Andrew Magrath (biggrumpy) wrote,
Andrew Magrath

The Error of "sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected"

This image has been making the rounds on many of my friends' facebook pages as of late:

I wanted to take a moment and address why I think this sentiment is so misguided. 

The text reads: "I'm disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama, quite honestly, I am.  Democrats eat their own.  Democrats find singular issues and go, 'Well, I didn't get everything I wanted.'  I'm a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected.  If (Obama) was a Republican running, because Republicans are better at this, they'd be selling him as the guy who stopped 400,000 jobs a month from leaving the country.  They'd be selling him as the guy who saved the auto-industry.  If they had the beliefs, they'd be selling him as the guy who got rid of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' who got Osama bin Laden.  You could be selling this as a very successful three years."  George Clooney

I am a liberal.  I am one of those liberals that is, apparently, eating my own, but let me explain why that is.  If Obama was a Republican then individuals—individuals like George Clooney—would be attacking him on his social liberties policies.  The worst abuses of the Bush administration continue into this administration and have been embraced by Obama: you can still have your phone tapped without a warrant, you can still be snatched off the street and be outsourced to another country for detention (extraordinary rendition), Guantanamo Bay still stands, these are just some of the problems that he continues, not to mention the additional rights that have been suspended for the duration of the permanent war.  Liberals—liberals like George Clooney—have rightly and historically been highly critical of these very issues when Bush implemented them, but now that Obama does the exact same things I am supposed to "support who I voted for".  There is no other way to put this: that is bullshit.

I am not here to argue Obama's record.  He has done some wonderful things that I strongly agree with: he has done some bad things that I strongly oppose: he has done some things which I am utterly indifferent to.  He has been consistently a center left politician—exactly as those that actually looked at his record knew he would be.  Certainly Clooney has a point, liberals will always find something to complain about ("Oh no, he didn't mention organic free range sustainable potato farming, I hate him now!").  I get it, we are annoying.  I contend that part of the reason Obama has been disappointing to liberals is because they did not take the time to do their homework and realize that he is not a liberal—unless you watch Fox News in which case Obama is somewhere to the left of Stalin.  So I understand where Clooney is coming from and can respect it to a certain degree, but I find the notion behind the statement distasteful. His statement rests upon this air of duty that is antithetical to the nature of a democracy.

In a representative democracy, I owe those that represent me nothing.  They owe me everything.  I have given them the most precious thing I possess: a fraction of my autonomy to speak with my voice and forward my interests.  Should the representative that I have not actually represent me, I have every right—every duty—to not support that representative and work tirelessly to have them voted out.  We have every right to hold our representatives to promises, to remind them they speak for us.  One of the great problems our democracy faces is that it is viewed as a team based system.  Too many believe, like Clooney seems to here, that we owe our loyalty to individual politicians and political parties, and so when those individuals let us down or those institutions fail us –as they will inevitably—our misplaced loyalties compel us to bend over backwards to excuse those individuals while condemning the "other team" for the same infractions.  Which is why many republicans may feel that Clinton's infidelities are abominable, but Gingrich's infidelities are a part of his grand redemptive story (democrats feel the opposite).  Both sides likely agree that infidelity is wrong, but rather than be loyal to an ideal, they are loyal to parties and politicians they are, as Clooney says, "sticking by and sticking up for the people whom [they've] elected" to the point of cognitive disconnect.  That mantra of "stick by your man" that Clooney advocates reverses the very point of democracy: the president should speak for ME: I should never be asked to speak for the president.  So long as the president's voice is my voice, I can speak for myself and through my articulation of my principles hear them echoed by those in power, but it should not be the case that I am asked to echo the voices of power for that is a kind of intellectual and moral slavery.

Rather than "sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected", stick by the ideals that drove you to cast the vote in the first place.  The ideals are the catalyst, the ideals are why the vote was cast, the promise of an accurate representation. Do not blindly support the one you voted for.  Ask if that individual has forwarded your morals, ideals, and values that you hold: ask yourself if the elected official has forwarded your voice.  If the answer is yes, then they have earned another term, if the answer is no then they have failed.  Our democracy has nothing to do with those whom hold the office, and everything to do with how well that individual represents the people.  If liberals feel Obama has failed to represent them, they should not stick by him no more than conservatives should have stuck by Bush if they feel he did not speak for them. 

Do not give your loyalty to people or institutions, for both are fallible and must be policed as such, put your loyalty only behind ideals.


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