I’ve been thinking a lot about my bias towards Obama. And when I say bias I specifically mean my tendency to assume that there is some sort of positive rationale for his behavior–even when it appears overtly negative.
The thought struck me the other day, and I’ve been manicuring it ever since. Essentially, his domestic views, which I find to be highly sympathetic to the struggles of regular people, have influenced me to believe that he should be maintaining that sort of benevolence elsewhere in his policies.
This is to say that he cares about not making more billionaires and millionaires at the expense of the poor. He wants more middle class to get an education. He wants people to not have to worry about healthcare. In short, I trust Obama on foreign affairs more than Romney–even if they were to advocate what appears to be much the same policy–because I think Obama cares about regular people where Romney doesn’t.
So when I heard about NSA spying, I said to myself,
Man, that looks messed up, but I’m sure he’s got some sort of reason for that…
…where I wouldn’t give Bush or Romney that allowance.
My conservative friends have asked me repeatedly why I would apply such a double-standard, especially when I pride myself so much on consistency in belief systems, and that’s the reason. I think Obama cares about people, so it doesn’t make sense to me that he’d be openly hostile to their livelihood or privacy without good reason.
The less I think someone actually gives a damn about anyone but themselves the more likely I am to call them evil based purely on their actions.
I’m not saying this is a perfect, valid, or even good way of thinking about things–or that it materially justifies his foreign policy actions. I don’t have the pertinent information to make that judgement, and there are many options here: he could be a good person at home and an evil dictator abroad. He could simply be pretending to be good at home and tricking people like me. Or…well, there are many alternatives.
Either way, this assumption I’m making about him fundamentally caring about people is what pushes me toward giving him the benefit of the doubt. At least I’ve identified the source of the bias.