Monday, November 01, 2004Why I Am Voting Against Bush, or, The Worst President Ever
I am not going to go on for hours about the incompetence or wrongheadedness of the Bush Administration. Books have been written on that subject. We all know that his policies have almost uniformily failed, either because they were mistaken in conception or botched in execution. There is virtually no issue area, social, economic, foreign or otherwise, where Bush has made things better rather than worse. This is a truly awesome accomplishment. Rather than dwell on specifics, I want to concentrate on the big picture.
George Bush will be known to future generations as the worst President in the history of the United States? Why? Isn't that a bit extreme? His policies have failed, but haven't those of many Presidents? In reply to these eminently reasonable questions, I can only point to the record. The worst Presidents so far were primarily failures because they did nothing when more was required. Buchanan did nothing while the South seceded. The Gilded Age Presidents did nothing while their parties and major corporations fleeced the country. Hoover did nothing while the nation sank into economic chaos. Their crimes were of inaction. We look on them with a blend of pity and contempt, but not hatred.
Bush's record is far worse, not because he has not acted, but in the manner of his action. Many have invested him with the mantle of heroism because he has acted, but they have failed to analyze the content of his actions. Yes, he has been daring. Yes, he has been resolute. But he has also been a colossal fool. George Bush is the worst President in American history not because he has fiddled while Rome burned, but because he has doused the flames with oil. The environment declines, the middle class falls into debt, our security is compromised by terrorism and the growth of new rivals, our politics degenerates into hate-filled invective while our citizens become disillusioned. What does Bush do? Not nothing. Instead, he actively makes the things worse.
The foolishness of Bush policies alone would rank him at the bottom of the list of chief executives, but he does not stop there. No, with Bush we must always speak in superlatives, though not the sort he or his supporters would prefer. Bush is guilty of a far greater crime than foolhardiness and incompetence. He is also an oath-breaker.
When one takes the oath of office, the new President swears to defend the Constitution. That document is the embodied will of the people, and reflects their desire to have a popular government that both represents their will and protects their interests. Presidents are judged on a number of factors: the success of their policies, their actions in the face of crises, their ability to reflect the unspoken will of the people, even their good fortune. There is one overriding criterion, however; a principle which trumps all others: does the President defend the democracy?
There have only been two Presidents who have actively undermined the institutions of our democracy - Richard Nixon and George Bush. Nixon's work was incidental, and the effects limited. But the mere fact of them made him unacceptable to the nation and provided an instructive lesson on the necessity of vigilance in a free people. Remember what Nixon was guilty of- abusing the political process and suborning the powers of government in an effort to maintain power. For Bush this is apparently no remarkable thing. He does it all the time. A deliberate campaign of voter disenfranchisement and deception is treated as no more than an ordinary activity for this White House. They cook the books or blackmail House members or smear the reputations of their critics or suppress any and all dissent, and they are treated to yawns. What was a matter of grave political crisis thirty years ago is now the every day.
So why am I voting against Bush? Simple. Not only for policy differences or his persistent bungling, as uniquely egregious they are. Not because he is no Democrat, but because he is no democrat.