A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mea Culpa?

I had an interesting exchange of emails with Jack Montag (remember him?) over the weekend, and since I've been musing on it, I figured it's probably blogworthy. He sent me a link to this article with the subject line "This article sums up a lot of how I feel...". Given that I respect, though often disagree with, his opinion, I gave it a look.

As I noted in my reply email, it's a good article, and I also agree with much of it-- I think we have lost our focus in the War on Terror, and I think the post-invasion planning for Iraq was woefully inadequate to nearly non-existent. Rumsfeld should've been fired, and Bush's cronyistic tendencies have cost both the country and the world. And I agree whole-heartedly about Bush's domestic agenda embarrassments-- apparently neo-conservative means "spend, spend, spend, cut taxes, spend, spend, and then establish a few really big entitlement programs." Who knew? Unsurprisingly, I also agree with the article's belief that the Democrats have been completely and utterly useless and that "...the Democrats have allowed crackpots, leftists and demagogic cowards to snipe from the sidelines while taking no responsibility for anything."

Further, I really, really, really agree with Mr. McIntyre that the two-party system is badly broken and I'm quite ready to chuck it. We need dynamic, inspirational and, above all, smart leadership right now, and neither party seems capable of finding, much less supporting, such a man or woman.

I disagree with Mr. McIntyre that Iraq was the wrong move (I think it was the right move, or at least a good move, but it was poorly planned-- beyond the initial invasion-- and poorly managed), and I actually rather like the President's immigration proposal. Calling him the worst president ever seems over the top, as well, though I'd feel fairly comfortable putting him in the bottom half-- maybe the bottom quarter.

But okay, on most issues I agree that Bush has been a disappointment. Perhaps Kerry would've been better, but that's rather unknowable-- perhaps, under Kerry, we would've abandoned Iraq by now, and rather than having a new, duly elected, government in place there right now, the whole country would be awash in sectarian and ethnic bloodshed of a scope to make the current violence seem like the good old days. Perhaps, under Kerry, the terrorists would've been emboldened enough to have attacked us again. There is no way to know what might have happened.

Which is why this statement from Jack has been sticking in my craw, a bit:
If Bush hasn't lived up toany of what you expected, if you feel that he has lied to you to an unacceptable degree, if his actions have left you with concern that things are worse then before Bush, and you truly feel (as I do) that we're left with the "worst of both worlds" [higher spending and a sharp shift to the right on social issues], then you should apologize for having voted for Bush. You can't see into the future any better then me, but if the current reality is far below what you signed up for and Bush is beyond redemption, then I think that it's time to admit that damage has been done and apologize. To paraphrase his own black and white language, you're either supporting him, or not. It's no secret that I find him totally unworthy of a single shred of support.
I do feel that Bush has mislead me, if not outright lied, and I do think I've gotten the worst of both worlds in the sense of increased spending/debt coupled with increased societal intolerance and government sanctioned interference. But why, exactly, I should apologize for voting for him is rather beyond me. I'm willing to say that I probably made a mistake, and if I had it to do over again I probably would have written somebody in (I don't think I could vote for Kerry) rather than voting for Bush, but why should I have to apologize for my vote?

You make your best guess based on what you know and what you believe, and then you see what happens. Am I responsible for all the things Bush does-- whether I like them or not-- just because I voted for him?

Let's turn it around for a minute. Would Jack and tc and all the folks at the Democratic Underground and dailyKOS, etc. be apologizing to me if Bush was having a brilliant 2nd term, Iraq was well on its way to representative government (which, it may well be, btw), the economy was strong (which it is), gas prices were low, inflation was low, unemployment was low, and there was demonstrable proof that the NSA surveillance program had stopped a nuclear bomb from going off in Times Square? Would they be saying, "Oops, we were wrong to vote for Kerry, sorry we didn't support the president"?

Or, how about this-- let's say Gore was elected, and we hadn't invaded Afghanistan, much less Iraq after 9/11. Al Qaeda is allowed to go their merry way, Hussein continues to funnel billions of UN funds into his own coffers, and his loveable sons continue to run rape rooms and torture athletes that don't live up to expectations. Would Gore supporters be apologizing to me after terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in London rather than conventional bombs?

All of which is just to say-- how do you know the alternative would've been better, and why should someone have to apologize for attempting to vote for the guy they think best represents their interests and beliefs? It strikes me as nearly as illogical as my generation apologizing to black people or native americans for the crimes perpetrated against them by my great-great-great-great grandfathers. If I hadn't learned from those crimes, if I hadn't striven to do better, then by all means an apology is the least you could reasonably expect from me-- but if I have, why is what happened 150-400 years ago, my fault?

So, what have I learned from all this-- because discourse without analysis and self-reflection is just blather? A few things.

1) The two-party system in the U.S. is in dreadful shape-- it tends to spit up the worst possible candidates, it is pathetically beholden to money and those with it, and it tends to marginalize those that attempt to reform it.

2) I do not, upon reflection, feel a need to apologize for any of my previous votes-- not for Bush, nor for Clinton (though in retrospect, I wish I had voted for Dole). I do, however, feel a need to not merely stumble blindly down the well-worn ruts of the current political system picking the lesser of two evils. I no longer believe that a vote for anyone other than a Republican or Democrat is a wasted vote.

3) If there is no popular voter uprising to throw the bums out-- if the two party system continues along the rotted status quo path it has been on for many years now-- then divided government is always better than one party having control of both the legislative and executive branches. For no other reason than that it will be able to damage less in that state. The only time I was even briefly tempted to vote for Kerry was when somebody (it might have been Jack-- I forget) made the case for keeping government divided. Congress keeps the President in check and vice-versa, and both sides actually have to work with each other to get things done.

Here's my current write-in ticket: Coburn and Obama. A Republican and a Democrat. A white man and a black man. One from a rural state, one from a fairly urban state. Both from fly-over country. Both young enough to have some idealism and fighting spirit left in them. Both politically savvy enough to be able to effect some actual change once they are elected, but both new to national politics and thus, not jaded, cynical and, most importantly, bought.

Coburn brings fiscal sanity, pragmatism, and a willingness to take on the system no matter what the odds. Obama balances Coburn's bible-belt background and brings an understanding of urban needs and challenges. Both are telegenic and well-spoken.

Coburn and Obama in '08!


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