This morning, I voted for John Kerry for President

For me, more than anything else, this election is a referendum on the presidency of George W. Bush. I did not particularly trust Mr. Bush when he was elected four years ago because of his close connections with extremist factions of his party. I watched his policies closely, more closely than I had ever before watched political policies. During the time leading up to 9/11, I was becoming annoyed with the manner in which Mr. Bush's administration pushed and passed extreme conservative ideological policies. I was not the only one dismayed. Many moderates who had bought into Mr. Bush's marketing campaign as a compassionate conservative, and who had believed him when he said that he was a "uniter not a divider", were dismayed when it quickly became apparent that Mr. Bush was going to govern and pander to his most trustworthy political bases--the extremely wealthy and the religious right. It turned out that George W. Bush's presidency became far more ideologically conservative than his father's presidency. Two early policy decisions that I disagreed with were the pullout of the Kyoto treaty and the lopsided tax cut for the wealthy. Obviously, other conservatives had no problems with these policy decision, but Mr. Bush lost a lot of moderates during this time.

Enter 9/11. I, like most of the country, rallied behind President Bush for months after the terrorist attacks. I supported his decision to remove the Taliban from power, and I admired the manner in which Mr. Bush truly seemed to be trying to build a broad coalition, both at home and abroad. However, mid-2002 was a turning point for me. During this time, the political talk was centered around the preparations of war for Iraq. The national solidarity that was apparent immediately following 9/11 seemed to be dissipating. Then, to my amazement, Mr. Bush went on a political and ideological offensive. At a time when Mr. Bush could have used the broad support that he enjoyed from the public to keep the country united and focused on fighting terrorism, he used his popularity as a safeguard to push through one of the most lopsided tax cuts in history, even at a time when he knew we would be spending billions on an upcoming war. Furthermore, the Bush administration overturned decades worth of hard fought workers' rights legislation, such as workplace safety initiatives and minimum wage. Compassionate conservatism obviously did not have a place for the working poor. The argument from the administration was that less regulation on businesses would allow them to expand, prosper and thus hire more workers. However, this argument was an increasingly difficult sell to the public as company after company became exposed as liars, cheaters and greedy hoarders of wealth. Lack of regulation is a good model for economics, and it looks good on graph paper, but it is hard to factor in the greed of individuals, and the lengths that people are willing to go to preserve their wealth.

In an indirect way, this brings me to John Kerry. There is no question that John Kerry is himself a wealthy man. However, it is not Mr. Bush's wealth that I am dissatisfied with. It is his continual pandering to those that are wealthy, and his willingness to shape federal policy that helps his wealthy base at the expense of the lower class and much of the middle class. Mr. Kerry at least promises to govern in a progressive manner. I am willing to give him the chance. Many of the greatest progressive reformers in the history of this country have themselves been wealthy, i.e. Rockefeller (a republican progressive), T. Roosevelt (a republican progressive), and even Nixon to some degree. I am not worried that John Kerry's wealth itself will prevent him from governing in the interest of the middle and lower classes. I am not anti-wealth. I think that the promise of wealth is an excellent motivator for achievement and progress. However, a balance must be found that allows people to pursue wealth while minimizing the marginalization of other people.

Both of the candidates have flaws. And, both of them have virtues. Both of their characters have been pummeled in the press and through political advertising. I think that both of them have had careers that make them qualified to lead the nation. Even though I don't like the way that George Bush's family dominates the political scene of the country, I am not voting against him because of his familial ties. I've learned that no candidate is perfect, and that the political discourse in the country is focused on convincing people of each candidate's weaknesses. It is hard to trust anything that is reported, and I take it all with a grain of salt. Four years ago, I probably would have told you that I was voting for the individual that I thought was a better candidate. I've changed my political philosophy in the intervening time. I now vote for the candidate that represents my political viewpoint with little regard for his personal character. As long as I am not convinced that either candidate is a felon or proven weasel, I will give each candidate the benefit of the doubt on the question of integrity and character.

In closing, I would like to note that I am not a registered Democrat or Republican. In Missouri, we are not required to register in a political party or as an independent. We simply register to vote. Being a moderate progressive with some conservative philosophy sprinkled throughout, I am inclined to vote for the Democratic party in this election because it has fallen to them to oppose what I perceive as a far-right ideological agenda from the current administration. However, there are individuals in the Republican party that I admire. Two of them are Colin Powell and John McCain. I was disappointed in John McCain's endorsement of President Bush, because he is so much more of a moderate than President Bush. Either way, I still admire him. In Missouri today, I voted to re-elect Republican Kit Bond to the Senate because he is a reasonable voice in an increasingly partisan Senate, and he has a good record of service to Missouri.

I have spent more time and energy this year trying to sort through all of the "noise" to understand the issues that are important to me, and where each candidate stood on these issues. I am satisfied with my effort, even though it has left me exhausted. I am hoping that my vote is consistent with the majority of the country, but if it is not, I am confident in my logic for casting it the way that I did.

No matter which man wins today, I hope and pray that he has the awareness, courage and skill to bring about healing in our bitterly divided nation. In fact, the loser today may have the bigger role in bringing about unity. May both candidates, at the end of the day, be respectful of our democracy and toward each other.

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