How A Liberal Can Support Obama Despite Moral Concerns

Conor Friedersdorf wrote a piece in The Atlantic outlining on ethical and moral terms, why he refuses to vote for Barack Obama. And I agree with just about everything he says, except not supporting President Obama. — He lays out his case citing Obama’s reckless use of drone strikes and targeted killings of American citizens without trial. President Obama should not be above the law. We said the same thing about George W. Bush. Friedersdorf admits that he likes Obama, finds him engaging as a speaker, but the following three facts make it impossible for him to vote for Obama:

  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama’s kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.
  3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.

I agree with each of these points. As a liberal, I’m appalled that the United States continues to behave with impunity around the globe. Even though the Obama administration no longer uses the phrase “War on Terror,” in reality nothing has changed. We are still delivering “justice” around the world in a war setting, which has (so far) allowed a level of legal cover for the president when he orders any or all the above listed actions.

So yes, I agree with Friedersdorf when he says “Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone.”

But I’m still voting for Obama.


I don’t believe the alternative will result in a change for the better when it comes to civil liberties and military impunity abroad. And let’s be clear, there is only one alternative, no offense to third-party candidates.

There is no reason to believe Mitt Romney would rollback any of the three egregious actions listed above. Add on top of that the domestic policies that Romney supports like lower taxes for the rich and repealing the Affordable Care Act, to name only two, and I have a clear choice in November. I can either not vote (or vote for a third-party candidate who will lose — meaning, I have no say in the direction of the country), or I can vote for Obama because I do support his many positive domestic accomplishments. This vote is not an endorsement of Obama’s moral failings abroad, but rather his moral successes at home.

To not vote for Obama, or to vote for a third-party candidate is passive support for Mitt Romney. You can call it the lesser of two evils, or anything else you wish, but I believe there is much more to lose with Mitt Romney in the White House and I believe we cannot overlook Obama’s accomplishments: repeal of DADT, Affordable Care Act, US auto rescue, averted second Great Depression, Lilly Ledbetter, financial reform, student loan reform, and more. This is why I’m voting for Barack Obama.

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