Have You Really Got a Friend?


One brief final note from Boston. If, as I suspect and joylessly hope, John Forbes Kerry becomes our nation's 44th president, what mandate will he have? Here's the whole list, best as I can reckon:

* Won't invade Iraq again.
* Will attempt to "rebuild alliances."
* Will repeal tax cuts for the rich.
* Will insert the phrase "targeted tax cuts" into every speech until at least 2006.
* Will make some attempt at changing around the health care system so as to expand coverage; won't likely get too far.
* Will dump more bags of money into government-funded energy studies.
* Will enforce environmental regulations.
* Will appoint sons of mill workers to 50% of senior Cabinet posts.
* Won't disenfranchise black voters in Florida.
* Won't be George Bush.

This may be more than enough to convince every registered voter to my left to vote for the guy. But unless he gets more specific than "I'll be your friend" over the next three months, he won't have anything resembling a mandate. The people who hate Bush disagree on a whole host of fundamental issues: Should America help democratize the Middle East, and if so, how? What happens when the Taliban continues to increase strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan? How does "no blood for oil" translate into dealing with Iran and North Korea? Free Trade or Fair Trade? Is it cool to lock up hundreds of thousands of disproportionately poor and non-white Americans for trivial drug possession? Should Affirmative Action be mended, ended, or extended? Is the federal government really going to be there "winter, spring, summer or fall," or can the private sector pitch in for a few weeks here and there?

These are interesting and fundamental issues, and they weren't debated at all this week. I can't begin to fathom how that lack of specificity might play to the sliver of a minority of swing-state voters who haven't already made up their minds. Maybe they just needed to know that John Kerry was 6'4", served in Vietnam, and never much liked commies. Whatever the efficacy, this anti-Bush unity is almost certain to dwindle if and when the Dark Lord is dethroned, and I'll bet the hot political story in 2006 and 2008 will be about how the governing coalition is in disarray while the Republicans are newly unified against the haughty, chin-secreting liberal. This may be deeply unsatisfying to my tiny and incoherent demographic of non-partisan internationalist free-market Bush opponents, but within this projected disunity lies a silver lining -- if John Kerry presides over a divided government, backed by a bickering party that doesn't have George Bush to kick around anymore, then we will see endless new variations on the concept of "gridlock." Aside from not being slaughtered by Islamicist madmen, this may be the best thing we can hope for. UPDATE: Original post said "Kennedy," not "Kerry." Swear to God.