Delusions Shattered: How Democrats Lost Claims to a Moral High Ground by Ignoring Obama's Transformation Into Bush

Jon Reynolds I Politics & Government I Commentary I December 20th, 2016

When President Obama was sworn into office back in January 2009, and just a few months later agreed to " look forward" and disregard gross human rights violations committed by Bush officials (such as waterboarding, insect pits, solitary confinement, and more), they were quiet.

When President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they said nothing.

When President Obama's mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent. As the Nation reported, "To pay for the ballooning enforcement-first approach, the budget for immigration enforcement grew 300 percent from the resources given at the time of its founding under Bush to $18 billion annually, more than all other federal law-enforcement agencies' budget combined."

When President Obama spent his first term in office outspending his predecessor on raids against legal marijuana dispensaries , his supporters had little to say. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Rolling Stone magazine. "He's gone from first to worst."

When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found.

When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless, with the exception of a few scattered protests in the US, none of which came anywhere close to the size of those against the 2003 invasion of Iraq carried out by a Republican president.

When it was revealed that President Obama met weekly with his advisers for what was dubbed " Terror Tuesday" to decide who was worthy of being picked off by US predator drones around the world - and when it came to light that President Obama had a "kill list" and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process - again, barely a peep.

When Obama granted legal immunity to telecom companies that had conducted invasive spying during the George W. Bush years, when he extended the Patriot Act, when he prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all past presidents combined , when he expanded the NSA's surveillance programs , and when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and greenlit indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, Democrats remained complacent.

From January 2009 to the end of 2016, there has been a near-virtual silence from those identifying as Democrats against a variety of violations committed under President Obama, violations which were widely protested during the George W. Bush years, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by researchers at the University of Michigan, who released the results of an analysis of antiwar activity and found that after Obama's election, "Democratic participation in antiwar activities plunged, falling from 37 percent in January 2009 to a low of 19 percent in November 2009." Unsurprisingly, they also discovered that "anti-Republican attitudes had a significant, positive effect on the likelihood that Democrats attended antiwar rallies." Moreover, polling data from early 2012 showed Democrats supporting the same policies they heavily opposed during the Bush years, like keeping Guantanamo Bay open and drone warfare.

Under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America's nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongering by the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been met with eight years of silence by the very same members of his party who protested such activities under a president whose main difference was the political party he was affiliated with.

But the eight year drought of direct action by Democrats abruptly ended in November of 2016 when someone from the "other" party just barely managed to score a presidential nomination. Facing a loss of power, suddenly, Democrats reappointed themselves as the sole defenders of minorities everywhere and quickly attempted to seize the moral high ground. Faces familiar during the Bush years clawed their way out from under enormous piles of steaming hypocrisy to lecture the world on human rights, faces like Michael Moore , who for the past two elections (2008, 2012) encouraged everyone to go out and vote for the guy blowing the legs off Muslim teenagers in faraway lands with aerial death machines. Protests filled major cities across the US with demonstrators wielding signs about human rights, equality, and social justice, the irony lost on them that the candidate they wanted so badly to win would have been just as dangerous to the very minorities they attempted to champion.

Muslims, both domestic and foreign, would have continued to fall under the threat of persecution, violence, or radicalization under a Hillary Clinton administration. She supported the US occupation of Afghanistan and both the 2003 invasion and 2012 reinvasion of Iraq, she supported the drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, and she supported Obama's meddling in Egypt and Syria, as well as the bombardment of Libya in 2011. Where was the outcry during the Obama years? Where was the outcry when she took these positions as a presidential candidate? As Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian wrote back in 2013, "Does anyone doubt that if Obama's bombs were killing nice white British teenagers or smiling blond Swiss infants - rather than unnamed Yemenis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Somalis - that the reaction to this sustained killing would be drastically different? Does anyone doubt that if his overhead buzzing drones were terrorizing Western European nations rather than predominantly Muslim ones, the horror of them would be much easier to grasp? Does it really take any debate to know that if the 16-year-old American suspiciously killed by the US government two weeks after killing his father had been Jimmy Martin in Sweden rather than Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen, the media interest and public outcry would be far more substantial?"

And let's not forget that Obama, like Bush before him, and certainly like Hillary Clinton after him had she won, offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women.

Domestically, the War on Terror has also caused a variety of discriminatory problems for the same minorities Hillary Clinton and other Democrats claim to be interested in protecting. In early 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the Obama administration over government surveillance programs allegedly aimed at curtailing domestic Muslim extremism. According to the ACLU, based on public documents, "the initiatives appear based on theories about so-called radicalization and violence that years of social science research have proven wrong. They also result in ineffective law enforcement and unfairly stigmatize American Muslims." Just a few years prior, it was also reported that the Obama administration was continuing to fund Bush-era programs in New York City that helped police departments spy on predominately Muslim American neighborhoods. As USA Today reported, money from Washington helped pay for "computers that store innocuous information about Muslim college students, mosque sermons and social events." In the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, it seems likely that these types of policies wouldn't disappear given her passionate support for and involvement in the Obama administration.

And then there's the War on Drugs, another minority-crushing gem supported by both Republicans and Democrats alike. In 2010, just a year after Obama was sworn into office, black men and women were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession , even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates. African-Americans are 62 percent of drug offenders sent to state prisons, convicted at a rate 57 times higher than white men, yet they represent only 12 percent of the US population . In New York, Latinos are arrested at nearly 4 times the rate of whites for marijuana even though, as with blacks, the rates of use are nearly the same, and from 2008 to 2014, one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses, often due to low-level marijuana possession. Hillary Clinton vowed to continue failed drug prohibition policies and disregard the overwhelming evidence illustrating its blatantly racist overtones.

The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality. To see crowds of people motivated to action by the loss of their party, protesting an archaic electoral college system that they would have likely accepted the results from had their candidate won, tests the limits of ones ability to empathize with their plight. Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire - none of it prompted thousands upon thousands of American Democrats to fill cities across the US in a fit of anger because at the time, their chosen political racehorse was in Washington.

If Hillary had won, the drone strikes would have continued. The wars would have continued. The spying would continue. Prohibition would continue. Whistleblowers would continue being prosecuted and hunted down. And minorities would continue bearing the brunt of these policies, both in the US and across the world. The difference is that in such a scenario, Democrats, if the last eight years are any indication, would remain silent - as they did under Obama - offering bare minimum concern and vilifying anyone attacking their beloved president as some sort of hater. Cities across the US would remain free of protests, and for another 4-8 years, Democrats would continue doing absolutely nothing to end the same horrifying policies now promoted by a Republican.

Trump's victory, if there is anything good to say about it, will at least breathe much needed life into an antiwar sentiment that has been largely dormant since Bush left office. Issues like drone strikes, torture, military occupations, mass surveillance, and other hot button subjects once protested by Democratic partisans during the Bush era will again - hopefully - be criticized and fought against. Yet the shame about it all is that this time, those unaffiliated with either of the two major parties - those who have been focused on these issues while Democrats have offered pathetic excuses and baseless justifications in defense of them - won't make the mistake of thinking Democrats will stick around for the fight if they win office again in the next election.

This article was reprinted from the Screeching Kettle .