I walked away from the debate Wednesday night ready to vote for Jill Stein. I live in a safe state, and I didn't like the feeling of being abandoned so thoroughly by the Democratic nominee.
I listened to the pundits briefly after the debate, and I have read numerous responses online. Many people were saying that Romney had the winning style, but Obama had the substance. So for people who are won over by substance -- and admittedly, this may not take in a large majority of Americans -- people said that Obama may have performed well.
I don't agree with that interpretation. I thought that Obama was weak on style and even weaker on substance.
Obama showed himself to be the panderer and capitulator that we have seen throughout his presidency. What we saw Wednesday night was the president who took the public-healthcare option off the table before negotiations began; the president who has refused to consider prosecuting a single banker for fraud; the president who refused to hold anyone in office accountable for torture or for starting a war under false pretenses. We saw the president who began his presidency by appointing people whom the voters had just defeated in the election, and who announced during his inaugural address that his mission was going to be to build alliances with the Republican Party.
We saw the first president since the New Deal who put Social Security cuts right on the table, something that George W. Bush was unable to do. And who then credited Mitt Romney with wanting to preserve Social Security, when Romney's running mate has declared that Social Security was "collectivist."
We saw the president who continually seeks the approval of the reactionary right wing and of corporate wealth, but who had no hesitation in mocking his base, the ones who financed his campaign and worked their feet off for him, dismissing us as the "professional left." Obama didn't pay us the time of day until the Occupy movement started to show its strength and Campaign 2012 got under way.
What substance? Mitt Romney said that his program for the presidency was about jobs. Then he stated openly in front of 70 million viewers that, as a capitalist, he shipped jobs overseas, but that unfortunately he might have missed out on that lovely tax deduction for doing so. Obama was delivered an opening at his feet to make the obvious point that Mitt Romney doesn't exactly have American jobs at heart, does he? What happened to that campaign ad, "Mitt Romney's not the solution. He's the problem"? "I'm Barack Obama, and I approved this message."
I didn't expect Obama to tell the American people about the urgency of ending fossil-fuel consumption immediately or the need to ban nuclear weapons. I didn't expect him to come out in favor of single-payer health insurance, a New Deal jobs program, a new War on Poverty, an end to drone attacks, or a thorough investigation of 9/11. But I did expect him to expose Romney for the way he hoards his money in overseas tax shelters, or ships jobs to foreign countries, or has something very, very big to hide in those tax returns. I expected him to point out what we all saw in the 47% video. I expected him to point out the gender issues and the Jim Crow laws that the Republicans have been embedding into their election platforms. I expected him to point out that the Republicans in Congress have obstructed everything he wanted to do to improve the economy, and refused to vote for any of his proposals on general principle, because they wanted to hold a bad economy and human suffering against him. And yes, he could have talked about global heating, instead of trying to have that both ways.
What I saw was a president lacking in substance. Obama seems to lack the instinct of revulsion that you and I have when we see a presidential candidate greased in wealth, exploitation, and betrayal of his country. His instincts lead him instead to pander to these people. Obama's desire to "avoid confrontation" and "get along" is selective. It doesn't apply to the large block of Americans who are more progressive than he on a wide array of issues.
Reports in the last few days have indicated that Obama's hesitancy on the issues -- not just on style, but on the issues -- was by design. David Axelrod, his chief strategist, said that Obama opted not to alienate the swing voters. That's the Obama we have seen for the last four years. His politics are based on hesitancy and fear, rather than on a positive, progressive vision.
It's not that Obama lacks any vision at all. His sweeping vision is of a bipartisan Garden of Eden, where Republicans and Democrats can frolic together in trust and innocence. When Obama comes out swinging, he is compromising his deepest hopes to realize that vision. I think that what we saw on Wednesday night was Obama's true vision, the vision that's been handicapping us for the last four years. Forgive me, Lawd, but Hillary's supporters were right!
I'm willing to give Obama another chance, until the last debate ends on October 22. And if he doesn't start behaving himself by then, I'm voting for Jill Stein. I would not do so if I were living in a swing state. The danger factor is too grave. The Democrats can at least be pressured and negotiated with. But I live in a safe state, and a vote for Jill Stein is the best way I can think of to make my voice heard.