Voting red lines

By now, anyone who reads any of progressive political blog out there has probably come across this argument by Conor Friedersdorf against voting for Barack Obama in November, even if you think he’s the better of the two mainstream candidates in the election.

From my perspective, the instrumental version of the argument being made here is more interesting, and has received less attention in much of the discussion (that I’ve seen) of the piece. That is, if we accept that Friedersdorf wants to change US policy in the conduct of the War on Terror (WoT) it remains an open question question whether that goal would be better served by voting for (andmore significantly, promoting) a 3rd party candidate, or by voting for Obama while arguing publicly for a serious reconsideration of the President’s poor record on human rights in the conduct of the Obama-era WoT.

Photo credit: Postbear,

My instinct is to say the latter, given the very limited ability of political fringe parties in the US to influence political discourse in a meaningful way. Rather, in the deeply entrenched two-party system, political change (at least in recent electoral cycles) has moved from the periphery to the centre within the context of a single party. If Friedersdorf is serious about changing US policy, his best chance would seem to be to change the policy of the Democratic Party, and do everything possible to put that party in control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Thoughts, anyone?

— Stewart


One thought on “Voting red lines

  1. I was talking about this article at the bar the other night. Full disclosure up front: I’ve already voted for Obama. That being said, I found Friedersdorf’s tone too screechy. But he’s entitled to his righteous anger (Predator drones and Executive kill lists are super creepy), and he can choose to channel it into a protest vote if he likes. I’m still not clear if he’s voting for Romney, a third party, or if he’s just choosing to sit this one out. However it shakes out, I’m glad he lives in California, where Obama doesn’t need his help to carry the state handily.

    I think Stew’s points about the futility of Friedersdorf’s strategy are spot-on. I’ll also add that he takes pot-shots at the POTUS on shifting moral ground. Friedersdorf rightfully raises a stink about the the civilian casualties left in the wake of American drone attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere. Here the author is appealing to human rights/security to critique the president. Then, he goes on to abandon his human security cred when he assails the president for intervening in Libya without Congressional authorization. Recall that US and NATO intervention helped prevent a massacre in Benghazi, and was as clear-cut a case of R2P (responsibility to protect) as the international community has encountered in recent years.

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