My endorsement for President of the United States, my vote, goes to David Cobb of the Green Party. Cobb's platform is nearest to my ideal platform, and his acknowledgement that voters in swing states should vote Kerry, in order to unseat the worst President many of us have ever known, may not satisfy the socialist in me, but it satisfies the pragmatist in me. I share Cobb's platform, and his desire to allow the very less-than-perfect John Kerry to assume the Presidency, regardless of Kerry's cosmopolitan, internationalist warmongering, regardless of his super-rich Skull-and-Bones background. I share the desire of most people on the Left (most of whom might prefer otherwise at other times) simply to pull us back from the brink of doom, to gain a little breathing room, a little space. I know it's not much space, but for now, assuming Bush is beatable, it will have to do. Only those of you who know me personally can guess how much it pains me to say this.
Without qualification or hesitation, in a modality of full convinction, I must declare that George W. Bush is the worst President of my lifetime. Bush is not merely unlikable, incompetent, dishonest, and undiplomatic, although he is all of these things to a degree unprecedented in bourgeois politics. Bush has raised the bar on ruling class evil. Even by the standards of bourgeois politics, he is a miserable, lecherous failure, a disgrace to his corporation, a figure who has uniquely mobilized and unified his opposition to a level not seen since Reagan, and who will undoubtedly surpass Reagan in such accomplishment, due to Bush's complete failure to even attempt a rhetoric of unification or national familialism. Those of you who wish for a world of free markets, global exchange, and unlimited corporate power ought to reject Bush simply because a conservative political movement ought not embrace a bad leader--he simply makes all of you look very, very bad. On the other hand, those who long for limits on or alternatives to corporate oligarchy have already rejected Bush, and one can only hope that his across-the-board idiotic malevolence will result in his defeat.
But it's doubtful that the former interest group--those who believe in capitalism and conservatism--will ultimately grasp the importance of having a competent spokesperson, or that Bush's greatest virtue to progressives has been his utterly reliable return to the worldviews of Herbert Hoover. Blinded by the power-grab of the last four years, conservatives have forgotten what happens when one lands without a parachute. That landing very well may not occur a week from today, but occur it will. In fact, I have long wondered whether Bush and his cronies came into office assuming they only had one term in which to move the country as far to the right as possible. To this end, Bush has gutted even moderate environmental regulations and has appointed an Interior Secretary determined to drill, dig, and explode no matter what the cost, the more pristine the target, the better. Bush has overseen an unprecedented increase in unemployment and has endorsed cuts in social services that make Reagan look like Che Guevara. He has sliced and diced bipartisanship and has created an administration of unparallelled secrecy and corporate beholdence. Reagan and Bush the Elder and even Clinton flirted with, sometimes slept with, corporations; George W. Bush routinely performs fellatio on even the sleaziest players in the corporate world. And this is hardly surprising given Bush's key co-workers, including the world's leading profiteer of destruction, Wyoming's own Dick Cheney. And you'll notice I haven't even mentioned the debacle of Iraq, the war whose "justifications" I will always use, far too easily, as a foil in my lectures on deliberative democracy. A sign I saw on the news the other day put it best: "Daddy's Little War Criminal."
I am unimpressed by the apologists who acknowledge Bush's incompetence but refuse to judge his morality. Why is it that we can (and, in my opinion, ought to) condemn politicians caught in small lies but not big whoppers? We have testimony from former key administration figures that Bush knew there was likely no connection between Iraq and September 11. He could not have NOT known of the flaws in intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction. He cannot credibly claim that he did not know that many military planners and brass were warning him of the impending failure of an attempt to occupy and transform Iraq. Not as stupid as he looks or sounds, he must have known the qualitative difference between the opinions of Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz. As it happens, I am not a fan of either of these people, but like I said before, Bush is a failure even by the standards of bourgeois politics. And in the case of Iraq, that "failure," whether in the final analysis it was deliberate or incompetent, has cost the lives of over a thousand American workers in uniform, and many thousands of Iraqis--whose lives are worth just as much as yours or mine.
Rather than "fighting" the "war on terror," Bush has exacerbated terrorism--and not only, in the language of liberal internationalism, by "fracturing alliances," but by continuing to uphold a paradigm guaranteeing poverty and misery for millions worldwide. Those claiming to speak for the impoverished, those who resort to the murder of innocents, are not heroes or revolutionaries; in fact they are more accurately described as mirror-images of Bush himself, more examples of the byproducts of an alienated and deeply hierarchical world, cynics who take advantage of hatred stirred by hunger. The circle is in full motion now and will continue to turn as long as Bush's neoconservatives rule the White House--create the conditions under which terrorism can thrive, then point to that terrorism as evidence that we must continue to "stay the course." Stanley Kubric would be proud, but the rest of us should be very, very angry.
That this undeniable collection of facts probably will not result in Bush's defeat is cause for severe discombobulation among Bush haters. They see statistics like those published last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, showing that 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD or a major program for developing them...or that a slightly larger percentage believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda. They hear their co-workers defend Bush's lack of articulate speech, his smirking attitude, his "cowboy" [as a Wyoming Poke I object to this comparison] attitude, because he reminds them of...them. These are the fruits of an alienated, cynical electorate, half-steeped in the belief that the greed of the powerful somehow works in their interests, half-immersed in the spurious and convoluted mythology of Apocalypse and American exceptionalism.
Because a victory for John Kerry will at best only delay the impacts of such alienation and power inequality, because Kerry is at best a more reasonable, efficient and diplomatic corporate-militarist, I cannot endorse him except in the same indirect and reluctant way that David Cobb "endorses" him. I want Kerry to beat Bush, and so should you, but none of us should feel that it's nearly enough for that to happen. We must defeat Bush AND build alternatives to the world that makes bastards like Bush possible in the first place. As Cobb puts it, in simple, nuanced language:
"John Kerry voted for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Kerry voted for the
Patriot Act. John Kerry voted for NAFTA. Kerry opposes single payer universal
health care. Kerry opposes raising the minimum wage to a living wage. I'm going
to be willing to criticize John Kerry on taking positions that progressives
cannot support, and that progressives would like to see enacted. That's the
reason so many more progressives at the grassroots level are actually joining
the Green Party. At the same time, I'm going to acknowledge the truth of the
matter that as bad as John Kerry is on all these issues, George W. Bush is
qualitatively worse. The difference between John Kerry and George W. Bush may be
nearly incremental, but it is not inconsequential."
And so I urge people in "safe" states to vote for the third party progressive candidate of their choice--mine, for now, is David Cobb. And I cautiously respect the choice of those in swing states to do the same. I will defend you from the onslaught of angry Democrats who think they own your vote even though their candidate is perhaps the least principled and most opportunistic Democrat we've seen since...um...Bill Clinton. But the smarter thing to do if you're in a state with a close race is to hold your nose, as they say, and vote for John Kerry. For those on the Left, it's the difference between building our movement from a position of relative security, and trying to build anything at all with a boot crushing our collective throat--in this case, a faux cowboy boot worn by a bumbling, narrow-minded, pro-corporate child of privilege who has, in the past four years, created an America where I am frankly afraid to raise my children. Fuck George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Let's do whatever we can not only to send them back to their vaults, but to create a world where leaders like them don't exist. Voting for Kerry may help achieve the former, but supporting David Cobb and other progressives is vital to achieving the latter. If we're smart and persistant, we will not always have to engage in such dissonant and troubling strategies.