Four years is not a long time. I remember the election season of 2008. In the beginning it was exciting. Fatigued by eight years of so-called "compassionate conservatism" under the regime of Bush the younger, I was ready for some drastic changes in government. As campaign season swung into full gear, the Democratic Party presented two candidates who could have made history: Hillary Clinton would have been the first female President of the United States while Barack Obama would be the first mixed-race individual to occupy the White House. In this the chance to sweep away the sins of the former administration took on an added glow. It didn't take long for that shine to dull as the campaign for the Democratic nominee for President quickly turned ugly.
In the beginning I really didn't have any negative feelings about Barack Obama. If anything, he came off as yet another politician angling for some exposure who, as of that time and place, was out of his depth. Throwing my support behind Hillary Clinton was an easy decision. I, and those like me who made the decision, became privy to more vitriol and derision than any voter should ever have to endure in what we call civilized society.
The more research I did on Obama, the less I liked him as a candidate. However, Obama's failings as a potential president paled in comparison to the cult of personality which was developing around him. His supporters treated him with a reverence undeserving of any politician; the media followed suit, abandoning all pretense of objectivity. Allegedly liberal and progressive website and 'blogs began targeting and shutting out voices of dissent. To be a Hillary Clinton supporter was to be wandering around alone in the desert - or so they wanted you to believe.
Even more unsettling was how the Democratic National Committee was doing some decidedly undemocratic things which were to the benefit of the Obama campaign. Convention delegates from Michigan were arbitrarily reassigned so as to be committed to Obama, negating the actual poll results for that state's primary. When the convention did roll around, the fact that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote among registered Democrats was irrelevant. The deck had been stacked for Obama and Clinton conceded as the DNC pushed him over the finish line.
I was stunned. What the Republicans had done to Al Gore and the American voter in 2000 when Bush was selected, the Democrats had done to one of their own. All illusions shattered, any claim the Democrats had to the moral high ground was lost.
As the focus of Election 2008 turned to Obama versus McCain, I found that I no longer had any passion for a Democratic victory in the November. Obama's candidacy was tainted - if he didn't have the character to win the nomination fairly, how would he comport himself as President? The Obama fan base, energized by their victory did not make matters easier. Their primary argument consisted of, "you're a registered Democrat - you have to vote for Obama." If one dared point out flaws or positional inconsistencies regarding their candidate, the response generally went along the lines of the standard, "well, the other side is worse, so are you really going to let them win" if you were lucky or, if the Obama supporter wished to go nuclear the accusation of racism was leveled. All sanity had simply quit the room, so to speak.
I watched the candidates debate, even going to a couple of parties hosted by the local Democratic organizers to try and get a feel for why Obama was such an object of their adoration. I never could into the same mindset as the people who were already hooked on Obama. The tipping point came for me when I realized, while watching Obama and McCain "debating" one another, that both men were saying essentially the same thing. The words were different, the delivery honed for each candidate's respective base, but the message was the same. These two men were saying the same thing: "vote for me, I will maintain the status quo." Obama was a Republican masquerading as a Democrat while at least McCain was honest about his true party affiliation.
The Democratic Party had told me that they didn't want my vote. I obliged and pulled the lever for John McCain.
Four years later Obama has not given me any truly compelling reason to believe I was wrong in voting against him. Guantanamo Bay is still open and running. American troops are still in Afghanistan. The economy is still tanking for the 99%. And the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration, health care reform is little more than a wet and sloppy thousand page word-kiss for the health insurance industry; funny how it took a so-called "Democrat" to pass Republican legislation on a national level. Because what they now derisively refer to as Obamacare is really Romneycare.
I've come to see voting as an exercise in measured reactions. I never expect a candidate to match my personal positions 100% or even 75%, but is it too much to ask for a public servant to actually account for and act in accordance to what the American people need? The politics of lesser-evilism is becoming more and more of a dead-end street as the metrics for what is "evil" continues to shift. It's become a game of ratios. An example: if it came down to Barack Obama versus Rick Santorum, I would hold my nose and vote for Obama - not because I think Obama deserves my vote but because in the game of ratios, Santorum triggers my personal threshold of "must block from power at all costs." I feel the same way about Ron Paul, if you're curious.
However, when it comes to a race of Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, I just kind of shrug. Neither one of these men represents me, so why should I vote for either one? I've become one of those people the partisans love to hate: the independent voter. The Democrats think they have me because I'm registered to that party. The Republicans think they might be able to woo me because I criticize Obama (word to the wise: I criticize Obama because he isn't liberal enough, not because he isn't libertarian enough). Truth be told, I'm at peace with the fact that come November, I'm likely voting "third" party or writing in "none of the above." It wouldn't be the first time I've done it and doubt it will be the last.
I know the backlash and derision will come my way for not falling into line and supporting the legacy party duopoly. The Kossacks are already sharpening their pointing fingers to shame those of us who won't vote for Obama. I welcome their hatred and venom. I'm ready to ignore the guilt trips. I'm ready to ignore the name-calling. I'm ready to ignore the accusations of irrationality and the jeers that I'm wasting my vote (ah, but it is mine to waste, is it not?). I'm ready to draw strength from the pain of independence.
It was all thrown at me in 2008 and it's all going to get thrown at me again in 2012. Do you really think what didn't work then will work now?