Sarah is an undecided voter, target of millions of dollars of advertising and campaigning over the last few weeks. Like Sarah, I voted for Nader last time around. Frankly, I didn’t agree with everything Nader had to say, but he was closer to me on most issues than either of the top two contenders. I knew Nader wasn’t going to win, I realized there was a chance that Bush would win (a slim chance I thought, and was right), but I honestly didn’t think there was much difference between Bush and Gore. Yes, I didn’t agree with Bush on most things, he seemed pretty dumb, and lacked any serious kind of experience. But, I thought, there’s only so much damage a single person can do.
I was really wrong. First, I shouldn’t have been looking at Bush as much as looking at the people he was bringing with him. But I misunderestimated his ability to intimidate those around him, and his inability to understand nuance. Gore might not have moved the country forward in a lot of ways (except, perhaps, in terms of the environment), but at least he wouldn’t have damaged the country so badly.
Bush has been bad. Not in some abstract way, but in ways that matter directly to me. We no longer can attract the best graduate students to our program, both because of inane and arbitrary restrictions on foreign students and the fact that increasingly foreigners feel uncomfortable about visiting a country in which law enforcement seems capricious. The economy is damaged. My students are dying in Iraq. And especially frustrating, for a president who talks a good line about character, is that Americans have been revealed to be bullies, torturers, and dismissive of ideas of justice and fairness. Many people already thought this about Americans, but I didn’t, until recently. Bush is not only a bad president, he has brought out the worst in his countrymen.
And so, I was not overjoyed to vote for Kerry, but I will be relieved if he is elected. In fact, I did have a candidate this election that came close many of my own positions: Howard Dean. That may surprise some people who know me to be fairly far on the left (Howard Dean had a populist platform), but I don’t locate myself well on that left-right axis.