Monday, November 01, 2004

Voting Is Hard Work

Here it is, my one partisan post - sort of. I'm actually not a partisan person at all; the closest I come to being partisan in anything is that I consider myself to be philosophically vaguely Thomistic. But, as you know, I voted last week, and so it seemed fitting to say something about it.

All the candidates for all the parties I found less than satisfactory; from the Fog of Bush to the Fog of Kerry to the irritating Lincoln-hating of Badnarik to the utter political incompetence of Cobb, I found problems with all of them.

Why I Did Not Vote for Bush: He's Mr. Muddle. I honestly can't figure him out at all; in policies he seems not to go left or right but to Mars. Now, I confess I find most of the objections to Bush to be just junk; they're a stretch at best, and some of them are rather ignorant. (It must be kept in mind that, being in Canada and hearing a lot of Canadian objections as well as what I read on the web, this isn't actually all that surprising; there are many Canadians who like to think of themselves as informed about American politics who show themselves in conversation to be pretty obviously confused.) My own objections to Bush are largely: 1) I don't think he has his priorities right; the first priority of a President should be practical, down-to-earth management of the executive branch. I see nothing of this in Bush. This is related to my other objections. 2) He's an advocate for undisciplined government spending. 3) While I think calling Iraq a 'disaster' is absurd, I really have never seen it as a particularly helpful response to terrorism. 4) There's always the hint of magical thinking about him (I find it in Kerry, too): more government involvement seems always to be the solution to just about everything.

Why I Did Not Vote for Kerry: This essay at FindLaw pretty much sums it up (I don't agree with everything in it, but with the basic point). I consider Bush much, much less guilty in this department than Kerry; the whole point of the Senate is to be the deliberative body on these matters, and part of the point of the Senate is to be a check on Presidential power; whereas sweeping out Presidential power to the extent practicable is just what Presidents have to do (and what good Presidents as well as bad have always done) to be what the energetic chief magistrate the President is supposed to be. Kerry supporters often like to pat themselves on the back about what they see as their moral high ground on the war in Iraq; as far as I'm concerned, their Emperor has no clothes. Were I to choose between Kerry and Bush, I would not choose Kerry, precisely because I think his betrayal of the Constitution, although less obvious, is more serious. I have other objections to Kerry, although none so decisive as this. I also don't think he's shown any signs of real good qualities - despite his reputation for nuance, I've seen little of it (I have seen a number of signs that he can't figure out what is relevant to the issue at hand; I sympathize with this since it's a failing I often share - but it's not nuance but a complex form of confusion).

Why I Did Not Vote for Cobb: Cobb is the Green Party Candidate (whoops - I just realized that this makes it sound like this is a reason I did not vote for him; it isn't, it was just a clarification because you probably haven't heard of him). Of the four parties I considered (Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian), Cobb's campaign has been the most utterly incompetent. What does one say of a Green ticket in which the Vice Presidential candidate has said she's voting Democrat and which targets only 'safe states' - i.e., the ones where they won't take votes from Kerry? How stupid is this approach? I cannot even count the ways. The Greens had already lost votes like crazy to Nader; and then they worked as hard as they could to make themselves even more insignificant. What the Greens needed was to show they could carry their momentum over from the previous election, even without Nader. What they've shown instead is that they can't do politics. I have sympathy with the Green Party on a number of issues (according to the test the Libertarians have on their web site I'm largely in sympathy with the sound of the Republican and Green Party Platforms, and not at all for the Democratic and Libertarian platforms). But this is a Green Party for which I could not at all vote.

Now, as to Badnarik: I voted for him. Or rather, I voted for the Libertarian Party this election, and the only way I could do it was to vote for this rather repugnant man. Badnarik became the party candidate through an accident of politics, moving ahead of much better candidates through intra-party bickering. When he became the Libertarian candidate, he hadn't paid income taxes in ages (he didn't even file returns); he drove (and for all I know, still drives) without a driver's license. Both are supposed to be, apparently, a form of libertarian civil disobedience; I can't, for the life of me, see how the latter is reasonable on constitutional-libertarian principles (i.e., libertarianism within the framework of the U.S. Constitution), and the former seems about the stupidest thing one can pick to engage in civil disobedience about. So he's a kook about taxes. He has also gone on record calling Lincoln and FDR evil dictators. Now, I quite recognize that both were occasionally on rather iffy ground; such is life and the Presidency. But I have no tolerance and no sympathy for anyone who goes around calling the Great Emancipator an evil dictator. He's the worst possible choice for the Libertarian Party in the worst possible year; ask almost any libertarian. He was almost enough to tip me Green or Republican. But I do think that what is needed at this stage in time is a healthy and visible Libertarian Party. This is the election year to make it visible; unfortunately, healthy is not on the menu. So, balanced on the edge of insanity, caught between a rock and a hard place, I did not know what to do until a salutary thought came: there is no way on God's green earth that Badnarik will ever be President. So I voted Libertarian, and hoped Badnarik can keep himself from doing something terribly stupid if the Libertarians do well.

And that's what it came down to: I voted for someone only because I was certain they would not win. Ugh. I can see why some people just pick a party and stick to it. But I take (some) comfort in knowing that everyone else who is voting is voting for someone unfit for office, too. On second thought, that just makes it worse, so never mind.

My largely random prediction for the election: Mainstream Media will be a bit more skittish about declaring states than they were last time, but will still rather stupidly continue to think their declarations are essential parts of the election process. Bush will get 262 Electoral College votes (or so); Kerry the rest of the 538. This depends on Kerry winning Florida, which I think he might; if he loses Florida, however, he will lose. If he gets Florida [but not 270 - ed.], the vote will go to the House, where Bush will win. The popular vote will be razor thin, close enough that a fluctuation in turnout could easily make it go either way. Nonetheless, the candidate who gets more of the popular vote will pretend it's a really important number. Were I to guess (as if I weren't completely guessing about the rest of this!), I think Bush will squeak by in popular votes. Lots of litigations from Democrats and Republicans alike. Bush will get New Mexico, the state which had the closest election last time (and went to Gore by a sliver of votes), by a small margin as the southern two-thirds of the state actually votes this time. The Libertarians will get about 3% of the national popular vote; Nader about 1%; the Greens less than 1%. The media and polling organizations will not entirely recognize how stupid they were in not giving anyone good polling data on the Libertarian vote. Republicans will increase their hold on Congress. There will be at least one 'faithless Elector'. Whoever loses will again kick up a fuss about how evil the Electoral College is, and will again be wrong because what they will really be complaining about is just their own state's election law. Bush will have lost Evangelical votes and picked up Catholic votes; but he will not have picked up Catholic votes in most of the solid-Kerry states.

It certainly is a lot more fun to guess about the election than to vote in it.

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