I often remind myself, these days, of how recently it was that I generally bought into the Democrat/Republican good-guy/bad-guy narrative. Remembering that I meant well, and wasn’t simply being vindictive or a complete dumb-ass, is what stops me getting as cross as perhaps I should at a lot of people in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and others with whom I’m of a like mind on many things.
But look, people, progressives, sensible liberal types who want to help everyone and think that government is an important tool for doing that: you really need to look at the tribalism on your side of the aisle, as well as just denouncing it when you correctly spot it on the other.
Sometime in November, I tweeted something to the effect of:
“The wrong person won the election and now THE WORLD IS DOOMED!!1!” – crazy Republicans. Also most of you if the numbers had been a little different.
It’s not that the people who saw Obama’s re-election as the moment their country was lost to an Islamic socialist conspiracy aren’t comical. But the number of people with whom I share almost all my values, and yet who cheered Obama on and would have declared the US a complete lost cause if Romney had won, gave me an irony headache.
The idea that, because of the obvious stupidity and meanness of the American right, supporting the left means joining forces with progressive freedom fighters of tolerance and equality, is entirely misguided. You really need to realise that Obama is not your friend.
Before the recent US election, there was a lot of speculation on the left that the President would really start getting things done in his second term. Things he wanted to do, but which wouldn’t have been politically viable for him while he was still trying to get re-elected. This is troublesome for a number of reasons.
It surely indicates a catastrophically broken system, if you’re saying we can’t trust anything a President says or does in his first four years in office. That’s a long time for them to hold the most powerful political position in the world’s primary superpower, while having to prioritise their own popularity above the things they were elected to do.
Lawrence O’Donnell, a man who had hundreds of reasons to vote for Obama in November, made it clear that the President had “absolutely no intention of having that discussion” (about the war on drugs he totally plans to end) until he was re-elected. So if Obama thinks it’ll hurt his political career to talk honestly about his feelings on the important political issues facing the country, he’s just going to keep quiet until he’s in the clear.
That’s coming from someone firmly on Obama’s side. In the face of his failure to do what they want him to do, and act according to his own alleged conscience, their defence is to say “It’s okay, he’s just lying so people will vote for him”.
When it comes to that, you really need to ask why he’s worth defending at all.
Especially when it becomes apparent that he has no goddamn intention whatever of suddenly becoming the liberal Messiah everyone seemed to think he was four years ago. He’s not leading the way in some gloriously progressive, tolerant, loosening of insane drug laws and ushering in a new world of relaxed attitudes to personal use of enjoyable substances. He’s entirely failing to keep up with the pace of public opinion, and in fact is actively struggling against it.
Colorado and Washington both recently voted in favour of legalising recreational marijuana use. In Colorado, legal pot got more votes than Obama did. But the only news about his administration’s changing attitudes to the drug war implies that he’s considering efforts to step it up, and will be going out of his way to enforce federal laws to overrule these few democratic victories.
For some time now, Obama’s been stepping up harassment of even medical marijuana dispensaries, let alone people who just want to get high and have some fun and do things with their own bodies which they should be entitled to.
People such as himself. Obama’s own history of drug use is well recorded. He’s never been cagey about the fact that he smoked marijuana in his younger days, and stronger substances too. But, of course, he stopped, because he wanted to make something of himself someday, and he was concerned about the negative effects. He’d seen what regular use can do to people, how it can damage the intellect and blunt the senses. Drugs are bad, mm’kay.
What we’re supposed to take from that story is that drugs are a scourge which destroy people’s lives, and it’s just as well Obama overcame that temptation, so that now he can fight to stop others indulging in something so potentially damaging. What I actually take from it is that Obama used drugs when he was young, never got thrown in jail for it, made his own grown-up fucking decision to stop, and now he’s the goddamn President.
And now he doesn’t want other people to have the chance to make the same decision and take the same life path that he did. If he’d been subjected to the law which he’s now forcibly and expansively trying to implement, he’d have been a black kid with a criminal record for drug offences and a history of jail-time. Legally interfering with his life would have ruined it. Leaving him the hell alone let him become the most powerful man in the country.
Obama is not your friend, progressive liberal sensible nice people. He’s not the good guy. He’s not on your side. I’m not saying you should forget that Mitt Romney is appalling or that Republicans seem to say something new and moronic about rape or abortion on any given day that ends in a ‘Y’. But that doesn’t mean the other guy is the one you want. Don’t let the inane, two-team, pick-a-side mentality of US politics blind you to the fact that, if you’re in favour of cannabis decriminalisation, this President might be the worst in history on that metric. Stop fixating on the inanity of the Republicans who oppose him; look at the shit he’s actually pulling.