I have a nasty habit of putting myself into difficult situations (the thousands of dirty looks I received at the Freshman Bazaar while canvassing for the president seemed to reinforce this penchant of mine). On July 26, I entered the belly of the beast.
Democrats to the left of me, Democrats to the right of me, the lone Republican rode into Boston. My light brigade was relatively inconspicuous; instead of displaying my collection of Ronald Reagan bumper stickers or marching deftly in Bush 2004 wear, I disguised myself in relatively bland earth tones, and indeed, even discarded my traditional dress-shirt in favor of a demure polo. The capital of Liberal America was absolutely buzzing with political fervor; I could scarcely turn a corner without being crushed by a stampede of Democratic activists. After being asked for the 20th time whether I would register to “kick George — insert expletive of choice — Bush out of the White House” I had finally had enough. In a scene straight out of a made-for-TV political drama, I walked up to an attractive female College Democrat (a sophomore at Bryn Mawr if I remember correctly) introduced myself as the President of the Yale College Republicans, and asked why she felt strongly enough about this election to make the trek up to Massachusetts. In the subsequent hour of conversation, I heard “Bush” roughly a hundred times, “unilateralism” close to 50, and “I’d love to join you for dinner tonight” once.
Placing this conversation within a larger electoral context reveals a great deal: while President Bush dominated the conversation, John Kerry was scarcely mentioned. While activists denounced the Bush Doctrine and a “reckless” foreign policy, they remained mute about the alternative provided by their second favorite Massachusetts Senator (Ted Kennedy still wins that category courtesy of his unforgettable facial expressions throughout the 2004 State of the Union). For both Democrats and Republicans, this election is about George W. Bush and George W. Bush alone; the willingness of liberals to accept an “anyone but Bush” platform is both alarming and shocking. John Kerry has come this far without having to define his principles to the American public because he has not been pressured to do so by the Democratic establishment — content to ride out the waves of anti-Bush hysteria instead of promoting a comprehensive and issue based agenda, members of the Kerry team are doing a great disservice to the citizens of the United States.
The Democratic campaign team surely knows a fair bit about Kerry’s actual politics: a voting record and decades of quotes leave very little to the imagination. Capitalizing on the unwillingness of many liberals to demand a concrete platform and consistency from the senator, Democrat spin-doctors have done a masterful job of masking the John Kerry of old. While newspapers throughout the country (at the urging of the Kerry pressroom) trumpet the “moderate” Democrat ticket of 2004, the actual fact of the matter stands in dramatic contrast. Senator Kerry is the most liberal member of the United States Senate (with an American Conservative Union rating of 4 out of 100). Senator Kerry has historically shown tremendous unwillingness to defend American interests abroad. Senator Kerry has shown little regard for any Republican initiative within the spheres of social and economic policy since he assumed his seat some 14 years ago. Even after joining forces with John “Anti-NAFTA” Edwards, the Kerry team continues to call their philosophy one of informed centrism. Each time I hear the words “Kerry” and “moderate” together I assume that the Democratic establishment is using a different political spectrum than most Americans. If we adopt this fantastical mindset and take Noam Chompsky as our “conservative” and Michael Moore as our “liberal” then we just may have a centrist in Senator Kerry.
Perhaps this revelation best explains the senator’s current tendency to flip-flop on both sides of any given issue; as he is unable to fall back on his true convictions or historic stances to defend a particular policy (for fear of alienating the much more conservative American median voter), Kerry follows a path designed to maximize his vote totals. Instead of standing by his record, Senator Kerry much prefers to portray himself as something he is not. While Democrats may excuse him for this (remember “anyone but Bush?”), I find the prospect of an individual like John Kerry leading this country absolutely disturbing.
In these troubling times, our country needs a steady vision and a strong sense of moral conviction: both of which have been embodied by President Bush. Each time I look at the president, I see a confident leader with clear principles and consistent rhetoric. Each time I look at John Kerry, I see nothing more than a political chameleon. As a Republican who is socially moderate, I disagree with President Bush on certain issues from time to time. I would, however, much rather have a man of convictions in the White House than a Massachusetts senator who is motivated more by political opportunism than by first principles. Indeed, electing anybody but Bush in November would be anything but a good decision.
Al Jiwa is a junior in Pierson College. He is president of the Yale College Republicans.