Since I’m guessing that Glenn’s tweet is directed at me, I should clarify what I mean in my previous post. When I said that the issues Friedersdorf focuses on are “pet issues,” I am certainly not suggesting that they are not important. I certainly don’t believe that. What I am saying is that the issues that he completely ignores are also extremely important issues. Let’s be clear, shall we? We’re not “just” talking about issues of justice and equity here. The repeal of the ACA would mean that some people die and many others suffer unnecessarily. Having a Republican-appointed head of the EPA means that people will die and suffer illness unnecessarily. Having a median Supreme Court vote who has to turn to (most likely) his left to see Antonin Scalia will cause some people to die and many others to have their fundamental rights violated. Just as a start, overruling Roe v. Wade will mean some women will die or be maimed and many others will have their lives shattered. These are all life or death issues, and hand-waving about “dealbreakers” that ignores these lives entirely is not any kind of serious argument. (This analysis obviously doesn’t apply to Jim Henley, who does appropriately consider them.)
And, of course, it’s worse than that. We could argue about how to weight the relative evils if their was a choice between Obama and an opponent who would be better on some issues and worse on others. But that’s not the actual choice. Romney will almost certainly be far worse even with respect to the issues Friedersdorf emphasizes as well as the life-and-death issues he arbitrarily ignores. Obama has been bad on any number of civil liberties issues. But he ended the Iraq War,* stopped arbitrarily detaining and torturing people caught under the reach of American authorities, and didn’t invade Iran. Is that enough? Not even close. Is that far better than someone who is likely to bomb Iran and get the torture regime re-started? Obviously. Does the fact that Romney makes no pretense of caring about civil liberties somehow make these future victims less dead?
Again, I understand why people who want to make a big show about how they can’t possibly sully themselves a vote for Obama want to muddy the waters. But nobody’s saying you shouldn’t criticize Obama for his bad military and civil liberties policies, and nobody involved in this discussion would be criticizing him if that’s what he was doing. People are being criticized for suggesting that progressives should be fundamentally indifferent about the outcome of the 2012 election. I can understand why one would prefer to defend the former rather than the latter argument, but it’s the latter one that’s actually being criticized. And it’s being criticized because it’s both irrational and immoral, and incidentally is unlikely to actually start a productive discussion about the underlying issues.
*And as for the argument that he didn’t really want to end the Iraq War but the United States has no choice but to adhere to treaties with its client states, pull the other one. If you think John McCain would have pulled out of Iraq, I have several nice parcels at Glengarry Highlands to sell you.