Does Kerry Matter?


Victor Davis Hanson says no:

It does not matter what Kerry would "really" wish to do, since the last two years of campaign rhetoric have earned him the worldwide reputation of the Bush antithesis, and thus his victory would, rightly or wrongly, be interpreted as a complete rejection of toppling Saddam and fostering a constitutional government in his place. His supporters and financial backers on the left would not tolerate anything less than a withdrawal.

Virginia Postrel says yes:

Contrary to what you might think from reading some libertarian-leaning bloggers, John Kerry is not running against George Bush's extravagant new Medicare entitlement or his expansive domestic spending. He is running against "tax cuts for the rich" and prescription drugs without price controls. Voting for "Not Bush" means voting for "not enough domestic spending" and "not enough taxes on the rich."

Ken Layne says hell no:

Worrying about "John Kerry" today is like worrying about what sort of steak you want as you die of starvation in a cave.

NEXT: Priorities

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Worrying about “John Kerry” today is like worrying about what sort of steak you want as you die of starvation in a cave.”

    Oh, for Chrissakes. You’d think that if things were that bad, we’d see a hell of a lot more difference between these candidates. Perspective, people.

  2. Victor D. Hansen obviously has no clue about the opposition, preferring to reify us into National Review’s characatures. I’ve referred to this before as “liberal in your head disease,” and this guy’s got it bad. Absent any actual liberals to argue with, he has decided that real world liberals think exactly like the liberal in his head, the one whose arguments he always has such devastating comebacks for.

    If John Kerry took the “cut and run, let ’em kill each other” position of a Camejo or Badnarik, even I would disagree.

    Other Kerry supporters out there: would you “tolerate anything less than a withdrawal?”

  3. “He is running against “tax cuts for the rich” and prescription drugs without price controls. Voting for “Not Bush” means voting for “not enough domestic spending” and “not enough taxes on the rich.”

    A fair point. And to that list one could add Kerry’s protectionist rhetoric. But Kerry’s also running against ballooning budget deficits. Thus, voting for “Not Bush” could also mean voting for “less deficit spending”.

    And even if the vote is interepreted as being in favor of higher marginal tax rates and more health care entitlements, it’s by no means guaranteed that the Republicans in Congress will let Kerry have it.

    Methinks voting for either clown sends a pretty crappy message.

  4. “Does John Kerry matter?” is the question posed.

    Victor Davis Hanson writes that Kerry will withdraw from Iraq, reversing course in the most notable foreign conflict in which the United States has engaged in decades.

    And that equals Hanson saying “no” to the question of Kerry mattering?

    The whole cave/steak thing makes no sense, at least as presented, so it’s impossible to determined if “hell no” is the proper description of Ken Layne’s stance.

  5. Does Kerry Matter? Yes, in many different ways to many different people – that’s one of the benefits of being unclear.

  6. SIW — VDH said: “It does not matter what Kerry would ‘really’ wish to do,” hence my interpretation of “no.” Postrel’s post starts with the notion of how people don’t think Kerry’s stances matter, and ends with her illustrating why she thinks even his anti-Bushness is a stance, and matters. Ergo, “yes.”

    But, you know, it was a rhetorical/headlineable/linkacle gimmick, and I’d recommend clicking on the links if you really care to answer the headline’s question to your satisfaction.

  7. I’m voting for Kerry for one reason and one reason only: because it is impossible for him to be more incompetent than Bush. Surely, you ask, it is at least theoretically possible that he could be more incompetent? No. That’s like asking if something can go faster than the speed of light. Or what was happening before the Big Bang. Or if 1 + infinity is bigger than infinity. Bush is the maximum limit of incompetence. His incompetence is woven into the very fabric of the universe such that something more incompetent is not possible, or even imaginable. A brain damaged alcoholic clown with the mental capacity of a 5 year old couldn’t be more incompetent. A banana does not have the ability to be more incompetent. Seriously, a banana as president would do less harm. You get the picture.

  8. “Methinks voting for either clown sends a pretty crappy message.”

    Thinking about that last line for a moment has made me think twice about my previously-stated reasons for not voting for Badnarik. Anarchist-isolationist nutjob though he may be, the message sent by a Badnarik vote in an election like this is far from a crappy one, and may help the deficit hawk, social moderate, and non-messianic foreign policy elements within the GOP to reassert themselves.

    That said, one still has to contend with the fact that the LP will probably feel less pressured to make its message more realistic (and thus useful for something other than a spoiler/agitation vote) if the party feels that it’s gaining a bit in the polls.

  9. Btw, Dan Drezner links to a Rasmussen poll which has Badnarik getting 3% in Arizona. Still wouldn’t be enough to spoil the race for Bush in the state, but you’ve gotta wonder about New Mexico and Nevada.

  10. Brian, even after considering your math, I’m not the least bit convinced that Kerry would be better.

  11. You’d think that if things were that bad, we’d see a hell of a lot more difference between these candidates. Perspective, people.

    ideologically, mr ligon, i agree, the parties are nearly convergent.

    methodologically, however, bush is unlike all prior presidents save nixon. i would hope that kerry’s method in the white house would come closer to that of reagan, gwhb and clinton — lies, but a lesser extent of secrecy and zeal, and a greater degree of governing competency (an almost sure thing considering the bush admin’s record).

  12. “methodologically, however, bush is unlike all prior presidents save nixon.”

    I don’t buy it, except for the secretive part. Clinton governed by poll. That is not obviously a superior methodology. Reagan was accused of being an ideologue all through both terms. How dare he say the Soviets were evil?

    We keep hearing from guys like Drezner that he is breaking for Kerry for methodological reasons, because Kerry is part of the ‘reality based community’ and so forth. It’s all BS. What could be more faith based than the belief that you are going to get international support in Iraq? Maybe the belief that international institutions mean something without the US military backing their play? Maybe the belief that you are going to stop outsourcing, or that it is a good idea to try?

    Somehow, all of these lines went through the vaunted Kerry ‘decision making process’, and still came out smelling like knee-deep piles of political pandering.

    I will give you the secrecy thing, though. That is the part of the Bush process that strikes me as different and decidedly bad.

  13. Who are these commentators that Posteral is referring to?

  14. “I’m voting for Kerry for one reason and one reason only: because it is impossible for him to be more incompetent than Bush.”

    There’s an old saying that goes something like, “Everything looks darkest just before it turns completely black.” Although it’s hard to imagine someone being more incompetent than President Bush, the ingenuity of the incompetent is an amazing thing. For all we know, Kerry could be quite competitive, and records are meant to be broken.

  15. Contrary to what you might think from reading some libertarian-leaning bloggers, John Kerry is not running against George Bush’s extravagant new Medicare entitlement or his expansive domestic spending.

    Contrary to what some commentators think, the last four years have shown us that what a presidential candidate says and what he does in office are as likely to be 180 degrees apart as anything else.

    Kerry’s platform just doesn’t matter. When you cut out the ideological bullshit, being a voter is like being desparately horny on a Saturday night and your only two options are a girl you barely know and a mildly retarded girl with body hair and genital warts. You just pray that new girl doesn’t say anything *too* stupid and you don’t have to pull that lever for yourself come Nov. 2nd.

  16. “Contrary to what some commentators think, the last four years have shown us that what a presidential candidate says and what he does in office are as likely to be 180 degrees apart as anything else.” — Pavel

    I’m trying to put Kerry’s comment, “I don’t fall down” in the proper contextual light.

  17. I see STD Hanson still just doesn’t get it: It doesn’t matter how many thousands and tens of thousands of Arabs the United States kills, nor how many “humiliating defeats” are inflicted, nor how much of Pol Pot’s “revolutionary will” the neocons can muster, American interests will still eventually be defeated in Iraq it’s simply a question of whether it happens next year or next decade or next century.

    The hawks love to trot out the British victory over the Sudanese at Omdurman as the model for the US victory over the Taliban and Hussein, but they seem to have failed to notice that the British don’t run Sudan anymore. Indeed, the Sudanese government can’t even be described as pro-British, let alone a liberal democracy.

    The French held Algeria for 130 years, killed hundreds of thousands of rebellious Arabs, planted colonial seeds that developed into roughly a million ethnic Frenchmen living on Algerian soil, and “francified” another million plus Arabs, and still lost control of the country. Algeria today maintains a polite relationship with France because of trade connections and the value of remittances that come from Algerian emigrants, but France has little influence over Algerian government policy and, again, Algeria is nowhere near a liberal democracy.

    If the Iraqis want a democratic regime, they can bring it about themselves. If they don’t, no one can make them have one.

  18. The VDH story motivated me to visit NRO’s blog, “The Corner.” Did you know that the Al Qaqaa explosives story has been completely discredited? And tht it’s really, really hurting Kerry, because he spoke about the problem, even cut an ad, before he was, um, proven to be right.

    There are two particularly good posts on the subject. In one, the poster links to the website of the Minnesota TV station that shows the footage of 101st Airborne troops posing with the explosives, cutting the UN seals off the doors, and leaving them open while Iraqis come and go. His comment reads, “I don’t know what to make of this.”

    The second takes the evil liberal media to task for reporting this obviously fake story, while ignoring the REAL story, which is that John Kerry is a communist agent working under deep cover.

  19. And in the meantime, SR…. ?

  20. SR, I’d find Hanson’s argument (that a swift, overwhelming, humiliating defeat of the insurgents will bring about major cultural changes in the Middle East) a lot more credible, if he hadn’t 2002 and early 2003 saying exactly the same thing about a swift, overwhelming, humiliating defeat of the Iraqi military.

  21. his victory would, rightly or wrongly, be interpreted as a complete rejection of toppling Saddam and fostering a constitutional government in his place.

    The solution to that problem – if there is indeed such a perception – is for conservatives – real conservatives, not the “compassionate” variety – to support Kerry and make sure he’s tough on terrorism. And, Lord knows, he and his administration are going to be more competent than what we’ve gotten from Bush.

  22. Thinking about my comment, I think this could be a very strong meme. A conservative + Kerry alliance. Strength on terrorism + competence.

    Please tell all your blog friends about this new meme.

  23. Did someone spike the water at NRO?

  24. If you’re worried about Kerry’s victory being interpretted as a win for the terrorists, might it have been a bad idea for the right to spend the last year asserting that a win by Kerry would be a win for the terrorists?

    Hawks were genuinely concerned about the results of our elections possibly emboldening the Iraqi insurgents and international jihadis. This would tend to militate towards refuting that belief, and saying that no matter what happens, the US is going to kick your ass. But they were also concerned that the Republican win this election. This would tend to militate towards a message that a Kerry victory would mean a surrender to them.

    So they had a choice of which goal was more important, and which message they were going to work to send. And they certainly did choose, didn’t they?

  25. Kerry is hardly the solution for a real conservative, no matter what. I don’t see him as any salvation for Libertarians, either.

  26. Well, here’s how “the majority” apparently feel; I find my sister to be a pretty reliable indicator of the American mindset. She presented the Patriot Act as a reason to stop Bush. Upon asking her if she knew that Kerry voted for the Patriot Act, she replied:

    * *

    Yes but the Republicans want to expand and extend it, which I know would not happen under Kerry. Kerry’s been in Congress twenty years, so of course his voting record is going to be scrutinized and he would have had to compromise in many instances. Bush has no experience other than being Gov. of Texas, so his “voting record” is nonexistent, as is his service to this country in wars past, and what does he know about compromise? He only buries his head in the sand and digs his feet in, as if the truth would disappear if he just tells the lies often enough. He surrounds
    himself with hawkish yesmen who tell him all he has done and will do is right. Kerry and many other Democratic senators voted for the Patriot Act in the anti-terrorist fervor that swept the country post-911, but he is certainly not in favor of strengthening that act to take away more constitutional rights of citizens. I don’t want to argue politics with you because you probably know all the little details that I don’t know and can catch all kinds of little (and I do mean small) inconsistencies. We obviously hold differing views on the role of government in American society, but if you do not vote, you are voting for Bush, and if you vote for Nader or another independent candidate you are voting for Bush, and are you really supporting a constitutional amendment to define marriage, limiting stem-cell research, and the belief
    that women do not have the right to choose what to do about their own reproductive health? Not to mention, do you support war in Iraq and the lies that have been told to bolster that war? I have two children who are of draft age and believe me, I don’t want to send them off to get killed in a war I don’t believe is or was right in the first place. I have a lot at stake here, and Bush is not going to represent my interests and never has. While Kerry isn’t perfect, he best represents my deepest feelings about how this world should be and I believe he will work to make it a better place than it is right now. I believe in conserving the environment, which obviously Bush does not. I believe in small businesses, not huge
    corporate interests that rip off their shareholders, employees and the public at large, while donating millions of dollars to Republican campaigns to support candidates who not only look the other way, but actively promote the corporate mentality that money equals right and might, that the little guy doesn’t matter, so send his or her job overseas, if it makes money for the CEO. Look at our Vice president, for God’s sake. If that’s not a case of corruption at the highest levels of government, I don’t know what is. Bush is corrupt at his core, as is his administration, which is why I would vote for anyone, and I mean anyone, I think could beat Bush. For better or worse, that man is Kerry and I’m voting for him, whether or
    not his voting record is crystal clear of any
    conflicts. I think he voted his conscience and his duty to his constituents. Facts and situations change, and when a politician votes for the record, he or she may have access to information we don’t, or may be thinking of issues that are important to his or her electorate. In order to do any good, he has to stay in
    office. Voting in a way that would offend his
    constituency at the time, when passions were running very high, would be the death knell of any politician, and for better or worse, politicians and corporations run this country. At least I want a politician who knows the system, not some crackpot who is just a spoiler. Nader is the most unprincipled candidate to emerge in my lifetime, because he knows he can’t get elected, and if he takes any votes from Kerry, Bush will get elected. Third party idealism is bullshit as far as I’m concerned; this is not a Parliamentary system, it’s a two party system and won’t change
    anytime soon, like within our lifetimes and probably the next, if they live to see it! Bush wants to take American “democracy” around the world and force it on cultures and governments who will fight to the death, like the Iraqi insurgents and any and all terrorists as well as legitimate governments. To me, the right to carry a gun is nothing compared to the right to see my children not have to carry a gun.

    * *

    I simply replied that I felt the only wasted vote was an unprincipled one.

  27. ugh-

    I think I’ll run screaming into the hills now, thanks.

  28. According to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, KERRY DOES MATTER! That’s how God wants it to be he says of Kerry’s rise in the polls. Really, doesn’t that about say it all?

  29. Yeah, people who are worried about scary religious talk should definitely vote to defeat Kerry. What was I ever thinking?

  30. ugh,

    Thank you for reminding me of everything I don’t like about the Democratic Party. …and why voting for Kerry isn’t a viable method of registering my disgust with the Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

    Now, if someone will just post a simliar screed reminding me of all the things I don’t like about the Republican Party, I’ll reply that voting for Bush isn’t a viable method of registering my disgust with the Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

    …and then I’ll join Joe and run screaming somewhere.

  31. BTW, bin Laden has released a new video (clearly recorded this year, since he mentions Kerry as being Bush’s opponent in the election) which all but says, “It’s the interventionist foreign policy, stupid!”

  32. ugh–

    I bet your sister is one of those who can talk for five minutes straight without taking a breath, huh?

  33. It seems that the 2004 election was so close that the Electoral College vote was tied, and that Congress couldn’t break the deadlock, and that
    the Supreme Court decided they’d better not make the decision themselves. So they sent Bush and Kerry to a frozen lake in northern Wisconsin to have an ice fishing contest. No one was allowed to accompany them, and they were on their honor to let the guy who caught the most fish in five days become president.

    On the first day they went out in different directions. Kerry came back with ten fish. Bush caught none.

    On the second day, Kerry caught twenty fish and again Bush came back empty handed.

    When Kerry brought back 25 fish on day three and Bush still hadn’t caught any, Bush got worried and telephoned Cheney for advice.

    “He’s probably cheating,” suggested the VP.

    “I hadn’t thought of that,” said Bush “You’re probably right. What do we do?”

    Cheney suggested that, instead of going fishing the next day, Bush follow Kerry to see what he was doing. At the end of day 4, Bush called Cheney
    up and told him, “You were right, Dick, the bastard is cheating.”

    “What’s he doing?” asked Cheney.

    “He’s cutting holes in the ice!”


  34. As to Kerry and what he might do in office, here’s a thought for everybody: What if he wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote? It may be unlikely, but the best chance of such an event is in a close election. That event would just bolster the odds of “divided government” actually working like we hope. The GOP Congress would be much more likely to fight against a Democrat who lacks a popular mandate.

    So the lesson is that if you want divided government with teeth you should (1) vote GOP for Congress, (2) vote for Kerry if you live in a swing state, (3) don’t vote for Kerry if you live in a “safe” state.

  35. The GOP Congress might want to distance itself from Bush as a lame duck, too. They’re up for re-election.

  36. I must confess, after reading the post about the Homeland Security guy (Hughes) and his “abridging rights” quote, I started to reconsider my resolve to vote for Bush as the lesser of two evils. However, after reading the arguments of my girl Virginia Postrel (whom I think is rather cute in her smart-girl way, BTW) I began to feel reassured about my choice. Dubya’s freedom bus is awfully wobbly, but at least he isn’t deliberately aiming it off a statist cliff.

    Small comfort. But then, after reading the stuff from Ugh’s sister, I became convinced it is absolutely imperative that I punch a chad for Bush. About 80% of my reason for voting for Dubya is to piss the more obnoxious of Kerry’s supporters off. Especially those in the media, the bloviaters in Hollywood, and the Leftist twits who undermined the rational anti-war movement with their nonsensical “No war! Reparations now!” etc. placards, as well as the everyday huffers and puffers.

    Speaking of which, I’m done venting. Off to happy hour — have a good weekend, folks!

  37. Here I still, sure as shit am!
    Dubya ain’t whacked me.
    Reckon Kerry will?

    I’m thinkin’ …. naah.

    I’m also thinking non-voters (and maybe some voters) know it’s not about whackin’, rather, hearing what I be saying.

  38. About 80% of my reason for voting for Dubya is to piss the more obnoxious of Kerry’s supporters off.


    There’s enough idiots to go around on both sides. We can’t let them determine our votes for us, or the idiots will win. And that’s not a joke. I refuse to base my vote on what freepers think just as I refuse to base my vote on what ANSWER thinks.

    I understand your desire to see Michael Moore frown on Nov. 3, but I could just as easily argue that Rick Santorum and all the theocrat types will be vindicated by a Bush win.

    If you conclude from the candidates’ stances on the issues that a vote for Bush is the right thing to do you’ll get no chastisement from me. I might disagree or even argue, but I won’t suggest it was a frivolous decision. But make sure your vote is based on policy matters, not just which side has the more obnoxious fringe supporters. Because on that issue there is no clear winner. I’ve encountered enough idiots from both sides.

  39. Hey, y’all, the election’s over. I voted ten days ago. Just to be sure Florida didn’t have any “problems” this time on my account, I made sure to punch holes all the way through the computer screen.

    As for it making that much difference who wins, that’s a joke. It’s like hearing about how bad the Patriot Act is from the left, most of whom have no clue that major components (like “Know Your Customer”) were pushed by the previous administration. Not that USA Patriot doesn’t suck, but we’ve had our liberties far more abused by the GOP/Democrat drug war.

    For the few Libertarians left in Reason Land, I just got an automated call from my GOP candidate for the state house. His only opponent is with the LP, and he wanted me to know that her party supported drugs, prostitution, legalized gambling, and gay marriage. Quite a sophisticated argument, wouldn’t you say? What’s particularly funny is that the LP candidate has run a good mainsteam campaign and couldn’t be directly attacked for anything she had said. What’s particularly offensive is that the GOP radically discounts the possibility that there are one or two libertarians in the GOP. Grrrrr. I think the CW in GOP smoky rooms is that any kind of libertarian uses drugs, etc. It’s somehow beyond them that a straight arrow who might not do all of those things could support the rights of others to do them. Oh, look, I’m ranting. Time to leave my computer.

  40. “Does Badnarik Matter?”

    I’ve got to go to the shops and buy some ground beef for my world-famous chili. Do I:

    A) Drive my big-balls sulfur-spewing civilian-crushing humvee?

    B) Drive my midlife-crisis self-affirming Z4?

    C) Walk?

    D) Stand in front of the house flapping my arms crowing at the cloudless sky?

    Virginia is my archi-cute intellectual goddess. But I think I’ll take the Beemer.

  41. Does that make sense to anyone else?

  42. Darn. Too subtle.

    A = Voting for Bush.

    B = Voting for Kerry.

    C = I don’t know. I just needed a C.

    D = Voting for Badnarik.

  43. ps

    C was for the best option. Not voting. I just remembered.

    (Wow. It refuses to let me post!

    In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I’ve enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience.)

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.