I can't say I particularly like any of the choices on the Washington ballot but the least objectionable to me is John F. Kerry. I fundamentally disagree with him on many things but I believe that his presidency would make it possible to undo some of the damage George Bush has done to freedoms in our country and to our foreign policy. So I'll be voting for John F. Kerry.
My ballot in Washington state contains candidates for the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Workers World, Green, Socialist Workers, Constitution and Socialist Equality parties. I also have the choice of Nader/Camejo as independent candidates.
I can immediately knock off the Workers World, Socialist Workers and Socialist Equality candidates as I'm not a socialist and so am not interested in seeing them run the country.
The Greens don't do much for me as I generally don't like single issue parties and I especially don't like ones who act against their own interests. The Greens support instant runoff voting even though it all but guarantees no third party will ever win and they want out of NAFTA/WTO even though free trade enriches the world and thus increases the demand for environment regulations. Poor people can't afford not to despoil the environment, rich people can. So the Greens are out.
The Constitution party isn't going to get my vote as I actually like immigration, free trade, the right to choose and so on.
Nader is basically a socialist but his principles still resonate with me. I like the idea of universal health care but I do have concerns that single payer insurance wouldn't help curb rising costs because the people who consume health care and those who pay for it are still separated. I also don't like Nader's anti-corporate tone. I'm all for putting in place strict laws that unambiguously subordinate corporations to the will of the people but there is a big difference between making corporations accountable and being anti-corporation and anti-profit. Some of Nader's true colors in this vein come out when he declares that the providers of health care paid for through a government health care plan should only be non-profits. His desire to provide a 'living wage' means increasing salaries across the board which means killing jobs as companies choose to move overseas and invest in machinery rather than hire locally. I'm all for providing a social safety net but distorting the market to the point where it stops working well isn't the way to do it. Near as I can tell Nader's fundamental belief is that government is the solution, not the problem and that is where we part ways. Even more then that I don't believe that Nader is someone who would make a good President. He is an uncompromising iconoclast and maveric, crucial qualities in a crusader but I remain unconvinced that his particular combination would make for a good President. A President's job is to compromise, compromise and then compromise again. Therefore I will not be voting for Nader.
George Bush is the president who gave us the completely unnecessary and unproductive invasion of Iraq. Worse even then the invasion itself is the clear evidence that Bush's administration had no clue how to run things afterwards. If you are going to mire the US in some other country's problems please at least have some idea of how to do it successfully. Afghanistan is yet another example of George Bush's complete lack of a clue as how to run foreign affairs. He invades and then what? Instead of helping to set up a stable government he keeps most of America's forces running after reminants of the Taliban in the South and provides neither security nor aid throughout the rest of the country. The results are predictable. Amongst them, Afghanistan is on track to have its largest opium harvest ever while the putative president of the country can't step foot outside of Kabul without fearing for his life. I'm glad to see that the Afghanistan election wasn't a total failure but the cruel reality is that democracy seems to be the product of prosperity, not its source. Without a solid economy, which can only come when there is peace, Afghanistan's democracy is most likely doomed from the start. When not making a mess of our foreign policy President Bush is shredding freedoms at home. The clearest example of this is his much treasured Patriot Act. One can then add to his record tax cuts that free the wealthy at the cost of the middle class. Then there are the less tangigable aspects of his administration such as its secrecy, what I believe to be credible allegations of voter fraud, a complete lack of belief in the separation of church and state and so on. Then there are the easy freebies like his opposition to free trade (Canadian drugs, Pacific Lumber, steel, etc.), his desire to privatize social security (I need to write a whole article on that some day), his endless spending, his ban on aid to groups anywhere in the world that even mention the word abortion, his opposition to stem cell research and so on. It all sums up to a simple conclusion – I'm not voting for George Bush.
Michael Badnarik represents the Libertarians, the party I typically vote for. But I take Badnarik at his word. I believe he wants to end many health and safety regulations and have no government provided health care. I believe he wants to pull us out of the WTO without a credible plan on how to handle the consequences. I believe he wants to pull the US out of the UN, disolve the federal reserve, ban deficit spending, eliminate federal crime laws (other than for treason and counterfeiting), pull American troops out of all foreign nations and refuse to intervene internationally, etc. You have to dig pretty deep into his website to get his views on things and some areas that I suspect he realizes are going to get him in real trouble, like his desire to get rid of social security, he doesn't even mention there. There are many things I suspect Badnarik and I would agree on but he is just too extreme for my tastes so I won't be voting for him.
John F. Kerry actually has some interesting ideas on health care. His ideas around government provided catastrophic health insurance make some sense to me. This is exactly the sort of improbable but expensive event that is best covered by as large a risk sharing pool as possible. Kerry's talk of 'Benedict Arnold' companies is on the crasser side of empty minded populism. Anyone who has even an undergraduate level education in economics understands comparative advantage and why 'out sourcing' and 'off shoring' will be beneficial for America in the end. Yes, the process is painful and yes there may be a roll for government to play in help to ameliorate the damage but that isn't what Kerry is arguing. His hand waving about 'illegal' Chinese currency manipulations (since when is buying America's debt illegal?) also make me doubt his sincerity. And his rhetoric about labor and environmental standards in trade agreements is just so much hot air. The only consequence of such agreements will be to force first world conditions on third world countries. This may make people feel better but in practice it will make a lot of third world countries a lot poorer and ironically less able to enforce those very standards. And the usual 'Raise the Minimum Wage' rhetoric will just hurt job creation. His foreign policy statements don't inspire much confidence in me either. His ideas of 'internationalizing' the Iraqi conflict are very nice but unlikely to be effective, even with the explicit bribe of oil money to countries willing to join in. Kerry is at least true to his roots in that he seems to feel all problems can be solved by a well constructed government program. Much like Nader, it is clear that Kerry believes that government is the solution, not the problem. Amongst the civil rights community there is a belief that Kerry will be better for rights in America than Bush is. It would be hard for it to be otherwise but I don't believe Kerry will be all that much better. Kerry goes out of his way to point out that he supports 95% of the provisions in the Patriot act. He is a strong supporter of government sanctioned racism. All this makes sense in its own way. Kerry believes that government is the source of hope and progress so it only makes sense to give government as many powers as possible so it can do its 'good' more efficiently.
In an ideal world I wouldn't have to vote for any of these people. In an ideal world I would have someone to vote for whose ideas I agreed with. But that person isn't currently available so it's my duty as a citizen to pick from the choices available the person I most want to be the President of the United States of America. Of the choices available the least objectionable to me is John F. Kerry. I don't like his economics and I don't believe he will be all the useful in restoring our civil rights but unlike George Bush I don't believe he is fundamentally hostile to those rights and unlike Nader or Badnarik I think he will be effective enough that when others lead the charge to restore our rights Kerry will be able to help them. I believe that our immediate focus as a country needs to be on fixing the damage Bush has caused to our rights and our foreign policy and Kerry has the ability in my view to make the deals necessary to get this process going. So John F. Kerry is getting my vote.