Thursday, August 05, 2004

Why I'm voting for Kerry
I don't know if anyone except me follows those links I have posted, but anyone who has been reading Media Mouse recently knows they have been attacking the "Anyone But Bush" movement. Although it has been a consistent theme, this satire booklet in particular is of interest.

The other day a friend asked me who I was voting for this November, and noted that I have said bad things about Kerry in the past on this weblog.

Four years ago, I along with many other young people attempted to reject what was a broken two party system, and voted for 3rd party candidate Nader. I wrote this article in the Calvin College Chimes detailing some of my thoughts at the time. (And similar pro-Nader themes were argued much more eloquently in the same pages by my friends David Baxter, Brian Bork, and Mike Buma).

So why am I planning on voting for Kerry now?

There is no doubt the system is broken. The fact that both major candidates supported the Iraq war is a prime example of how broken our democracy is. And even besides the Iraq war, Kerry's record leaves a lot to be desired.

But unfortunately, this is the system we live in. Four years ago many of us tried to make a point by sending a protest vote to Nader. It sure seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but is it the right thing to do now? What is our long term plan? Are we going to throw every election to the Republicans?
I think now we need to ask:
1. Did we make our point?
2. What price did we pay?

It was argued four years ago by many (including myself) that there was not enough difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. And from an idealistic standpoint, there isn't. But from a realistic standpoint, the past four years have very clearly spelled out what the differences between the two parties are.

There were some things we knew were coming. The Clinton administration didn't have a great environmental record, but under Bush it has been an all out assault. Clinton/Gore never stuck their neck out for homosexual rights (and Clinton did sign the defense of marriage act), but under Bush the Republican party would abandoned their own principals to champion a Bush endorsed-constitutional amendment against Gay-marriages.

And then there were a few surprises.
The obvious example is the Iraq War, but put that thought on hold for a moment while we explore more mundane examples, like the budget. The Clinton/Gore administration was certainly pro-business at the expense of the working class and poor. The welfare Reform Bill Clinton signed was inexcusable and yet....
The Bush administration is like having a mad-man at the steering wheel, intent on driving the whole country off of the cliff. Shortly after Bush took office the country went from record surpluses to record deficits. The budget has been shot to hell. Even if all of Bush's tax cuts were repealed as soon as he left office (which they won't be), we will spend decades recovering from the damage inflicted on the budget during this short time. Every serious economist I have read is very worried about the long and short term implications of Bush's budget. And what have we gained from it? Tax cuts for the rich, and corporate welfare?
It would be one thing if there was something we had gained from this, but now not only do we have an extremely pro-business government, we have a fiscally irresponsible pro-businesses government. Does it make me nostalgic for the Clinton days? You bet it does.

And then there is the war in Iraq.
Of course no one could have predicted September 11 during the 2000 election. If Gore had won, I'm not sure how different things would have been. The war in Afghanistan might have taken place no matter who was President.

But I think it is widely acknowledged the war in Iraq was the product of the neo-conservatives in the Bush government. Both Paul O'Neil and Richard Clarke have written about the obsession with Iraq in the Bush administration even before September 11. The lying and manipulation of evidence to gain public support was the product of the Bush administration.

Even if a President Gore had initiated the war, I'm sure the Republican party would have been all over him, questioning his ability to lead, just like they did with all of Clinton's foreign interventions. But with a Republican President, it suddenly become unpatriotic to question the war, and there was a largely successful effort to stifle all dissent.

Sure Kerry and other democrats went along with the war, but I honestly believe they did it only to gain political support. Which is a very weak excuse, but I'm not looking to excuse Kerry's actions. I'm just saying a Kerry administration would never have initiated the war. Splitting hairs? From a moral standpoint maybe, but from a realistic standpoint it makes a difference.

Kerry is the lesser of two evils. And it is hard to be enthusiastic about the lesser of two evils. It's also not very cool. I think in 2000, a little bit of "more radical than thou" was going on among those of us who supported Nader. I remember conversations we used to have at Media Mouse, mocking supposed radicals who were supporting the Gore campaign.

But I think those of us who took this position need to think about 13,398 civilians killed in Iraq, not to mention the 920 dead American soldiers. We need to ask ourselves if some of this blood is on our hands because we were too cool to take the "lesser of two evils" position.

And quite frankly, I'm beginning to be scared for my own safety. I agree with Kerry when he says Bush's policies are fueling terrorist recruitment. You would have to be living on the moon to think that the Iraq war has made America safer from terrorists. The news about American soldiers sodomizing Iraqi prisoners, the other prison abuse scandals, the on going war in Iraq and the growing resentment towards occupation forces, etc. It would be the ultimate naivety to think that this would not fuel more terrorist attacks in the future

I'll take Anyone But Bush in November. If Bush was running against Lucifer himself, I'd vote Lucifer. I don't think the country can handle another four years of Bush. Give me Kerry, with all his faults.

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted the Mike Douglas Show, Ralph Nader was one of the guests. John Lennon told Nader he should run for President. Nader replied that the system was broken, and running for President wouldn't do any good. Nader said that we need to get people more politically involved at the lower levels, and that would in the long run produce better candidates for President.

When Nader was running four years ago, the logic was we could afford to throw the election to Bush, and then if we stayed politically active we could limit the damage. We were obviously wrong. Instead in the past four years we've seen activism increasingly sidelined as dissent is becoming criminalized.
I think a better strategy is to elect Kerry, and then to get organized and lean into him so he doesn't cater to the right like Clinton did. In a real democracy the power belongs to the people, not to the President, but we need to elect representatives who will limit the damage while we try and repair the system. Bush is causing damage far faster than we can repair it.

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