The Scalzi Endorsement: John Kerry For President

Yes, I know, this isn’t a huge surprise to anyone. But let’s just make it official, shall we. I’m John Scalzi, and I approve this message: I will vote for John Kerry on November 2, and I think you should, too.

Allow me to grant, first off, that this is most importantly a vote against George W. Bush, who I believe is the most incompetent president since Harding, and who in any event (and in order to short-circuit the aside-the-pointers who will try to drag the comments down into pointless comparisons of GWB versus Carter and/or Clinton) has done disastrous things with his own present time in power, independent of his place in the grand pantheon of terrible US presidents. I could go into the litany of the various things the Bush administration has gotten horribly, terribly, awfully wrong, both at home and abroad, but I’ve already done that so often here and so many others have done so elsewhere, so for now, I’ll simply assume you know that of which I speak.

However, I do want to address the one “strength” that Bush has, the one that has made otherwise intelligent human beings single-issue Bush voters, and that is the following shibboleth: “George Bush is the only one who understands that we are in a war against the forces of Islamic extremism.” There are two points to make here. The first is that prior to 9/11, the Bush Administration certainly didn’t understand that we were in a war against Islamic extremism; it took 3,000 dead to get them to come around. If the Bush people, who are the very model of orthodox inflexibility when it comes to thought, can be persuaded we are in a battle against terror, I suggest that we can reasonably hold out the possibility that a Kerry administration may likewise be induced to hold that such extremism is still a clear and present danger to our land (as Senator Kerry has himself agreed, in no uncertain terms).

The second is that recognizing that something is so does not mean one is competent to deal with it. The Bush administration has disastrously bungled our international relationships, the response to terror, and the ancillary (and as we’ve learned, entirely unnecessary for the reasons we were provided) War in Iraq. I remind everyone yet again that I was not opposed to going into Iraq, for my own reasons, not those offered by the Bush administration. But the aftermath of that invasion has been so horribly managed — for no reason greater than the incompetence and recalcitrance of the Bush people — that I profoundly regret my personal decision to assent. I never assumed that winning and occupying Iraq would be easy, but I never imagined that the Bush people would so stubbornly work to make it harder.

9/11 and Iraq have also shown the Bush administration’s profound lack of interest in the constitutional security of United States citizens against the predations of their own government; time and again, this administration has shown it does not want to govern, it wants to rule. How else to explain the unnecessary secrets, countless lies, bland assurances of undisclosed evidence to justify the terrible bruising this administration has administered to its constituents’ constitutional rights? But more than that, this is an administration who by its actions has shown time and again that it believes truth is fungible — and not only that, but an enemy to its power (which is, ironically, true enough).

I don’t want an administration that believes that reality is negotiable — and even less than that, that reality is predicated on the consistently incorrect “gut” of the President of the United States, and anyone who opposes the presidential intestine subject to ground-scorching attack. This administration is the closest the United States has ever come to installing a cult of personality in the White House, in which the president is right because he’s the president. George W. Bush is the end sum of the reductive argument that began when Ronald Reagan declared that “facts are stupid things.”

This is why I am fundamentally agog whenever anyone delivers the “George Bush keeps us safe” bit. He did not even attempt to keep us safe prior to 9/11 from the people who eventually attacked us. He’s assaulted the Constitution of the United States to keep us “safe” since then. He’s poured vast amounts of money into a Homeland Security bureaucracy whose most obvious contribution to our security is a color-coding system which seemingly goes into alert whenever Bush gets bad political news, and he’s expended billions of dollars and the lives of over 1000 American troops in a war that has nothing to do with the terrorists who attacked us and only increased the worldwide hostility Americans face, politically and personally. Yes, I believe George Bush knows Americans need to be safe. But George Bush is just about the very last person I trust to do that job. He’s done a far better job attacking the Americans who criticize him than he’s done attacking the people who killed so many of us.

An utter failure in domestic policy, an antagonizer of nations abroad, and a man whose presidential actions show very little but contempt for the wide majority of Americans whom he was selected to lead. George W. Bush should never have been president at all. So not only is he not worth voting for, he is very much actively worth voting against.

Which brings us, at last, to John Kerry. John Kerry was not my first choice for President (Wesley Clarke was), but reading after his positions and reading interviews of the man and learning more about him, I think he’s a good choice, both for me personally, and for the nation. His political opponents have been attempting to tar him with the “liberal” brush, but it seems like that brush is down to its very last camel hair. And even if he were a liberal, so what? Given Bush’s track record as a “compassionate conservative,” being “liberal” is hardly the worst thing one can be.

Indeed, if the 2004 election does anything beneficial to the national political discourse, it will be election which reminds lower-income white people (and particularly the men) that just because people like George Bush say they’re Christian and like country music and prattle on about “traditional values,” it doesn’t actually mean they’re on your side. In any event, speaking as someone who lives in a town that has almost as many flags with car numbers on them as American flags, and also a surprisingly large number of Kerry/Edwards signs in front lawns, there’s only so long you can bark-strip a NASCAR fan before he simply doesn’t care that you love Jesus and don’t want the queers to jointly file their taxes, and actually votes in his economic self-interest. And there will be much rejoicing on that day, hallelujah, amen.

The other reason Kerry’s supposed “liberal” taint won’t matter is that the Congress will remain in Republican hands. The Senate is on the bubble for a razor-thin Democratic majority, but it will likely remain with a razor-thin Republican majority, and all the huffing and puffing in the world won’t make the House go Democratic. We’ll have a divided government, and for the average American, that’s the best sort of government there is, since it means that very few laws will pass that don’t have bipartisan support (i.e., they’re not nutbag tax cuts or tax increases). It also means that the next judge seated on the Supreme Court likely won’t be either a right-wing or left-wing whack-job, but rather someone whose views are acceptable most of the way around. I like divided governments; it’s that whole “checks and balances” thing. You know, that which the Founding Fathers raved so much about.

I’m happy with a divided government because fact of the matter is, by and large, I am a moderate, which is to say, I’m politically all over the board. I’m generally socially liberal, since I think people should generally be left alone to do what they want to do as long as they’re not actively hurting and/or bothering me or anyone else, and I’m generally militarily and fiscally conservative, because I believe in paying now instead of paying later, and that the parent who foists his debts on his children is simply a bad parent, and I believe that speaking softly and carrying a big stick is actually an excellent military position.

I am not going to get what I want politically out of George Bush: He’s too far into the pocket of business and the sort of people who believe, contrary to evidence in the Bible, that Jesus wants his followers to hate people who are not like them. Also, a Republican-led Congress isn’t going to stop Bush from doing what he wants, because why would it want to do that? They’re all on the same team. But I am likely to get what I want out of Kerry. His policies are thoughtful and generally in line with my own, and those that aren’t are likely to be tempered by the Republicans in Congress.

With the exception of the subject of same-sex marriage (about which I am admittedly playing wide left), I tend to think most people are like me: Socially mellow, fiscally concerned and militarily inclined to be able to righteously kick ass, but only if absolutely necessary. These people are best represented by a Kerry presidency. Strictly as a matter of realpolitik, voting for Kerry is a smart and sane vote. And as a bonus, all those international folk who our administration swaggeringly disdains at the moment will be more inclined to help us dig ourselves out of the charnel pit we’ve excavated in Iraq, and I’m all for that. I want our boys and girls back home and/or working on the terrorists, not asking themselves what the hell they’re doing in Iraq and why the people there increasingly want them dead.

Here’s the other thing about Kerry that appeals to me: He seems reasonable — which is to say grounded in reality. I think Kerry is capable of listening to his gut, but I also suspect he knows that it’s the brain that is the actual seat of judgment. I think he will understand that whatever slim majority that carries him into office means that he will have to work with people who do not share his views, not contemptuously ignore them and pursue an agenda that walls off the benefits America provides to a select few who already have so much. I don’t expect he intends to rule. I expect he intends to lead. The difference is not subtle; to rule you need to keep down those who oppose you. To lead, you have to convince them to follow where you go. We’ve lived four years under would-be rulers. Four years is enough.

I don’t expect Kerry to be perfect. I don’t expect to agree with his policies or proposals all the time. I don’t imagine the Clausewitz-like, “nuke the opposition ’til they glow” tenor of American politics will suddenly change overnight. On the other hand, I do expect I will agree with Kerry some of the time, I would be happy if the American politics actually became more pragmatic and focused on the needs of the constituents, and I expect Kerry knows neither he nor his gut are infallible. All of these would be vastly preferable to what we’ll get over the next four years if Bush stays in office.

That’s how I’m voting, November 2.

28 thoughts on “The Scalzi Endorsement: John Kerry For President

  1. This is quite possibly the most lucid argument I’ve heard either way on either of the 2 Big-time candidates.

    I can’t say I agree with you on what a Kerry presidency would be like, but I did understand your arguments, and I agree that bipartisanship and compromise are what this country needs.

    I just wish that, in general, our CHOSEN leaders would lead by LISTENING to US. Especially in congress. The fact that congressmen and other elected officials have been “bought and paid for” by special interest groups is sad. The fact that a congressman would vote in favor of something that his constituents would vote down, or vice versa, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work.

    This election year, I’ve paid more attention, studied harder, and tried to make my best informed decision. I’m still not sure what my choice should be. I’m not a believer in Kerry. I’m not a supporter of Bush. I’m contemplating a vote for a 3rd party candidate. I’ve got just over 4 days to decide, and I’m still not sure. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad American that I don’t know who I’m going to vote for. I don’t want to walk in and vote party-line either way, because I don’t think that’s BEST for America. And yet there are some that think it is.

    Sounds like I’ve got a lot of thinking to do yet.

  2. It’s silly to nitpick a fine piece of writing like this, but I’m fundamentally silly in that way, so here goes: the Founding Fathers did not, did not, did not set up a system where checks and balances were provided by one party controlling the legislature and a different one in the White House. The checks and balances in Madison’s brilliant system are created by (a) individual ambition, and (b) structural roadblocks, most importantly the independent judiciary. It works incredibily effectively even if one party controls the House, Senate and White House; attempts to pass and enforce unpopular and disastrous legislation will be thwarted by either legislators keen to gain the votes of those opposed or ultimately by justices who can’t be fired. Sure, if one party holds on for long enough, something like twenty years or more, it could create problems with the Madisonian system, but likely enough if that happened the whole system would be scrapped.

    None of which argues against your realpolitik divide-and-thwart stance, but neither Madison nor Franklin nor even Jefferson would be at all likely to endorse it. It may be a good idea, but it isn’t their idea.

              ,
    -V.

  3. Vardibidian writes:

    “It’s silly to nitpick a fine piece of writing like this, but I’m fundamentally silly in that way, so here goes: the Founding Fathers did not, did not, did not set up a system where checks and balances were provided by one party controlling the legislature and a different one in the White House.”

    Indeed not — we didn’t have parties back then. Functionally speaking, however, it works toward the Founders’ intent of each branch of government watching the others.

  4. Here are some reasons of mine for supporting Kerry:

    223 days between Richard Clarke asking Condoleeza Rice to set up a cabinet-level meeting so that he could brief the new administration about the threat from Al Quaeda and the meeting itself (January 24, 2001 and September 4, 2001);

    380 tons of easily used and transported plastic explosive gone missing from Al Qaqaa supply depot;

    11th US Cavalry Regiment [aka OPFOR] deployed to Iraq because the army is running out of troops to send;

    $413 billion dollar deficit in the federal budget–the largest ever;

    4th year in a row the deficit has grown as a share of the economy, the first time this has happened since World War II. This is the first time since before the Great Depression the deficit has continued to grow this far into an economic recovery;

    3 million workers unemployed and without federal unemployment benefits–a record;

    1251 US and coalition troops killed in Iraq. Do we even have an accurate number of the wounded?

    I could go on..and on…and on. I don’t imagine Kerry’s perfect. He’ll be an improvement. We’re talking about the man whose investigation of drug trafficking dragged Iran-Contra into open view; the man who busted open BCCI despite his own party’s protests; the man who joined with John McCain to bring about the legislation that made it possbile to get information about MIAs from Vietnam; the man who’s married to the 2003 winner of the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism. Yes, something the press doesn’t tell you about Teresa Heinz Kerry because it’s more fun to complain about her.

  5. The fact that a congressman would vote in favor of something that his constituents would vote down, or vice versa, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work.

    This will continue as long as voter turnout remains low. The remedy remains the same: GOTV.

  6. Well said. Personally, I’d prefer a left wing nut-job or two on the supreme court, just for balance, but that’s a fight for another day. Kerry will be a step in the left direction, and that’s good enough for me.

  7. To John: Well spoken. That’s why I come around here.

    To Randy, in regards to voting for a third-party candidate:
    Dude, I sympathize. I know what it is like to feel like none of the choices support what you believe. And if you live in a state that is definitely going one way or another then, by all means, vote your conscience. Tell those candidates that they need to listen to everyone. My family is in politics: trust me, candidates listen to the votes.

    However, if you live in a swing-state, please reconsider. This is a truly important election, whichever candidate wins, and voting for neither of the candidates when your vote might be the one deciding vote would be rough. In this election, every vote in every swing state is going to be vitally important.

    If you are considering voting for a third-party candidate, then it is because the person in power is not listening to you. If he wins again, he will continue to not listen to you. Will the challenger listen more? Who knows. But with the current administration, it is hard to imagine that anyone could listen less. Change is always good, if only because there’s a transition period where it is hard for either party to hurt you. If your vote could count, make sure it does count. Even Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate, is suggesting his supporters in swing states vote for Kerry if they want change. (I heard this on NPR.)

    One minor quibble. Randy said:
    “The fact that a congressman would vote in favor of something that his constituents would vote down, or vice versa, is NOT the way it’s supposed to work.”

    But that is the way it is supposed to work. Technically, we are not a democracy (direct voting) but a republic (representative voting). We vote for those who are supposed to look out for our interests. We do this because sometimes, ignorant fools that we are, we might choose some narrow and shortsighted path. Our representatives are supposed to be enlightened, and vote in our best interests. This is why we have representatives.

    Is this how it works? Not really. Yes, both parties do spend too much time listening to the desires of narrow special interests, and maybe not enough time listening to the needs of the constituents. But an elected representative sometimes needs to vote differently than his constituency would vote. He just better be able to defend himself the next time he’s up for reelection.

  8. Addendum: Sorry for the double post. Let me just also say that this is where the media lets us down the most. When the election rolls around, they need to be looking at the records of everybody involved. I shouldn’t have to go digging around the internet to figure out which candidate is lying to me, and how. (For the record, factcheck.org is excellent.) That should be on the nightly news.

    K

  9. Kevin, do you happen to have a URL for the Badnarik-encourages-people-to-vote-Kerry thing?

    I have a bunch of Libertarian friends in PA who’d probably be surprised to hear that; some of them are very strongly in the “it’s more important to vote your conscience than to vote pragmatically” camp, and maybe that’d shake them loose.

  10. Setting aside SCOTUS for the moment, the President also appoints the Federal judiciary. That wreaks an untold amount of harm when the President is, or listens to, ideological wingnuts, because those judges influence the law everywhere, not just in the handful of cases that gets up the ladder.

  11. Nat:
    I heard the Badnarik thing in the car listening to NPR one day. Unfortunately, I can’t even remember what show it was on. I looked for information, but couldn’t find any.

    Tell your Libertarian friends that it is okay to vote their conscience, but when George Bush dismantles first-amendment protections and assembles the largest domestic spying agency in U.S. history during his second term (as they re-work the intelligence departments), that’s on their conscience too.

    K

  12. John, that was a well-reasoned entry and I find that I reluctantly agree with your criticism of George Bush. I say “reluctantly” because I strongly agree with your October 2002 position (thanks for linking to it, I must confess that I did not remember that entry, too many words have scrolled up my monitor since then) and I am deeply distressed that this administration has screwed up in the execution of the war and its aftermath.

    That said, I cannot agree that Kerry would be a better choice. In my opinion, Kerry is a liar and a poseur and not a fit candidate for the presidency. (Yes, I suppose one could say that liar is a synonym for politician, but Kerry — throughout his entire career, but especially the past couple of years — has been one of the most egregious examples.)

    Yeah, I know… select the lesser of two weasels.

    And if Badnarik says Libertarians should vote for Kerry, that’s another reason not to do so. Badnarik is almost as much of a moonbat as Michael Moore or Ross Perot — actually, I frequently vote Libertarian but when they nominated Badnarik they lost my vote for this year.

  13. John,

    Again with the nitpicking here. This idea that we didn’t have political parties at the time of the Founding Fathers is simply false. Even during the formation of the Constitution there were Federalists and Anti-Federalists, which acted much like parties do in organizing support and so on. The Federalists won, of course, and then split into Federalists and Republicans (also called Democratic-Republicans). Hamilton was the chief of the Federalists, and Jefferson of the Republicans. If they are Founding Fathers, then the Founding Fathers had parties.

    More to the point, Madison and the rest were very familiar with party politics in Europe (particularly in England, of course). There was a lot they didn’t expect about the way they have come to work, but they did prepare for them to exist and to be involved in government.

    Sorry to come off as a lecturer; this is one of my pet peeves. As you point out, you are speaking functionally, not historically, so my whole above rant may be taken as venting, not correcting.

                  ,
    -V.

  14. Kevin Q:

    “However, if you live in a swing-state, please reconsider. This is a truly important election, whichever candidate wins, and voting for neither of the candidates when your vote might be the one deciding vote would be rough. In this election, every vote in every swing state is going to be vitally important. ”

    I don’t know, is Ohio considered a swing state this year? ;) I think Bush & Kerry have been through here more than Courtney Love’s been in court. Last night Kerry and BRUUUUUUCE were in town, tonight it’s Bush and The Governator’s turn.

    *sigh* 3 more days

  15. Vardibidian:

    “Sorry to come off as a lecturer; this is one of my pet peeves.”

    Not at all — always glad to have clarification.

  16. Anyone who calls Kerry a “liar and poseur” in comparison to Dubya has been listening to too much Bush-spin. If Dubya doesn’t fit that description I don’t know who does.

  17. I just wish I could find out what these guys are GOING TO DO RIGHT, instead of what the other has done WRONG. This campaign has been so negative. Even the debates were not I’m going to do this, it was “he said/he did/he voted”.

    Disenchantment, party of me, your table is ready.

  18. Randy says:

    “I just wish I could find out what these guys are GOING TO DO RIGHT, instead of what the other has done WRONG.”

    Heh. If you get any of those of future-looking spectacles, Randy, make sure you share them.

    You can’t tell what people will do in the future, except to guess what they might do given what they’ve done in the past, and the by an estimation of their ability (or inability) to change. After four years, I know enough about Bush to know that he’s done very poorly, nor is he likely to get any better, since he clearly doesn’t feel he’s done anything poorly.

  19. Hi John,

    Great post. Only one point:
    “With the exception of the subject of same-sex marriage (about which I am admittedly playing wide left), I tend to think most people are like me…”

    Actually, I don’t think you’re playing wide left at all. It looks like most people under 30 *are* like you on that subject. Even the daughters of all four candidates are uniformly cool with it.

    Gay marriage is something a lot of people view as demographically inevitable. The people opposed are getting old; the coming generation doesn’t understand what the big deal is. I’m fine with it not being a major issue this time around — but Bush first lost my vote in January, when he came clearly out in favor of amending the Constitution to restrict people’s rights.

    Since then Bush has done a lot of other things, and I’ve come to understand some things about him, that have reinforced my intent to vote against him. But that was the first thing. Let equality come fast or slow, but don’t scrawl a line in our founding document to say that it can’t happen.

  20. Linking Fool Friday

    I’ve actually been posting things as I get ‘em this week (especially the vote suppression crap), but here’s a few links I left in a pile. Good piece on Sojourners by Jim Wallis on the church ‘n’ state aspects of…

  21. Linking Fool Friday

    I’ve actually been posting things as I get ‘em this week (especially the vote suppression crap), but here’s a few links I left in a pile. Good piece on Sojourners by Jim Wallis on the church ‘n’ state aspects of…

  22. Here’s a counterpoint to John’s assertion that “that invasion has been so horribly managed — for no reason greater than the incompetence and recalcitrance of the Bush people….”
    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail333.html#doright

    Take it for what it’s worth, but he makes some valid points that the mess in Iraq would have happened regardless of who was in charge.

  23. RwB says:

    “Take it for what it’s worth, but he makes some valid points that the mess in Iraq would have happened regardless of who was in charge.”

    There’s no doubt that occupying would be messy no matter who was in charge when it was done. And I don’t doubt a Kerry administration will have its share of difficulties (to put it mildly). However, what’s not apparent is that the Bush administration gave *any* serious serious thought to how to handle the occupation phase, aside from “And then the Iraqis will throw flowers to us, and we’ll hand the whole thing over to our favorite Iraqi exiles.”

    If I were convinced the Bush administration had made the effort, I would credit them so (or would like to think I would), even if the effort had then gone poorly. But so far, I don’t see much reason to do that.

  24. Just to echo what Steve Eley said above, I don’t think your opinion on gay marriage is at all far out in left field. Admittedly I live in New England not the Bible Belt — and I’ve not attempted any inquiry about the matter — but based on the kinds of comments that may come up discussions of politics and news events, I have never heard anyone speak in favor of the anti-gay amendment. I think that outside of rigid religious fundamentalists you will only find anti-gay attitudes among the same people who are equally deep in racial and religious bigotry.

  25. You might be surprised, actually.

    I live in Pennsylvania, and I keep being surprised by otherwise perfectly sane people who are for the anti-gay amendment. Many of them claim they aren’t anti-gay at all, that they think gay people are perfectly nice and shouldn’t be discriminated against, but that marriage is “just different”.

    There’s no logical argument here, and these people honestly don’t think they’re trying to discriminate against anyone. To them, marriage is somehow magical and it makes perfect sense that gay people shouldn’t have it and shouldn’t even want it.

    I don’t understand this attitude at all, but it’s certainly out there, in people on both sides of 30.

  26. Other than the goofy and off-the-mark Clausewitz refernce – outstanding rationale behind your endorsement.

  27. Other than the goofy and off-the-mark Clausewitz refernce – outstanding rationale behind your endorsement.

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