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Who sucks harder?

The often intemperate Jesse Walker lists 10 reasons to throw Bush out of the White House. I tend to agree with the majority of his complaints, but his last one really points up the dilemma posed to libertarians by the US major parties.

The Democrats have nominated a senator who—just sticking to the points listed above—voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, McCain-Feingold, and the TSA; who endorses the assault on “indecency”; who thinks the government should be spending even more than it is now. I didn’t have room in my top ten for the terrible No Child Left Behind Act, which further centralized control of the country’s public schools—but for the record, Kerry voted for that one too. It’s far from clear that he’d be any less protectionist than Bush is, and he’s also got problems that Bush doesn’t have, like his support for stricter gun controls. True, Kerry doesn’t owe anything to the religious right, and you can’t blame him for the torture at Abu Ghraib. Other than that, he’s not much of an improvement.

Yet I find myself hoping the guy wins. Not because I’m sure he’ll be better than the current executive, but because the incumbent so richly deserves to be punished at the polls. Making me root for a sanctimonious statist blowhard like Kerry isn’t the worst thing Bush has done to the country. But it’s the offense that I take most personally.

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25 comments to Who sucks harder?

  • Julian Morrison

    I concur. Sometimes it’s better the devil you don’t know.

  • One key point left out of the article is that the Senate and House are almost certain to remain in Republican hands; a Kerry win will bring back the divided government days of the Clinton era. Any feelings towards Clinton aside, simple Republican hatred in Congress meant that they cut spending and blocked slowed the growth of the government, yet because of veto threats, didn’t have the courage to push through a socially conservative agenda. I’m not sure if Congress would act the same way again, but let’s face it: Bush hasn’t used his veto power a single time, which will be a first since the presidency of John Quincy Adams in the 1820s.

    This isn’t an original idea; I’ve seen it on several other libertarian-leaning blogs. I have no desire to vote for Kerry, but I’m not sure if I can vote for Bush in good conscience. I’ve tried to push the divided government angle, but few libertarian friends seem to be willing to vote for a Democrat under any circumstances.

  • TheMightyMole

    So the single party which rules the USA is still offering the rapidly dwindling portion of the electorate which gives a stuff a “choice” in November. You lucky people.

    The Democans (the “left” tendency of the entity) are doing their best to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot, so that the pro-crusade consensus will not be disturbed even momentarily. You’d never guess that more than half the American people are sick of the Iraq Attaq.

    The Republicrats are busy raising the non-issue of the Defense of Marriage Act (which they know will never surmount constitutional hurdles) to foster a nice little impression of disagreement.

    Meanwhile war, welfare and waistlines expand inexorably, and there isn’t a damn thing you voting sheeple can do about it.

  • snide

    I just ran the TheMightyMole though my syntax tester… Hi Scott!

  • Thorley Winston

    Regarding the “divided government” meme that seems to circulate libertarian circles, there are something to consider.

    First, we had divided government for almost half of Bush’s first term when Democrats controlled the Senate (and there is no guarantee that they could not do so again). The result was that Harkin got to bring back farm subsidies and Ted Kennedy got to increase federal spending for education. Also, Senate Democrats have been able to use the power of the filibuster not only to block judicial nominees but to extort more federal spending such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit which went from $300 to $534 Billion. Divided government is just as likely to lead to lead to larger government than before (most of the increase in non-defense/non-homeland security discretionary spending occurred when Democrats effectively controlled the Senate).

    Second, Bush unlike Kerry is pro Social Security reform and has made clear that this is something he wants to get done his second term and that (at least partial) privatization is at the core of his reform. The last time we “reformed” Social Security was 1983 – again with “divided government” and the result was that House Democrats killed any chance of an investment option and instead we got a payroll tax increase. Something to keep in mind.

    Third, Clinton was able to use his veto to kill tort reform and veto welfare reform TWICE until he got a more expensive version with laxer work requirements. Each time there were enough Congressional Democrats to sustain a veto. Something to keep in mind is that there are a lot of market-oriented reforms (not just Social Security reform) that libertarians and Republicans support that would probably be vetoed by a Kerry administration (or never come up with a Democratic Senate).

    Finally, there are a number of areas where libertarians are or ought to be more partial to a Bush administration such as judicial nominees (Bush has a number of strict constructionist that have been held up in the Senate) and reforming administrative agencies such as the EPA and FDA.

    Oh and with regards to trade protectionism, it should be noted that both Edwards and Kerry supported the (long repealed) steel tariffs while announcing their opposition to Bush’s efforts to open up markets in Africa and Latin America. Kerry also voted to effectively gut Trade Promotion Authority (“fast track”) and Edwards has staked himself out as the protectionist candidate with several key anti-trade votes in the Senate. Bush while imperfect is still the more pro-trade candidate.

  • Jake

    You forgot to mention that Kerry has also been against everything he has voted for.

  • The problem with the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils is that, as the previous election demonstrates, the evil you get may not be “lesser” after all.

  • Robert,

    Feel free to vote for the Libertarian. You can afford to do so because you live in Texas which is going to go for Bush.

    If you lived in Pennsylvania or Ohio, I’d want to kick you in the nuts.

  • R C Dean

    Kim – the current Libertarian party needs to disappear, so a real party can take the space it is now occupying. I will not vote Libertarian for the simple reason that the capital-L Libertarians are, by and large, a pack of idiots, and I prefer not to encourage them

  • Gorblimey

    Editors note: Comment deleted. Get lost Scott.

  • Why vote for the lesser of two evils when you can vote Evil! Vote Cthulhu! Ia! Ia

  • David Beatty

    Unfortunately, intemperate is the only good thing about Jesse Walker. “Reason” jumped the shark after Virginia Postrel left. I let my subscription lapse because they have a serious lack of clear thinking in their articles.

  • Chris Josephson

    Kerry is one of my state’s senators. I don’t dislike him, but I honestly do *NOT* know where he stands on many issues. Even after being exposed to him as my senator I’m not sure where he stands.

    With the state of the world as it is, even though Bush isn’t my favorite choice for president, I can’t see giving Kerry that office. I could not be sure what he would or would not do.

  • Jacob

    David Beatty,
    Yes ! Reason has deteriorated a lot.

  • David is right on the money as far as Reason is concerned. It’s not even the “intemperance,” it’s also the meandering, social/cultural criticism articles that you only realize are pointless when you finish them.

    R.C. is dead right about the Libertarian party in the U.S.

    If I can plug (a group that doesn’t pay me a dime)…


    Frankly, this caucus is one of the reasons I still self-identify as a Republican.

  • Thorley: I didn’t address the divided government argument in my piece, but it’s a lot stronger than you make it out to be. It’s not just divided government that’s important; it’s the nature of the division. It’s probably best (within our limited options) that the Democrats control the presidency while the Republicans control the legislature. Reverse that, and you get situations like 1989-93, with a Republican president rolling over for the Democrats’ economic policy and a Democratic congress rolling over for the Republicans’ foreign policy. The examples you gave were all GOP exec + Dem legislature.

    R.C.: Intemporate? INTEMPORATE? It’s CLOBBERIN’ TIME!

  • Sigivald

    I must concur with David; at least about the current state of Reason, as I never subscribed back when Virginia was running the place.

    When my subscription runs out, I’m seriously thinking about subscribing to the National Review, if only to get a higher level of rigour. Plus Nordlinger is funny, and Buckley’s pro-dope. Win/win.

  • flaime

    I think it is almost certain that if Kerry wins the White House, but the party of God wins the legislature, that we will have the best that we can hope for with the utter morons who are running for political office in this country: utter deadlock in which nothing useful or substantive is accomplished, but in which the assault on personal liberty and freedom is ended.

    If Bush wins, nothing useful or substantive will be accomplished, either, but we will continue to see regular and constant intrusions of government into our private lives, restricting our freedoms at every turn.

  • Mace

    Remember that when you choose Kerry as the lesser of two evils, you’re going to get his judicial choices as well. You know, the gifts that keep on giving for decades. In that case, let’s hope that the Republicans will resort to the same blocking tactics as practiced recently by the Democrats. However, I have a real fear that the Republicans are too stupid to do that.

  • “the current Libertarian party needs to disappear, so a real party can take the space it is now occupying.” No, libertarians need to figure out a way to make their(usually good) ideas (which I usually agree with) appealing to a mass audience, and get involved in the Republican Party, since American will always have two parties as a structural matter because of how we run our elections. Then, Libertarians will see some of their ideas enacted some of the time, which is as good as you can ever do in a democracy. In the meantime, on Bush v. Kerry, I scarcely know where to begin to tell you why Kerry is horribly worse. I’ll restrict myself to one thing. Kerry has not articulated anything of substance on the war in Iraq or on terrorism, to him these life or death issues are merely matters to be tweaked to get poll numbers. This shows he is a man who lacks basic seriousness and cannot be trusted to be commander in chief. There’s more, but this is only a comment, so I’ll stop. Hold your nose, if necessary, and vote for Bush.

  • My colleague Lex makes good points. I would add that the arguments for rejecting a flawed Republican incumbent, in order to strike some kind of theoretical balance or create “gridlock,” always seem too clever by half. The pols think about these issues too, and they do it for a living and are generally good at it. And they are good at getting what they want — more spending, mainly. It’s one thing to vote for a high-quality underdog, but blithe schemes to vote for a worse challenger in order to punish a flawed incumbent are likely to reward the worse candidate without getting a clear message across to the incumbent. At the least, by voting for the flawed but better candidate you make it less likely that someone who is much worse will get what will be interpreted as a mandate. As Thomas Sowell put in before the 1992 election: Better a second-rate fireman than a first-rate arsonist.

    BTW, gridlock in the 1990s didn’t keep the government from expanding and didn’t stop the Clinton administration from neglecting national defense and projecting vulnerability and indecision abroad. Things could have turned out worse than they did. That the 9/11 attacks occurred is bad enough, but I think we were lucky they didn’t occur on Clinton’s watch.

  • AllTheHits

    Under Bush II the Federal budget *apart from defence* has risen much faster than in Clinton’s first term, despite the whopping deficit and weakness of the dollar. Big-government Republicrats have to outbid Democans because they’re so afraid of being painted as the nasty party, not showing enough “compassion” to soothe soccer moms who grew up in the Great Society welfare state.

    Bush’s No Child Left Behind programme alone, apart from being a monstrous interference with the constitutional rights of states to decide educational needs and methods, is a potential purse-drainer on the same scale as Medicare.

  • Some of George W. Bush’s domestic policies have been bad, and some (e.g., the Medicare drug expansion) are disasters in the making. His encouragement of big spending, whether out of crass political motives or sincere belief in the ability of govt to do good, or both, is disgraceful. Yet he remains the better candidate because the alternative is, on balance, worse — particularly on the war, which IMO outweighs the other issues at the moment.

    It’s misleading to compare candidates on only selected issues. You have to compare them on the whole range of issues, because you only get to vote on the package. I wish it were otherwise but it isn’t.

  • Luniversal

    My inbox is clogged with US spam promising prescription drugs at prices well below retail. Is this an early warning that Medicare is spiralling out of control and some of the financial pain is being passed on to consumers?

  • AllTheHits

    Further and better particulars of the way Republicrats and Democans are facing off in the Drunken Sailor Impersonation finals of 2004:

    “For fiscal conservatives, the choice this election could hardly be more depressing.

    “In the Republicans’ corner is George W. Bush, who presides over the most bloated federal budget in US history. Bush’s profligacy has left in tatters the traditional GOP claim to fiscal rectitude. He has uncomplainingly signed into law every pork-stuffed appropriations bill sent to him by Congress. He has flooded the government’s books with red ink. And he has embraced new schemes for draining the Treasury, including the largest expansion of the welfare state in decades — the prescription-drug entitlement, which will cost, over the next decade, more than half a trillion dollars.

    “When, from the Democrats’ corner, John F. Kerry excoriates Bush for “three years of reckless spending and skyrocketing deficits” and declares that what America needs is “a return to the fiscal discipline that brought record surpluses and the largest economic expansion since World War II,” he speaks nothing but the unadorned truth. But Candidate Kerry doesn’t preach fiscal discipline very often, and there is no reason to believe that a President Kerry would practice it…”