LONG... sorry... but ya know, it's got to be...
Lots of people are by this time asking me for whom I am going to cast my vote come November 2.
I'm still undecided.
I have been a registered Democrat since I registered prior to the presidential election in 1992. I have rarely, if ever, voted party line, except perhaps in that first election. Since then I have probably voted for more Democrats than Republicans, but I have cast my votes after researching the candidates and issues at hand. In 2000, for example, disaffected by both major candidates, I cast my presidential vote for Ralph Nader in an attempt to boost the profile of the Green Party.
This year I won't do that. Too much is at stake. One of the two major candidates is going to win the election, and my vote could literally be the one that makes the decision, especially since I am in one of those "key/battleground/turning" states -- Ohio. I have listened to debates, watched news conferences and news reports, viewed websites, and read voters' guides.
And yet, I still don't know.
The fact is, I'm not a one-issue voter. I refuse to be. I refuse to allow a single issue to color my entire world. My point of reference wouldn't even allow me to do that, seeing as I am both a moral conservative and a socioeconomic liberal. I am a critical thinker, a seeker of truth, a researcher, and last, a sought-after voter. I weigh things out.
It looks pretty d*mn even right now.
The War on Terror:
Kerry has told the truth about war. People who are desperate to win a war do terrible things -- "whatever it takes" -- acts of violence that we would normally consider heinous crimes against humanity. It is unfortunate that his words were used by the VietCong in their torture of POWs, but that does not mean that Kerry intended to "give aid and comfort to the enemy." Our government has already made its determination about whether or not Kerry's words were treason -- they were not, or he would have been arrested, tried, and convicted thirty years ago! Sometimes the truth hurts, and Kerry's willingness to tell the truth is a sign of leadership above and beyond following orders.
Bush, on the other hand, needed to take action against those who attacked us. I think that ultimately his decision to send troops into Afghanistan, although it caused me great anxiety, was a good one. Al Quada hasn't succeeded in carrying out another attack on the U.S., although some of our allies have now suffered. Getting us embroiled in a war in Iraq for reasons that have now been discounted was a poor decision. Saying that he is waging war to bring peace smacks of an even greater lie. Bush needs to admit that his efforts in the war on terror have provided mixed results at best, and if he is reelected, he needs to think very carefully about who he goes to for advice, and coming up with a plan from start to finish -- i.e., a plan with multiple scenarios and above all, an exit strategy.
Finally, a comment about one of the latest commercials I've seen: "Kerry says we need to get to a point where terrorists are a nuisance, like drugs and gambling." Yes! Stop there! Kerry wants to continue efforts *against* terrorists so that they are no longer a serious threat, and he wants to keep them there. This particular ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee, stinks of tunnel vision. It implies that Kerry thinks terrorists are a nuisance right now, which is completely incorrect. The RNC should be ashamed of its attempt to alter the meaning of Kerry's words in the minds of those who are not paying full attention to the ads.
Health Care Policy:
Kerry wants a government-sponsored health care program. I agree with the idea of health care for everyone. Basic health care is a human right, and there are people, including me, who forgo preventative checkups because our insurance (if we even have insurance) doesn't cover our expenses well enough. It's been proven that without preventative care, people show up sicker when they do seek medical care, and they often end up making more costly emergency room visits to seek that care. We need to do something to help everyone in the U.S. get adequate care.
By all indications, Bush thinks we're doing fine with our current system.
Another indictment of a RNC-sponsored commercial: "Kerry's health care plan includes the IRS and the Treasury Department. Your doctor is in there... somewhere." Anyone who knows how insurance works also knows that the IRS and the Treasury Department are already involved in health care. The IRS evaluates and regulates pre-tax contributions towards insurance premiums and medical savings accounts. The Treasury Department has a hand in the administration of Medicare and Medicaid disbursements. The truth is that both of these agencies will continue to be part of any insurance plan regardless of whether it is privately or publicly administered.
The Budget Deficit/Defense Spending:
If I spent like our government, I'd be in jail.
From Bush's perspective, all bets were off as of 10:00 AM
on September 11, 2001. Everything changed -- priorities, campaign promises, foreign relations -- because we were forced to face an enemy we had not taken seriously before. Our defense spending went through the roof. Education mandates (like No Child Left Behind) went unfunded. All of our resources were channeled into the war on terror, and that channel remains open today.
My question is, how are we going to continue to fund our massive war effort (please call it what it is) without raising taxes? How are we going to enforce the standards of NCLB if there is no money for adequate educational materials and school maintenance? Here in Ohio, we've been fighting over school funding for years and years... in part because of federal regulations and contributions. Unfunded mandates are *not* the answer. We need to see a new sense of fiscal responsiblility, starting with no-bid contracts. I understand that the one no-bid contract to a Halliburton sibsidiary was given due to time constraints, but even a no-bid contract should not be a blank check. Our government needs to scrutinize every payment for services rendered. Even I can do that.
Also, there's no question that our government has *grown* despite the Republicans' claim that they support smaller government. This is most due to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and an increase in domestic intelligence investigations. It's hard to fault that, but it also stands as a reminder of a philosophy that didn't work out in the long run.
Yet I haven't seen *how* Kerry will make his plans work. He's got structures... he's got numbers... but there's no sense of congruence between the two.
Another commercial critique: the number of times Kerry has "voted to raise taxes" keeps growing and growing... During the first and second debates, it was, I think, 83. Now I hear a new commercial that quotes something over 300. What? When? Did he cast 200 votes I haven't heard about in the last few weeks?
My sister is a special education teacher and she is voting for Kerry based mostly on this single issue. The No Child Left Behind Act is not only an unfunded mandate; it also does not take into account children with special needs. For the past two years she has taught children who, because of their disabilities, will probably never earn a high school diploma. Some of them may earn a special certificate, and some, after extra years of work, might get a GED. A few of her students will succeed in the time allotted *if* they or the school can afford one-on-one tutoring and alternative teaching methods. As of right now, she is teaching a multi-grade class of 20, and in almost every conversation she asks me, rhetorically, "How am I supposed to teach them like this?"
If Bush wants to "do the right thing" he needs to make a choice: either repeal the No Child Left Behind Act for lack of funding, or change it so it allows for special needs children and give it the funding it needs.
The Sanctity of Life:
This is likely to be the overriding issue if I have to choose a tiebreaker; but it's still complicated.
Bush signed an executive order limiting federal research funds to work on embryonic stem cell lines that existed at the time of the order. His XO
affected neither private funding for embryonic stem cell research, nor any funding for adult stem cell research. Adult stem cell research has already produced therapies that are either in trial or proven to work. Embryonic stem cell research has not produced any therapies -- not even experimental -- as of yet.
Bush also opposes abortion. If we lived in an ideal world, I'm sure he would support the total outlaw of abortion, and I would, too. He supports the ban on partial-birth abortion. So do I. My mother and I had a long conversation about the fact that I have not lived in an age when abortion was illegal. That said, and knowing that the world is less than ideal, I would support restrictions that allow for abortions certified to save the mother's life, and allow for rape victims to have abortions due to the violent nature of the baby's conception. Still, I abhor the idea of "abortion on demand" and hope that in all but the most extreme cases, some form of counseling and wait period would be a requirement... 24 hours and a second counseling appointment are not going to push a woman across the trimester threshold.
Bush also opposes euthanasia. A long time ago I supported euthanasia, in part because I went through a period of intense physical and emotional suffering from which I thought I would never emerge. However, having watched people go through hospice care, I am convinced that there is a better solution than ending people's lives on our own terms. Some suffering in exchange for the value of life is well worth it. Euthanasia is a slippery slope based on utility and arbitrary definitions of suffering and hopelessness.
For all of these reasons, I would support Bush -- but there are two glaring reasons why it raises my gall just to think about voting for him. The first is his support for capital punishment. I believe in the sanctity of *all* human life, and that means even the murderers and those who commit heinous crimes. I do not think we can condemn a fellow human and carry out an execution in the name of justice without malice, prejudice or vengeance. The second is Bush's proclivity to declare war now and negotiate later. War leads to death. War is an angry solution to a problem that should always be approached in a peaceful manner first.
My question to Kerry would be -- if you are personally opposed to abortion, and your faith tells you abortion is wrong, why would you support it as a "right"? To win votes? To appease your opponents? Why do you wash your hands like Pilate before the crucifixion of Christ? To avoid the serious question of taking innocent life?
God help me on November 2. One or the other. Please.