First, you'll want to read Conor Friedersdorf's Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama, and/or George Hunka's Throwing away my vote, or L'Hôte's you're either with us or you're against us, all of which, generally, say "Although Barack Obama has many attributes which I agree with, and although I find him better than our two-party alternative of Mitt Romney, I cannot vote for him because of his record on the War on Terror/human rights." (This is a reduction of what each of them said, but if you don't want it reduced, go see what they wrote).
Second, you'll want to read 99 Seats' Dealbreakers, where he lays out a pretty good counterargument (he's responding mostly to Conor Friedersdorf).
But lastly, also read Isaac's response Why Do You Vote? where he hits the argument closest to home for me:
It seems to me the main issue here is a fundamentally disconnect on questions fo[sic] why we vote for President. I simply do not believe that in our current governmental system and the rules of how the Federal Government works that voting for President is a moment for personal self-expression. I believe it's a moment when we choose between the available options on who would do the best job running the Executive Branch of the country, which includes managing an enormous bureaucracy, appointing a wide slate of other executives (and judges) and working with the Legislative Branch to craft and pass laws. There is no way that any candidate who is not a Republican or a Democrat can reasonbly be said to have the capacity to do those things, as many of them involve working with an entrenched two party system in the legistative branch.
I agree here largely with what Isaac says -- that the vote for the President is a tactical decision taken among different outcomes. Now, I can absolutely see that there are some moral failings that can't be overlooked. I don't necessarily disagree. But at the same time, the tactical context matters.
But I want to add something there. Because there's a word Isaac uses that's getting over looked. Voting is a moment. Voting is one moment in the electoral process.
As an example, if you looked back to 2008, you were faced with two candidates, neither of whom fully backed equal rights across the political spectrum. For many people, that's a central issue to their lives to exactly the same degree as our conduct in wars overseas. And on the eve of the election, it seemed like a pretty rotten choice.
But they stuck on after the election, and to L'Hôte's point, they did not accept that it "wasn't their time" or that they should rally behind the president. They put pressure throughout his presidency, supported and highlighted congressmembers who backed their position and broke with the president, and continued the campaign.
So, unlike the "liberal" L'Hôte describes in his article, I'm in no way dismissing or discounting the important work that needs to be done pushing back on the President and his stances.
But here's the thing. If this really is a passionate issue -- and I have no doubt that it is -- I find it difficult to conscience taking an act which, even if it's the more morally correct one, increases the practical odds of the man who said he'd like to double Guantanamo Bay getting elected. It's very hard to overlook that.
I don't believe that discussing primary elections is a cop-out. We had an exceptionally close primary election when Barack Obama was selected, and in part one of the few actual differentiators between himself and Clinton was that he was willing to raid across the border into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden -- something that put him to the right of John McCain and closer to Sarah Palin.
The problem is -- that was a popular position. And it remains popular. The problem isn't "liberals" (read: centrists) telling people who are concerned about these issues to sit back; the fact is that the electorate backs them.
Which isn't to tell them to stop trying. I say get out there and keep up the fight.
For instance, there are many, many issues on which I oppose and even detest Rep. Ron Paul. But when Paul talks about the limits of government, reducing the number of wars, etc., I support him on that. When he talks about abolishing the Fed and re-introducing the Gold standard, I think that it's madness. I'm glad that he's in Congress. I'm glad he's not my "lesser of two evil" choices for the President.
All I'm trying to say is that the Federal Presidential Election has been magnified out of proportion, especially when for the last four years we've complained about how weak the President is in the face of a divided Congress. There are so many different pressure points and places to act throughout the political season, and when it comes to the two choice, two party, Presidential election, I'm going to vote tactically, for Barack Obama. For these reasons.