On Voting For Bush: Can I explain Myself?

I’m glad Bush won. I voted for him. But, then again I am a right-wing “Republican” asshole – or “hate monger” as I have recently seen on this site.

But, due to the inescapable reality of American politics, I voted party over person Рa straight Republican ticket. All other types of voting are needless moral posturing. I was given two alternatives, not counting the up and coming Prohibition ticket, Socialist ticket, Nationalist ticket, Libertarian ticket etc (those who criticize the two party system maybe haven’t looked at a ballot in a while) and chose. Such is the nature of the system.

Actually, I lied. I voted for the Libertarian candidate in Tom Tancredo’s congressional district. I dislike Tancredo’s single-mindedness towards immigration. But, that vote was just moral posturing – so I could tell people, specifically you guys, that I am a principled guy who sticks to his guns. So, guess what, I am a principled guy who sticks to his guns.

But my principles are heavily weighted toward the actual, the possible and the realistic. The truth of American politics unquestionably and authoritatively mandates that, in almost every election year (I’ll grant 1992 and 1860 as partial exceptions) if you vote for a small third party candidate, or for yourself, you are throwing your vote away in the name of striking a moral pose. To believe that this is false is to ignore the blaringly obvious. Of course, this is assuming that your vote actually counts, which it doesn’t really, but that is a discussion for a different time.

Not that conspicuous moral stances aren‚Äôt important ‚Äì for humans it is at least as important, if not more so, that we appear moral than that we actually are moral. But, like all values, there is a trade-off involved: appearing moral or believing you are actually being moral. Throughout my life, I have consistently chosen what I believe, to the best of my ability, to be the latter. Taking on the moral onus of believing in the abolition of minimum wage is a prima facie more demanding argument, and more detrimental to one’s moral image, than defending minimum wage. The knee-jerk reaction to the question, my original reaction to the question, is quite clearly to promote a minimum wage. The same is true with the issues of nationalized health care, graduated income tax, idealistic foreign policy, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and a hundred other issues that seem like such obvious public goods. It is a clear and simple fact; aligning yourself against these issues, these type of governmental coddling questions, is not the quickest way to garner the adulation of a saint. Aligning yourself with these issues, however, will do nothing to detract from your saintly status, even in my eyes.

But, I often feel like many people see the political lines as separating good and evil as clearly as a fantasy novel; and I am on the wrong side of their knee-jerk condemnations. In this sense my moral posturing is quite taxing. Sometimes, in my more despondent and provocative moments (such as this essay), I feel like this is the world of Middle-Earth, ala Lord of the Rings, and I am running around fervently and honestly trying to get people to vote for the Mordor Party – a Sauron/Sauroman ticket with the Nazgul as the cabinet. Tolkien painted an age-old tribute to Monarchy and totalitarian rule – the clear cut Good Guys being white male kings who ruled over their subjects. Their opponents? Industry-minded capitalists who used machines, not magic, and workers, not subjects, to obtain power. Furthermore, the “Mordor party” seemed to be the only ones who were willing to employ the labor of the Goblins and Ogres, the dregs and outcasts of society, who were naturally cheap labor because they didn’t fit into the opposition’s well-oiled scheme of the domination and control of beautiful subjects.

Anyway, I facetiously digress, much further than I intended. To get back on track: why would anyone vote for the party of Mordor?

We live in a representative democracy. This is thankfully true. However, this means that, barring particularly exceptional circumstances, no one candidate is ever going to have a platform that is completely synchronous with our own. So we weigh our values; is the fact that he promotes free trade more important than the fact he is pro-Life? Is the fact that he has a realist view of foreign policy more important than the fact he is against gay marriage? These questions go on and on.

On his own merits Bush is severely lacking. He masquerades as a fiscal conservative while continuing to increase the size and scope of government. For us true libertarians this is a disheartening trend that shows no sign of abating. I believe the last good fiscally conservative president we had was Coolidge, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit. But, in this regard, Bush is still better than Kerry.

Bush’s domestic policy is certainly questionable. In a remarkably left-leaning move Bush “reached out” to the democrats, Ted Kennedy of all people, and passed a horribly ill-conceived “No Child Left Behind” act, which, once again, attempted to solve a serious problem by throwing money at it. My problem with Bush’s domestic policy is that he isn’t nearly conservative enough. Through the distorting mirror of his realist, conservative foreign policy and his conspicuous religious attitudes Bush is consistently painted as an extreme right-wing conservative. In point of fact he is essentially as conservative as Clinton was liberal – which, is to say, not much at all.

As for his foreign policy, well that is the least of my concerns. I don’t plan to go into a lengthy defense of his foreign policy which has been the most polarizing and controversial political stance by a president since LBJ. Suffice it to say that I am a stark realist on foreign policy. I do not believe in the chimera of world government. I believe that the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are worth the expenditure of American lives and money. When the possibility is quite real that there are thousands of men in the world who would be more than willing to place a nuclear bomb in Washington D.C. – with the result of destroying the U.S. economy, the world economy, and quite possibly the entire United States’ government, not to mention the millions of dead – the cost/benefit analysis of this problem suddenly becomes incredibly skewed. Again, I will say no more about this lengthy issue except for this small, inadequate, but informative quip.

Oh, but in answer to Michael Moore’s incessantly repeated, ridiculously reductive and simplistic question upon which he seems to think the entire situation hinges: “Would you sacrifice your child for Fallujah, Bosra, Baghdad etc.?” Yes, I would allow my child to choose to possibly put him our herself in harm’s way with the possibility of death or injury but with greater possibility of the reward of a job well done. Moore’s sophomoric mind is the type of rigid unintelligence that believes complex situations are simple, that entire issues of policy and philosophy are ultimately hinged on one facile construction of manipulated rhetoric. This implied knife-to-the-throat-Sophie’s Choice-style yelling of “your child or Basra!?! Now! Choose!” is unbelievable. These aren’t the types of choices we are asked to make. Pure sophistry.

But, as I said, it is Bush’s domestic policy that most concerns me. In this instance, given my alternatives, it scares me less than what John Kerry’s would have been. The Federalization of the Health Care (all the efficiency of the DMV with the compassion of the IRS!) is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous prospects this country faces. The result could mean many more Americans dead than the situation in Iraq could ever produce. Overall, Kerry’s record has consistently been remarkably left – consistently promoting the raising of taxes and increased government coddling.

Let me put it very clearly; the growth of the U.S. government and the increasing demand for federal programs and institutions is one of the biggest problems facing this country now and for the foreseeable future. Our freedoms will not be radically usurped by a Patriot act or a pro-life Supreme Court justice. They will be slowly removed by taxation and the annexation of the private by the public. The single most important freedoms we have are inexorably intertwined with our economic freedoms. Economic freedom is social freedom. Because minimum wage only serves to unemploy thousands of Americans a year (debatable I know) the well-meaning government control that keeps someone from even getting a job, and the freedoms gainful employment allows, is more deplorable and “fascist” than any social law. The consistently high and impenetrable unemployment rate of essentially every country in Europe (currently Germany is at 9.9%, Spain 10.6%, and the EU average is 8.9%) demonstrates the effect of such governmental policy. Minimum wage is only a small piece of the innumerable ways large, nannying government disenfranchises citizens and curtails their well-being (again, hugely debatable, but not here). Some conceit such as “many may not have a job and if they do they can’t take home half of the money they earn but at least they can get an abortion and aren’t subject to a Patriot Act” falls completely flat on my ears.

Let me put it more clearly:

РI am pro-choice. Bush will appoint pro-Life justices but this is a worthwhile trade-off to get strict constructionalist judges appointed who don’t rewrite innumerable laws through elitist judicial activism. One abortion case is peanuts compared to the thousands of cases that a restrained and conservative judge will opine upon. A choice in the face of a trade-off.

– Of course, I am for free speech. However, acts like the Patriot Act are essential to the functioning of a nation at war. Furthermore, Bush‚Äôs promotion of the Act is MUCH less extreme than Lincoln‚Äôs actions during the Civil War (I know, it doesn’t make either of them right. But it is a worthy comparison). Another choice in the face of trade-offs.

РActive and interventionist foreign policy is preferable to another attack on the U.S. that could be much, much, much more severe. Whether or not this type of foreign policy is the clear way to fight terrorism is certainly debatable. I happen to believe it is. Kerry doesn’t.

РBush is a realist on foreign policy, with or without the issue of terrorism. I am a foreign policy realist. The current terrorism issue happens to bring this attitude to the forefront, as it would with almost any Republican president. Kerry’s foreign policy would have been placating and conciliatory.

РA (hopefully permanent) tax cut and some measure of economic conservatism (albeit not enough, but certainly more so than Kerry) promotes freedom and prosperity. Kerry would have repealed the cut. His social liberalism is less important than Bush’s fiscal conservatism.

This is only a smattering of the trade-offs I encountered in making my choice of President in a representative democracy. As I have stated here and elsewhere, I am NOT a Republican (it is hard to use that moniker for an atheist, if nothing else) but, in a representative democracy, I am given limited choices and I must analyze my trade-offs. This essay is far far far from exhaustive, and a litany of contentious statements can be listed in the comments section. I only intended to give an account of why anyone would vote for Bush, why I – as a libertarian – voted for Bush, why you need not be a “hate monger” or a “fascist” to have voted for Bush, and why someone who is moderately intelligent (or at least can write in complete sentences) may have critically examined the issues and still voted for Bush.

Just remember; MORDOR IN 2008!

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4 Responses to On Voting For Bush: Can I explain Myself?

  1. Sirveri says:

    Minimum wage, and why it works.

    The minimum wage does multiple things to the economy, the main thing being to place more wealth into the pockets of the lowest classes of society and teenagers. Both major drivers of our economy. By raising the minimum wage, the government gets increased revenue because people make more money. And Demand for products increases. The policy of tax cuts is on the other hand, a policy of supply side economics. Percisely the wrong thing to do in a recession when demand has fallen and we are at a state of over supply of products. Lower Prices do little to spur product demand, even if prices do fall as a result of the over supply of products. In reality prices rarely if ever fall, as producers realise that they can continue to make the same ammount of profit per unit and simply cut their supply to maintain their profit margin.

    Hence the great dilema of greed in the system, the great plague and driving force of capitalism. The unchecked cancerous sickness that is so very necessary for the system to work. Why would any employer pay his employees additional wages? In the case of some forward thinkers who were not completly blinded by their own greed, such as Henry Ford, the answer was simple. So they can afford to buy your products. The cruel reality of the universe is that, not everyone will realise or recognise this simple fact is why the government is called to task to force business to act in a more ‘moral’ fashion. I hesitate to call it moral, since in reality, not only is it morally superior, it is also in their best interests. Despite what the buisiness schools of the 1980’s might say to the contrary, greed is not good.

    As for Iraq, the facts are now clear that it was a fundamental waste of time and energy, as that state posed no threat to the United States. If anything the brutal dictatorship existed as a viable check to the threat of growth by Al-Qaida. Nothing like a brutal dictator to keep the irritating brown theocratic culturalists in line. Freedom is all well and great, but quite simply, it’s not the job of our government to bestow it upon foreign nationals. There are numerous things the government could have done better, and should have done better. Nuclear proliferation has increased with Pakistans rise to the nuclear club, along with the increase from the North Koreans ambitions.

    In the case of Pakistan we face a brutal dictator who we happen to like because he is, surprise surprise, keeping the theocratic nationalist culturalists under the hard boot of oppression. I view Saddam in the same light, after all, he attempted to perform adequately in the same way back in the 80’s when he went into Iran. Why should we sacrifice our brutal dictators to the detriment of our own security?

    Because he threatened our economic security, something that the government values much more than anything else. The current debt load that we are running is only supported by the fact that the Dollar is the dominant currency thruout the world. Needless to say, trading oil in Euro’s would put a fair dent in that, which is exactly what Saddam was planning on doing.

    As for nukes in DC, considering that people who transport fertilizer for a living are capable of getting the police to swarm their vehicles the second they go anywhere near DC. Well I doubt we’ll see a nuclear weapon go off there any time soon. Best target to detonate a nuclear warhead is in Nevada, that would spread radioactive fall out all over the country, it’s near a barely secured border, and it’s lightly populated.

    So basically I essentially disagree with every single reason you voted for Bush, and thus I trust you understand why I voted for Kerry instead.

  2. OrangeJesus says:

    “The minimum wage does multiple things to the economy, the main thing being to place more wealth into the pockets of the lowest classes of society and teenagers. Both major drivers of our economy. By raising the minimum wage, the government gets increased revenue because people make more money.”

    I really didn’t read any further than this. I can’t get past such a ridiculous statement. you seem to that somehow raiseing the minimum wage means that money magically appears from somewhere. Think long and hard about what you have just said there and you will find it to be hillariously wrong. At best the money might go from the pockets of the employer to the employee(who incidentally pays LESS tax on it). But chances are as been shown time and time again, what actually happens when the minimum wage is increased is that people are simply fired and go from minimum to the absolute minimum or 0. In fact if one had been following the manufactureing sector recently you’d see that it’s the one part of the economy that is not rebounding with jobs at all. The reason is that there have been many laws passed recently targeting manufactureing that require employers to provide much more benefits to workers. The result:workers were initially fired and even as the economy is rebounding jobs very quickly employers in the manufactureing sector simply cannot afford to hire full time workers.

    It seems the issue is not as black and white as you seem to think. it is also worth noting that we are not in a recession nor have we been for almost 2 years, and that the rest of your paragraph goes onto to contradict basic economic law. This is the stuff that there simply isn’t any debate about. even the most left leaning economist would tell you how wrong you are. The statement “Lower Prices do little to spur product demand” just simply discredits absolutely everything you might have to say. It goes against economic law, proven marketing and even conventional wisdom. You sir are living in a fantasy world of your own creation.

  3. **[Kerry’s] social liberalism is less important than Bush‚Äôs fiscal conservatism.**

    Problem is, if you watched the debates and if you followed what Bush has actually done over the last four years, it’s clear that Kerry is, in fact, *more* fiscally conservative than Bush. At least Kerry made repeated mention of balancing the budget. Bush has increased (non Homeland Security, non Military) spending more than any president in decades. He has yet to meet an entitlement he doesn’t like. While usually Republicans are the fiscally conservative ones, it simply isn’t true in Bush’s case.

  4. John Poor says:

    Trevor writes:

    Bush is a realist on foreign policy, with or without the issue of terrorism. I am a foreign policy realist. The current terrorism issue happens to bring this attitude to the forefront, as it would with almost any Republican president.

    ————————

    It’s not surprising that you deem Bush a realist; conventional wisdom tends to agree with you. However, both Bush’s rhetoric and his foreign policy choices suggest that he is not a mere realist; there are liberal strains to his thinking as well. Realists from Thuycides to Waltz have generally viewed states as the only important actors in the international arena; non-state actors occupy a subservient position in realist theories. Bush’s embrace of the War on Terrorism actually constitutes an explicit repudiation of realist principles insofar as it affords a significant role to non-state actors. Granted, the two regime changes were obviously conducted within a state-centric framework. However, if Bush were a true realist, he would also seek to replace (or at least put more pressure on) governments in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which are both known to have terrorist connections.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the idea of replacing totalitarian regimes with democratic ones is firmly rooted in liberal principles, not realist ones. Typical realists assume that all government seek essentially the same things – namely more power vis a vis other states. The particular composition of the government doesn’t mean much because in the Hobbesian world of international relations, all states behave in the same predatory fashion. Realists assume these behaviors to stem from universal laws of state action, regardless of historical epoch or regional geopolitics. Kenneth Waltz softened some of realism’s more farfetched conclusions (like the idea that military power is the only measure of a state’s overall power; Waltz afforded a role to economics as well), but the basic principles of realism haven’t changed much.

    The regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan were driven by an entirely different set of assumptions – namely, that the composition of a state’s government does affect how it behaves, that liberal regimes do not conduct themselves in a predatory manner, and that a world filled with democratic governments will be a lot safter and more hospitable to peace and security than a world filled with totalitarian or authoritarian regimes. These are liberal principles, not realist ones. Admittedly, the Bush administration generally does not afford much of a role to supranational institutions, but a number of their underlying assumptions are liberal, not realist. Based on your support of the war, Trevor, I’d say the same about you.

    I’ve often thought that the Bush administration foreign policy represents a fascinating cross between Wilsonian idealism and liberal realism. It’s Wilsonian in the sense that it aims to promote liberal principles abroad; It’s realist in the sense that it places more emphasis on ass-kicking than it does on institution-building to accomplish this end.

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