Vote Kerry (or Edwards, or Kucinich)

Voice Writers Make Their Pitches for the March 2 Democratic Primary

Editor's note: When Voice writers and editors met to consider an endorsement in the March 2 Democratic primary, we were a house divided—and after a second intramural debate, we emerged just as splintered. We'll offer no endorsement here, but rather an argument for each candidate who has support at the paper.

Kerry for President
Yes, He Can

John Kerry
photo: Tara Engberg
John Kerry

It's not easy for freethinkers to back the front-runner. There's always a better candidate at the back of the pack, or a heroic populist who promises to kick out the jams of politics as usual. But this year we face a clear and present danger in George W. Bush, and the salient question is, Who can defeat him? A large majority of Voice writers and editors who convened to consider this question agree: That man, warts and all, is John Kerry. Nothing we have read about him—including the cover story in this week's Voice—convinces us otherwise.

This wouldn't be such a plausible choice if the front-runner were someone like Joe Lieberman, whose sanctimony hid a host of sins. But nothing in Kerry's public life suggests that he would behave like a Republican. He represents something more subtly objectionable to progressives: Clintonism with a patrician face. Kerry walks and talks like a free-trade Democrat with a commitment to racial and sexual equality. Don't count on him to abrogate NAFTA, but he will act to ease its traumatic impact on American workers. He won't soak the rich, but he will pursue tax policies that strengthen the real backbone of our economy: people of modest means. He'll pursue a foreign policy based on security rather than profiteering or paranoia. He'll end the politics of coded racism and overt homophobia, preserve reproductive rights, stop schemes to despoil the environment, and end Bush's crusade to turn America into a theocratic, authoritarian society. Kerry will give us plenty to complain about, but if politics is the art of the possible, this year it's the art of the bearable—and he's a good deal better than that.

We're sick of hearing about Kerry's horse face or his somnambulant effect on the stump. A fiery speaker with good cheekbones does not a great leader make. We wish it weren't necessary for a presidential candidate to strut his macho stuff, but in the face of Karl Rove's dream machine, apparently it is. We're thankful that Kerry can carry that man thing off without looking like he's out to destroy the world.

Polls show Kerry with a wide lead in New York, so why not go for Dennis Kucinich, the prog's favorite son? Because voting from the heart can have disastrous consequences, as it did in 2000 when some of us were drawn to Ralph Nader. (Hopefully that won't happen again.) There's a more practical case to be made for Edwards, but not a persuasive one. On the crucial issue of experience, Bush will wipe the floor with him. There's something unsettling about a 50-year-old candidate who strikes many people as a newbie. What's more, voting for Edwards is less likely to stop Kerry than to prolong the nominating process, wasting resources on a rivalry between two men who basically agree. This is no time for a cliff-hanger—not when we're already at the precipice.

Kerry's lead in current polls is concentrated in the populous "blue states" that vote Democratic. But as the Zogby poll points out, Bush is leading in every state he won in 2000. This is a very steep uphill battle, though not a Sisyphean one. We can win, but only if we learn to move as the right wing has: with will, unity, and a full grasp of the danger that lies ahead if we fail. It's no exaggeration to say that this election is a matter of life and death. So get your shit together and vote for Kerry.


Edwards the Performer
It's the Sex Appeal, Stupid

Can we agree that this isn't about "issues"? Can we admit we've never had a grip on NAFTA? Here American union members and non-union chattel are losing their jobs, which hurts all but the richest of us, and there oppressed third-world people are working under (what a surprise) hideously exploitative conditions, but still working, which is better than not working, a/k/a starving.

Out of this moral morass pokes the sharpest distinction between John Kerry and John Edwards, and we're supposed to choose one or the other? If that's what you think, go vote for Kucinich. Or Sharpton. Or Dean. We want you, but until November we can't have you. Vote again then. We're begging.

There is another substantive difference: whose pocket they're in. Forget "lobbyists," although they matter a little. Kerry owes telecommunications, Edwards owes torts lawyers. The lies told about "personal damages" are dwarfed by the lies of the information cartels. One point for Edwards. But that doesn't matter much either. Because make no mistake—if a Democrat beats Bush, which is possible thanks in significant part to how the utterly unpresidential Dean riled his party, he will inherit an economic mess likely to leave him with the lowest approval ratings ever by early 2006. Issues and backers will mean next to nothing. He'll be struggling to keep the government's head above water with his hands tied.

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