I'm an independent political operator. I work for a 527 that's probably aimed at helping out Democrats more than anyone else this cycle, and while I'm pretty sick of Democrat-bashing, I also don't think there's much of a future in the party as it's currently configured. Point is, I'm on my own shit.
But I'm voting for John Kerry, and not just because I don't want Bush. I honestly have some hopes for Kerry. This page is all about telling you why I have this hope.
First of all, I'm going to lay out our reasons for endorsing John Kerry on his own merits. I won't even mention his opponent here except in references to specific changes we can expect to see from JFK if he's in the White House. This is my case for the candidate on his own merits.
In a word, the reason to vote for Kerry is because he represents progress, and because he is not fucking around. I think our country is on the wrong track, and more than just stopping our progress down the wrong road, I think Kerry can help steer us in the right direction. He's clearly no Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, but there's good reason to believe he would be a great deal better at actually running the government than Clinton ever was.
There are reasons to see this election as something better than a choice between the "lesser of two evils." In fact, I believe that in this election and beyond, it is essential for our larger purpose, for the movement towards a progressive America, to be hopeful for victory rather than fearful of defeat.
So here goes. The Seven Reasons Outlandish Josh Hopes John Kerry Wins...
1 - Iraq
The ongoing war in Iraq is the single biggest issue in this campaign, and one of the most important for our generation's future. Kerry began his public life as a leader in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Check the 1971 video. He knows a quagmire when he sees one, and if anyone can get us out without screwing over the people of Iraq even more, it's him.
John Kerry will make it a priority to build a real international coalition for reconstruction and peacekeeping in Iraq. He will end the profiteering by the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel, and set a real timetable for an end to the US occupation.
Kerry has made it clear that under his leadership, the US will have no (zero, zilch, none, nada) long-term or permanent military presence or designs in Iraq. He will dismantle the 14 "enduring" bases currently under construction, and end our dangerous flirtation with straight up imperialism. I can't stress how important this is.
A continuation of our current quasi-imperial military foreign policy of "preemptive wars" and "unilateral projections of American values" (aka Neo-Con Bukakke) would be a disaster. No empire in history has lasted, and in a centure where events move faster than ever, an attempt to create a Pax Americana would almost certainly fall apart in our faces. A peaceful and prosperous future will be built through partnerships, compromise and fair play. Putting John Kerry in office will set this process in motion.
2 - Health Care
Can you say 27 million more people with coverage? That's what Kerry's plan will do. It's paid for by rolling back Bush's tax cuts on the super-rich, and this is the main reason most of Kerry's other proposals are somewhat less grand in scope. Coverage for 27 million people is a lot to bite off.
It's not universal health care, true, but think about 27 million people who don't have to rely on the emergency room. That's progress.
Also, Kerry will put the medical science back into health policy. Stem cell research can resume; HIV/AIDS prevention funding won't be tied to moralistic (and statically unhelpful) abstinence-promotion; a woman's right to choose will be protected.
3 - Energy Independence
This is kind of a new term in politics, but it's an old idea. Basically it's a bad thing for our entire way of life to be completely dependent on energy resources (oil) which are located half way around the world under some other people's ground.
Whether your motto is "no blood for oil" or "stop pandering to the Saudis" this is the only real answer. On the domestic front, energy independence means renewing our energy infrastructure. This promotes home-town job growth, gives some real national purpose to research and development, and at same time is the strongest and longest-lasting step we can take to protect the environment. Imagine that: conservationists, scientists and regular working Americans all on the same team.
The best overall presentation of the Energy Independence concept is the Apollo Alliance. They totally break it down for you. Kerry's proposals are a little less ambitious, but he's talking about it, and any step to address our crippling and polluting dependence on foreign oil is a step in the right direction.
It's not a hot-button issue these days, but for our generation environmental protection matters. We're going to have to live in this world for many years to come, so it's crucial that we begin creating a sustainable way of life today.
Energy independence will also save consumers and city/state governments a shitload of money, reducing state budget deficits. This money can be reinvested into city infrastructure, local/state education and any number of programs that are suffering. A serious long term plan for energy independence is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for a number of pressing problems. The "hydrogen economy" is a great future possibility, but that makes it something to research, not something to wait on.
4 - The Supreme Court
It's almost 100% certain that in the next four years at least one -- and possibly as many as three -- Supreme Court Justices will retire or die. The Supreme Court upholds our rights under the constitution, protects a woman's right to choose, and is responsible for checking both Congress and the White House.
Supreme Court Justices serve for life, and as such their impact on the county is felt for many years down the line. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia -- who's been a controversial figure on the bench lately -- was appointed almost 20 years ago by Ronald Reagan. The legendary "Warren Court," which was comprised over the years by justices from Roosavelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy, struck down the doctrine of "separate but equal" underlying segregation, paving the way for the Civil Rights movement, as well as protecting the rights of the accused, freedom of speech, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
Today here is a danger that we could see a change in the supreme court that would endanger such landmark decisions as Roe vs. Wade. There's also the reality that the court could be made even more conservative and corporation-friendly, precisely at a time when we need the Judicial branch to stand up for the rights of citizens and consumers. The next few appointments will set the tone for the court for the next thirty years. The choice matters.
Kerry has made it clear he would not appoint a judge who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, and he will be more open to lobbying on behalf of citizens groups when a new opening emerges. People complain that they have no influence on government, but the choice here is stark -- this is one way your vote will really make a difference for decades, and determine radically different directions for this country going forward.
5 - Education
Kerry also wants to pay teachers more, especially teachers with good track records who are willing to work in schools that need them. This does two things immediately. On the one hand it helps to improve the quality of education by giving quality instructors an incentive to stick with it, and at the same time it will increase the number of teachers who are earning a living wage, which is the right thing to do and will help the economy out much more than $100K tax breaks for playboys and CEOs.
On the higher ed front, one of the biggest issues just beginning to break through the radar is the ridiculous profiteering on the Federally Funded Education Loan (FFEL) program by the likes of Sallie Mae (who, full disclosure, I kick about $250 a month). Kerry can lead the fight against this kind of abuse of the system, and the results could be huge. If we move back to the Direct Loan program, estimates show it will free up anywhere from $4.5 to $6.6 billion that can be used for additional aid.
Kerry also plans to simplify and streamline the FAFSA as well as offer up to $4,000 in credit (read: non-loan aid) to people paying their way through college. This would be four grand you won't end up with in debt.
6 - The Deficit
Right now we're charging more than $400 Billion dollars a year to the national credit card, a record level of debt to be repaid, someday/somehow, by future generations (e.g. us). Not only will we have to clean up this mess, the whole situation is so out of control that it threatens to undermine the stability of our current economy.
Out of control deficits endanger our future, and they also hurt us immediately. cause service rollbacks. They mean education cuts, cuts in housing assistance and job training. Big deficits mean higher interest rates, which not only make it harder for us to pay for school, car, etc, but also that it's tougher for new businesses to start up, which means fewer decent entry-level jobs.
This has got to stop. Kerry will roll back Bush's tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy and close loopholes in corporate tax law that let companies officially reside in Bermuda and skip out on their obligation to support the USA. Controlling the deficit is vitally important to preserve our future opportunities.
7 - An Open Presidency
One thing that should be abundantly clear at this point is which of the two candidates relies more on stage-management and message control. This is a liability for Kerry on the campaign trail, as he'll occasionally slip up and say something honest that can be used to make him look bad.
However, when it comes to actually being in the White House, this is the kind of attitude you want. When it comes to the work of governing, "message control" essentially means not really trying to listen or answer questions, essentially opting out of the deliberative process that underpins the whole work. It is fundamentally undemocratic.
Kerry's got a history of supporting open government. He came out against the covert -- and at the time unacknowledged -- bombing of Cambodia in his work against the war, despite the fact that this made him a target for Richard Nixon's dirty tricksters. In his first month in the Senate, Kerry drove the investigation that cracked the Iran-Contra case.
John Kerry is nowhere near perfect, but he's a great deal more than useless. He has quite a few good ideas for new solutions to the problems we face, and he clearly has a strong commitment to working for the common good rather than his own benefit. While he hasn't been a Nader-like anti-corporate crusader, he's hardly what anyone could call a corporate whore. He wrote the first bill reducing acid rain, and fought to raise the minimum wage. His positions are hardly radical, but they represent real, serious, attainable and sustainable progress on the issues we care about most.
Kerry's record is one of real commitment to doing the right thing, beginning with volunteering to the Navy because he believed in the words of John F. Kennedy to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." After discovering first hand the truth about Vietnam, Kerry took an enormous personal risk in becoming a personal enemy of then-President Nixon by working to form Vietnam Veterans Against The War and explain to the American heartland what was wrong with that conflict.
While his opponents would probably say this is just another "flip flop," to me it seems like an incredibly difficult and courageous thing to do, and anyone who has not yet seen it to watch Kerry's 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
John Kerry has spent his life in public service. While that means he's got the style of a Senator and the ability to equivocate that only a career politician can muster, it also means he's not fucking around. And that's important. For him, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. In the darkest hours of his primary campaign, he mortgaged his house to stay in the race. That's commitment.
If Kerry takes a seat in the Oval Office, it will be his great chance. For him it's not a step up on some career ladder or just another opportunity to enrich his family and friends. It's the peak of a life's work and purpose. John Kerry set out to improve America and to change the world, and he has spent decades working through an imperfect system to do this. While you might think it's creepy to spend such a long time building up to such a thing, it at least reflects seriousness.
And these are serious times. We need a serious leader who looks forward and thinks deeply about the world. John Kerry fits the bill, and given the choice we have in this election, he takes it by a mile. I hope he wins.