As the election season continues to ramp up, this idea of "ideological purity" is popping more and more into my thoughts. What does it mean to me? It means staying 100% true to your ideals and values when you vote. If a candidate doesn't match you on a key value, or values, you either vote for the other guy or abstain from voting out of protest.
Are you willing to be an ideological purist?
Should Democrats, liberals, and progressives be willing to maintain ideological purity?
What ARE the values and ideals we should prioritize and remain true to?
(1) A clean, healthy, and poison free environment.
(2) A strong government that supports this country's social contract and the "general welfare" of the people.
(3) Strong public education, public healthcare, and public transportation, all publicly and democratically owned.
(4) Equality of citizens under the law; male, female, gay, straight, black, white, brown, religious, spiritual, atheist.
(5) A fair economic system that gives everybody a fair chance at success and the "American Dream".
(6) Rule of law with rights protected under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Accountability for those who break the law, regardless of their power or wealth.
Number 6 will bring me back to my original point of ideological purity, in a roundabout sort of way. I will explain.
When Bush was in office, the thing that tended to make liberals and progressives full of anger and rage was the deterioration of rights. This included the PATRIOT act, the Guantanamo Bay prison, CIA torture camps, drone strikes, etc. What made it even worse was the lack of accountability for our government and elected officials, essentially making a farce of the Constitution and the rule of law.
Ideological purity... I'm getting there, I swear.
Now that Obama, a Democrat, is president, it seems that the values have changed. Embarassingly, it seems that a majority of progressives and liberals approve of the Guantanamo Bay prison remaining open and approve of drone strikes abroad, even against American citizens accused of terrorism.
As a liberal and progressive myself, it's fucking embarassing.
So what happened? Are values not so important anymore once on of our own is in power? Are we willing to sacrifice some of our values for the bigger picture?
I had a debate with a friend of mine over the NDAA bill recently passed into law. I thought it was pretty clear that the rules on military detention did not apply to American citizens. Apparently, it is not as clear as I thought, even to the point where the ACLU is taking up this cause. As I look deeper into this issue, if its true, this could be at serious conflict with my values.
Do I like it? No.
Do I "approve" of this policy? No.
Do I think it needs to be changed? Abso-fuckin-lutely.
Is this a deal breaker for me on President Obama?
Why not? After looking at the big picture, I'm not willing to be an ideological purist and have this one policy, as much as I may dislike it, cause me to vote Republican or abstain from voting.
Sure, I could vote Republican, but I know there would be no change on this detention policy and that the Republicans could actually make it worse based on their actions in the past. Other things voting Republican might mean...
...Support of industries that poison our land, water, and air.
...Privatizing, defunding, or even abolishing public support programs like social security and welfare.
...Selling off our future through privatization and "profitization" of our public education.
...Government sponsored legal discrimination of gays and the deterioration of the rights of women.
...More corporate tax-breaks, deregulation, and support for the .1 - .01% at everybody else's expense.
That is what I fear if I vote Republican out of ideological opposition to this one policy of the Obama presidency.
What if I vote for a third party? This never works and actually typically helps the opposition party in an election. What is I abstain from voting? That is one less vote towards an Obama victory and towards a Republican victory, something I can't tolerate in 2012.
But does voting for Obama mean I am accepting his policy via the NDAA? No. Will I try and get it changed? Yes.
Will I be an ideological purist at the cost of an Obama presidency? Hell no.
You can disagree with me and act in a way that will give us a Republican president in 2012. Just be honest, as a liberal or progressive, and say you're willing to make that sacrifice for your ideals. Admit that you're willing to see and have a Republican president as part of your protest to Obama's policies. That is the risk you take by abstaining or even voting Republican out of protest.
As I watch the debates and the rhetoric coming from both sides, the stakes almost seem to be even higher than 2008. I'm not willing to make that sacrifice.