February 27, 2004

The perils of being moderate

I'd like to say I'm voting for Bush. I was going to, really, I was planning on it, I got ridiculed for it, and now I have to take it all back. I am again a good Democrat, like when the teenaged son of a liberal New York family in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You suddenly stops being a Young Republican after getting a brain tumor removed. I can now return to the city over spring break and walk openly with my friends and family on the Upper West Side, stopping for Tasti D-lite and H&H bagels along the way.

This is the story of why, after "coming out" as somewhat, um, conservative, I have to return, tail between my legs, to the closet, thanks largely to Bush's ridiculous and bigoted stance on gay marriage.

On foreign policy issues, I tend toward the Andrew Sullivan/President Bush/oh-so-scary neo-con side of things. I am relieved, not horrified, that the U.S. wants to spread liberal democracy around the world and I am not convinced by those who claim that some less-"Western" folks won't go in for that. Howard Dean's remark that we are no safer now that Saddam Hussein has been captured…let's just say I disagree.

And yet the Democrats (with whom I've been registered, with several misgivings, since high school), have won me over, if only for the upcoming presidential election. The gay marriages in San Francisco were touching to observe, even from afar. Marriage, like obscenity, is not just a legal matter but also a you-know it-when-you-see-it one, and I have seen married gay couples. I'll tell you: they're really not that weird. No weirder than the average hetero U of C couple running around the Reynolds Club (that isn't saying much, but you get the idea). This is just basic—if America wants to promote liberal democracy, why should the legal American definition of marriage be decided by religious views? There's nothing liberal or democratic about that.

I can be pretty safe in assuming that Bush will push socially conservative policies if re-elected, while Kerry or Edwards will not. I have no way of knowing, really knowing¸ how Bush, Kerry, or Edwards would respond to as-yet-unforeseen international crises. Would Bush continue to be hawkish, or would he return to a more non-interventionist, himself-pre-9/11 stance? Would Kerry hop back into uniform and lead the troops to places most Americans have never heard of? Would Edwards just bat his eyes and look cute? The Republican Party does not have a history of invading a different region each week any more than the Dems, other than perhaps Kucinich.

I doubt the next president (whichever of the three bland-looking middle-aged dudes it ends up being—and here I see Nader's old point, so infuriating to Dems, about the similarity of the parties) will withdraw completely from Iraq. Other than that, neither I nor someone more knowledgeable about these things could say exactly what any of the candidates would do in terms of foreign policy if elected—none of the three has shown himself to be either a pacifist or a violent dictator (sorry Bush-bashers), and the massive variable of what ends up happening in the next four years in other nations cannot be ignored, so it's anyone's guess, really, as to how these things will play out. What voters can know is which candidate will do what with America itself, in terms of either socially conservative or socially liberal policies. Foreign policy seems—rightly—more important than those fluffy domestic issues that worried us before 9/11. But the foreign policy that might be enacted by the three likely candidates cannot be known, and thus it makes more sense for people to vote where they stand on issues like gay marriage. That is my current plan.