Entry # 113: July 9th - Kerry for America
There's something strange going on in politics right now. The sitting American President is the most controversial one since a long time, and amongst the so-called left he's not just highly contested but rather despised and utterly demonized. Be that as it may. Let's just call it "criticism", though a very bitter aftertaste still remains, as it is criticism without any attempt to understand or influence positively. The rejection of Bush is an absolute, it is almost religious in nature.
So you'd like to think, well, finally, the so-called left can now stand united behind a candidate to oust the current President in the coming election. Well, that would be true in theory. Also, you'd like to think, finally, we have a Democratic candidate that stands for everything that Bush doesn't: education, foreign experience, experience in the Senate, highly decorated war veteran with a conscience, bi-partisan, liberal in the good sense, conservative in the good sense (the two really aren't contradictory but complementary rather), and finally, someone who is willing to develop an opinion based upon the facts, and who doesn't shun away from an opinion once the facts change. Truly American, truly pragmatic, truly the best we'd want to look for in the leader of the free world (and no, that term isn't dated).
But what's happening?
The first Democratic candidate in the primaries, Howard Dean, had been a disaster. A populist doing everything to increase the ideological split in America. Glad we got rid of him as a candidate, but still, he's considered a better alternative by some on the so-called "left". Michael Moore, once again spilling his garbage all over the world, overdoing things domestically by repeating unjustified allegations in the most sloppy and disgusting manner, ridiculing and amputating any attempt at serious bi-partisan criticism, and internationally, playing (consciously or not) into ancient sentiments of Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism (both often occurring together, mostly unrelated to Israel or the Iraq war, by the way). Ralph Nader, once again setting out to split the "leftist" vote and give Bush a chance. Other candidates, more ideologically blind, em, correct, drawing sympathy from those who are interested in politics only insofar it concerns the coming of the next Revolution, the kinds celebrating thugs like Castro and Guevara and mass murderers like Mao and Lenin because they're also celebrating their ignorance of historical facts (no coincidence that extreme post-modernism so conveniently pleads to view objective facts as non-existent).
Isn't this a syndrome repeating itself? In France, Chirac's UMP could soar because the "left" traditionally is divided into countless different factions, mostly splitting hairs rather than protecting serious questions of identity. In Germany, there's "attac", a pseudo-leftist anti-globalization mob cult celebrating its not wanting to become a serious party, thus avoiding responsibility and cultivating stupidity. Also in Germany, we have a social-democrat Chancellor doing everything he can to safeguard social justice for coming generations, only to be boycotted and sabotaged by the labor unions and people wanting to establish a new "left" party, leading to votes being lost either to those outlaw factions or the ex-communist mob.
Is the "Left" masochistic? Or do they, in secret, all vote for the other side? Is the Bush-bashing-Kerry-boycotting anti-bi-partisan crowd maybe just a charade of Bush lovers? Whatever the facts, the result is the same.
At the core, there seems to be a misunderstanding of politics. The "Left" originally appears as a project, an effort to create a society that is just, inclusive and understanding rather than vindictive, exclusive and partisan. It values dialectical thinking over a rhetoric of us-versus-them, but in the past, way past, also clearly spoke out for democracy and all that strange stuff like life, liberty and pursuit of happiness aka prosperity. It stood against American exceptionalism, and in the Wilsonian view, of course, was a guiding light against the barbarism of totalitarianism, dictatorship and isolationalism. In that way, truly Christian, and also a child of the Enlightenment. Far, far removed from a cultural relativism that negates that sometimes, differences are more than just differences in opinion, that sometimes, the "other" is not necessarily good because it offers an "alternative". The Saudi version of apartheid, directed against women, is no "alternative". The Taliban practice of nailing a woman's scarf to her head is no "alternative". The autocratic kleptocracy of Arafat who still aims to eliminate Israel, and probably every Jew in it, is no "alternative". The Russian successes against Chechnya are no "alternative". China and Castro neither. Expecting a President to turn his eyes away from such issues is just truly insane.
Sometimes, such issues are reserved for the governing party to be resolved. That is not to say that the Iraq War was executed correctly, it was not. We may have to get used to the fact that although the idea to oust one of the most despicable tyrants of all times may have been admirable, the execution of said idea was highly flawed. Nevertheless. Both Kerry and Edwards voted in favor of the War against Saddam, and Kerry is being criticized now for thus having violated the ideologically correct notion of not equating that campaign with World War Two, shunning war completely. He's also criticized for now having modified his opinion by criticizing the way things were handled. He's being depicted as being "wishy-washy".
What a nonsensical accusation! His position only proves to show that he's a thinking individual unafraid to change his mind, to let his agenda be determined not by ideology but sound pragmatism. Something we'd wish for a president as well.
And what has the sitting president been up to? To lead a war on terror is justified, but that doesn't justify the use of all possible means. The practices at Guantánamo are a clear violation of the spirit of the American Constitution. Jailing illegal immigrants without due process of law after 9/11 is such a violation as well. A government demonstrating its neglect of law while stressing order should not be surprised about what happened at Abu Ghraib.
Current immigration policies have led to people not wanting to visit the US for studying and other purposes. Exchange student quotas have dropped drastically. People don't want to be treated like criminals. With all due respect for the need for security, not every price is worth paying.
Alienating foreign governments is especially strange for a GOP President: it's the opposite of what he should be doing, it's the opposite of what his predecessors in office have been doing. Us-versus-Them was the policy that both Wilson and the UN intended to eliminate, and here it is again. The French and German governments have acted irresponsibly as well, but they are not the leader of the free world. You expect them to be dilettantes. You don't expect the most powerful nation of the world to behave that way.
America has been turned away from being a symbol of hope to a symbol of oppression, not necessarily rightly so (at least it's quite ironic if you take a look at who's "criticizing"…), but still, the current image of America is devastating. A change of tone and a change of President could achieve wonders.
And domestically? What's king George been up to?
He has promised that no child be left behind, but his education agenda appears to have disappeared.
He has done little or nothing to provide every American with affordable health care plans.
He has done little to improve the state of the economy. Sure, unemployment rates are improving. That doesn't change the fact that the American economy is still very fragile, that too many people need to work 2 or more jobs to feed their family. Whatever happened to Compassionate Conservatism? If you travel through the country, it appears as if the level of poverty has risen overall (with the exception of suburbia). Visit a fast food restaurant slightly off downtown urban America, and the consequences of lacking health care will stare you in the face. Not far from tourist attractions like the French Quarter of New Orleans, American cities are literally falling apart.
He has done little or nothing to address the environmental problems in America. Still, unspeakable amounts of energy and water are wasted due to inefficient or simply insane practices. Once fertile lands are lost due to unnecessary or incompetent irrigation. Americans complain about rising gas prices but keep buying and producing cars that consume more than four times than technology could allow. Environmentalism once started in the US, but the idea that our ecosystem is not limited to America and Europe but encompasses the entire planet appears to have lost appeal. At least Bush was honest in outrightly rejecting Kyoto, while Clinton signed it without hope for ratification. But that doesn't mean the deal should be off the table, it's the only one there is that could lead to a significant reduction in pollution by introducing marketing principles. You could still pollute, but would have to pay for it, yet once you have to pay for your pollution, you'd tend to reduce it. Pollution then is not just an abstract term. Not even big business will be able to profit from that, it's just that the costs are still barely visible. Bad environmental conditions lead to bad health in affected areas, decreased fertility of agricultural land, poverty, crime and conflicts in those countries suffering from desertification and rising ocean levels, and very probably to series of new wars. Even the Pentagon knows that the costs of Global Warming dwarf that of the war on terror.
He has done little to address corruption on the highest levels of economic power, not surprisingly with the connections between members of this administration and companies like Halliburton and the late Enron.
Populists like Michael Moore and Ralph Nader can afford to make outrageous statements and stay ideologically correct, adhering to the pure idea, because they will never have a chance to get into office. They don't have to act responsibly - unlike John Kerry.
Grown-up politics is about issues and seeking a sound compromise, bi-partisan if possible. But that demands from both parties to refrain from calling the other anything worse than a competitor. The tradition of bi-partisanism is a good and sound one, it helps to unite the people. The current ideological split that started with the Clinton presidency only serves to block certain issues and works to make the human faces behind those issues invisible.
It is not that Bush is evil or the devil or a thug or thief or whatever else he is called (in an act of rather destructive insanity) by his most fervent adversaries. Of course he's not, he is a politician, and he is the President of the United States. He's just not doing a very good job, not on some, but on almost all issues. Criticism is possible, necessary, and imperative. Overblown accusations, however, will only succeed in bringing swing voters on Bush's side, simply out of sympathy.
The message should be clear. The President is doing a bad job. There are facts to prove that. John Kerry has proven to be a pragmatist. He should be given a chance to do a better job than the current President. That's all.
see also: johnkerry.com
July 5th/9st, 2004