The other day, my 10 year old niece asked me why I am going to vote for John Kerry. I must admit that I was at a bit of a loss. I didn’t know where to begin. There are so many ways in which I prefer Kerry to Bush, after all, so I found it surprisingly tricky to give a concise answer.
All of us here at Angry Bear have written dozens of posts identifying specific problems with Bush’s presidency, specific examples of how Bush does not make a good president, or specific improvements in policy that Kerry would implement if he’s elected. But my niece’s question started me wondering: is it possible to summarize and consolidate all of those dozens of individual facts into a coherent, concise statement about why I’m voting for John Kerry? The Philadelphia Inquirer is in the midst of a similar exercise, but they’re coming up with 21 reasons to vote for Kerry over Bush. I feel like that’s too many; if you can come up with 21 reasons, why not 121? Surely they exist.
No – I’m convinced that it should be possible to whittle things down further. So here’s my attempt. I’ve arbitrarily decided to boil things down to just five major points. (I was initially trying to get it down to just three reasons, but in the end I couldn’t be that constrained.) In order of increasing importance they are:
- The economy: Bush’s economic policies to address the recession were awful, indicating a deep lack of understanding of how the economy works, in addition to a lack of trust in well-respected economic advisors.
- Iraq: Bush’s biggest decision – invading Iraq – displayed poor judgment on his part, in part because it reflected Bush’s dangerous propensity to make decisions based on ideology rather than fact.
- Democracy: The Bush administration has had an unprecedented penchant for censoring information (often by rewriting history) and stifling democratic dissent, imposing substantial new constraints on the functioning of the democratic process.
- The budget: Kerry will restore fiscal discipline to Washington, and thus staunch the flow of IOUs that Bush is currently handing to my 2 year old daughter.
- Terrorism: Kerry will fight terrorism more effectively than Bush is able to, by leading a united coalition of all of the world’s major democracies, as well as by marginalizing violent Islamic fundamentalists rather than turning them into local heroes as Bush does.
To whittle it all down to just these five points I had to leave out a lot of incredibly important reasons to vote for Kerry over Bush: health care, the growth of corporate power and influence, the unprecedented disregard for scientific research in the policy process in the Bush administration, Bush’s general reliance on ideology over empirical facts in decision-making, environmental protection, and education, to name just a few.
But after putting all of those other things aside, I think that I’ve reduced things down to what are for me the five most important things that this election is about. Over the next week I’m going to write up my specific arguments for each of those five reasons to vote for Kerry, as an exercise in synthesizing and summarizing some of the myriad of individual facts that we’ve noted over the past three years. I think it’s helpful to do this, because sometimes I think that we focus so much on the trees that we forget about the forest, so to speak. It’s good to remind ourselves of the broad, over-arching reasons why Kerry will be a better president than Bush has been.
By the way, if you want to play at home, the rules are simple: come up with a list of the five (or fewer, if you can do it) most important reasons to vote for Kerry over Bush. Personally, I think you should also consider how you could support your assertions with concrete documentary evidence, but maybe that’s the teacher in me talking. Most importantly, your list should simply reflect what you think is at the heart of this election.
Have fun. I’ll be back with my argument about the economy tomorrow.