I have a penchant for picking the losing candidate in presidential elections, but I also have one for picking a true leader who represents a clear and much-needed contrast to the status quo. This time around I devoted my time and energy to former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Last election season I worked enthusiastically for the media-proclaimed “maverick” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). I just love those mavericks who are outside of the major party establishments. I find them refreshing because they breathe life and ideas into stagnant parties that have blended so close together after the Clinton revolution that they are practically indistinguishable to voters.
One thing I like about the mavericks is that they have a strong and unwavering philosophy not based on polls. They are usually morally right and strong in their convictions. Unfortunately, they are also politically vulnerable. They represent a challenge to the norm and are usually disregarded or disparaged by a media controlled by conservative business conglomerates that dislike structural change and uncertainty. Perhaps the media turned on Dean because he openly expressed his ethically reasoned view that media conglomerates need to be fragmented to ensure the future of free press in the United States.
The president is not like the mavericks. His policies are not based on a steady political philosophy, or sophistication, for seeking out what is pragmatic and right. This president, much like his presumed rival Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), is more a seeker of political expediency. Unlike his self-assumed title suggests, President George W. Bush is neither compassionate nor conservative. The idea that he is compassionate is a joke and need only be repudiated by looking at how he is destroying the public school system by under-funding the “No Child Left Behind” bill. And he certainly is not a conservative. A conservative would never use the Constitution to promote discrimination against gay people or expand the government by creating record deficits the way he has.
Unfortunately for American voters, Kerry is not that much different from the president. While he is a strong leader on issues that concern veterans, he often waffles on major policy decisions. Even though he is regarded by political organizations as a strong liberal, he has voted for or spoken in favor of such conservative initiatives as No Child Left Behind, faith-based initiatives, welfare reform and John Ashcroft’s Patriot Act. Kerry also has taken more special interest money than any other senator has in the past 15 years. Now he claims to be credible when he says that as president he is going to take special interests out of Washington.
Kerry’s current politically expedient feelings toward special interests create the same credibility gap that can be found with Bush, who has a history of saying one thing and then doing another. For instance, before Bush slashed AmeriCorp funding he spoke of it as his favorite government program. Like Bush, Kerry does not understand that actions speak louder than words. He now speaks out against the Iraq war he voted for, speaks negatively of No Child Left Behind and thinks ill of the Patriot Act.
For Kerry it seems right to vote for what is popular and explain in a 10-page memo why it is wrong after it becomes unpopular. I wonder if he would be against the Patriot Act now if it were popular among the public. Sure, Kerry can say he is against No Child Left Behind now because the president did not fund it properly enough. Honestly, though, what did he expect from a president who encourages school vouchers and has no incentive to fund public schools? Kerry can say now he is against the war because of the way Bush carried it out, but why did he feel before that it was OK to put full trust and use of force in the hands of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld?
All that can really explain Kerry’s inconsistencies is that he either lacks foresight or is deficient in his knowledge of what it means to maneuver around the legislative system politically. Because up to this point, with all his carping about how the policies he voted for have been skewed by the president, it seems that the president has out-maneuvered him on every major political issue brought forth during this administration.
So it seems that when it comes to this upcoming election Americans really have two lousy choices. They can either choose a man whose policies consistently hurt ordinary citizens or the man that he consistently outsmarts.
-The writer, a senior majoring in human services, is a Hatchet columnist.
This article appeared in the February 12, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.