I was very happy to see President Obama win a second term last night. For starters it was gratifying that despite all sorts of last minute challenges this was not a close vote with hanging chads and damage to the integrity of the democratic process. It was also a compelling repudiation of candidates with backward positions on issues such as abortion and women’s rights more generally.
But there are important issues on which I have have deeply disagreed with the approach taken by the Obama administration. Most important among those are the continued rolling back of civil liberties in the name of the war on terror. With a stronger position for Obama all around (including the Senate) I am hoping that maybe Obama can deliver on some of his promises of change from the 2008 election. Cory Doctorow summed up my feeling perfectly with this tweet.
I am also concerned that President Obama’s approach to the jobs crisis in the US is not yet sufficiently creative and have been writing about that as well. I hope that in a second term we can see more interesting programs here as well, especially ones that tie in better with protecting the environment (more on that in upcoming posts).
One of the reasons why I am hopeful for the second term is that maybe the Republican party can return to a saner approach to politics and rid itself of its extreme elements. Chris Sacca succinctly made this point with his terrific election night tweet: “Most Republicans I know are high-integrity, thoughtful, patriotic, moderate Americans. I hope they get to take their party back.” And maybe, just maybe we can move more politicians past the traditional Democratic and Republican agendas (as Sergey Brin is hoping for) and towards a Peer Progressive agenda instead.
I tweeted earlier this week that I had switched my voter registration to New York City from Westchester (something that can be done online in New York State!). I will vote in the upcoming presidential election and I will vote for President Obama. But unlike 2008, when I did so enthusiastically, this time it will be with a heavy heart. As John Stewart once put it so succinctly, “we would have hoped for some audacity.”
Now it is a lot easier to criticize the president than to do his job. And I also grant that maybe if I had access to the same briefings that the president I would come to the same conclusions. Still the conduct of the wars and the continued fight against basic civil liberties in the US — most notably the infinite detention of US citizens strike me indefensible. If the data really were to somehow justify these, figure out a way to share that data with the population.
Unlike this writer for the Atlantic though I do not see voting for Mitt Romney or not voting at all as an alternative though. If there were a third candidate who took a clear stance on these issues and wasn’t a crackpot I would seriously consider voting for that candidate. That is one of the reasons why I was disappointed to see Americans Elect failing to produce such a candidate. But one thing is for sure: my vote will come with lots of efforts to work against those policies of President Obama that I strongly disagree with.
During the 2008 crisis, I argued that we should take over the big banks and restructure them. Instead, we bailed out the banks with tax payer money and with an unprecedented increase in the Fed’s balance sheet. We did nothing to get rid of banks that are “too big to fail” or to severely restrict their activities (which might lead them to break themselves up).
So yesterday, JP Morgan Chase had to announce a $2 Billion trading loss from what they claim was a hedge gone wrong in Credit Derivatives but looks awfully like rogue trading activity. This particular error may be one the bank can absorb but I don’t understand why we would let this go on until we are at another crisis that can only be resolved by a government bailout.
It will be interesting to see how this issue makes its way into the upcoming presidential election campaign here in the US. While I have been disappointed with many aspects of President Obama’s first time I hope he makes this a part of his agenda going forward and in a second term would actually do something about it. His support for gay marriage is a welcome sign of what might be a more principled stand (hope springs eternal).
Unlike many other people, I have not been disappointed with Barack Obama’s presidency. There have been many moments of frustration, but it is a damn tough job, especially when so many representatives from both sides seem to have lost all sense of what their responsibilities are. But I do find the idea of assassinations targeting US citizens without due process deeply disturbing. Due process is one of the key breakthroughs of the modern state and is at the foundation of what sets us apart from dictatorships. Now I do believe that it is possible to have situations where US citizens pose such a threat that deadly force is warranted. Clearly that is already the case today — for instance, when the police confronts an armed robber. I can even see that this logic could be extended to US citizens living abroad and actively planning a terrorist strike. But not in an executive branch only fashion. That is a step back to the Middle Ages. Here is an appropriately outraged piece with lots of good links at Salon on this subject.
I was excited to vote for Obama this past November. Now I am excited for him to actually be our president. As I wrote back then, I hope that he will an unleash “a tidal wave of involvement, innovation and improvement.” For that to succeed, we the people have to be that tidal wave.
We all have to ask ourselves what we can do. It has been great to see posts to that effect, including Fred’s post on selflessness and Alex’s post on 7 Online Things To Do To Restore America. So here are three things that I am planning to get going on:
- Donate. The recession has brought real hardship to a lot of families. This doesn’t have to be cash. We will be going through our house and donating clothing, toys, sports equipment. But if you want to make a difference with cash, donorschoose.org is my favorite place (and education is critical for our long term success).
- Use less energy / support clean energy. Even if everyone does just a bit, it will have a meaningful impact on our energy consumption. I will start by finally replacing all the old bulbs around the house, adding a bunch of smartstrips and switching our electricity supplier to one using mostly renewable energy sources.
- Be honest and speak up. Many of the tough spots that we are finding ourselves in are the result of folks either being outright dishonest or at least not speaking up. It’s easy to point at the Bush administration and at executives on Wall Street, but we all have moments where it seems a lot easier to just say nothing. As Alex wrote there are many ways and venues of doing that, including now the new White House web site. I will try to do my little bit on this blog and in my personal interactions.
We have a new start, now let’s all create that wave!