Voter profile: A Reluctant Democrat

2012-10-31 11:56

Leanne Roncolato, a 27-year old PhD economics student at American University in Washington, DC voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but is reluctant to do the same this election. It wasn't a simple change: "I was completely in love with him [in 2008] and I felt like it was this great moment in American history, and I really felt like it was a moment for change. It was the most energy I ever had about a political candidate."
The attitude change was solidly to do with Obama policy over the last four years, and Roncolato feels severely let down.

She told News24, "This is the analogy I keep using: I feel like he was a boyfriend that broke up with me and broke my heart, and now he's trying to get back together with me. Now I feel like I've seen more of his true colours. I don't mean I think of Barack Obama now as this horrible person, but I have much less faith in him as a leader."
While she admits the president was somewhat hamstrung when it came to domestic policy – and no one would deny there is corporate influence within congress which has affected both parties, and impacts legislation – "there are unilateral decisions that he made as president that were violations of human rights".
"I really believed that we were going to shift in terms of our involvement in the Middle East. It was the summer after he was elected when we sent more troops [known as the "surge" to Afghanistan] – I think that was the moment when I was like 'Oh wow! We're still going to be at war, we're still going to do the same things we did before'.

"Then I found out all of this information about Obama ordering assassinations of US citizens without trial. About torture that was still going on. About getting away with the same stuff that George Bush did – everyone was so outraged about it when it was George Bush, then under Obama no one even talks about it! Huge gross violations of human rights! It makes me feel guilty to be an American citizen… I can't blame that on Congress – that was his decision."

Osama celebrations 'gross'

In May the New York Times broke a story about President Barack Obama's "kill list", on which suspected members of al-Qaeda in Yemen were denoted, several of whom were American citizens.

The Times said, "Mr Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret "nominations" process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical." The Times went on to cite dozens of current and former advisors who described the "evolution" of the former "liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture".
Prospective voter Roncalato says, "The idea that we would have US foreign policy that has a kill list… whatever happened to people having a trial? I don't even believe in capital punishment in the first place, but the idea that you would just kill citizens – even if they are not citizens (the US kills non-citizens as well) – the idea of killing US citizens without trial is absolutely absurd to me. All of the celebration about Osama Bin Laden? I think that was a bad moment in US history. It was pretty gross." 
This, on top of Roncolto's criticism of Obama's continuation of the previous eight years' economic model, hasn't quite driven her to the opposition, though.

News24 asked her if she would vote Republican if they presented a foreign policy that tied in with her expectations. In terms of priorities, she favoured domestic social policy – "If it was totally anti-militaristic and an anti-war foreign policy stance, that would sway me towards voting [Republican] but some of the Republican domestic social policy platforms are bad enough that it would take a lot of sway on the side of positive foreign policy for me to be convinced."

Voting democrat

Although she is tossing up whether to vote Democrat to prevent a Republican in office, or protest vote for one of the smaller parties, we quizzed her on what Obama could do to win her back.

Not much, really: "It's just one of those things. I feel like my trust has been broken so it's not like anything he can say now can make me feel better because I feel like I've already seen what's happened in four years. In terms of what happened in the last year for me, when he came out in favour of gay marriage was big. I still feel there's some integrity in him, but in terms of the next eight days I don't think there's much he can do."
Roncolato will definitely be voting, and doing so in the state of Maryland. Although Obama will win the state easily, possibly without her contribution, she will be voting Democrat down the rest of the ticket (for US Senate, House of Representatives and state representatives), along with some important referendum initiatives the state is contesting (including gay marriage and congressional redistricting).
The US election takes place on 6 November.

- With just a week left until election day, News24 will be interviewing prospective US voters as the races heat up for the final stretch.