Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vote Democrat or Abstain

Andrew Sullivan's mantra this campaign season -- Vote Democrat or Abstain -- (when he's not promoting his new book, that is) is a bit too pushy/demanding for my tastes ("vote your conscience, but first inform yourself" strikes me as a more measured message), but his reasoning for this refrain is truly sound. With two years left and absolutely no political prize left to lose, should the Republicans retain control of both chambers of Congress, Bush would undoubtedly do even more to seize power and damage the balance in the US system, leaving the Presidency ripe for a nightmarishly oppressive occupant to come in and implement a truly tyrannical administration.

By continually neutralizing the courts (both in the arena of public opinion [activist judges, anyone?] and through well-disguised legislation like the thoroughly inhuman and unAmerican Military Commissions Act of 2006), Bush has systematically ensured that the person in the Oval Office can continue to expand his king-like powers. And it's not only the courts that he's marginalized. By exploiting 9/11 to get Congress to hand him carte blanche in fighting the so-called war on terror (a conflict so poorly defined that, make no mistake, it will last as long as it's politically advantageous for those in power for it to do so), and his historically abusive use of Presidential signing statements (which allow a president to qualify his signature on laws), he has essentially castrated Congress as well.

By ensuring that neither of the other two branches of Government are operating at their optimal checks-and-balances best, Bush's has undermined the very foundation on which the country is built. This is not irreversible damage...yet...but if he maintains control of Congress, there's no doubt in my mind that he'll see that as even more political capital to spend. Again and again, he has proven that what he's most interested in buying with that capital is more power for the Executive Branch.

Now a good deal of all that is vague, I know, so allow me to illustrate via example what Bush has done to the American ideals of truth and justice. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 first knocked the chairs off under the Judiciary branch of our government, essentially telling the courts that they can no longer be involved in cases where non-citizens picked up by US forces want to be told why they're being held captive. In a nutshell that means that anyone the US decides to kidnap and detain, has absolutely no recourse...no way to challenge their detention. Anyone who's not a citizen, whether they legally live in the US or whether they are a victim of mistaken identity, can be made to disappear.

Now I know that doesn't scare some Americans. They'll reason that if you haven't done anything wrong, even if it's a case of mistaken identity, that our government would eventually let you go. We are, after all the good guys. We're the ones leading the way for Democracy around the world. The shining example of all that's right and decent.

See, but that's the problem. If we truly are leading by example, then we're telling other countries that it's OK for them to make anyone they choose to detain to disappear as well. We've given tyrants around the world the perfect excuse to abuse such powers. "We have the same system the United States has, how can you call that tyrannical?" And that's not the worst of it. If the US can make any non-citizen it chooses disappear because we feel threatened, and we're spreading our brand of Democracy to the world, then it stands to reason that any other country can make any American it chooses disappear, mistaken identity or not, and we have no recourse. All they have to say is that they believe that person was a threat (and they don't even have to explain that much).

Which brings us back to next Tuesday. I happen to believe there's enough good and right about the U.S. that we can be a very good example to the rest of the world. Our system was ingeniously designed to permit us to right the wrongs of those in power, and this coming Tuesday we have that opportunity. Bush has overstepped his position repeatedly. The GOP-controlled Congress has simply rubber stamped his outrageous demands. The example we can set on election day is that we believe in the checks-and-balances the Founding Fathers designed. We believe a government by the people only works when no one branch of government can become so strong it can make people essentially disappear (I have to say this???). I believe that it's time to correct the excesses of the past 6 years, and that by distributing the power between the two major parties, we will be able to work toward that.

I believe that, in essence, Andrew Sullivan is right. This coming election day, we must restore the balance of power (what else might Bush try if we don't?). No matter how strongly you believe in the platform of the Republican party, if you believe in America more, then please inform yourself and vote your conscience. If that's not possible (i.e., you don't have the time to read up on how Bush has continually abused his position), then take Andrew's advice: vote Democrat or Abstain.

36 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

I've been impressed listening to Andrew Sullivan on his book tour, he's very intelligent and has a great sense of history. The strange thing is he has us misty eyed for the Reagan era of coservatism, well not me anyway. But look where we are!! And Kissinger is back from the dead. This is the scariest Halloween ever. And... will our vote be fairly counted?

10/31/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Great post. Don't have much to add here. You said it all.

10/31/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

Speaking of the courts, the Republicans have apparently decided to focus on winning state judicial races which are normally non-partisan. In Georgia, the incumbent Supreme Court justice, Carol Hunstein, has been targeted for replacement by an attorney for Homeland Securtiy (the guys who approved waterboarding). This attorney does not live in Georgia, has never been a judge, has virtually no experience with appellate courts (one case as third chair). All judicial candidates are supposed to fill in questionnaires about their past - participation in any litigation as individauls, even parking tickets. The candidate did not complete any questionnaires. It turns out his sister got a permanent injunction against him, claiming he tried to hurt her while she was eight months pregnant. Hunstein ran an ad mentioning his lack of qualifications, pointing out this background and he is now threatening to have the licenses revoked of the tv stations running her ad. He is funded by the national republican party, by the Republican Governonr, and by a group funded by Bernie Marcus, owner of Home Depot. The Marcus group is trying to buy their kind of tort reform by funneling money into state judicial races across the country. How much money? $1.3 MILLION for this race alone. This Homeland Security guy has $3 MILLION from Marcus and out of state Republicans. Normally $500,000 is exorbitant spending in this kind of race. So if you can't buy the legislators, just buy the judges.

10/31/2006 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous jl said...

No way, vote GREEN or abstain. As long as a two party system of warmongering Democrats (who led us into Vietnam, don't forget) and warmongering Republicans persists, violence will continue to be the modus operandi for American policy.

10/31/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmm...and if I vote Green, and that pulls just enough votes away from the Dems that the Repubs maintain control of Congress, what difference does it make?

I know we have to start sometime dismantling the destructive nature of the two-party system, but is now really the time? with so much at stake? It will be harder to elect Green candidates if the Republicans maintain control, not easier.

10/31/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

It's pretty dangerous for me to do this, but I am going to come out as a closet republican--or at least as one highly sceptical of the growth of government.

If and when the country does become a complete police state ( and the odds are very high that it will )both parties will have paved the way.

In regard to the massive expansion of regulatory agencies in the 20th century does represent a defacto transfer of power from the legislative to the executive branch. The basic premise of the all powerfull executive branch and all the precidents for the creation of a permanent government that is beyond legislative control has been built up over the last 100 years. Niether party can claim with clean hands to be suprised by the apearance of someone like George Bush.

The entire political process of today is like watching two drunks fighting over a huge gun. Each one thinks they are safe because they are sure that they will control it. But the person most likely attracted to such a gun is a total thug and that's who is most likely to get it.

The entire constitution of America, is built on a deep fear of this kind of situation.

10/31/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

No way, vote GREEN or abstain.

JL, I agree w/ you in spirit, but I think overall it would be a big mistake. I agree w/ EW that the first priority this election is to get the power out of the hands of the Republicans.

I voted Green in the 2000 election (for president), and of course got a lot of shit about it from my friends. Until I asked if they'd ever heard of the electoral college. Gore had California pretty much guaranteed, so I figured I could support the Greens w/o helping Bush. But this time around it's all about Congress, and I'm voting solid Democrat no matter what.

10/31/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

The green party is another childish drunk. This one wants to use the gun to protect the environment. All of these people are united in the basic idea that they are absolutely right; that the ends justify the means and none give any thought to the idea that perhaps all this state power will be used for anything bad.

Here's a little chunk from Hayek's Road to Serfdom.

Advancement within a totalitarian group or party depends largely on a willingness to do immoral things. The principle that the end justifies the means, which in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals, in collectivist ethics becomes necessarily the supreme rule. There is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves "the good of the whole," because that is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. Once you admit that the individual is merely a means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society or the nation, most of those features of totalitarianism which horrify us follow of necessity. From the collectivist standpoint intolerance and brutal suppression of dissent, deception and spying, the complete disregard of the life and happiness of the individual are essential and unavoidable Acts which revolt all our feelings, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, are treated as mere matters of expediency; the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousands becomes an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims. To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, therefore, a man must be prepared to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. In the totalitarian machine there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous. Neither the Gestapo nor the administration of a concentration camp, neither the Ministry of Propaganda nor the SA or SS (or their Russian counterparts) are suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet it is through such positions that the road to the highest positions in the totalitarian state leads. A distinguished American economist, Professor Frank H. Knight, correctly notes that the authorities of a collectivist state "would have to do these things whether they wanted to or not: and the probability of the people in power being individuals who would dislike the possession and exercise of power is on a level with the probability that an extremely tenderhearted person would get the job of whipping master in a slave plantation."

10/31/2006 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous jl said...

E_: but is now really the time?

When would be the proper time then? After the Republicans have pulled the Democratic party so far to the right as to make the two indistinguishable (that is, even more than they already are)? It's worth noticing that many Democratic candidates have assumed Republican-esque platforms in order to defeat their rivals. And don't forget that our soon to be elected Democratic Governor for New York State has made no secret of his desire to reinstate the death penalty.

jm: This one wants to use the gun to protect the environment...that the ends justify the means...

Actually, the Green party advocates non-violence. This ideal of non-violence suggests that only a peaceful means will bring about a lasting peaceful end, which is a direct refutation of the Machiavellian "ends justify the means."

10/31/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

State power to tax, regulate etc... is all about the threat of force. That's what backs up the law-- the or else, which is the gun.

The country as a whole was founded by people sober enough to fear the accumulation of this kind of power and the whole constitution is about controling and limiting it.

This what I mean by drunk. We now seem to have a lot of people who don't even realise the kind of lawless raw power has accumulated at the top.

10/31/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

It's worth noticing that many Democratic candidates have assumed Republican-esque platforms in order to defeat their rivals.

I know, this disturbs me too. But I'm supporting them just the same, in order to at least disrupt the unchallenged power the Republicans have had for years. Lesser of two evils, I'm afraid, is the way I'm voting this year.


The country as a whole was founded by people sober enough to fear the accumulation of this kind of power and the whole constitution is about controling and limiting it.

I agree up to a point, but I think it's worth noting that even then there was broad disagreement about how to run things. The Puritans were one of the first groups here, and they seem to still be going strong.

10/31/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Yup...I hate feeling as though I have to mark the boxes all the way down based on party rather than perspective, but I'll be doing just that. It's regrettable, but as Edward put it, it will "work toward" correcting the excesses and absurdities of recent years.

As for the Red Dems that some folks mentioned above, I'm all for it. I'm originally a red stater (Virginia) who right now wishes I could be voting down there. I'd gladly lose my NY vote for a say in Virginia's Senate race, not to mention the congressional seats at stake and the local county positions. It will be close at all levels this year, and if I had to vote for an anti-immigration Democratic candidate to swing it, I'd have no problem doing so. What's more, in some respects I feel more connected to that brand of Democrat, even if their more extreme stances - on right to choose issues, in particular - do trouble me.

10/31/2006 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger barry said...

I'm really shocked that anyone takes Andrew Sullivan seriously.

This man has made his career by attacking other homos for not being moral enough, or deserving of equal rights, while maintaining that barebacking is OK. If he wants to take risks like that with consenting partners, I'm not going to get involved, but don't make money by attacking other homos for their moral failings while doing it.

He has taken money from pharmaceutical companies while praising them for making AIDS manageable, which all of us know it is not. We've all had friends die after the invention of the new drug cocktails.

He called people who doubted the sincerity of this regime's behaviour after 9/11 a "fifth column." He basically said everyone who didn't support the war on terror was treasonous.

He used odious terms like Islamo-Fascism, when any idiot should know that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a secular state. I'm not saying it was a paradise, but it wasn't a theocracy either.

Ed, this isn't Obsidian Wings. I don't understand why you have to act as if Andrew Sullivan is some kind of serious intellectual player.

10/31/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger barry said...

Oops - forgot to mention two more things:

He was editor of the The New Republic as the AIDS epidemic took hold and was pretty useless on that front. He still says he considers his promotion of "The Bell Curve" one of the great accomplishments of his reign as editor.

He also thinks feminists are bad. One would think lesbians aren't really part of "his movement" from reading what he writes.

10/31/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

David said

"I agree up to a point, but I think it's worth noting that even then there was broad disagreement about how to run things. The Puritans were one of the first groups here, and they seem to still be going strong."

As far as I know, most of the founders were deeply aware of the dark puritan history of the country and the even darker days of europe's religious wars-- that was what the constition was there to stop.

For the last century, America has been building a bigger and more powerfull state and at the same time removing all the safety catches off the weapon. No one seems to care about the size of it or about any principles as long as they control it.

10/31/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous jl said...

Lesser of two evils, I'm afraid, is the way I'm voting this year.

Is everyone here a political realist? Have we all been beaten into submission by a system that requires that we vote for either 1 of 2 candidates, when we object to both? You would think that creative, free-thinking, out-of-the-box artists would be more open to idealism -- you know, anti-war and all that peace stuff. The fact is, the only reason many democratic candidates are criticizing the Iraq war now is because the war didn't go particularly well and has become unpopular, not because they had any a priori moral objection to it. Remember that when the next crisis comes on a Democrat's watch and they plunge headfirst into another senseless bloodbath (as demonstrated by the history of our nation).

jm: State power to tax, regulate etc... is all about the threat of force. That's what backs up the law-- the or else, which is the gun.

You're absolutely right (although I would wager that the Greens would be less inclined to abuse this power than others). Does this mean you're opposed to all hierarchical rule, as it is always ultimately enforced by violence? If so, then you're an anarchist not a republican, and we have much in common.

hh: As for the Red Dems that some folks mentioned above, I'm all for it...in some respects I feel more connected to that brand of Democrat

I thought you were somewhat of an environmentalist; why no love for the Greens?

barry: I'm really shocked that anyone takes Andrew Sullivan seriously.

We certainly don't! We love you barry!!

10/31/2006 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I would consider myself a classical liberal and in no way an anarchist. Anarchist's are dumb enough to believe that all people are perfect and wish to live in peace. Some people are bad and the purpose of government is as assigned agent of self defence. All human beings require the freedom to use thier brains and act on thier own judgements ( this is a fact of nature ) so the purpose of the state is to protect that right by retaliating against anyone who violates it and also to act as impartial arbiter in disputes/ torts.

The state of today however in most countries plays the role of the criminal.

10/31/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Just for the record here I want to second Ed here.

"I believe that, in essence, Andrew Sullivan is right. This coming election day, we must restore the balance of power (what else might Bush try if we don't?). No matter how strongly you believe in the platform of the Republican party, if you believe in America more, then please inform yourself and vote your conscience. If that's not possible (i.e., you don't have the time to read up on how Bush has continually abused his position), then take Andrew's advice: vote Democrat or Abstain."

Bush is a dangerous guy- really dangerous; America's first frat boy president. Hopefully after he is disarmed the country will do some soul searching about the next boob in the wings and what they might do with the power of the mega-state.

10/31/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ed, this isn't Obsidian Wings. I don't understand why you have to act as if Andrew Sullivan is some kind of serious intellectual player.

I find the fact that he's done a 180 on Bush, and very publically, an admirable change of rhetorical and allegiances, Barry. I don't have to accept or excuse his previous excesses to agree with him now.

Is everyone here a political realist?

The Iraq war is not the reason to vote for Democrats. A more progressive agenda is not the reason either, as I agree they're more or less indistinguishable from Nixon-era Republicans. The reason to vote for Democrats on Tuesday is that the current administration has suspended habeus corpus, talks through both sides of its face on whether torture is now "American", and isn't able to 1) win or 2) withdraw from Iraq. More than that, they are systematically rotting the Federal Government from the inside out.

This is not about Dems versus Republicans or Dems vs. Greens to me. This is about whether or not these criminals can be stopped before 2008. That is all.

10/31/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Have we all been beaten into submission by a system that requires that we vote for either 1 of 2 candidates, when we object to both? You would think that creative, free-thinking, out-of-the-box artists would be more open to idealism...

I think it's possible to be an idealist and still be concerned about practical realities. If I vote for a Green candidate in this upcoming, close election: a.)they're not going to win, and b.) I'll feel that I threw away my vote making an idealistic statement, rather than trying to change the current, very dangerous, balance of power.

10/31/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

If the Democrats were again in charge of both houses, the presidency and the supreme court, they would no doubt behave arrogantly too. I hope not as stupidly probusiness as the Republicans but the power of money to corrupt is always there. The founding fathers were wise to promote a balance of power. I will be voting straight Democratic this election to restore some balance.

I just hate it when big business decides to buy what they want, damn the rest of us.

10/31/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger barry said...

I think it's perfectly legitimate to vote Green where it won't hand a victory to a Republican, and there any many times where that is the case.

For presidential elections, with the all-or-none electoral system of most states, it's easy to vote Green in a state like NY. It has NO impact on helping a Republican.

For other races, if it's going to be a landslide (like Hillary Clinton will be) I also prefer to vote Green, so I can help them get more state funding.

My mother, who is a lifelong Democratic activist and campaigner, is planning to vote Green for the first time ever in the governor's race in Arkansas. The Democrate (Mike Beebe) in that race is opposed to gay marriage and gay adoption, and returns donations from gay organizations. Fun set of choices in states like that.

10/31/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I think it's perfectly legitimate to vote Green where it won't hand a victory to a Republican, and there any many times where that is the case.

I agree.

10/31/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger barry said...

Edward, I'm sorry but I can't take seriously anyone who said he really believed Bush on WMD.

10/31/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous George LeChat said...

When was the last time you voted for a candidate you really believed in? Then why vote at all? Let's just walk away.

10/31/2006 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Then why vote at all? Let's just walk away.

Nothing would make Karl Rove happier.

10/31/2006 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward, I'm sorry but I can't take seriously anyone who said he really believed Bush on WMD.

I don't know Barry. I tend to believe all people are capable of learning and think it's best to applaud when they do rather than remind them of how badly they saw things before. Which isn't to say I trust him now. Just that lately he's been making a lot of sense.

10/31/2006 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger JD said...

Good, impassioned post, Ed. I agree with Barry, though: voting Green in cases where victory is essentially assured by a Dem is one of the very few means left to us to express our true opinions. I want to believe that it produces some pressure on the rightward-leaning Dems, as well. There's no way I'm voting for pro-death penalty, pro-war, anti-flag burning Hillary Clinton, at least not in this senate race. There IS a Green candidate for NY Senate, by the way (http://www.hawkinsforsenate.org/). However, if it came to Hillary against Frist, say, for President, not only would I vote for her, but I'd go door-to-door for her. On another note, everyone should try to make last-minute phone calls for the Dems in close races this year! It's one reason why the Repugs have won so much lately. Go to http://www.moveon.org/ to find a phone-calling party near you; it's easy, you use your cell phones on the weekends.

11/01/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger painterdog said...

John Morris in one post you say your a Republican, and in another you say your a classical liberal, not sure the two jive.

What's missing here is the fact as I stated on the other post that our country is being sold at the highest bidder and our laws are being writen to favour corporate agendas.

He is funded by the national republican party, by the Republican Governonr, and by a group funded by Bernie Marcus, owner of Home Depot. The Marcus group is trying to buy their kind of tort reform by funneling money into state judicial races across the country. How much money? $1.3 MILLION for this race alone. This Homeland Security guy has $3 MILLION from Marcus and out of state Republicans.

This is a perfect example of how a corporate interest is trying to influence the vote, that is buy a judge, to get what they want.

It's cynically done under the guise of the 1st amendment, its time to stop this kind of abuse of power.

How one may ask:

Well I think a national strike by ALL WORKING people would be a start, or if as Lou Dobbs suggests we all register as independants, maybe the even bring back tar and feathering of greedy corporate assholes who think they can do whatever they want.

11/02/2006 03:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Painterdog,

Classical liberal indicates a set of beliefs which are close to libertarianism -- i.e., small government on both social matters and also economic matters -- but with an emphasis on economic matters over social ones, and without the total anarchism that libertarianism is always at risk of expressing. In other words, a laissez-faire person who cares more about economy than other things.

This is consistent with the use of the term "liberal" in Europe and South America, where it doesn't mean "social liberal" as it does here, but rather means "economic liberal," or in other words an advocate of free markets, or frankly, economic Darwinism. (The French insultingly call this the "Anglo-Saxon" model; it's also sometimes called neoliberalism). It's true that Republicans like Lou Dobbs, Jack Kemp and Pat Buchanan are economically conservative, but since the Reagan era they've become a tiny minority.

11/02/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Too Busy today to go too far into this.

Henry's definitions are generally right here.The statement about the emphasis on social matters over economic ones is totally false for a true liberal, who whould make no distinctions. ( give me liberty or give me death )

I think, in general that it's impossible to now have a coherent discussion since the word liberal has been so totally abused by people who in are not. A true liberal believes in the absolute necessity of every person to be free to use thier own mind and deal with others on a voluntary basis.

I think that if one starts with the term conservative, that one can get some idea of what has happened.

Conservative-- generally a person opposed too change- into preserving the status quo etc..

So, in Europe-- the status quo was kings, fuedalism and various levels of entrenched aristocracy. The diametric opposite of that system whould be - free market libertarianism.


In America, the basic designed system and constitution was developed by mostly free market liberals-- So people interested in protecting those ideas ( and they are radical ideas- get labeled as conservatives.

The original Republican party-- which as far as I know developed from the break up of the Whig party over slavery is the party of true liberals or at least it sort of was at one time-- long ago.

11/02/2006 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Anyway, today's Republican party is not the defender of idividual liberty or the rule of law-- so I strongly agree with Ed on this one.

11/02/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

By the way, henry is right in that actual rational defenders of liberty are now a tiny minority in America now.

This type of situation, in which the idea of small government and individual rights has been tossed out by almost all the players-- aproximates the type of situation that happened in Germany in the early part of the century. It seems like most people flunked history and now we are going to have to repeat the course.

11/02/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger painterdog said...

So are we about to become a fascist state wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross?

11/02/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

That's the general trend-- towards some kind of totalitarian state. Hard to pin down the specifics- religous or secular; but not free.
Both parties are pushing that way.

11/02/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I just want to say that I really hate politics-- with a passion. I think that classical liberals like the people wrote the constitution were very distrustfull of it and wanted to create a system in which the individual would have the widest range of freedom and very little would be thrown into the political arena.

The situation today is just so scary that there is no way one can ignore stuff.

11/02/2006 11:19:00 PM  

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