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November 2004 Archives

November 2, 2004

You know you want it

With the election only six weeks away, I thought it was the appropriate time for the prestigious, eagerly awaited, first quadrennial Jumping To Conclusion presidential endorsement.

First, the background: living in New Jersey is easy. It's a solidly Democratic state, which frees me to vote Libertarian without having to worry about its effect on the election one way or the other. This year, though, several polls from different, nonpartisan polling outfits have shown the New Jersey race to be a dead heat. This makes the decision more difficult; my vote is not just a symbolic one. It theoretically could affect the outcome. (Although the latest polls show it moving towards Kerry.) So what to do?

Do I support George Bush, who has done some things I like, but who is woefully flawed? Do I support Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian, even though he is even more of a total loon than Libertarians usually are, and even though it might help John Kerry get elected? Do I support Kerry to send a message to the Republicans that George Bush's woeful flaws are just too woeful to tolerate?

Start with the obvious: at least I know I won't be supporting Ralph Nader.

Now some people thoughtful conservatives and libertarians such as Dan Drezner and Jacob Levy, not to mention Andrew Sullivan and almost everyone at, or interviewed by, Reason magazine have abandoned George Bush and endorsed John Kerry, for the reason I suggested above: that Bush has been so bad on so many levels that he can't be rewarded with re-election. That the message needs to be sent to Bush and the Republicans that they need to shape up. And that gives me serious pause. If these people, who supported the war on terror, the war in Iraq, tax cuts, etc., reject Bush, then an automatic endorsement of him would be a serious mistake. (Indeed, about the only thoughtful conservatives/libertarians I know who are supporting Bush are Virginia Postrel and Eugene Volokh.)

Certainly, George Bush has many faults, too many to list here.

  • An approach to fiscal policy that makes M.C. Hammer look like a responsible businessman.
  • Defining "compassionate conservatism" to mean "Refusing to say no to any interest group or corporate interest that sticks its hand out."
  • Being willing to accept any amount of pork the Republican Congress chooses to shovel.
  • The urge to get re-elected overwhelming any principle: witness the steel tariffs, foolish and clearly doomed from the start, designed only to satisfy the electoral math. Or witness the abandonment of school vouchers in passing the No Child Left Behind bill, purely so that Bush could say he had passed a bipartisan education bill. Or witness the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
  • Apparently terrible planning for Iraq. The decision to invade was right; the way it was done was right. But the postwar approach has been awful.
  • An authoritarian impulse towards governing, acting as if the presidency should neither have to explain nor justify nor even publicize its actions.
  • Refusing to hold subordinates accountable for anything, other than disloyalty. That George Tenet was allowed to remain on the job after 9/11 is ridiculous; that he wasn't fired the day no WMD turned up in Iraq is inexcusable. Abu Ghraib should have caused high level heads to roll not because the mistreatment of prisoners was ordered at high levels, but because lower level people thought it would be deemed acceptable at high levels.
  • A cavalier approach to the Constitution which says that it's no big deal to amend it to suit one's political whims.
  • An approach to diplomacy that would make Attilla look tactful. Even when Bush gets policies right, he botches them. For instance, Kyoto. Bush was right to reject it. But the Kyoto treaty was Dead on Arrival before Bush even took office; the Senate passed a resolution, by a vote of 95-0, condemning it. And yet it wasn't enough for Bush to let it die a quiet death; he had to make a big show of denouncing it. Whether that was sincere or for the purpose of domestic politics is beside the point; it was pointless and gratuitous.
I could go on, but what's the point?

So of course, voting for Kerry would send the message that we need more accountability, that mistakes must be avoided, or corrected if made, that intentions aren't enough to justify decisions, that the Republican Congress can't be allowed to run rampant with no checks and balances. All important messages.

The problem is that voting for Kerry would also send the message that we need bigger government, that the Clinton-era approach to the Middle East is correct, that the major problem with international affairs is not how other countries behave but how the United States behaves, that more regulation is the solution to every problem, that a new government program is always a good thing, that socialized healthcare is a proper function of government, that the educational system exists for the benefit of teacher's unions, that the rich exist at the sufferance of the government, for the purpose of serving the poor, that the problem with our economy isn't overregulation but undertaxation. That the Republican party needs to move more towards the Democratic party.

No, for a conservative or libertarian to vote for Kerry to send a message would be, ultimately, self-defeating. On virtually every issue where Bush is wrong, Kerry is wronger. Or at best he offers a "me too," with an empty assurance that he'll do the job better. If you want to send a message, vote libertarian, not Democratic. That will at least send the right message.

Now, there's one other possibility: vote for Kerry because you endorse gridlock. That's a very tempting position. The Clinton-era gridlock, when a Republican Congress acted as a check on a Democratic president, resulted in a lot of good. We got free trade, we got welfare reform, we got budget surpluses, and we didn't get healthcare "reform." Kerry might be a lousy president, but Congress will keep him from enacting his proposals, and so government will stop growing and taxes won't rise.

There are three problems with that: the first is that a Democratic president, even checked by a Republican Congress, gets to appoint liberal judges. (They'll be "moderate," which is mediaspeak for "liberal, but sensible about it.") William Rehnquist's health condition should give us all pause. Federalism hangs by a thread; one more liberal on the court and we could be set back by thirty years. Affirmative action could be embraced with open arms rather than reluctantly. The second amendment would have no chance. And forget any hope that the federal courts will defend private property and the Takings clause.

The second is that there are no guarantees, as the last few years should show us, that the Congress would remain Republican for four years. People switch parties. Midterm elections create huge swings. It seems unlikely now, but so did the Gingrich revolution in 1994.

And the third, and most important, is that the president runs foreign policy. Congress has a say, to be sure. But the president is ultimately in charge. Which means that we probably cut and run from Iraq. No commitment to democracy there, certainly. No hard line on North Korea or Iran. Appeasement of the PLO. And we just can't risk that. Under Clinton it wasn't that big deal. Or didn't seem to be. In the post-9/11 world, we know what can happen.

So for those reasons, I have to stick with George Bush and give my first ever Republican presidential endorsement, after years of Democratic or libertarian lever pulling. Four more years, reluctantly. And here's to hoping that Bush, freed from concerns about re-election, governs more on principle and less on politics.

A watched polling place never closes

For those people sitting on the sofa doing nothing but waiting for the polls to close, courtesy of MSNBC I present the schedule:


In other words, it begins at 7 PM, EST. And theoretically ends at 1 AM, EST. Or, at least, that's the opening bell for the lawsuits to be filed.

(I think I'd rather have Kerry win big -- or Ralph Nader -- than have another recount fight. I don't think I could take it.)

November 3, 2004

The Strangest Result?

In the island community of Vinalhaven, Maine, Kerry received 519 votes, Bush received 249 votes, Nader received 7 votes, Cobb (the Green Party candidate) received 5 votes, and Badnarik received a grand total of 0 votes.

Now the strange part: Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka came in first with 540 votes, almost half his total for the entire state. A fluke, or could Vinalhaven be the epicenter of the coming Constitution Party earthquake?

(I'll go out on a limb and say fluke.)

November 9, 2004

Holiday... from thinking

Sometimes you have to wonder just how idiotic the New York Times really is.

From their post-election Goo Goo editorial on needed electoral reforms, they include this item:

1. A holiday for voting. It's wrong for working people to be forced to choose between standing in a long line to vote and being on time for work. Election Day should be a holiday, to underscore the significance of the event, to give all voters time to cast ballots and to free up more qualified people to serve as poll workers.
They've been printing a letter to the editor about once a week espousing this, but you can argue that letters to the editor don't tell you much about the editors. But this is an editorial, written by the editors. Are they this clueless?

When the government declares a "holiday," it means that we pay government workers not to work; it doesn't mean that other employers give their employees the day off. Do the editors of the Times think that employers are going to rush out to give an extra vacation day to their employees?

Well, there's a simple explanation: maybe the editors of the Times actually plan to mandate that employers give employees the day off?

Gee, that will work well. Are we going to shut down hospitals? Taxis? Restaurants? Day care?

What's that? Some people will have to work? Who? Who decides? Is the government going to establish a new Department of Elections to decide which jobs are vital and can be performed on election day, and which ones require days off for workers?

Sheesh. (Of course, while I'm sure the Times would have no philosophical objection to such a new, powerful, sweeping government bureaucracy, I suspect the real answer is that they simply haven't thought past "Holiday good.")

November 10, 2004

I've got good news

I saved a lot of money on my car insurance... and Yasser Arafat is dead.

November 12, 2004

Not the economy, stupid?

If Kerry had won the election, I have no doubt that the dominant themes of the election post-mortems would be how terrible Iraq and the economy are, and how that drove election turnout. But since Bush won, there's very little on the converse - that is, on how everyone might have perceived that things aren't as bad as all that, and might have voted the way they do because they see Iraq and the economy getting better. No, all everyone wants to talk about is gay marriage. Because as David Brooks points out (in an article everyone else in the blogosphere has already linked to), focusing on that helps "reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them." I guess they feel it's better to label Bush supporters simple bigots that to admit there might have been "positive" reasons to vote for the guy.

So anyway, about gay marriage. Andrew Sullivan shares with us a letter from a reader who theorizes, with statistics to back him up, that the referenda did not drive turnout, and thus did not (in itself) cost Kerry the election. I agree. But I also have interesting statistics of my own... The following is a list of states which passed gay marriage bans last week. For each state in the following list, the first number is the percentage who voted to ban gay marriage, and the second number is the percentage who voted for Bush:

  • Arkansas: Yes 75%, Bush 54%
  • Georgia: Yes 76%, Bush 58%
  • Kentucky: Yes 75%, Bush 60%
  • Michigan: Yes 59%, Bush 48%
  • Missisippi: Yes 86%, Bush 60%
  • Montana: Yes 67%, Bush 59%
  • North Dakota: Yes 73%, Bush 63%
  • Ohio: Yes 62%, Bush 51%
  • Oklahoma: Yes 76%, Bush 66%
  • Oregon: Yes 57%, Bush 48%
  • Utah: Yes 66%, Bush 71%

(Sources: here and here.)

Note that in every state except Utah, Bush was far less popular than the ban. In other words, a not-insignificant number of Kerry supporters were also ban supporters. Now I'm not going to call any of these Kerry supporters homophobes, though I wonder - will others?

November 24, 2004

Entitlement... plus

If you're a gun rights supporter, take heart: not only is the New York Times arguing that you should have the right to own guns, but it thinks that the government should force people to give you guns.

Okay, not quite, but that's the "logic" of Tuesday's silly editorial, Rolling Back Women's Rights. ("Women's rights," of course, is code for "abortion.") You see, the evil Republican Congress has mounted "a disgraceful sneak attack on women's health and freedom."

From such heated rhetoric, you might think that these evil GOPers had required all women to wear burkas and stay indoors without a male relative to chaperone them. But, no, we're not quite at Talibanesqe levels:

Tucked into the $388 billion budget measure just approved by the House and Senate is a sweeping provision that has nothing to do with the task Congress had at hand - providing money for the government. In essence, it tells health care companies, hospitals and insurance companies they are free to ignore Roe v. Wade and state and local laws and regulations currently on the books to make certain that women's access to reproductive health services includes access to abortion.
Oh, it "[t]ells health care companies.. they are free to ignore Roe v. Wade"? Now I see.

So it banned abortion? Well, not quite.

Well, at least it must have forbidden health care companies that receive federal funds from performing abortions, right? No, not that either.

What could it be? I don't want to keep you in suspense any longer, so I'll tell you:

It denies federal financing to government agencies that "discriminate" against health care providers who choose for any reason to disregard state mandates to offer abortion-related services.
That's a little convoluted, so I'll translate: if a state or local government agency chooses to force health care providers to perform abortions or offer "abortion related services" against their will, then that agency -- not the health care provider -- will lose federal funding.

Yep. That's it. A little underwhelming, isn't it? It doesn't mandate that anybody do anything "abortion-related." It doesn't forbid any "abortion-related service" from taking place. It doesn't penalize anybody that provides "abortion-related services." None of that. And yet the Times thinks that this allows "ignores Roe v. Wade"? So the Times must think that Roe mandates that health care providers perform abortions? Huh?

In essence, if government cannot forbid something -- the actual holding of Roe -- the Times thinks that private individuals are required to give it to you, and it is a violation of your rights if the government does not force them to do so. So, to sum up: the government has to force gun sellers to give you guns.

(Also, a printing press. I'll take the one from the Times' building, since they're misusing it, anyway.)

About November 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in November 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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