Presidential elections often boil down to the question that Ronald Regan raised in the 1980 presidential race: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" The answer to that question right now is no. We feel less safe than we did four years ago. The economy has declined to a level far below the boom of the 1990s, and many people in the United States are without employment or health care.
If you were to use those facts as a litmus test for choosing a president, then of course we would be changing the chief executive, Republican or Democrat. But it isn't that simple. People often seem to forget how September 11 changed our perceptions of the world, and how it affected the psyche of this country as a whole. While oft maligned for having a worldview that is black and white, George W. Bush has implemented some of the most nuanced legislation that this country has seen in a time of crisis. Americans now feel comfortable with the implementation of the Patriot Act to protect themselves, even though they still want civil liberties respected. Bush got the most sweeping education reform act passed, the No Child Left Behind Act, that will help end the black-white achievement gap by making sure that children in urban schools are not simply passed from grade to grade.
The biggest concern many have with Bush was his decision to invade Iraq. Many seem to forget how little fuss was made over the invasion of Afghanistan, ostensibly for the same purposeto hunt down and kill those who would harm the United States. Not only am I not as worried about al Qaeda anymore, but I am happy that our country was able to enfranchise thousands of women and begin ending the social injustices that were occurring over there.
George Bush seems to believe that if there is injustice in the world, it is our responsibility to go and fix it. The United Nations has stood idly by and let many bloodthirsty dictators get out of control: Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden. We owe it to the world to support, in any way possible, those who cannot support themselves. We have to do the right thing. That is why we provide more money and resources than anyone to combat genocide in the Darfur region, AIDS in Africa, and human rights abuses and anti-Semitism in the Middle East.
It is a great crisis we face, and I believe that so long as we do not invade countries to become an empire, then what we are doing is noble. Until I see George Bush annex Iraq, all the anti-war claims are futile and ridiculous. And there is no reason to assume that he will do so.
What of his challenger, John Kerry? I still struggle to believe that anyone is actually supporting him more than they are simply opposing Bush. The man does not care about the American citizens, or anyone besides himself, as I have noted in previous columns. He will not provide the strong leadership that Bush has provided. He chooses to do the right thing only when the right thing is politically prudent. Witness his flip-flop on foreign policy when down by a large margin to Howard Dean in the Democratic primaries.
George Bush has been steadfast in opposing discriminatory affirmative-action programs in public universities, ending horrifying partial-birth abortion practices, and giving tax dollars back to those who earned them. By contrast, a telling example of John Kerry taking a stand came in 1992 when he said that affirmative action has "kept America thinking in racial terms," and helped promote a "culture of dependency." When his liberal friends criticized him, he claimed that his comments were taken out of context. We do not need four years of someone who cannot be clear about his goals and clear about how he intends to execute them. George W. Bush will lead America forward in those respects, and John Kerry will lead us nowhere. Vote for George W. Bush for president.