Monday, November 01, 2004

Go Kerry!

Over the course of the US election campaign I've concluded that John Kerry is a man of many virtues, the chief of which is that he is not George Bush.

However, I've been more than usually inspired by the man himself. Although I am supremely cynical about politicians, I like Kerry on a personal and a principled level. I like him for the very same reason that, in the current climate, Americans regard as a colossal liability: he's a liberal senator from Massachusetts.

If he's not, as the not-quite-non-partisan National Journal didn't say, the most liberal member in the Senate, he's certainly liberal enough: a former anti-Vietnam firebrand, a radical senator ready to take on the worst of corporate miscreants, such as the narcotraffic and terrorist money-launderer BCCI, and a man who's demonstrated his willingness to, yes, tax-and-spend, as opposed to Bush's simple "spend."

If Kerry wins (still a very big "if", despite encouraging signs) what will happen? Kerry will still face a supremely hostile Republican dominated legislature, with intense pressure to be just as "tough" on national security as George Bush was... will he be able to do any good at all? Can he afford to end rendition or the torture camps? Can he do anything to restore lost civil rights at home? And restore any honour at all in the eyes of the people of Iraq? Will it be that the American people decide that however much the Christian in them doesn't like it, national security requires cutting a swathe of brutality and torture through the ranks of the guilty and innocent alike? As the conflict in Iraq cranks up, will Kerry be left in the position of instituting, as President, something morally equivalent to the very free-fire zones that as a 27 year old he decried?

And on domestic policy, will Kerry really be able to fund his promises for healthcare and education? His tax rollbacks are certainly not anywhere near enough to swing the budget back into the black. Does he do a George Bush the senior and pass tax increases despite his promises? Can he get his public healthcare proposal passed in a country where any increase in public funding for healthcare is viewed as close incipient socialism? Like Clinton, will he poison his legacy with the left by being unable to deliver on any of his projects?

These are big questions. But first Kerry needs to win the election. What happens if Bush wins another term is practically unthinkable. But somehow, if Kerry does pull it off I think we'll be alright. The man, quite simply, has character. He's a genuinely good man, with a good conscience, who served in Vietnam with bravery and then took a major risks to protest what he saw as an unjust war, at substantial personal and political cost. An action that's still costing him to this very day.

I think Kerry has it in him to be one of the truly great American presidents. Even among his supporters, few seem to think this. But I see the man, and I see someone who has been gifted with strong principles, and yet has learned and mastered political pragmatism. This is an unstoppable political combination. It's what Lincoln had.

I'm not expecting miracles. I'm not expecting camelot. But I am expecting something far more from the man than most American Democracts seem to expect.

But first, of course, he has to win. Oh please, oh please. I care about this one far more than the Australian election. This election has consequences. For the whole world.