I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama

These last several weeks have been very difficult for me.

I voted Libertarian in 2004, I consider myself to be a libertarian with a small “L”, and I generally support the positions of the Libertarian party. The World’s Smallest Political Quiz pegs me as a left-leaning libertarian. I met Michael Badnarik personally (the picture of me meeting him somehow found its way onto Wikipedia) and after talking with him I found him to be a genuine, principled person, albeit a bit old and clueless about free culture / technology policy and similar issues that are very important to me. While I did not consider his political acumen to be amazing, and I didn’t think he would have a chance to win even in a fair election (as opposed to one rigged against 3rd parties), I respected his principles and passion for the cause.

I generally disagree with the Democratic Party and its platform, I do not trust it to preserve my civil liberties or to do anything good with free culture issues and IP / tech policy, and I frequently find myself in conflict with the nanny state. Why the @#$% can’t I buy raw, unpasteurized almonds or raw cheese? As an amateur pyrotechnician I’ve seen my friends persecuted+prosecuted by the police despite strictly following safety procedures and doing their very best to follow the letter of the (unreasonable) law. The war on drugs, the war on filesharing, the war on moisture in our airports (and of course actual war) have all continued under a Democratically controlled Congress and I do not expect the Democrats to make any positive changes in any of these areas. I oppose big government and its intrusion into my private life, and I hold the Democrats responsible for a great deal of it.

This election, however, I had to make my decision based on the candidates, rather than the general philosophies of their parties. While I do not agree with many of Obama’s positions, and in fact disagree violently with some of them, I have come to believe that he is the candidate best prepared to lead our country for the next four years. This is sad, because I also do not trust him to keep his word or protect my civil liberties after his FISA vote. However, after researching this year’s Libertarian Party candidate, Bob Barr, I do not think he is good for the Libertarian Party, I do not trust him or believe him to be a sincere libertarian, and I do not think he would be a good president even if he had a chance of being elected. Despite my serious misgivings about Obama, there are many things I like about Obama as a person, Obama as a President, and Obama’s policy positions that allow me to cast a vote for him in good conscience, to vote FOR him rather than against the other guy (which is not something I would ever want to do).

I intend to follow up this post with details about my feelings on Obama and why I decided not to vote for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.

7 thoughts on “I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama

  1. I don’t think I was ever quite as lowercase l-libertarian as you, but I’ve been feeling similarly weird about being so excited for Obama (have been for months, I think since I read his Dreams From My Father book). On paper, I shouldn’t like him all that much.

    The FISA vote, while frustrating, is an example of the sort of compromise he keeps promising. I am similarly frustrated by the Dems having been spineless the last 8 years.

    I suppose the main reason I trust Obama is his intellectual bent, and that he surrounds himself with experts in their respective fields. He will do things I disagree with, but for the most part he’ll at least be able to argue his position coherently.

    I’d say I’d put technology issues second after environment on my list, and I think Obama’s record on both is pretty positive. There’s supposed to be some Wired-sponsored tech debate this week between the campaigns’ respective tech wonks.

    I’ve pretty much resigned myself to huge government from both sides, it’s just a question mark of which parts of my freedoms I mind getting stomped on less.

  2. Obama caught my eye early on, but as I followed the primaries, I shifted more toward Richardson (more experienced, more progressive on the war), Dodd (more progressive on civil liberties), and Edwards (more progressive on economics). When the primaries whittled down to Obama and Clinton, I lined up behind Obama, voted for him, and threw him $25. I never got the swoon that many of my progressive compatriots did — so when Obama started waffling or weakening his stances on the war, health care, telco immunity, drug policy, etc., I was dismayed but not terribly surprised. I hoped for better but didn’t actually expect it.

    The first election I paid much attention to was 2000. When Bush won by narrowly winning my state, I was disappointed, but not very. I didn’t see a huge difference between Bush and Gore. In the next 4 years, leading up to the time when I could actually vote, my opinion changed a lot. Coming from that experience, and having always lived in a state where my vote counted a lot, I’ve never given much serious thought to voting for third parties. The electoral system we have, for better or for worse (mostly for worse), encourages strategic voting. I figure I could vote purely on principle, and potentially shoot myself in the foot, or I can respond to the incentives the system is structured to provide. So I vote strategically. That doesn’t mean I think it’s a good system or it shouldn’t be changed.

    So I’ve known I was going to vote for Obama for a long time. I already have, in fact. I know that, whoever else may be on the ballot, in reality, either McCain or Obama will be the next president. Although McCain is better than some of his primary opponents, he’d be damaging for our country in a host of ways. Whatever misgivings I have about Obama, I voted for him.

    With that said, let me say a few things in Obama’s defense.

    You named civil liberties, free culture, the nanny state, the war on drugs, the war on filesharing, the war on moisture, and military war as areas where you don’t things will improve under Obama. I’m not sure these are all very accurate:

    • I think civil liberties will improve under Obama — perhaps not to the extent I’d like them to, but I expect Obama to be much more respectful of civil liberties than Bush has been.
    • On free culture and filesharing, unfortunately, I don’t see major improvements under a President Obama, except potentially in a commitment to effective policies to deploy affordable broadband, and on Net neutrality. I’m not certain, off the top of my head, where Obama comes down on other issues, except that on IP it’s basically the status quo.
    • On the nanny state, I think Obama’s less nanny-ish than some Democrats, but he’s still a Democrat. No major gain here, and potentially a loss relative to McCain.
    • On the war on moisture, again, I haven’t seen anything I can recall about a different approach to “homeland security” by Obama. But I have to think it’d be less crazy than under McCain.
    • On military war, well, this is the area where you’re most wrong. If you don’t think there’s a difference between McCain and Obama on this front, er… I expect Obama to make sincere steps toward getting us out of Iraq on an accelerated schedule, and I expect him to be much more cautious about starting new entanglements (especially unilateral ones) than McCain would be.

    (Cutting these because it’s too long for LJ…)

  3. Continued…

    There are three other reasons why I think you might especially support Obama.

    1. His approach to political participation, and especially toward using technology to support it. The way that candidates run their campaign is our first indication of how they’d run an administration. By that standard, Obama is lightyears ahead of McCain.
    2. His anti-corruption stances. This is not to say that Obama is perfectly pure and the good government Messiah, but refusing to take money from lobbyists and PACs is a huge deal. Getting the DNC to do the same is also big. Growing a huge base of small donors, and relying more on them (relatively) than big ticket donors, that’s big news, too. I think it weakens the hold that special interests will have over him, and make him more beholden to a more populist agenda.
    3. The company he keeps. We know that people like Lessig would never end up in a McCain administration. We don’t know that about Obama. Moreover, the Obama campaign’s reliance on technology means there are now hundreds if not thousands of staffers with ties to Obama who are more familiar with technology and more likely to see tech policy as an important issue. I mean, look at things like this. It’s not a direct commitment, but I think the people on Obama’s side are going to be much more friendly to our perspective.
  4. I disliked the “Ron Paul Revolution” largely because I really did think it was a transparent attempt by a traditional conservative to co-opt young libertarians. Bob Barr, a transparent Republican-in-libertarian’s-clothing, is a perfect example of that.

    I’ll set aside my left-wing loyalties and give Ron Paul a fair shot when he convinces me he’s not in favor of letting the government ban abortion, gay marriage, pornography and other “social evils” just because it’s a state/local government doing it instead of the feds.

  5. I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama

    I really don’t understand how any libertarian (small or big “L”) could vote for a statist like Obama. I don’t trust him or think that he has shown any particular leadership qualities, other than the ability to read a teleprompter in a very professional manner, BUT even if I did think that he was an effective or competent leader, I would not vote for him based on his very obvious nanny state, facist tendencies and positions, a clear anathema to any libertarian. Barr or McCain -bad but far better choices for America.

  6. One other thing….Obama has (very weakly) said that he does not support the return of the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine”, but it is clear from his surrogate’s comments and the official platform of the Democrat Party that he is not telling the truth about this, and that this restriction on free speech would return soon after his inauguration in a much more dangerous form than it existed in the 70’s. Regulation of free speech on the internet is one of my primary concerns and I would have thought one of yours as well. Obama has clearly shown himself to be an enemy of free speech (as has McCain, but for more stupid reasons) and that alone is reason enough for me.

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