Why I plan to vote for Obama anyway

Sam Smith
– The lesser of two evils is a lesser evil.

 Voting for a third party candidate may be a fine choice but it will clearly fail. There have been only five third party presidential campaigns since Abraham Lincoln that made it into double digits – and only two of them were on the left. The major beneficiary of voting Green, therefore, would be my own sense of self-righteousness.  But politics is not religion. That’s not a confessional you enter, but a voting booth.  You take part in it not to save your soul but to help yourself and others a bit.
– Helping Romney win is not helping others, especially if it adds to the unemployment lines and takes millions off of various forms of government assistance.
– Besides, if Romney wins there will probably be an all Republican Congress and we will have the most reactionary government we have seen since the Confederacy.
– When you put your personal morality above the lives of others, you risk making the same mistake constantly used to justify war,  namely assuming that the dead will not have died in vain. Nobody, however, checks with most of them first.
– Obama is a corrupt, militaristic, anti-constitutional, narcissistic, Wall Street pawn lacking in political judgment and skill, but he’s not quite as much of one as  Mitt Romney. One reason is that he has better constituents than Romney. As the gay marriage shift indicates, they can influence him in a way they can’t influence Romney. You are choosing a battlefield as much as a president.
– Presidential campaigns are too late to change the game. Liberals have done little to make Obama better and Greens have spent too much effort on presidential races and not enough on building a grass roots movement. You change politicians between elections not during them. And third parties do it by working at the grassroots.
– There is a born-again strain in progressive and liberal politics in which the emphasis is more on personal honor rather than collective progress. This doesn’t help collective progress all that much, especially  if you seek honor mainly on election day.
– An alternative approach is that of the Quakers. I went to a Quaker high school run by a Friends meeting that in 1688 issued one of the first American declarations against slavery. Yet it is also where I heard the story about the pacifist Quaker woman being robbed at home, pointing a gun at the thief and saying, “I do not intend to shoot thee but thee is standing where my gun is going off.”  Quakers know they are not perfect and rank persistence over perfection. As the Germantown Friends meeting explains it, “it is love, giving and self-sacrifice that overcomes evil. But in all these areas there is also an absence of dogmatism and finality, for an important corollary of the Quaker belief in direct revelation is that God continues to speak, not that God once spoke and assured final truth.. .  The human vessel is imperfect, and our capacity to comprehend God’s will is partial.”
– With this approach,  or its secular version, you leave can the self-centered world of born again politics or religion and enter a morality based on trying harder the next time. And you view other imperfect humans not as stupid, illiberal scum but as people to reach and help.
– Presidential elections come only once about every 1,460 days. Vote how you wish and I will do the same, but remember: it’s what we’ve done for the past 1,460 days and what we will do in the next 1,460 days that will really matter in the end.  
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