October 27, 2004 News & Opinion » Featured story

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In a time of great challenge: Kerry for president 

Three years after the terrorists' attacks of 9/11, the United States is a divided country, and an angry one. And, rightly or wrongly, it is a fearful one.

            In less than a week, the country will select the president who will lead us, and will serve as the leader of the world's most powerful nation, for the next four years. For the health and security of all of us, here and abroad, that president must be John Kerry.

            We are not endorsing Kerry simply because he is the only electable alternative to George Bush. We have watched Kerry closely throughout the campaign. We've studied his record, and we've read his position papers. Ours is no qualified endorsement.

            There is no perfect candidate, in any race. And with few exceptions, none of the Democratic candidates in last spring's primary are as progressive as we would like. But unquestionably, John Kerry is qualified to be president. His approach to foreign and domestic policy is, in balance, intelligent and humane. With some important exceptions, it is moderately progressive.

            And it is no overstatement to say that George Bush is a dangerous man, dangerous to the future of this nation, dangerous to the stability of the world.

            New York State is considered solidly pro-Kerry, a "safe state." Knowing that Kerry will get New York's electoral votes, some progressives will vote for Ralph Nader, on the Independence or Peace and Justice Party line, to support Nader and those parties and to send a message to the Democratic Party.

            Unquestionably, many of Nader's stands are closer to those of this newspaper than Kerry's. (The same is true for Green Party candidate David Cobb, who is not on the ballot in New York). We will continue to press for universal health care, for a large increase in the minimum wage, for full gay rights, for an Israel-Palestinian policy that recognizes both the threat to Israel's security, the grievances and needs of the occupied Palestinians, and the suffering of all of the people in that troubled area. We will continue to criticize Kerry for his support of the Bush war resolution.

            But Nader, astonishingly, persists in his campaign in swing states --- and he has accepted financial backing from Republicans who, he knows full well, are using him to try to defeat Kerry. Both have severely harmed his credibility.

            Aside from those issues, the popular-vote totals will be important in this race. The next four years will be a time of great difficulty, in the world and in Congress. If John Kerry wins, it's important that he take office with as large a mandate as possible. (Readers who want to send a message to the Democratic Party can vote for Kerry on the Working Families line.)

Nader has insisted that there's little difference between Kerry and Bush. That is patently untrue. "Anyone who says 'I don't care if Bush gets elected,'" Noam Chomsky has said, "is basically telling poor and working people in the country, 'I don't care if your lives are destroyed.'"

            Chomsky is one of 70 progressives who supported Nader in 2000 and have signed onto The Unity Campaign, urging voters to support Kerry in swing states. Among the others: commentator Jim Hightower, essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, political scientist Theodore Lowi, educator and writer Manning Marable, farmer and writer Wendell Berry, and educator and author Cornel West. (For the full list: www.TheUnityCampaign.org.)

            John Kerry has repeatedly criticized the Bush tax cuts for providing great benefits to the wealthy at the expense of middle-income and poor Americans and the US economy itself. He would set a fiscal course that could begin to reverse the disastrous actions of the Bush administration.

            It is obvious that Kerry would try to restore worldwide respect for America and try to undo the enormous damage caused by the Bush administration. He understands the importance of diplomacy. (It is no small thing that he and Senator John McCain worked together to normalize US relations with Vietnam.)

            Kerry has stated clearly that his Supreme Court appointments would support the protection of women's reproductive rights --- as would his administration. He is a deeply religious man who respects the need for the separation of church and state. He would be far more committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans. He is against the death penalty.

            Kerry has a strongly pro-environment history, and he would restore to the White House a respect for scientific research. Kerry talks about energy conservation. Bush ramps up usage and presses for oil exploration in the Alaskan wilderness.

            Of immense importance: Kerry would strive to be a president of all the people. George Bush has been a harsh, sneeringly divisive president, and over the past four years he has continually narrowed the constituencies with whom he has patience, and for whom he has respect.

            John Kerry was right in his Vietnam War protests. He is right in his opposition to privatizing Social Security. He is right on many, many issues. He would be a good, strong, courageous, ethical president.

Corporate interests (particularly those of the oil industry), right-wing political interests, Christian-right interests, ideologues who have been intent on invading Iraq for years, fundamentalist religious fervor: Together, these have shaped the Bush presidency, dramatically affecting US foreign and domestic policy in everything from the invasion of Iraq to the federal deficit and health care.

            We should not have invaded Iraq. Our war and occupation have been plagued by incompetent planning and execution. And the result has been disastrous: in lives lost (ours, Iraqis', citizens of other nations', contractors', humanitarian workers'); in the torture and humiliation of fellow human beings in prisons; in the spread of anti-Americanism and terrorism; in the alienation of allies whose help we desperately need; in the destabilizing of the Middle East. We now face very dangerous situations in Iran and North Korea, with few resources of our own and no international credibility.

            Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft have set about eroding civil rights, and they threaten to erode them further. The administration has rounded up legal immigrants, imprisoned them, and held them without access to attorneys. It has expanded government's intrusion into American citizens' privacy. It has threatened journalists with jail sentences.

            George Bush has been so fixated on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that he has clung to them, and clings to them still, despite the deficit --- despite the escalating costs of his war --- despite the country's enormous domestic security needs.

            As the lead-up to the war made clear, Bush not only does not welcome dissenting views, he does not seek them. Most disturbing is what seems to be the foundation of his actions: He believes God put him in the presidency. Religious faith can be a source of great personal strength. But it can also be twisted into unquestioning self-righteousness and delusion. And the ramifications and the danger of that kind of belief cannot be overstated.

Few elections in this nation's history have been as important as this one, few victories as important to the nation as Kerry's.

            "We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking," said the New York Times as it endorsed Kerry earlier this month, "both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted."

            "It's the most important election of any of our lives," said our sister alternative, the staunchly liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian, "and the choice couldn't be more clear."

            "George W. Bush is a threat to the republic and the planet," said the alternative LA Weekly. "The only way to stop him is to vote for John Kerry, a course the Weekly recommends more fervently than any endorsement we have ever made."

            We, too, look back on the Bush years with hearts nearly breaking. We look into the future with great fear. And we urge readers in this "safe Kerry state" to join other concerned Americans across the country in voting for John Kerry --- a recommendation that we, like the LA Weekly, make as fervently as any we have ever made.

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