I Didn't Vote for Obama

November 14, 2008

A part of me is glad to see so many Asian Americans involved in the Obama campaign -- it seems like more than in any other presidential campaign. I've also seen and talked to friends whose parents voted for Obama, even those who are registered Republican. For the first time, young folks and their parents agreed on whom to vote for. That's some progress, I think.

But what I've also seen from a distance is that since Obama started his campaign for presidency, he's moved further to the right. On domestic issues, he is still a little left of center, which is about as good as we can get with a two-party system. In terms of civil rights, I wonder if I'll ever live to see the day that a US president opposes the death penalty or supports same sex marriage. We'll see. Only hoping.

If you listen to Obama talk about foreign policy, he doesn't sound that different from other candidates. If so many Americans are against the war now, why vote for a president who might bring us into another war? Have people not been listening to what he's saying about Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan? He isn't hiding anything. I just don't completely get the lovefest that we have around Obama, especially from so-called progressives. I also hope that liberals and progressives who supported Obama really think deeply not just about domestic civil rights issues but international policy.

I'm also curious to see what's going to happen with all this energy around the elections. Are people going to continue organizing and advocating now that the elections are over, and if so, for what? Will Obama be a better president than, say, Kucinich or Nader would've been? Is he going to bring us into another war? How is our world going to get better if he just appointed a staunch Israel supporter to be his chief of staff?

I've also been really disappointed with his disassociating himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and being Muslim. I encourage you to watch more of Wright's speech. (To me, he's just telling the truth). I understand it's not Obama's job to justify what someone else says, or even contextualize and educate people on the "black experience." But could it have been a "teaching moment" for the rest of the country? Or would it have been pure political suicide? And it's fine to say that you're not Muslim if you're just not. But why not go further and say, what's the big deal if I was?  

I just see so many people getting caught up in Obama-fever, and without really pushing any issue in particular except getting people to vote and support Obama. So now that that's over, what's next? And am I the only one feeling this way? 

* I know Nader is not white. His parents are immigrants from Lebanon and I think they are Arab American. But most people don't know this. He passes for a white dude in our racially constructed society.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



I couldnt agree with you more on the Rev Wright comment and like you, I really do like Ralph Nader, but he is so far to the left, the reality of him getting elected is impossible.Your vote is your right and whomever you vote for is your choice. Barrack is a lot more realistic in his approach to becomming a President. I think Barrack can work better with the leaders of the countries you mentioned above, than a John McCain. I guess he was the lesser of all evils.
Yes! I definitely feel this way. This is when the real work starts yet it feels like we're all still just basking in the afterglow of a historic election or that people only cared during the road to get there but this is the time when the difficult part begins. There's work to be done! I'd also like to add that I hope Obama does NOT appoint Larry Summers for Secretary of Treasury.
Out of curiousity, why not Larry Summers?
Not a white dude. He is an Arab! Obama is not an Arab as some ignorant white woman in rural Minnesota claimed!
You're not alone. While I get that his election has historic significance, I think his presidency may end up anything but historic, and he's palling around with the same old crowd.
Wow, really brave. I commend you for this post. I was too scarred by the aftermath of the election in 2000 to vote for Nader again, even though I know he is more aligned with my politics. (I don't think he was a spoiler, I just wanted to be more centrist.) I also think Nader's "Uncle Tom" comments have been really interesting. Take this Fox News clip for instance. Using "Uncle Tom" was culturally insensitive, but since when did Fox News become the keepers of political correctness?
speaking of the "other" old white guy. what are hyphen's thoughts on ron paul. i haven't seen his name here a all, yet he's a phenomenon on the net. i would say without a doubt that without the internet, Obama wouldn't have been elected. yet, ron paul was clearly the choice based on internet donors at the start of the race. i believe it's after he dropped out that the internet support started flowing to Obama. ok, he's republican. ok, he's old and white, and he's a christian, but i still have yet to hear anyone had the guts to say what he's been saying all along. and every day the world is waking up to what he's been saying for a very long time. that's where the real revolution is.
i don't consider nader white. the nader/gonzalez ticket was two POC...as was the ticket i voted for...i went thru a very bitter phase post-election. bitter at intelligent involved people who thought a vote for obama was revolutionary. i probably lashed out too hard.it's hard. i feel the whole election is ill historic of course, but come on. since when was our goal to get a POC in office as president? that's never been the goal. it's like people need to go back to thinking what community organizing actually is...but i mad agree with you momo. say word.
callipygia:This is just my observation. The majority of the bloggers in hyphen appear to me to be ultra liberal, Ron Paul is an ultra Conservative, but to his credit, he did oppose the war. Peace people
To attempt to answer the question posed at the end of the post, what's next is for people to try to engage in the political process at various levels by following more closely what their government is doing, by objecting when they disagree to proposed action, and supporting legislation and statements they deem valuable. It means getting involved in organizations that can fill in where government fails or that help government better execute its mandate of bettering our society. It means not waiting for one president to do what you want him to do, but getting out there and trying to enact change yourself.Nader is a heroic figure and represents inspiring ideals, but I believe that people should apply their skills in the places where they will be most effective, and presidential politics is not going to be a place where he will have the kind of impact he had with consumer advocacy. He wouldn't succeed as a president perhaps because of where he's coming from; the system is too compromised for him to do what he wants and what many progressives would want.Obama, despite not being perfect (and we can't expect perfection in a president anyway), brings to the country together in a way that needs to be capitalized on in mobilizing people to participate in their own communities. I think it's worth bringing up these questions and having a dialogue, but ultimately the real focus needs to be on constructively proposing what specific ways we can channel inspiration into our own efforts (instead of blog-navel-gazing).Not attending any election celebrations puts you in a poor position to speak to the potential that this moment has brought, and while I suppose it's worth tempering it all with some rational discourse, this strikes me as a rather unproductive way to go about it. Momo, I've read your stuff a lot (and I'm pretty sure we had class together at Cal a decade ago), and so I feel pretty confident that you're walking the walk, and probably putting in more real work at making a difference on the micro level than I am. But this post to me epitomizes a progressive tendency to critique to no constructive end, and made me overcome my aversion to commenting in these forums enough to put forth a strong disagreement.
Thanks for everyone's comments. A part of me didn't want to put this out there -- I think it's pretty out of the norm for journalists to express who they support -- but I also felt that this point of view was missing from most Asian American blogs and sites (including Hyphen's), based on what I've read.Raj and Giles: You are right, Nader isn't white! Although I don't think race has played a role in his and Gonzalez' candidacies much at all. I didn't know Nader's parents were from Lebanon until a few years ago and even then it wasn't clear if they were Arab. But according to Wikipedia, he/they are.Neela: I hadn't seen this clip until now. I think he's using the Uncle Tom phrase to push some major buttons, but I don't disagree with his overall message behind it. Fox's take is interesting but it almost makes me laugh in a way (or at least raise an eyebrow!).Alec: I do agree this post is a bit of navel-gazing and I definitely hesitated to put it out there. It's somewhat out of the norm (see above) of what I'd normally write but the fact that there was this overwhelming sense of Obama-mania in the real world and in the blogosphere, I felt it was important to put out a different point of view. Also, I don't mean to belittle folks who voted for Obama because I'm sure they spent time thinking about their vote and deciding on who to vote for, especially if they are torn between their values/politics and the greater good. It's obviously a more complicated decision than maybe the way I've made it seem. Also I'm not saying I'm better or more progressive than those folks by voting for Nader. A lot of the Obama supporters/voters are people I know and respect.
"..The majority of the bloggers in hyphen appear to me to be ultra liberal, Ron Paul is an ultra Conservative".@RELAX: "ultra conservative"? i'm sorry, then i don't know what liberal or conservative means, because i think he's about the most liberal republican i see. if by liberal you mean "the cool side".
"I just see so many people getting caught up in Obama-fever, and without really pushing any issue in particular except getting people to vote and support Obama. So now that that's over, what's next? And am I the only one feeling this way?"There has been some critical examination of Obama and his policies, but they have been drowned out by Obama Mania and of course the mainstream media.Obama's positions on foreign policy in particular are just a continuation of America's *bipartisan* militarist agenda that's been the norm for much of the 20th-Century. He has been fairly open about his policy stances, but many people have been caught up in a kind of drunken Obama euphoria. Unfortunately for them, the political hangover might be very unpleasant.In terms of what to do, grassroots political organizing *outside* the US electoral system is the basis of any true social movement for "Change That You Can Believe In."Fundamental political change usually comes from below. As the old truism says, power concedes nothing with struggle. It never did, and it never will."Are you an Obama Kool-Aid Drinker?"http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/11/16/18551663.php
In Obamas defense, he ran a great campaign. One of the best, if not the best ive seen in my lifetime. Like Collin Powell said, " He is an transformational figure" and if you watched the debates closely, he was right on the money, when it came to addressing the issues that plague us today. He is change, no question about it. Usually, the way a President runs his campaign is indicative of how he will run the white House, if thats the case then we are headed in the right direction.I like Ralph Nader, but he needs to give it up. He has been running for President for like 20 years. Ralph give it up! your talents would be better served helping non-governmental organizations clean up the social and enviromental ills thats plaquing the Earth.Here s that interview with fox news concerning the uncle tom comment, i have to respect him, he doesnt bite his tongue. He was also desperate for press, that showed to.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibsP6XN2dIo
"This is just my observation. The majority of the bloggers in hyphen appear to me to be ultra liberal, Ron Paul is an ultra Conservative".@RELAX: maybe. but as an progressive and investigative magazine, it should be politically aware enough not to adhere to such labels as "liberal", "conservative", "democrats", or "republicans", but rather strive for the truth. the truth is there's a revolution going on right now. every great civilization in history fell because of economic failure. and the scam that is federal reserve is finally about be crumble. obama is not even going to go near it. but dr. paul will..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nSCKt4Cw6kit's just babylon falling...just sooner the better.
I wasnt adhering to any labels, I was just emphasizing on his political ideology and where it fits by definition. The Skinheads and Ku Klux Klan love Ron Paul, I cant afford that kind of revolution. Face it, all your extremist have converted to independents and yes, I do believe if Nader goes any more left he would be labeled communist. Ron PAul answer to our problems, eliminate the Federal government and let the states fend for themselves. If you are a minority and you voted for RON PAUL, you need to be shot. I meant that in a nice way, if you know what I mean.If I grew up or lived in the Bay area, maybe I harbor extreme liberal views as well, but prop 8, thats much too much keep it in California.Ron Paul sucks, im sorry. I like Nader though.
alright, RELAX. one of us is most likely a little under informed. i will concede that i probably don't know as much about nader as you do. from an overview of his history and policies, i can say that i would probably support him too. he has heart. but i feel his issues and fights are a little misguided and short sighted. i will also concede that my "media bubble" may be a little too ron paul heavy, as it was the internet and him that made me more interested in politics and more worldly aware. and i'd like to attribute that a little to hyphen as well. i am also a minority.i really don't want to make it a ron paul vs nader thing. as the way i see it, they both are a couple of old geezers that sometimes says things a little too direct...as well as gravel. but at least it seems that both have very strong loyal "non-religious" followings that believes in what they are saying. people can work together even if they have different beliefs.
But wait, isn't preaching sermons that are way too long what makes progressives lose elections?
Last time I looked, A PROGRESSIVE WON THE ELECTION. yeah!
the problem is thinking elections did anything. maybe in the olden days. the elections today are nothing but a show. only this past one is the biggest show of all time. familiar with plato's "Allegory of the cave"? the ones that know the truth can't say it, they'd be cast off as coo coo. the one's that say they have all the answers usually don't.
Anonymous, you sound like a typical "HATER" I can assure you life is going to be great for the next 4 years. you have a lot to be happy about and you act like this, shame on you.
I voted for Nader in 2000 but didn't in '04 or '08 (where I voted Democrat in the presidential race). In 2000, I voted for my ideals, following that, I voted politically, ie I voted for the person I thought could actually do the job in all its complexity. Unfortunately, as I get older I get less idealistic and more pragmatic; I stopped thinking a politician could really live by their word sometime in high school, but it's taken me another decade to realize that I may have to vote thinking that way also.In a radio interview during the recent campaign (probably on NPR, sorry I don't have link handy), Nader noted that it's important that smaller parties run regardless of the chances of winning because the point is to bring certain issues to the level of presidential debate. So to those who deride him as needy of media attention, I would give him much more credit than that- I'd say he's willing to sacrifice a certain amount of personal pride to gain attention for important issues. He's well aware of the roles that his hard work (and those who work with him- those who I've talked to who have worked with him directly have spoken of him only as remaining dedicated and selfless) has afforded and continues to afford him the opportunity to play.The one credit that I will give Obama is that he does seem to be able to motivate people to act. Not just in opposition to the still current regime, but to get out in their communities and do something. So as much as I may be in disagreement of his policies, of all the candidates I've seen in any election, he's the most able to inspire mass change, a sort of top-down motivation of grassroots movement. Or at least that's what I hope. Without that, he'll be much a hindrance to real change as any other president. The master's tools may not bring down the master's house so can the slaves can learn to make new tools and build their own houses?
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. I was about to write my own article entitled "Why I Didn't Vote for Obama" when I decided to google it first instead.I was told the other day by my boss that I "threw my vote away". I said nothing in response and just left myself slightly offended. Then I thought about it later. I didn't throw my vote away, he did. He voted for Obama with all the other Californians. I voted for something else to make a point. I voted for change. I voted on issues. My vote stands out. They say there is no hope for a three party system, but at least I helped show that there are people who care about the issues.Funny thing, I too have felt hesitant about posting my own "Why I Didn't Vote for Obama" blog. I kept thinking that I was going to be a Debbie Downer trying to rain on everybody's "Change-has-finally-arrived" parade. But your piece inspired me. So thank you, thank you, thank you.