I don’t agree with John Kerry on anything. And I hope he wins the election. But I’m not going to vote for him.
Does that sound strange? Perhaps I should say that I hope President Bush loses. And ideally, he would lose to the Libertarian Party’s Michael Badnarik, not Kerry. But realistically speaking, I do want Kerry to win. Then again, actually voting for him would defeat the purpose of why I want Bush to lose.
One hopeful sign I have in a Kerry Presidency is gridlock - the President and Congress being unable to work together. I do not want any of Kerry’s policies to pass, but neither do I want Bush’s. The hope is that the growth of government can slow down somewhat, as it did during the Clinton years, so that the budget deficit might fall once again. One other hopeful sign is the possibility of improved relations with the rest of the world, particularly our old allies. On the whole, I suspect that a Kerry Presidency will do far less damage to America than what Bush has done and will likely continue to do.
But voting for Kerry would send exactly the wrong message. Four campaign issues dwarf all others in moral significance: the War on Terror, the War on the Bill of Rights, the budget deficit, and our mercantilist, "crony capitalist" economic system. From the War on Iraq to the PATRIOT Act’s new powers of surveillance, the USA is on the march to completely unlimited government, to tyranny. And from the War on Drugs to McCain-Feingold’s virtual repeal of the First Amendment, to the Department of Homeland Security, to our quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, John Kerry has been on the wrong side throughout his career and especially recently. Voting for him in a “lesser of two evils” choice is simply unacceptable. I suspect that his administration, if just because of gridlock, will be less evil than a second Bush term, and that’s why I want him to win. But he stands for nothing that I stand for. If I voted for him on the hunch that he’s better than Bush, and that’s all, he’s not going to know the difference anyway. All votes are equal, in that Kerry won’t know how much of his support is enthusiastic for his candidacy, and who is holding his nose when casting his ballot for him. A vote for Kerry is the supreme endorsement for him, and there’s nothing about the man’s policies or record that I endorse. A vote for Kerry doesn’t send a message.
And, ultimately, that is what voting is for - sending a message. The reason I want Bush to lose is not because Kerry is so great, but because I’m thinking of 2006, 2008, and beyond. If Bush loses, it will probably because his “base” of white conservative Christians stayed away from the polls, or voted third party. They won’t vote for Kerry, but can’t in good conscience any longer pretend that Bush represents the “conservatism” they used to know.
What message can be sent by not voting? As I’ve written before, that just tells the politicians that we are content. But what if you would want to vote third party, but disagree with the Constitution Party’s strong stand against abortion, or with the Libertarian Party’s permissiveness?
The problem is that not all issues are created equal. Many of us have voted for years for candidates from the Power Parties, although we strongly disagree with them on some issues. The same would obviously be true when voting for third parties. We don’t have to agree on the entire platform. But what if we agreed on the major issues of the day?
I will say, with confidence, that the Libertarian and Constitution parties are in substantial agreement with each other on the major issues of the day. If you vote for Michael Badnarik or Michael Peroutka, you would be telling the Two-Party Establishment, especially the Republican wing, that you are:
1. For peace.
2. For the Bill of Rights.
3. For balanced budgets.
4. Against crony capitalism - against the web of laws, regulations, taxes, and subsidies that favor corporations over small business and the people.
To sum up, Against Bush and Bush’s brand of politics.
Every other issue begins to pale in comparison. And I suspect that die-hard Greens and Naderites would agree. But the Green Party isn’t advertising itself as a serious challenger to Kerry, and Democratic thugs are doing their darndest to keep Ralph Nader off as many state’s ballots as possible.
If Bush loses, not because he lost votes to Kerry but because much of his base went to alternative parties instead, then the GOP will get a long-overdue wake-up call. The hollow cliches and cheap flag-waving antics of a George W. Bush will give way to a more principled, intellectually defensible brand of politics.
The far Left and the far Right have far more in common with each other than they perhaps realize. While there are obvious moral and cultural differences between the typical Green and the typical Constitution Party activist, where they agree is precisely on the most pressing issues of our day.
In many ways, I believe that the Libertarian Party, which is culturally and morally neutral, might be the best place for them all to come together and join forces. If the anti-war vote, from both the left or the right, went overwhelmingly to Michael Badnarik, then Bush will lose, Iraq will become Kerry’s problem, and the Republican Party will become ripe for internal political revolution.
I think the far Left and far Right are in agreement with the libertarians that America’s problems are not the policies of this or that President or Party, but are structural and systemic. We have neither the democracy that the Left values, nor the representative government that the Right values. A President might be impeached for perjury about an adulterous affair, but not for waging undeclared wars on false pretences. The promised “checks and balances” in our Constitution just aren’t working. Voting for Bush certainly won’t fix this. Voting for Kerry won’t, either. But causing Bush’s defeat by voting for alternative parties just might do the trick, or at least advance the cause.
It is time for the Power Parties to actually differentiate themselves on issues that really matter. When the Democrats conspired to sink Howard Dean’s campaign, all hope for populist revolt in that party disappeared. I think it is high time for radicals of any stripe to vote Libertarian this year, cost Bush the election, and then invade the Republican Party with full force and a unified message centered on freedom and political accountability, and against the Imperial State, the Police State, and the Bureaucratic State.