"And the trouble is / We don't know who we are instead."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Kerry, Bush, and the pragmatic view

To follow up, while I am personally still undecided, I don't have a hard line against those who espouse the 'vote for the candidate that will seem to do the least harm' view. Nevertheless, even if that were my own view, I'm not sure I could make a decision this November. Bush's foreign policy is disastrous, in my humble opinion — his leadership in that arena is simply unbiblical (unless we're thinking in terms of the Old Testament). That's not to say I could vote for for Kerry, but his sentiments in his anti-Vietnam speech most directly hits the nail on the head when it comes to my own sentiments on war; unfortunately, even in that particular point, its hard to tell if Kerry is the man he used to be — he strongly believes in a U.S. presence in Iraq, although from what I understand it's because in his eyes we have a moral duty to finish what we've started.

What really gets me is that many Christians sign up for the Republican party without thinking; in other words, without asking themselves "on what issues are even Republicans non-Christian?" I think many have taken it as a no-brainer and assume that the Republican party and the Christian viewpoint are synonomous — which they are absolutely not . . .
. . . but isn't Republicanism closer to the Christian view than the Democrats? In an overt sense, and assuming you shut an eye to the unjustified military action that has taken place countless times under the Reagan-Bush Sr.-Bush Jr. administration, then yes, Republicans do appear more moral. But if we are learning anything about politics it ought to be that moral appearance and intention and what actually gets carried out in the White House (by Republican or not) are two entirely different things.

Ironically, most of the time we assume this will work against us: we vote for Candidate X who according to his campaign believes in A, B, and C, and once in office he makes a feeble attempt at B and C, and seems to entirely forget about A. We turn out disappointed, but the politician knows what he's doing — he's trying to simultaneously please his constituents and as many members of the opposing party in order to bolster his chances of getting re-elected. If he actually followed through on A, B, and C, he would have no chance of the swing vote from the other side; instead, his lack of commitment is likely to be forgiven by his own party and looked on as sufferable by those critical votes within the opposing party.

If you think the previous paragraph is a needlessly cynical or pragmatic view, I'd ask you to consider two things: 1. I'm applying it largely to candidates from the two major parties — i.e. candidates with a chance of winning. Peroutka, Nader, and the like have no chance of getting elected precisely because they are not moderate enough. 2. This is nothing new or unique to America; we may have perfected it in the modern era, but this is how the game of politics has been played since the days of the Graeco-Roman Senate: "some people can be fooled all the time, and all of the people can be fooled some of the time" (Rhetoric in Athens and Rome).

So could we get the principle of candidates not following through on their campaign promises to work for us? Would a Democrat that does very little in office be better than a Republican that does much that I don't desire? To me, yes. My ideal scenario would be for Kerry to get into office and proceed to do absolutely nothing (read: fulfill few to zero of his platform issues that involve immorality) except restore some respect to America by leading our military out of situations that comprimise our long-term security (read: quit engendering hatred through unjustifiable war). To me, that is a better scenario than another four years of Bush's jingoism and international bravado, which if it weren't for my knowing that God is truly sovereign, I would find extremely disturbing.

That said, poor leaders are poor leaders, and God being sovereign doesn't abdicate an American president of his responsibility to make sound decisions. I do not have confidence in Bush to make those decisions in accordance with a peaceful, turn-the-other-cheek outlook.

And if you don't believe that turning the other cheek can work in international security matters, consider Britain's dealings with the Irish Republican Army: they haven't yet resorted to bombers-on-parade.

Imagine if they had!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

I'm quite inclined to vote for Peroutka.

I don't see enough of an overall advantage in either the Big Two to choose them. As you said, though they may promise A, B, and C, they're really after power, not performance, and therefore relatively little will be able to be done outside of mainstream America's desires. And that little is more than likely not to be along the lines one was hoping for.

Of couse, I'm not so short-sighted as to think Peroutka could actually do much in office. (But there's also the thought that if he were able to get into office, he must have something going for him.) It just seems a more responsible vote.


11:29 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting post. I agree with almost everything you said, including the idea that a do-nothing Kerry presidency would be better than another four years of Bush promoting unbiblical warfare, etc. The one thing I do think of, though, is the fact that the president can appoint various judges and since the judicial system is so out of control right now, that could do some damage.

Another minor point I'd like to make is that I agree with you that Bush's foreign policy is disastrous--but I would say it is so even if we are thinking in terms of the Old Testament (which I do). His policies in this arena violate biblical law no matter which point of view you're coming from.

Anyway, good post. I agree with most of it (though as I'm sure you know, I'd go a little further and say it is wrong to vote Bush).

10:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh...sorry, I forgot to sign the previous comment. This is Rachael from LiveJournal (aftondays).

10:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diane in Florida again, following rabbit-trails...

I begin to see why politics is such a tricky topic even amongst friends! =) Personally I was very relieved to have Bush take the White House because the previous occupant was such a complete moral embarrassment. During the Clinton years I became more and more ashamed to be called "American," and to me Kerry seems very similar to Clinton. Bush at least seems committed to his marriage and to common decency, and I do respect him for many reasons. But of course they are all only natural men whom God allows a measure of power for reasons we won’t understand until the end. Ultimately even Caesar served God’s end purposes and not his own. That is hard for me to comprehend when I read about him and other vile world leaders.

Actually I just wanted to "tell on myself" with a little story. This year I was reminded of an experience from my childhood. We were still in the Philippines when Carter was elected (1976?). I was in fifth or sixth grade at an American missionary school, Faith Academy. In the yearbook that year, comments by a few seniors about the election were included in a two-page spread. (Maybe they were able to send in absentee votes?) Some of the comments were intelligent or thoughtful, but one girl's comment was, "I think it was a mistake to vote in Carter. I don't like his smile." That stuck in my mind all these years because of its obvious shallowness!

But this year I found myself thinking, "How could anyone vote for Kerry? He's just creepy!" =P That was my first impression after watching him speak for five minutes. And...I don't like his smile.

I guess that cancels out anything meaningful I might have said!

I don't dare say any of this in my own journal because I notice at least one of my acquaintances there is quite anti-Bush, and I've read some of the hornet's nests stirred up in other journals! Since one of the three "taboo topics" is religion, and Christians are already thoroughly involved in that, perhaps one is all we can handle, eh?

6:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and I'll continue playing with fire for a moment longer because this comment struck me:

"That's not to say I could vote for Kerry, but his sentiments in his anti-Vietnam speech most directly hits the nail on the head when it comes to my own sentiments on war..."

Umm, but I'm sure the reasons for his views are quite, quite different from yours, and those reasons could lead him down other paths that you definitely wouldn't take. Your foundations are totally different, I'm sure you agree.

I mean, if I were a Christian young man, drafted for a war, I would refuse to pick up a machine gun and kill someone, but I hope my reasons would be different from those of another young man who just didn't care about anything enough to defend it.

I don't have the "eddycation" to take this much further but it's kinda fun and I couldn't resist. =)


6:40 PM

Blogger Matthew said...

"Umm, but I'm sure the reasons for his views are quite, quite different from yours, and those reasons could lead him down other paths that you definitely wouldn't take."

Fair enough, but if we are to wait for a president that shares my views foundationally, I will turn to dust first. In reality, my compliment of Kerry's viewpoint wasn't meant as an endorsement for his potential presidency; sorry for the confusion. Incidentally, this side of faith, I think his reasons for opposing the war in Vietnam were as good as any I've heard: the war was pointless, fruitless, and grotesque toward everyone involved (including the millions of Vietnamese murdered or malformed through indiscriminate chemical bombings).

"I mean, if I were a Christian young man, drafted for a war, I would refuse to pick up a machine gun and kill someone, but I hope my reasons would be different from those of another young man who just didn't care about anything enough to defend it."

I assume you don't mean to parallel Kerry with someone who 'just didn't care about anything enough to defend it.' That said, I see your point; but having the choice of the two candidates we do (although I say that knowing that I will probably vote for a third-party candidate) I don't believe either agrees with me foundationally or will be a vehicle of positive moral change for America (neither Kerry nor Bush lead, they reflect; and in matters where Bush leads, I think he's bent on world domination). Moreover, Bush has approved stem cell research for existing embryonic lines and has a penchant for warfare that is completely ignorant of international security matters, except to think that whoever carries the biggest stick will win. From Bush's standpoint, America doesn't just do the right thing, America *is* the embodiment of right — i.e. we don't do it because it is right, but rather, because we do it, it is right. That extreme arrogance — that somehow America is the "Axis of Good" — is what I find most disturbing.

I'll probably be casting my ballot for Peroutka, not because I think he has any chance of winning, but because, as a registered Republican, I want to get the Republican Party's attention to say that if they want my vote, they're going to have to present a candidate that is more conservative and respectable than Bush Jr.

9:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an english woman I think our govt attitude to the disgusting murderers and would-be murderers aka as irish terrorists was terrible. These people tried to assassinate our government, murdered soldiers, policemen and civilians and now they are all out of prison and masquerading as politicians and community leaders. I think a war on terror would have been a good idea, politically and militarily......

(This is Lucy, aka keeperathome on livejournal - Skye suggested we read your post....)

8:56 AM


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