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John Kerry For President

At last, Matt's valuable endorsement is revealed -- Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. More below the fold.

Democracy, they say, is the worst form of government except for all the others. But why would that be? Not, certainly, because of the superior wisdom of the voting public who, if you read any of the public opinion literature you'll swiftly see, have almost no grasp of substantive policy issues and only a very vague familiarity with what the different candidates stand for. And yet, it seems to work pretty well. This is, I think, primarily because the voters have a habit of kicking incumbents out of office when thinks don't seem to be going well, and reelecting them when things are going well.

This is often not a very sound analytic approach. Candidates get blamed for economic problems that are not really their fault (see, e.g., Jimmy Carter in 1980) or get praise beyond what they deserve for improvements in living conditions (see, e.g., Rudy Giuliani in 1997). Nevertheless, this crude approach has certain merits. In particular, it encourages officeholders to try and make things better. If an incumbent mayor knows that whether the crime rate rises or falls will seriously impact his electoral fortunes, he has reason to try and make the crime rate fall. If an incumbent president knows that a solid macroeconomic situation will benefit him on Election Day, he'll spend at least some time trying to make it come about.

The basic dynamic here serves democratic countries well. Officeholders do many things, but they spend at least some time trying to make things better.

Things are not better now than when George W. Bush took office. Instead, on virtually every front there has been deterioration. The proportion of the population at work has fallen. The number of people with health insurance has fallen. The number of people living in poverty has risen. The dollar -- and with it the average American's purchasing power -- has fallen. The federal government's fiscal capacity to cope with an unexpected crisis or the looming problems in Medicare financing has deteriorated. The esteem in which America is held in the world has fallen. The degree of trust foreign governments and the American people have in the US President's description of foreign threats has fallen. The number of terrorist attacks has risen. The state of human rights in China has fallen. Russia's progress toward democracy has been reversed. Politics in the non-Iraq portions of the Middle East are less liberal. In Iraq, a dictatorship and the human suffering of the sanctions regime has been replaced by chaos and the human suffering of a civil war. The American military is less prepared to cope with a foreign threat. The propensity of friendly governments to cooperate with us has eroded markedly. One could go on.

Under the circumstances, the only reason for voting for Bush would be if you had some very good reason to believe that John Kerry would bring about some kind of calamity, and no such reason exists. For all the loud talk of Kerry's alleged weakness, this would only possibly manifest itself in a greater reluctance to involve the country in a second preventative war that, in light of the dire state of the American military, would be unwise anyway. Kerry's tax proposals would leave the rates no higher than they were just a few years ago when such rates were demonstrably compatible with economic strength. Where Bush has taken steps to make things better -- in Afghanistan, on education policy, on AIDS funding -- Kerry promises not to reverse Bush's good initiatives, but to go beyond what the president's ideological commitments will allow him to do.

Kerry has, throughout his life, been a serious person seriously dedicated to public service and the public good. His record is not perfect by any means, but compares favorably with those of the overwhelming majority of politicians with a comparable level of experience. He has done less to make the world a better place than one could have, but he has done far more than most -- certainly more than any of the whiners in the punditocracy who complain about his lack of achievements. Kerry's proposals for health care, military reform, intelligence reform, public diplomacy, and global education promotion are all very good. His proposals for taxation, domestic education, and the so-called "social issues" are, at minimum, an improvement over those of his opponent.

But one must admit that nothing is for sure, and perhaps, in office, Kerry will do a bad job. I see no particular reason to think that he will, but he certainly might. If that happens, we can fire him in 2008. We know that the current officeholder has done a bad job by his own terms -- "compassionate conservatism" has not improved the plight of the poor, tax cutting has not improved the economy or even the average person's disposable income, preventative warfare has not halted nuclear proliferation, crossing names off the high-value target list is not stopping al-Qaeda, pounding the table is not spreading democracy, unilateralism is not producing a pro-American bandwagon, the size and intrusiveness of government is not lessening, even the number of abortions has increased. It is time for him to go. Kerry will almost certainly do better, and if he does not, the Republican Party will be encouraged to put up a more credible alternative next time around to try and get another shot at the reigns of power. To reward failure would be to wish for a downward spiral of bad leadership extending indefinitely into the future.

October 24, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Shrill, shrill, shrill. I await DeLong's description of your position in the order of the shrill.

Posted by: SP | Oct 24, 2004 3:59:38 PM

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kerry? You're endorsing KERRY?!!!

I'm shocked!

Posted by: Julian Elson | Oct 24, 2004 4:13:08 PM

Well, actually surprisingly non-shrill. I'm sure Matt realizes that Bush is a whole lot worse than this rather tepid endsorsement lets on, but he's trying to come across as reaonable. I'm not sure that the current situation calls for calm calls to reason, though.

Posted by: Larry M | Oct 24, 2004 4:23:03 PM

Well that's the point- nothing that Krugman ever said was actually shrill either (it was policy analysis along these lines) but he was labeled as the shrill liberal economist at the Times. The truth shall make you shrill.

Posted by: SP | Oct 24, 2004 4:31:21 PM

I'm with Larry. Instead of "one could go on," Matt, why don't you? This is a blog, a format uncontstrained by the size of a newspaper editorial page. And where oh where is the environmental policy discussion? Ah, fuck it. Well written, nevertheless. And now I'm off to write my own. I predict mostly shrill skies, with a chance of overstatement.

Posted by: Oliver | Oct 24, 2004 4:31:39 PM

Can one denounce instead of endorsing?

Ladies and Gents, I am denouncing George W Bush for president. For the reasons that should be obvious to anyone with any amount of gray matter between the ears.

Thank you and may God Bless America.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 24, 2004 4:42:14 PM

A well-aimed shot at reasonable conservatives.

Posted by: praktike | Oct 24, 2004 4:45:04 PM

Well written, but I will almost guarantee that the next GOP candidate will be every bit as poorly qualified and ethically challenged as Bush. The backers of the Republican Party cannot accept a rational, ethical man as President. Such a man would never continue to strive to put all of our countries wealth into the hands of the top 1% of the population. Nor would such a President roll back business regulations to allow all corporations to rape and plunder to their hearts content. Thus, the next GOP candidate may well make us nostalgic for little George.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Oct 24, 2004 4:55:28 PM

Talked me into it. Wait a minute, you talked me into voting for Badnarik the other day. Well you still have nine days if there are any interesting fringe candidates out there.

An excellent summation.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 24, 2004 5:09:36 PM

You're right, Vaughn. Correction: I hereby denounce the Republican candidate for President.

Thank you and may God Bless America.

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 24, 2004 5:11:00 PM

"the only reason for voting for Bush would be if you had some very good reason to believe that John Kerry would bring about some kind of calamity"

Har har. Thoroughly unconvincing attempt to convince conservative voters.
First, the economy has been making decent gains for the last two years, about the amount of time it takes for a president's policies to start affecting the economy.
Second, we haven't had any terrorist attacks within the country since 9/11. We must be safer, eh?
And Kerry is simply a horrible candidate who gives conservatives absolutly no reason to cross party lines.
Sorry, pretty weak attempt. You should have used the chance to be shrill.

I just laughed at this, it sounds like it was written by a junior high debater:
"But one must admit that nothing is for sure, and perhaps, in office, Kerry will do a bad job. I see no particular reason to think that he will, but he certainly might. If that happens, we can fire him in 2008."

Certainly he might!
First he'd do nothing to stop Iran from getting nukes, and he'd be hammered on that by Republicans probably to his political grave. And if he did do something, he'd screw it up by doing a half-assed job of it, too scared to risk US lives in a real war.
Second, he has such a bad demeanor and presence, he could never use the WH bully pulpit to push voters in any direction. Instead, you'd see a lot more of DeLay, Frist, Pelosi, and whoever replaces Daschle as minority leader setting the agenda in washington.
Third, raising taxes would get through Congress, and business spending would drop, both from the taxes and out of the popping of the housing bubble in some areas in the country. Recession would hit and unemployment will go back up. 2006 sees record Republican gains in Congress.
Finally, THK would be a national embarassement, rivaling the Clinton Lewinsky debacle for number of jokes on late night TV.

Hey, I've almost convinced myself: vote Kerry and cripple the Democratic party for years to come! But alas, for the good of the country I must vote Bush.

Posted by: Reg | Oct 24, 2004 5:16:42 PM

How old is this kid again? Three of the most intelligent blog posts I've ever read. And on one Sunday.

Posted by: Jeff | Oct 24, 2004 5:28:31 PM

Nice editorial. Too bad you weren't writing it for WaPo.

Posted by: knut wicksell | Oct 24, 2004 5:40:09 PM

Reg said, Second, we haven't had any terrorist attacks within the country since 9/11. We must be safer, eh?

Two Words:

An. Thrax.

Posted by: me | Oct 24, 2004 5:55:11 PM

And, this, too, smells like terrorsim: SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Authorities have intercepted envelopes that were rigged to ignite when opened and sent to the governors of California and New Mexico. They are among 20 such mailings sent to governors around the country and received since last week.

(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5955947/)

Safer, safer, safer, every day a little safer.

Posted by: me | Oct 24, 2004 5:56:49 PM

And about that economy, Reg:

NEW YORK (AP) — The Index of Leading Economic Indicators, a widely watched barometer of future economic activity, edged lower in September for the fourth month in a row, indicating a slowing in economic growth, a private research group reported Thursday.

(http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2004-10-21-lei_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA)

It's a shame when objective realuty can be so, um, unsupportive of the president.

Posted by: me | Oct 24, 2004 5:58:21 PM

As for part three, Kerry should be appealing to any conservative who values, what shall we call it? Competence. And accountability. Isn't that still valued by conservatives? To wit:

Some 350 tons of high explosives (RDX and HDX), which were under IAEA seal while Saddam was in power, were looted during the early days of the US occupation. Like so much else, it was just left unguarded.

Not only are these super-high-yield explosives probably being used in many, if not most, of the various suicide and car bombings in Iraq, but these particular explosives are ones used in the triggering process for nuclear weapons.

In other words, it's bad stuff.

What also emerges in the Nelson Report is that the Defense Department has been trying to keep this secret for some time, even going so far as to order the new Iraqi government not to inform the IAEA that the materials had gone missing.

(http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_10_24.php#003777)

I should say that stories like this make me feel _very_ safe!

Posted by: me | Oct 24, 2004 6:05:04 PM

First he'd do nothing to stop Iran from getting nukes, and he'd be hammered on that by Republicans probably to his political grave. And if he did do something, he'd screw it up by doing a half-assed job of it, too scared to risk US lives in a real war.

The Bush Administration has done nothing, except try to scare Iran by invading Iraq. It backfired, and how.

And are you willing to fight a "real war" with a country of 70 million? Are you willing to volunteer and risk your life for that noble enterprise? Do you think the Bushies will try that one on? They invaded Iraq because they deluded themselves it would be easy. They're not that far gone.

Posted by: thanks for the chuckle | Oct 24, 2004 6:21:51 PM

"reins of power" not "reigns"

Posted by: next big thing | Oct 24, 2004 6:22:24 PM

Just read at War and Piece blog that the American Conservative magazine has also endorsed Kerry. The following link regarding their endorcement is surprisingly rational. I'm starting to get the feeling I had when the Red Sox started the playoffs - we might actually do far better than the conventional wisdom odds.

www.amconmag.com/2004_11_08/cover1.html

Posted by: Abigail | Oct 24, 2004 6:23:20 PM

4 hears of hilarity

Check out Woodward's article on his attempt to get Kerry to interview on Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A55919-2004Oct22?language=printer

In August, I was talking with Kerry's scheduler about possible dates. On Sept. 1, Kerry began his intense criticism of Bush's decisions in the Iraq war, saying "I would've done almost everything differently." A few days later, I provided the Kerry campaign with a list of 22 possible questions based entirely on Bush's actions leading up to the war and how Kerry might have responded in the same situations. The senator and his campaign have since decided not to do the interview, though his advisers say Kerry would have strong and compelling answers.

Incredible response. I intend to adopt that for my own use. I decided not to, but if I did, I would have done an excellent job!


Posted by: Reg | Oct 24, 2004 6:41:38 PM

Har har. Thoroughly unconvincing attempt to convince conservative voters.

Also, please allow myself to introduce myself.

Posted by: JP | Oct 24, 2004 6:42:50 PM

How old is this kid again? Three of the most intelligent blog posts I've ever read. And on one Sunday.

So which were the two unintelligent ones?

Posted by: JP | Oct 24, 2004 6:43:31 PM

Reg said, I intend to adopt that for my own use. I decided not to, but if I did, I would have done an excellent job!

Which is, of course, why you are ignoring substantive criticisms of your argument, right? You would have responded, had you the facts with which to respond, and instead you will declare that you are right.

In the meantime . . .
terrorism continues apace, the economy slows down again, years after Bush's policies were enacted, and Iraq remains FUBAR. But, look,, over there, somebody said something funny about Kerry.

Is there really a choice in this election? No. MY is right. It has to be Kerry.

Posted by: me | Oct 24, 2004 6:45:21 PM

The country hasn't been attacked since 9/11, so of course we are safer? Let's say you do an experiment: you have someone blindfold you, lead you to the side of a street, and let you walk across. You make it. So, you turn around and walk back. You make it again. Thus, walking blindfolded across the street is safe. That's absurd, but it is the same reasoning. In the aviation industry no one believes that going 4 years without a mechanical failure on an aircraft means the aircraft is safe. In the first place such failures, just like terrorist attacks, very rarely happen. So, the odds are that any given 4 year period will see neither the failure nor the terrorist attack. And, that means nothing as far as safety from such failures or terrorist attacks is concerned. Real safety comes from eliminating the things that make you vulnerable - like uninspected ship and aircraft cargo. And, we haven't done that.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Oct 24, 2004 7:01:56 PM

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