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Obama Lost My Vote

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I've struggled with this over the last week or so since Obama's honest and likely off-script remarks about our recent obsessions with standardized testing. Now his own education department is scrambling to find ways to reconcile their test-driven policies with the president's comments. Inasmuch as I appreciate and understand the damage control, I don't think it really matters because, honestly, when has education ever moved a ton of votes one way or the other like abortion, warfare, and other controversial issues?

Despite the concerns of many Democrats and more progressive thinkers in education, their votes for Obama in the upcoming election are nearly guaranteed. That's why the hoopla surrounding his recent remarks on testing won't, from my perspective, cost the President very much. And given larger society's relative ambivalence towards education, students and teachers will once again be sacrificed due to the muffled blips from education on the national political radar. If you disagree with me, and think education really will count for something in this upcoming election, that's very honorable of you, albeit a tad naive.

I can't say for sure whether or not others have gone before me, but I will declare that at this moment, President Obama lost my vote, entirely on the grounds of education. I sheepishly made this announcement on my own website recently and several friends replied to me with the likes of, "Say it ain't so." My wife jokingly threatened divorce. It was a joke, right?

I've been a Democrat my entire voting life. I've got my Facebook profile marked "very liberal." When in graduate school in Indiana, I volunteered for the campaign, registering voters and making what OFA members called "persuasive" visits door-to-door. We had an election party at our house and everyone went nuts when Indiana was blue for the first time since Kennedy was elected. Even the dog was hungover the next morning. But many folks seemed to be in a great mood the next day and anxiously awaited what was to come. My wife and I even braved the crowds for the Inauguration, riding our bikes from her family home in Chevy Chase and down the Canal Trail, through Georgetown and onto the mall.

For me, as soon as Obama shifted from candidate to victor to president, I started to immediately scrutinize the political landscape. No rest for the weary. And here we are three years later and I think I'm out. I don't quite know what this means at this point. I teach social studies and civic engagement, I'm very pro-democracy, a progressive Democrat, and a very high-information voter, yet I have no one for whom to vote. I'm very tired of this whole lesser-of-two-evils approach, so abstention is starting to feel like my only option.

I won't under any circumstances vote Republican. This whole Tea Party fad can flame out for all I care. And I'll never forgive Nader for 2000, so that's out if he is indeed running. Ron Paul, a sort of bizarro Republican, wants to abolish the Department of Education, which I disagree with because there needs to be some kind of national referee in education. So that's where I'm at right now, I'm stuck.

It seems weird for someone like me to consider not voting, even for a second. I'll admit that I've not voted in every primary or mid-term election, but that's more than I can say for a lot of Americans. I don't necessarily know all of the judges when I step into the voting booth. And for other offices, I tend to vote straight down party lines. So now that I've revealed some deep, dark secrets of my voting behavior, I'm willing to be judged and scrutinized. I can take it. Yet, if I'm to stick to my personal values when it comes to education, an issue I discuss every single day, then I can't with good conscience vote for any Democratic President who is a conservative on this issue as determined by his DOE's policies. If his off-the-cuff remarks do reveal his true feelings, that doesn't make me hopeful. It makes me sad, sad that he'd let the garbage that market-based reformers are doling out continue.

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