Sunday, October 24, 2004

John Kerry for President 1.1

Part 1: The Case Against Bush

This is the first in a series of posts in which I state and briefly discuss my reasons for endorsing John Kerry for President of the United States and voting against George W. Bush. First I will discuss my reasons for voting against Bush. I will discuss these reasons in roughly decreasing order of what I take to be their importance. Currently I anticipate discussing the problem of polarization (below), the conduct of the war against Islamofascism, the role of truth and reason in a democracy, the election of 2000 and the penumbra of issues surrounding it, ruthlessness and demagoguery, Mr. Bush’s character, and the problem of plutocracy in America. I believe that the anti-Bush case alone constitutes sufficient grounds for voting for Mr. Kerry, but I will then offer a positive case for Mr. Kerry as well.

1.1. The problem of polarization

I am inclined to think—though am far from certain—that the most pressing problem facing us is that of polarization. This should not be construed as proof that I am insufficiently serious about the war against Islamofascism. On the contrary, it is a sign of how seriously I take the problem of polarization. Politics should be the art of compromise when such compromise is practicable and morally permissible, and the strength of the liberal democracies of the West lies, in great part, in their ability to build just polities on an overlapping consensus among their populations.

President Bush has been the most polarizing American president of (the conscious part) of my lifetime. He ran as “a uniter not a divider,” but this was one of many untruths he would tell during the campaign and his first term in office. Having failed to win the popular vote, Bush had at least some obligation to govern from somewhere near the center, but he has made no effort to do so. He has in four years managed to alienate most of the world and almost all of our foreign allies, most of the Democratic party and a fair part of his own. As it stands, most of the world (civilized and uncivilized) now stands loosely united against a hard core of conservative ideologues in the Republican party, backed by voters who are in large part misinformed about the policies of the candidate they support. Now, sometimes a small minority is right and the large majority is wrong, but it is more often the other way around. Consequently, a minimally wise man will double check his reasoning when he finds himself in disagreement with most everyone else, including men far wiser than himself. Mr. Bush and his cohort have refused, however, to even consider the possibility that they might be wrong. Such dogmatism and contempt for the opinions of others is not only irrational in itself (the subject of a future installment in this series), but a further cause of polarization.

Domestic political polarization is not an unwelcome by-product of Mr. Bush’s policies, it is a conscious strategy employed to cripple the political process. Mindful of Grover Norquist’s comparison of bipartisanship to date rape, the Republican leadership has actively worked to seize complete control in Washington, refusing to allow Democrats to read crucial legislation before it comes to a vote, refusing to grant them rooms in which to hold their committee meetings, and instituting the vile “K-street project” to enhance the power of Republican lobbyists and decrease that of Democratic ones. All in Washington now recognize that the tone there is worse than it has been in modern memory.

And finally we must remember the Administration’s strategy of demonizing not only our enemies in war but the loyal opposition at home as well. Many of those we currently fight are, as President Bush has put, evildoers. But many are misguided, misled by bad men into doing bad things. And some are, in fact, good men reacting exactly the way you and I would react if our families were killed by a foreign army. The belief on the extreme right that our own policies have in no way helped to create our current predicament is no more rational than is the belief on the extreme left that Osama bin Laden is simply misunderstood. We can recognize that many of our enemies are monsters without viewing them all as raving demons.

At home, those of us who merely suggest what I have suggested above are labeled unpatriotic—demonized, that is, in a different way. Even mild, informed, rational dissent—that most American of activities—has been characterized by the Administration as un-American. To be anti-Bush is to be anti-American; to be against the war is to be against the troops which is to be anti-American. To be for the war but critical of our strategy is to be anti-war which is to be against the troops which is to be anti-American. According to this administration, to disagree with its policies in any way is to be anti-American. But, of course, one of the few things that can make an American truly anti-American is to believe that dissent is anti-American. Of all the administration’s polarizing policies, this is perhaps the most despicable.

Polarization saps our strength by encouraging us to fight each other rather than our common enemies. It creates strife where once none existed, preventing us from directing our energies toward positive ends. Even worse, it drains the reservoir of trust and good will that makes civil dialog and peaceful democratic government possible. Powerful elements of the Republican leadership, aided by their allies in the right-wing media, have for more than a decade now engaged in a concerted campaign to convince conservatives that centrists and liberals are evil, traitorous, and possibly insane. Nothing in my lifetime has weakened us as a nation more than this. The 9/11 attacks, though infinitely more brutal and heart-wrenching, did far less damage to us as a nation. Those attacks were like a painful physical wound to our nation, a wound that would heal with time, and perhaps even make us stronger as a result. The right’s campaign of polarization via deception and demonization is like a wound to our public soul. If this strategy succeeds and is taken to its logical extreme, then someday in the future people will speak of chaos and despair in the former United States as we speak of it in the former Yugoslavia. Such polarization cannot be stopped after it reaches a tipping point, and the power-greedy among us who exploit it as a strategy show that they are willing to flirt with the destruction of our democracy in order to achieve their political ends. This trend towards polarization must be stopped soon if it is to be stopped at all. It must, I say, be stopped now.

For these reasons and others, I conclude that the administration of George W. Bush has been disastrous, and that he and his administration are unfit to lead our country. I will not, I cannot vote for him.

I encourage you, in the strongest possible terms, to vote for Mr. Kerry.

28 Comments:

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It was a remarkable debut. Chinese search engine Baidu.com's shares sold in the United States for US$27 ($39) - then surged on day one to close at US$122.54 ($177.46).

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Baidu.com chairman and chief executive Robin Li, speaking on CNBC, said he was not upset by the potential lost proceeds of the IPO because the company had only sold a small portion of itself, and had significantly more growth ahead.

But University of Florida Professor Jay Ritter, an IPO expert, said Baidu.com left money on the table by introducing the shares at a level well below where they ended hours later.


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