Q: Dr. Hurd, you sometimes imply that it would be worse to vote for John Kerry than for President Bush. But President Bush wants to push his religious agenda on the nation. Isn’t that worse than John Kerry?
A: Bush’s religious agenda is bad indeed. I will make no excuses for it. But both candidates have tremendously bad ideas. If you’re going to vote for one of them, very tough calls must be made.
President Reagan had a religious agenda too. Like President Bush, he wanted abortion outlawed. He pushed for what he called a “Human Life” Amendment to the Constitution. Bush, to his credit, has given up on that. Like President Bush, Reagan favored prayer, including in government institutions, and very likely would have supported President Bush’s policy of refusing to allow stem-cell research. He probably would have supported Bush’s effort to constitutionally ban gay marriage.
These are not good things. But were we better off with President Reagan in office for eight years than we would have been with Presidents Carter, Mondale or Dukakis? The question does not even require an answer. Reagan helped topple the Soviet empire and win the Cold War. He cut the growth of government spending (something unprecedented for half a century) and he drastically reduced the upper income tax rates, making our country less socialist and more capitalist than at any time since before the New Deal. He pursued policies which pulled the economy out of recession for a decade. We have not yet, even factoring in 9/11, seen an economy as bad as that of the pre-Reagan late 1970s.
Reagan was far from perfect, failed at many of his own goals, and held some serious contradictions. He was entirely wrong, for example, that freedom comes from God and religion. Freedom comes not from religion, but from man’s nature as a rational being and his objective need to be free to think. Despite his serious philosophical contradictions, Reagan was still a good, even great, President. Our lives are better off now than had his less religiously conservative opponents held office.
I am not saying that President Bush is as good a President as Ronald Reagan. Nor am I claiming that these arguments alone make the case for re-electing President Bush. I am saying that Bush’s advocacy of religious policies does not, by itself, rule out voting for him, especially when his opponent has very, very serious flaws of his own.
In selecting a candidate for President, I start by asking myself what my personal, most cherished priorities are. My first priority is safety, especially from evil, fanatical, despicable Muslim terrorists who want to annihilate every last one of us as soon as possible. In case some of you have forgotten, these people really mean what they say. When the mullahs of Iran say they plan to build nuclear weapons, use them on Israel, and eventually use them on the United States, they mean it. When they say they’ll willingly sacrifice millions of Muslims in the event of a retaliatory attack by Israel and the U.S., they mean it. They don’t value life. We do value life. They use our value of life against us. It’s no different than the killers at Columbine High School a few years back. They had already decided on suicide, but not until they took a lot of people with them first.
The only way to fight such an enemy is through preemptive attack–that is, through striking and killing them first, before they acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is something the Democrats vehemently condemn and something President Bush has only implemented, so far, in a limited and reluctant way. He has been pounded into the dust by our liberal media and will possibly lose the election because he dared to strike preemptively against an already known and dangerous terrorist enemy, Saddam Hussein. Maybe in a second term President Bush would dare to kick the War Against Terrorism up a notch, or maybe not. He quite possibly will do so the next time there’s an attack against the United States, which, on our current course, is inevitable. One thing is certain: John Kerry, by his own words at his party’s convention, will only strike back the next time we are attacked. He will wait for another 9/11 or worse before striking back against terrorists–if he is to even be believed given his strong anti-war record over the years, including in 1991 when he voted against the first Gulf War. If you were appalled, as I was, by the United States dropping aid on our al Qaeda enemies in Afghanistan back in 2002, just imagine what a President being advised by Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton will do.
How ironic that George W. Bush, a President who advocates religiously conservative policies, is willing to use force against religious fanatics while we all know that a more secular President Kerry, Gore, Edwards or Clinton would never have waged a war in Afghanistan or Iraq. They would merely have blustered, or maybe (at least in Clinton’s case) dropped a missile or two on an al Qaeda camp (depending on the polls); and then they’d hold a bunch of U.N. meetings with the French or some torpid African country in charge of the proceedings. I don’t know about you, but this does not make me feel one bit safe. I feel unsafe enough as it is with the Bush Administration, including most recently its tepid reluctance to storm a mosque in Iraq, but I also know that under President Kerry I would feel a lot less safe, and with very good reason.
A close second in my personal priorities are economics. I want my taxes to be way lower than they presently are; I want everybody else’s to be lower too. I want non-defense federal spending to go way, way down, not way up like it did during the Clinton and Bush Administrations. I will grant you that the Republican record on domestic spending has been disgraceful. Fiscally it’s almost as bad as the Democrats would have been (given control of both Congress and the White House) and, morally, the Republicans are worse because they are hypocrites. But at least under the Republicans I can expect lower taxes, not only on myself but also on the brightest and best who fuel our economy–people upon whom we all rely for economic progress.
I want to live in a society where the entrepreneurs and the money-makers are admired, not despised; are thanked, not taxed. I won’t get this under either Bush or Kerry. Under the Republicans I get a lot of socialism but at least a little less than under the Democrats. If the only issue at stake were the economy, I would pause before voting Republican. I might just abstain or I might let the religious issues sway me over to the Democrats. I don’t even know about that, because the Democrats–especially their most celebrated spokesmen like Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, and others–are so relentlessly righteous about how we all must be our brother’s keepers, how we are morally obligated to pay higher taxes the more we produce, and how the coercion of socialism (without ever using the word) is still, in their eyes, the only moral path for mankind. Even if economics were the only issue, and even with the Republicans so weak, timid and hypocritical, how could I send a message to our government that I agree with such ideas by voting for the Democrats? Maybe there’s barely a dime’s worth of difference between the parties on economics. But one party is associated with more socialism and the other is associated with less. Do I want to send politicians in both parties a message that more socialism is OK with me?
If John Kerry wins big and the Democrats even take back Congress–something not as impossible as many seem to think–then you’d better hold on to your wallets even more than you already do. We might even live to see the day of “slavery reparations,” in which today’s whites will be forced to transfer income over to blacks. We’ll quite likely get outright socialized medicine–budget-busting and inefficient Medicare for all–this time around. Don’t rule any of it out. These are things you must be prepared to live with if you vote Democratic just to punish the Republicans (something I can’t deny the Republicans richly deserve).
With all these years of liberals hiding their true passions, what might happen if they were allowed, even for a couple of years, to unleash a few of those passions? Hillary Clinton tried back in 1993-95 and the victorious liberals will try even harder this time; these people never give up, and it pays off for them too. Look how Hillary became a U.S. Senator and a leading contender for President despite her disgrace over the health care plan fiasco in 1994. President Bill Clinton helped liberals keep their crazy ideas in check, solely so he could hold on to his own personal power. He spent much of the 1980s taking on this role because he thought it would be the one way to unseat the Reagan Republicans, and of course it ultimately worked.
Until a few months ago, John Kerry, in contrast to Bill Clinton, was an unapologetic liberal with a voting record slightly to the left of Ted Kennedy’s. Do you think he’ll help liberals keep their desires in check, especially if Democrats retake Congress? A lot of people who plan to vote for Kerry in 2004 might be sorry come 2007. Of course, his election in some ways could be a good thing because he might remind Americans of what liberalism is really all about if given some power. If four years of John Kerry could result in twenty years of someone way more conservative than Bush on the military and economics (but not on religion), then I’d be delighted; but there’s no reason to expect that it will work out that way, and I’m not willing to take that risk. If Bush loses, the media will paint this as a defeat for “conservatism” (meaning: a strong military, preemptive strikes, low taxes) while both the Democrats and Republicans will likely move left (meaning: slashed defense spending, more delegating to the hapless U.N., more taxes, and more Big Government for the rest of us).
If the choice is between John Kerry, who almost certainly will never use military force to vigorously defend American interests versus George W. Bush, who will sometimes do so, then this is more important to me than whether or not the candidate approves of prayer or will appoint judges who are against abortion.
If the choice is between having a President who almost certainly will never cut taxes or take any other remotely capitalist measure, versus one who will be mostly socialist but in a few key respects capitalist–enough to perhaps buy us some time until a truly pro-capitalist President comes along–then this is more important to me than whether or not he tries to pass an anti-gay marriage Amendment to the Constitution.
I do indeed hate the fact that our President would try to outlaw abortion or outlaw private associations among consenting adults. I despise that he puts the “right” of an embryo above the value of extending human life and possibly curing horrendous diseases such as Alzheimer’s. “Faith-based” government programs are even worse than standard left-wing social programs, and I never thought I would think such a thing possible. But I’d still rather be alive and wealthy so that I can live another day to fight these policies. With Kerry, it’s less likely I will be.
Anti-religion does not necessarily translate into pro-freedom. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy are against religion but very much in favor of the policies which religion helps make possible: the welfare state; turn-the other-cheek foreign policy; and government-enforced compassion.
It’s important to remember that neither political party today stands for a whole lot of anything. President Bush hates gay marriage, but he’s quick to point out that he agrees with the Supreme Court for upholding the legality of sex between consenting adults (including gays). This is a reversal from his position as Governor of Texas. President Clinton stands with John Kerry today in opposing President Bush’s anti-gay marriage Amendment, but a few short years ago signed (reportedly at midnight) the Defense of Marriage Act, which was nothing more than the legislative equivalent of Bush’s proposed Amendment. Traditionally Democrats have been strongly pro-choice, but John Kerry–incredibly–admitted a few short weeks ago that he might appoint both pro- and anti-abortion judges to the bench. The Republicans fought the McCain-Feingold censorship of political campaigns back in the 1990s, but earlier in his term President Bush, a Republican, signed the bill into law. Given the capriciousness of today’s politicians on so many issues, it makes more sense to focus primarily on the basics: guns and butter.
I realize that it’s uninspiring to take time examining which candidate will do the least damage to the country. But it’s the reality we face in this election, like it or not. Until or unless there’s some kind of philosophical revolution “in the hearts and the minds of the people,” like was reported to take place in the years leading up to the American Revolution, this is what we are stuck with. That new revolution has already begun. Perhaps someday it will spread further. I share your discouragement about the quality of today’s candidates for President, but I won’t allow this emotional state to sway me. I will vote for the candidate less likely to hand me over to the terrorists and less likely to make me poor. Someday, maybe even in four years, I’ll have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who will righteously protect me from terrorists, crushing them (and their mosques) every chance he gets, and who will help the United States to again become a place where the best and the brightest can prosper.
Until then, I will continue to fight for the future– while living today.