5 Reasons Obama Should Stop #SOPA & #PIPA With Veto Threat

Given President Obama’s first instincts to centralize power in Washington and expand his own executive power, it might seem unlikely that he would issue a veto threat against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But we might be able to persuade him if we speak in language that is well understood at the White House, which is the language of reelection. While the Obama campaign might think backing SOPA/PIPA will help the president’s reelection efforts by way of generous campaign contributions from Hollywood, the White House might want to consider that signing SOPA/PIPA into law could damage his chances of reelection in at least five important ways.

1. SOPA/PIPA will alienate independents. No question about it, independents love and are well-informed about threats to their civil liberties. The Obama campaign might want to remember an ACLU poll from 2007 that showed a large majority of independents insisting that the next president should restore civil liberties that were eroded during the eight years of the Bush administration. That President Obama largely hasn’t restored those civil liberties hasn’t gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s why new polling shows Ron Paul and Mitt Romney beating Obama and even Rick Santorum nipping at his heels among independents. Many independents are independents precisely because they don’t trust either party to protect their civil liberties. Obama can kiss those independent voters goodbye if he signs SOPA/PIPA into law.

2. SOPA/PIPA will turn off younger voters. For younger Americans, the internet isn’t just a helpful tool but a way of life that they take for granted. More than any other age group, younger Americans are tuned in to sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, and all the major social networking sites — all websites that would be threatened by SOPA/PIPA. Younger voters played a key role in President Obama’s 2008 election victory, but recent polling suggests that younger voters have become seriously disenchanted with Obama and that they may not turn out to vote in November. The president can’t afford to alienate younger voters even further by signing what would amount to a full scale government assault on the internet into law.

3. SOPA/PIPA would disproportionately impact people of color. If SOPA/PIPA is signed into law, YouTube may be its first victim due to the nature of its content and the high risk of copyright violation. The Obama campaign may want to consider, then, this ColorLines.com article from last July noting that “Black and Latino users are the most active video consumers online.” Democrats have long made identity politics one of their signature campaign tactics and President Obama was rewarded for that by strong African-American and Latino-American support in 2008. It’s time for President Obama to put his money where his mouth is now by blocking legislation that would disproportionately impact people of color.

4. SOPA/PIPA may be the last straw for Obama’s progressive base. To say that progressives are angry with President Obama is an understatement. Progressives are livid. Many progressives largely reject his interventionist foreign policy, they deplore his expansion of executive power and erosion of civil liberties, and they blame the White House for what they perceive as failures in domestic policy. The Obama campaign should remember that libertarians aren’t the only ones who have been sounding the alarms about SOPA/PIPA. Progressives have found it equally outrageous and are mobilizing against it, as can be seen from this MoveOn.org page dedicated to PIPA. Can President Obama really afford to make his progressive base that much angrier by signing SOPA/PIPA into law?

5. SOPA/PIPA may reignite grassroots fury just nine months before the presidential election. The memory of Tea Party activists showing up in huge numbers at town hall meetings to demand that their congressmen and senators vote against ObamaCare must keep President Obama awake at night. And if he’s not losing any sleep over that, he must still have nightmares about the Tea Party enthusiasm that handed Congress to the Republicans in 2010. Maybe Obama sleeps better now that the Tea Party has been declared dead, but he still has a perhaps diminished but still rolling Occupy Wall Street movement with which to contend. The White House may want to consider that signing SOPA/PIPA into law could provide just the spark needed to reignite anti-Washington Tea Party fury and turn the anti-corporate outrage of Occupy Wall Street, aimed now primarily at banks and multinational corporations, decisively toward Pennsylvania Avenue just in time for the general election campaign.

Expecting President Obama to actually intervene on behalf of the American people’s best interests may be too much to hope for at this point. But maybe he can be persuaded that he needs to at least put his own reelection ahead of Hollywood’s demands. Over the weekend, the White House indicated that it may accept scaled back anti-piracy legislation but not SOPA/PIPA in its current form. That’s not good enough. It’s time for the White House to take any new anti-piracy legislation off the table for the foreseeable future by issuing a solid, unambiguous veto threat. If President Obama can’t at least manage to do that much for the American people he shouldn’t be surprised if they can’t muster enough votes for him in November.


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