Anti-Kerryites Against Bush

by | Nov 1, 2004

I’ve finally decided to support John Kerry in this election. (And, in true Kerry fashion, I’m voting against him, but more on that later.) While I find Kerry repugnant, I believe George Bush threatens America’s freedom more. That’s why I’m an “anti-Kerryite against Bush.” To start with, I reject Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom.” War […]

I’ve finally decided to support John Kerry in this election. (And, in true Kerry fashion, I’m voting against him, but more on that later.)

While I find Kerry repugnant, I believe George Bush threatens America’s freedom more. That’s why I’m an “anti-Kerryite against Bush.”

To start with, I reject Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom.” War means deciding that a threat is such that one no longer gives a damn about the enemy or its civilians; it means unleashing as much destruction as necessary so that an enemy pose no threat whatever. If one is unwilling to wreak such destruction, one has no business fighting a war.

A real defense against terrorism would have involved raining massive destruction on the prime state sponsor of terror–Iran–then announcing: “Another peep out of you, or anyone else, and we’ll do it again,” leaving the enemy to deal with the wreckage it had brought on itself. Forget nation-building and “spreading liberty.” Freedom is a value, and like any other value it must be earned by those who benefit from it. Even had Iraq been the primary terrorist threat, liberating it has just meant granting that country an unearned benefit; it’s just one more altruistic welfare program.

Harry Binswanger has argued that the meaning of this election is independence vs. dependence–but the Bush foreign policy of assertive altruism is just a different form of dependence.

Kerry and Bush both say America must be defended. Kerry wants to do it by “leading strong alliances,” while Bush wants to “spread liberty throughout the world.” Both say America’s self-defense is ours alone to decide–but neither is willing to make truly independent decisions: Kerry seeks reassurance by having world leaders support our decisions; Bush seeks reassurance by ensuring any attack will be for the enemy’s own good.

“We’ll decide what is good for you–and we’ll force it on you.” It’s not just moral absolutism that makes Bush resented across the world; it’s also this “big brother” attitude. To avoid seeming totalitarian, Bush is now saying that he would accept an Islamic government in Iraq, since “democracy is democracy.” As always, the altruist is caught on the horns of a dilemma: force your vision of the good on others, or do for them whatever they ask.

Bush’s altruism is precisely what makes it impossible for him to take any further military action, and leaves us instead waging diplomacy against Iran and North Korea. In fact, because we need China’s help against North Korea, we are now gradually abandoning Taiwan, as evidenced by Colin Powell’s blunder last week. So much for supporting freedom across the globe.

While I see little to favor Bush over Kerry in foreign policy, the threat posed by Bush to the separation of church and state is serious. As Leonard Peikoff has stated, “Bush is working to achieve a massive entrenchment of fundamentalism into our government and political system. Kerry has no such agenda…. Now if this goes on, for even four more years, how long do you think intellectual freedom and freedom of speech can last?”

Aside from specific initiatives inspired by religion, Bush can entrench the fundamentalists more and more in the federal bureaucracy, just by the appointments he makes. Recall that in the 1980’s, conservatives spoke of “defunding the left,” pointing to federal agencies like the Legal Services Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts that had become fronts for left-wing causes.

Now the right has its own such fronts. Bush has already created the “White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,” to name one area where support for religion has been made explicit and clear. School vouchers, another proposal Bush supports, will allow government money to promote the spread of religion in schools. Under Bush, government funding of and support for religious causes will only get worse; once such practices begin, they are extremely difficult to get rid of.

Furthermore, Bush’s outreach to believers has granted religious groups unprecedented access to the halls of power. This is serving to organize and coordinate them, and will ultimately turn them into a political “identity group” with a collective voice. Christians will be the next Blacks/Women/Gays whose “civil rights” will need protecting in ways incompatible with individual rights. If you think the pressure group warfare over Affirmative Action is bad, just wait until you see what this turns into.

And that’s even before the Supreme Court gets involved. The next president will likely have the opportunity to appoint replacements for one conservative (Rehnquist), one moderate (O’Connor) and one liberal (Stevens). What do you think the results will be?

The two presidential debates I saw brought the “disintegration vs. misintegration” nature of this election almost to a perceptual level.

Kerry was comfortable with concrete facts and avoided abstractions; his “flip-flopping” is evidence of his disintegrated approach. Bush spoke in bromidic slogans as if reciting memorized lines, showing the anxiety of someone whose abstractions have no foundation in perceptual concretes. It frightens me that this kind of mentality is running our country; at least Kerry’s mental process has some point of contact with reality.

I don’t want to see Eliot Spitzer as Attorney General, or a massive new government-subsidized healthcare program. I would have liked to see tort reform and Health Savings Accounts and the ability to invest Social Security taxes in private accounts. But in my judgment, Bush is a threat to certain crucial and fundamental American freedoms that we have so far managed to preserve; that outweighs everything.

Because New York is solid for Kerry, and because Bush is not campaigning on religion, I will vote for Bush in the name of American self-assertion–to reduce any pacifist “mandate” Kerry might claim.

But I wouldn’t if I lived in any state Bush might actually win.

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Paul Blair is former editor of The Intellectual Activist.

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