Not-Bush for president
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on October 21, 2004.
"I just vomited in my mouth," says a character in the movie Dodgeball. I feel similarly as I consider voting for John Kerry for president, even though I severely dislike him and his policies.
Emotionally I'm more comfortable with a Bush victory, mostly because the left is so vicious in its attacks against Bush and so paranoid about him. Bush did not steal the election, did not go to war for oil and would not impose a draft. But in this case, the enemy of my enemies is hardly my friend.
With Bush, the Republican Party has decided to pander to the religious right and snub the secularists who champion liberty. Bush's fundamentalism makes him bad on civil liberties, bad in significant respects on foreign policy and bad for the economy.
A Kerry victory would have two advantages. First, it might persuade the Republicans to stop running hyper-religious candidates who trash economic and civil liberties. Second, because Kerry is such a pathetic panderer, the Republicans and the American people would likely oppose his worst policies. The Republicans politely applaud no matter what Bush does. A Republican Congress would keep Kerry in check.
Consider civil liberties. Bush obviously wants to outlaw abortion. In the third debate, he said, "I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life." Kerry understands that "child" is not a synonym for fetus, that the pro-choice position honors the mother's life and that outlawing abortion is not an appropriate task of government. The notion that an inseminated egg is a human being comes straight from Christian dogma.
What about gay marriage? Current licensing laws obviously discriminate against homosexuals. An article in Slate magazine confirms marriage licenses once entrenched racism by barring interracial marriages. The left wants to use marriage licensing to expand socialism. The proper solution is to get the state out of the marriage business. Marriage policy is properly left to independent individuals, churches and businesses.
Though the National Rifle Association endorses Bush, "Dubya" said he wants to register gun owners with the national government with every gun purchase and ban the production of arbitrarily selected semiautomatics. Yet the NRA beats up Democrats who take such positions. Bush supported the anti-free-speech campaign laws. He supports the prohibition of some drugs, which is particularly ironic given his background. Bush has given at least tacit support to the FCC's drive to restrict broadcast speech, and he has refused to consider even modest revisions of the PATRIOT Act. In short, Bush is often an enemy of civil liberties.
Is Bush better on foreign policy? Bush correctly wants to take the fight to the terrorists regardless of what the favor-grubbing leaders of other nations say. Kerry's "global test" is so obviously moronic and anti-American that he would never get away with it in office. If he tried, even Dan Quayle would trounce him in '08. For his political survival, Kerry would have to do everything he could to prevent a terrorist attack on his watch.
It is partly because I listened to hawks Yaron Brook and Leonard Peikoff of the Ayn Rand Institute that I see Bush's foreign policy as flawed. (Peikoff has endorsed Kerry for some of the same reasons I'm describing.) Bush's foreign policy is not limited to the goal of defending American lives. Instead, the goal is to use American might (including lives and dollars) to "spread freedom and liberty around the world."
Our choices are not limited to pacifism and imperialism. A proper foreign policy uses decisive military action to remove verifiable threats against Americans, and that's it. Bush says, "I believe that God wants everybody to be free." Bush and the neoconservatives pretend it's America's ordained purpose to carry out God's will in this cause.
That brings us to the economy. The debate over tax cuts is mostly irrelevant. The key is government spending. Harry Browne notes that yearly growth in non-military spending, adjusted for inflation, has been 3.8 percent under Bush, compared with 1.6 percent under Clinton, 3.5 percent under H.W. Bush, 2.1 percent under Reagan, and 2.7 percent under Carter.
In the third debate Kerry explicitly said his faith in God is what motivates him to fight for the forcible redistribution of wealth. On this point Bush agrees. Yet Kerry reaches his policy conclusions first, then creates a religious pretext. Kerry opposes the "official transferring" of religion to politics.
Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is a euphemism for big government. Bush has further nationalized education and health care. He favors sending tax dollars to religious organizations.
Bush's tepid proposals for health insurance and Social Security are flawed, involving significant centralized planning. Any value of these plans, which are apparently low on Bush's list of priorities anyway, is far outweighed by Bush's propensity to spend, spend, spend. As Bill Bradford points out in Liberty magazine, the best bet for fiscal restraint is a Democratic president with a Republican Congress.
The Republicans say they pitch a "big tent," but they've filled it with Christian fundamentalists who act like they're at a revivalist meeting. Meanwhile, the secularist defenders of liberty are left out in the rain.
Yet many people I deeply respect, including my father, a Vietnam veteran, believe the Democrats are not capable of fighting the war on terror. My father argues the war is the most important issue in this election, and Bush's strategy, whatever its defects, takes the threat seriously and deals with it seriously. However, a trend toward theocracy in America is also a very real risk. While I waver in my presidential pick, I'm confident that, whoever wins, those who love liberty face a fierce struggle ahead.