Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The No Vote

I've been making the rounds among my liberal and conservative friends, asking about their man for the election.

I point out to my conservative friends that President Bush is not strictly conservative, not in the traditional sense. Nation building, military expansion of democratic ideals and unbridled Federal spending are not the policies of most Republicans that I can remember. "Yeah but, Kerry's got to be defeated," my conservative friends say. "Bush has credibility, in spite of his mistakes. Kerry's a closet communist, he wants the UN to run the world."

Yeah, but.

I turn to my liberal friends and ask about Kerry's oddly conservative positions. JFK is no JFK, it appears. The late JFK was an idealist who understood the stakes of the Cold War, and fought hard to export democracy abroad. He never blenched before communism, or suffered for lack of democratic ideals. The JFK who currently runs on the Democratic ticket eschews idealism, perhaps unknowingly, promoting what amounts to an isolationist international policy that defers policymaking to 'the world.' He wants to focus on passivity abroad and tighter spending at home, if you can believe that. Kerry's voting record and grandiose speeches reveal little boldness, a dampened spirit and few new ideas---just a rebirth of the old ones. "Yeah but, Bush has got to go," my liberal friends say. "Kerry isn't who I would've wished for, admittedly, but given the fact we're under the heel of Bushitler, where's the choice?"

"Yeah, but."

Let's face it. A lot of people don't want either of these guys for president. It's fine to harp on Kerry's unfortunate political record, but all things considered, Bush was no policy dazzler before his presidency either. As far as I am concerned, 9/11 made 2001 the Year Zero. Whatever voting records politicians had at Year Zero needed to be seriously retooled, if not discarded in order to bat the molten balls of 9/11. Bush's lackluster isolationism prior to the Year Zero could be used against him, if he hadn't changed his views since 9/11. Nation-building skills do not come naturally to an essentially conservative man---thus the flubs in Iraq. I give President Bush my vote because he has satisfied my one requirement: On some level, he understands that previous policy positions are untenable in the age of mega-terror. My real anger is that I believe a Democratic president---if he believed in the expansion of democracy like Kennedy---would be far more qualified to build a new nation in the sands of Iraq. But Howard Dean's legacy, channeled from irresistible, self-hating leftists became a plank in Kerry's platform.

So we have President Bush, who really doesn't believe in exporting democracy but is in the position of doing so. For him, that's way outside of his political box. And we have candidate Kerry, who has the political DNA to do the job in Iraq, but he owes allegiance to a party that has no edge; just the deadweight of bloated, out-of-date politics.

Who wants to get out of Iraq faster, the President or Senator Kerry? I ran across this today---Bush's response to a reporter who asked what he would think if a mullocracy was democratically elected in Iraq:
...If free and open Iraqi elections lead to the seating of a fundamentalist Islamic government, "I will be disappointed. But democracy is democracy," Bush said. "If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."
Dispiriting. And Kerry will offer little better. I've lost sight of who is offering a winning strategy over there. It's pathetic.

What we have are two very dull candidates with patrician backgrounds running for president in one of the most divisive, critical and historical elections in a very long time. I have a hard time listening to either one of them, to be honest. Kerry drones, Bush chirps. Am I upset? Hell yes. So this is Boomer leadership? These two pillars of confliction are what the Me Generation proffers? It's hard, very hard, to vote on principle in this election of Frat Boy vs. Frat Boy. This is one of history's jokes, isn't it? And yet it's history that beckons me to the polls, in spite of the ridiculous choice we are given. All this intellectualizing about the issues in this election, and in the end my gut makes the vote.

This is indeed a negative election, but not because of the stinging ads and verbal attacks promulgated by each side. It is negative because most people are not voting for their candidate---they're voting against the other candidate. All this has left me with a queasy feeling that many Americans have lost faith in their system of government. The act of voting has become an exercise in cynicism, not hope. Such cynicism, while always somewhat a part of electioneering, has become overwhelmingly popular. My shallow polling sample shows that most voters are really not for either Bush or Kerry; they're simply scared of the way things are and are exercising the 'no vote'.

It does make me wonder how this will turn out---not the election so much, but the political aftermath regardless of who wins. Because no matter who becomes the president, the divide within America will deepen. Bridges will fall. Turmoil will increase. And our enemies will take full advantage of it.