October 29, 2004

John Kerry For President

“I guess it makes sense that Halloween is followed so closely by Election Day. Maybe I should wear a mask when I vote, that way I won’t be so ashamed of myself.”

–Lewis Black, on “The Daily Show,” a few days before the 2000 vote.

In this election –the longest, most competive, and most bitterly fought of my lifetime, my thoughts have been generally consistent, with one exception on which I’ve “flip-flopped”: I used to be a political junkie. Now, I’m sick to death of the election and everything associated with it, and can’t wait for it to be over.

Is this the most uninspiring choice for president of all time? Kerry and Bush are unimpressive enough on their own that that appears to be the case, but then again maybe it just seems that way because both sides are constantly spewing so much hatred at the other- especially now that both sides have their own networks of blogs, radio stations, and news channel in order to foment the latest fresh outrage. By the 2008 election, we’ll likely have reached the point where no one ever again has to ever hear an opinion with which they disagree.

Either way, this is the first election in American history in which the bases of both sides legitimately believe that if the other guy wins, the Republic will cease to exist by the end of his term.

I have my issues with both Bush and Kerry, to be sure, but I don’t believe the worst about either man. I don’t believe that George W. Bush is stupid, or evil, or that he lied us into war with Iraq in order to enrich his oil buddies. Likewise, I don’t believe that John Kerry is a “flip-flopper” any more than any other politician, nor is he the most liberal Senator in the nation- and how can he be both? And I don’t see how the petty personal insults leveled at either man have any bearing on his fitness for office- I long ago came to terms with Bush’s often-mangled syntax, while at the same time “Kerry looks French” may very well be the most tiresome, meaningless insult in the history of politics.

But beyond all that, the election is about issues. And based on those, I’ll be casting my vote on Tuesday for John Kerry. What follows is an explanation of why; do not construe it as an attempt to try to change anyone’s mind.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m a lifelong Democrat who identified very strongly as liberal in my younger years, but never quite made the jump into full-fledged leftism, and in fact became more and more disillusioned with it as the years went on. I voted for Clinton in ’96 and Gore in 2000, but gradually became more and more comfortable with certain parts of conservative doctrine, especially in the areas of economics and foreign policy.

Then of course came September 11, which affected my worldview even more, as it did everyone else’s. I enthusiastically embraced President Bush’s war on terrorism, especially the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban, and “My Pet Goat” notwithstanding, I greatly admired his decisions –not to mention, his speeches- in the months following that tragedy. And my newfound agreement with the president continued with the war against Saddam Hussein, which I supported and continue to support to this day.

When I began this blog in May of 2002, I sought to articulate how my previous politics collided with the events of the time. I was of course quick to embrace the Christopher Hitchens/Paul Berman position that support for a global war against jihadist fanatics was in fact the most liberal position imaginable. I also attempted to quantify this position as the following:

I myself fall into a group, along with many of my friends, of young Jews who remain generally liberal on most social issues, and loyal to the Democrats, yet quite hawkish in regards to the terrorist threat, unwavering in support of Israel, and very much opposed to the reflexive anti-Americanism and other lunacies of the far left. We're people who grew up surrounded by "progressive" leftism but never quite bought into it, yet don't feel comfortable joining up with the Republicans either.
I gave this group a name- the “Kosher Scoop Jacksons”- and named several bloggers, including myself, LilB, Mike Silverman, and John Paul Pagano, as a Jewish auxiliary to Andrew Sullivan’s similar group, that he dubbed “the eagles.” Many readers and commenters, at the time, compared us to the original neoconservatives of the ’60s, and predicted that like Irving Kristol and Co., we'd all jump into the Republican tent soon enough.

I look now, nearly two years later: I’m voting for Kerry. So is LilB, so is Mike, and so is John Paul, who says “I am voting for Red Sox adulation, Arafat's demise and John Kerry.” Sullivan is backing Kerry, as are fellow “eagles” Jeff Jarvis, Daniel Drezner, and much of the Oxblog gang. So are countless non-blogging friends of mine who share my politics, including numerous readers of this blog (you know who you are).

Have these people all gone soft? All abandoned the War on Terror altogether? No, of course not- the truth is, we no longer trust Bush on it. We wanted badly for Iraq to go well, and it hasn’t. The forcefulness and statesmanship that Bush brought to the early War on Terror is no longer there- and his refusal to admit any mistakes whatsoever is worrisome, to say the least.

And on top of that, his penchant for pandering to his socially conservative base with radical proposals with no chance of passage- most egregiously, the Federal Marriage Amendment- have reminded all of us why we were always uncomfortable with Republicans in the first place. I find it hard to square such theocratic impulses with the sort of liberal democracy we're attempting, rightly, to establish abroad.

Did Bush lie about weapons of mass destruction? I don’t believe he did. But should he be held responsible for initiating a war based on evidence that turned out to be wrong? Of course he should- he’s the president, the buck stops with him. And while he didn’t order it directly, Bush also presided over the catastrophe that was the Iraq prison abuse scandal and must be held accountable for that as well- despite over-arching conservative spin that the REAL outrage of Abu Ghraib was that the New York Times put it on the front page too many times.

No, John Kerry isn’t perfect- I’d have preferred Dick Gephardt, Joseph Biden, or even John Edwards as the Democratic nominee. He does indeed have a history of taking the wrong side in foreign policy debates, especially during the Reagan Administration. But then, George W. Bush had a history of opposing nation-building. But that was before 9/11, an event that affected the foreign-policy thinking of just about every American. Kerry vows that he will take the fight to the terrorists, and I have no reason to believe he will not. Indeed, many ex-liberals have endorsed Bush say their problem is that they can’t trust Kerry on defense- but I say, the problem is that I can’t trust Bush.

A few other reasons why I support Kerry:

- Unlike the downright unlikable Al Gore and the lascivious Bill Clinton, John Kerry is by most trusted accounts a man of outstanding moral character- who, despite everything you may have heard from certain 527s, is a legitimate war hero.

He may not know anything about sports, and his wife may be a lunatic, but that doesn't mean Kerry can't be an excellent president.

- I’m not one of those “a vote for Bush is a vote for back-alley abortions” people, but I’d greatly prefer four years of Kerry judicial appointees to Bush appointees.

- Karl Rove is attempting to not only re-elect Bush, but to build a Republican supermajority in Congress. With the House remaining Republican for the foreseeable future and the Senate most likely staying that way too; a Democratic presidential term would strike a blow against one-party rule in America. And yes, I have sympathy for the argument that executive/legislative gridlock would work to restrain excessive spending.

- I would very much like for the attorney general to no longer be John Ashcroft.

And there’s one last thing. I call it “The Michael Moore argument.” As you may have noticed, since Bush assumed the presidency a sizable anti-Bush movement has emerged on the left, and as you also may have noticed, I don’t like these people very much. Their arguments are shrill, condescending, and hateful, and have a lot more to do with their hatred of Bush personally than any particular policy he has supported or advocated.

Their unofficial leader is Michael Moore, and conservative bloggers have had lots of fun this year acting as though Kerry and Moore are one and the same- even though Moore has never endorsed Kerry, the two men to the best of my knowledge have never met, and it’s virtually certain that should Kerry be elected, he’ll be turned on on a dime by the “Michael Moore Community,” once the first 100 days pass and the new president has neither withdrawn from Iraq, re-instituted the Great Society, or raised the minimum wage to $15/hour.

As blogger Michael Totten (an Eagle who has said he’s voting for Bush) pointed out in a piece he wrote called “The Hawkish Case For Kerry,” one advantage to a Kerry victory is that it would leave the anti-war/anti-Bush left essentially marginalized, once they no longer have a Bush to kick around anymore. And yes, these people are supporters of Kerry- but that doesn’t mean Kerry supports them, and doesn’t mean that a vote for Kerry is a vote for Michael Moore. I’m sure the majority of Klan members are planning to vote for Bush, but that doesn’t mean Dubya supports, or is tainted by, the Klan.

It’s impossible to get elected president of the United States without some crazies in your base. But the difference is, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky would not have the ear of the president in a Kerry Administration. Pat Robertson and James Dobson DO have ear of President Bush.

Yes, I want Kerry to win. But even more than that, I'd like to see a fair, non-controversial election, one in which both sides accept the result and thus won't spend the next four years sulking about calling the other guy illegitimate. We'll always have partisanship, but more than anything else, I want to us advance towards a day when every single human event is no longer filtered primarily through the lens of extreme partisan warfare.

Unlike most Kerry voters, I won't be absolutely crushed if George W. Bush wins on Tuesday -though it would hurt me quite a bit if he won Minnesota. What I want to see more than anything else is a return to civility in politics- something I feel would best be achieved by a clean election, and a Kerry victory. In that order.

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 29, 2004 12:38 AM

"...this is the first election in American history in which the bases of both sides legitimately believe that if the other guy wins, the Republic will cease to exist by the end of his term."

Sorry, wrong. See 1800, 1860, arguably 1932.

Posted by: Dave J at October 29, 2004 02:15 PM

Great post. It articulates so many things i been trying to say.

Posted by: Funnya at October 31, 2004 08:59 AM
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