions of al-Awlaki to justify his son’s death. Former Obama Press Secretary and current campaign advisor Robert Gibbs told reporters, “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.” This is exactly the logic of collective punishment that has been a hallmark of the most oppressive regimes of history. It is nothing short of tragic that this ostensibly progressive, judicially-minded president has embraced such thinking.
No progressive should vote for an executive who deploys such violent warfare technology against victims who will not stand trial, who in some cases are being held culpable by association. Progressives should balk at the Obama administration’s secretive “kill list” and its series of executions conducted without so much as a congressional briefing.
It has become common in many liberal circles over the last four years to pretend Obama doesn’t have a choice about any of these actions. The Republican House has either hamstrung the progress we assume the President wants, or the threat of conservative retaliation has forced him to compromise with the Right. But each of these assumptions belies the underlying fact that Obama is not the strong, transformative leader this country needs. As students, we should be concerned that his policies are growing economic inequality, eroding civil liberties, and expanding U.S. imperialism.
Fortunately, there is another option on the ballot that promises to work for truly transformative change. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala combine sound temperament with unique, real-world experience needed to truly bring change to Washington. Stein promises a single-payer healthcare system, criminal justice reform, and an end to misguided American interventionism. Their ticket uniquely emphasizes ecological sustainability, poverty, and inequality—all largely ignored by the Republican and Democratic candidates. Importantly for students, Stein promises student debt relief, a boon for students and for the overall health of the economy.
It is no secret that these are serious and troubling times for the United States. A vote for a third party candidate isn’t throwing away your vote—endorsing the inegalitarian, corporatist policies offered by both mainstream parties certainly is. Progressives should not in good conscience vote for another Obama term. If not for progressive values in themselves, then vote for the sake of pressuring the Democratic party to abandon its most damaging policies. Vote Stein/Honkala on Tuesday, Nov. 6.