Today's entry has been pre-empted by the noble minyoo who asks:
John Kerry voted for the Patriot Act, for the war on Iraq, for Bush's "No Child Left Behind" law, for the North American Free Trade Agreement--and now he is on record opposing gay marriage and supporting the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Someone give me one reason why Min Yoo or any other liberal with half a brain should vote for Kerry, instead of Nader.
This is worthy topic that is best discussed sooner rather than later.
Of course, I should add that this exact list of issues is being publicized by conservative media outlets such as the National Review Online to sow the "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" meant to divide and conquer any Democratic opposition to President Bush in the 2004 election. That a Nader Presidential bid is seen as a viable alternative by some merely means that the strategy is working. If it is successful with enough voters, George W. Bush will remain with us another 4 years.
All that aside, let me first deal with each of these issues, one by one.
- Let us all remember that the Patriot Act was enacted by 98-1 votes in the Senate (the lone "nay" protest vote being Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and one Senator absent). This level of bipartisan support was achieved ONLY by adding a 5 year "sunset clause" to the act. Given that the mood of the country was that of a national emergency, at least Democrats in Congress (Senator Kerry being on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time) had the foresight to ensure that the provisions of the Patriot Act would only be temporary and last until 2006. Let us also remember that Republicans such as John Ashcroft and Orrin Hatch now labor to make the provisions of the Patriot Act PERMANENT.
The vote on the Iraq War is a sensitive thing for Senator Kerry. If his website is to be believed, Senator Kerry voted for the war of Iraq because he felt that it was necessary for the President to have the threat of the use of force in his back pocket in order to get the United Nations and the international community moving on the idea of getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq. Senator Kerry recognizes, in hindsight, that this was a mistake:
"Did I think Bush was going to charge unilaterally into war? No. Did I think he would make such an incredible mess of the situation? No. Am I angry about it? You're God damned right I am. I chose to believe the President of the United States. That was a terrible mistake."
Living with a schoolteacher as I do, I get to hear more about the "No Child Left Behind" Act that I would sometimes like to. The problem with the Act is not so much that it attempts to raise educational standards (using the faulty tool of "standardized testing", but that's another rant), but, that the Bush Administration fails to provide ANY MONEY AT ALL to help school districts meet the higher standards. The Republican Party has been crowing for over 20 years about making education "run more like business", "do more with less", and "increase accountibility". Well, I get to see how much a school teacher makes in an urban area with a high cost of living. To expect to be able to do any more with less is to expect blood from a stone. Democrats such as Bill Clinton understood this in the past and funded school programs. George W. Bush promised to be "the Education President" in the 2000 election, and has only paid lip service to education... and made the situation worse by SPONSORING the No Child Left Behind Act without ALLOCATING FUNDING for it. Senator Kerry rebukes this position and wants to actually fund education in America, rather than just talk about it.
With regard to gay marriage, Senator Kerry is not only on the record as supporting civil unions and obtaining equal benefits for gay partners for programs such as Social Security, but, also has spoken publicly about ending "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military and allowing gays in the military. This is a far cry from supporting a Constitutional Amendment to make gay marriage illegal, as the Bush Administration does.
Where the occupation of Iraq is concerned, it's a mess. Since we are there, however, I do not believe that even a liberal can suggest leaving immediately in good conscience. The Bush Administration did (and continues to do) an ABYSMAL job planning for what would happen after conflict ceased in Iraq. The choices for that country without a peacekeeping presence there currently appear to be either a.) anarchy and civil war, or b.) a Shiite quasi-religious state similar to Iran. Neither appears to be a viable alternative for the bulk of the Iraqi people, at least to me. Senator Kerry at least favors internationalizing the effort to rebuild Iraq so the risk and the cost is not being almost exclusively born by the United States.
I do not believe that NAFTA is necessarily a bad thing. Greed is a bad thing. It is the supposition by the executives of American corporations and even the consumerist American public that reduction of cost is EVERYTHING. Taken to its logical extreme, the reduction of cost means taking a job paying a living wage from an American worker and handing a job paying a poverty wage to a worker in the third world. The Bush Administration has consistently been in favor of LESS oversight of trade and Big Business, and Senator Kerry and the Democratic Party have been in favor of more to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening.
My reading of the history of the United States paints a generally awful view of third parties. They can, at most, influence the party out of power into shifting to a stance that more accurately reflects a shifted political center in the country. So, the Progressive Party campaign of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 makes the nomination of another progressive, Woodrow Wilson, by the Democratic Party a canny move because it splits the vote of the ruling Republican Party and allows the Democrats to gain the White House for the first time in 20 years. The presence of the Dixiecrat Party constantly threatened to do the same thing to Democratic candidates from the 1948 election until Jimmy Carter was able to beat George Wallace in the Florida Primary in 1976. In fact, one could argue that Richard Nixon won in 1968 by actually playing to Dixiecrat sympathies in the South, thereby proving the point again. We can further talk about Huey Long and Upton Smith staking out the far left and influencing the candidacy Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One can equally argue, however, that the influence of those personalities on the political scene merely made FDR appear to be a more centrist alternative that would be more palatable to more moderate swing voters disillusioned with the Republican party.
The last, and to my mind, only time that an emergent new third party Presidential candidate has ever won the White House was the election was the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Of course, that occurred only for three exceptional reasons:
With the election of Lincoln and successful election of a good many members of Congress, the Republican Party changed from a third party to one of the two main political parties in the United States. It has remained so until this day.
- The Republican party adopted the moderate stance of simply limiting slavery to states where it already existed rather than taking the Abolitionist position of elminating slavery,
- The Democratic party was irrevocably split over the issue of popular sovreignty to the point that it split in two, had two separate conventions, and nominated two separate candidates,and
- The other previously extant national party, the Whig party, had imploded.
As I see it, the sad fact of modern politics is that the national political dialogue in the United States is dominated by the conservatives today. 9/11 has created an unfortunate situation where issues like "national security" are going to have higher priority on the national agenda than even the economy. It is only going to be a candidate of more moderate stance that is going to be able to capture battleground states like Florida and Ohio on these issues. That Senator Kerry is not acting like Ralph Nader is because he doesn't need to convince the left to vote for him, President Bush has already done an exceedingly excellent job of that. He needs to convince people in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida to vote for him who would otherwise vote for Bush.
A liberal is always free to vote his or her conscience and vote for Nader. But let me ask: which would a liberal rather have, a candidate sympathetic to liberal ideas, or another four years of a Republican Administration dedicated to pandering to the whims of the Religious Right and Big Business? A thousand Nader votes in Florida made the difference in 2000 between a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency. No matter what else one could say about a Gore presidency, I doubt it would play so flagrantly up to conservative special interests. I don't want to see the 2000 election over again. You decide.
on 2004-03-10 at 5:50 a.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond