Vote Democrat or Abstain
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.