Slate writers do a fairly good job explaining why we should vote for Sen. Kerry on Tuesday, especially Phil Carter (military policy/rule of law) and Dahlia Lithwick (rule of law/secrecy*). I think Sen. Kerry sometimes doesn't get the credit (and here) he deserves, though, yes, I wanted someone who provided a clearer case and more inspiration.
And, yes, his caution and inherent conservativism (ironic, given the attacks on him) will require activists to push him in the right direction. But, the point is that he actually is not a lost cause. Reason, debate, and adherence to basic rules of the game, not just the end result are not foreign concepts to him. Caution also trumps recklessness. And, Kerry/Edwards is on the whole on the right side (or closer to it) of things while having the potential to bring true competence and honor back to the Oval Office. Sheesh ... deja vu.
This is why those who do not vote against him because they feel he is just like President Bush (Naderites etc.) are deluding themselves. If the state is not a battleground, I think it's fine to vote against Kerry, if you want to vote your conscience and send a message of what can be. I find Nader mostly a vanity candidate without a real movement, one with a misleading message that ignores the true difference in this election. This is counterproductive at the end of the day as compared to Greens, the Working Families Party, or heck, even the Socialist Party, who are a little more honest, and say that they just want more than what Kerry offers.
But, vote your conscience, it's a free country. Just be honest about it, okay? Republicans have somewhat of a problem in being honest, using lame and unconvincing reasons to vote for somone they know is a lousy choice. Some Republicans realize the craziness of this, and like swing Democrats often do in election Republican presidents, support the other guy. This not only is best for the country, but probably best for their party. If you don't want to vote for Kerry, vote Libertarian or something, unless you are truly convinced Bush is the best option available.
A primary reason not to vote for President Bush is that 9/11 did not change everything. It changed a lot of things, but basic rules of the game still apply, including (some assumptions aside) Bin Laden (looking "hale") still being around to make campaign videos is not a good thing. Nor, is the fact he seems to make more sense in it at times then our leaders, such as their claim that the terrorists "hate freedom" vs. their particular policy concerns and other complicated factors. Or, President Bush continuing to read a little girl book about goats after being notified of attacks, and thus giving terrorists more time, justifiably makes him a laughingstock. And, deserving of our scorn.
Just as Bush supporters oppose Kerry for a lot more than his stance on terrorism per se (the "anybody but Kerry" and "anybody but Bush" brigades are probably rather equal in size in their relevant parties), there is any number of reasons to oppose Bush. The President's incompetence is not total, but it is serious enough to belie to claim that we need to ignore all his faults because he surely is better than Kerry. This is almost amusingly obvious. All the same, what President Bush is good at must be kept in mind too, and it is as troubling. This includes the subject of a letter to the NYT by Burton Glass of the Center for Investigative Reporting:
The president's nominees to federal circuit courts have been judged conservative for their stands on hot-button issues like abortion. But a review of their financial disclosure forms and Senate questionnaires reveals that the nominees are more notable for their close ties to corporate and economic interests, especially the energy and mining industries.
Some of them were paid lobbyists for those same interests. Further, the nominees with industry ties were overwhelmingly appointed to circuit courts regarded as traditional battlegrounds over litigation affecting these industries. Independent observers we've talked to who follow the federal bench believe that the extensive corporate involvement among so many of the nominees is unprecedented.
It is disconcerting that the move by Senate Democrats to in some small way truly challenge such excesses has not been better explained to the public at large. Ditto any number of other problems with the administration and bunch now in party, but that is no reason to refuse to support their loyal opposition. This includes key Senate races, the matter even closer now with questions arising about the health of a key incumbent that once seemed a sure win for the Republicans. And, local races too, often where democracy truly feels close to home.
I, personally, will plan to have something on hand to drink -- for celebration or whatever.
A word on the many ballot measures, some involving confusing (and obscure) measures that have no business being left to voters who basically are unaware of the key facts. I'd say the same for judicial races. There are many measures a lot simpler to understand, including those involving gay marriage, medicinal pot use, and smoking bans. Though I accept the practice of legislatures offering certain types of referenda to the public, ballot initiatives seems to me a quite questionable practice.
We have a republican form of government, one in which direct democracy is funneled through intermediate bodies, including state legislatures filled with representatives of a great range of interests. Interests that have to debate, deliberate, and compromise. Such bodies ideally also have some degree of special knowledge, such as on how bond measures should be set up (they are filled with lawyers and MBAs, people who thrive on such things). Thus, having the people themselves (likely pushed upon by certain groups or rich individuals) raise single issue ballot initiatives that have an up or down vote by the public at large is a dubious enterprise, even if some of them might have merit.
Anyway, voting assumes that Lincoln's principle of "government of the people, by the people, for the people" truly means something, and it is useful to recall as well that his closing thought that it "shall not perish from the earth" has remained true this long. No matter the outcome, no matter how hard it seems at time, this fact helps keep things in perspective.
* As noted by Secrecy News: "Bush Administration secrecy [though probably constitutional in most instances] places a premium on strong executive branch authority at the expense of congressional oversight, freedom of information and even such mundane things as making the President available to answer questions from the press. As a result, the character and the possibilities of citizenship in our democracy are increasingly constrained."