Posted: 16 Jul 2004
In my conversations with fellow voters, I have heard many conservatives complain about John Kerry, often saying that they don't know where he stands on the issues. I thought I'd just take a look at his website, www.johnkerry.com, and see what he has to say.
He spells out his position on many issues, including Agriculture, AIDS, Americans with Disabilities, Children, Civil Rights, College Affordability, Crime, Economy and Jobs, Education, Energy and Environment, Foreign Policy, Health Care, Homeland Security, Housing, Immigration, Iraq, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered, National Service, Native Americans, Nurses, Protecting America's Workers, Seniors, Small Businesses, Technology, Trade, Veterans, and Women's Issues.
Next, let's take a look at the issues listed on www.georgewbush.com: Economy, Compassion(!!!), Health Care, Education, Homeland Security, National Security, and Environment.
Now, I'm not saying that Kerry is a better candidate by virtue of sharing his views on more issues with the people. What I'm saying is that if you don't know where he stands on the issues you care about, find out. The information is there, and if you're reading this, you obviously have internet access.
It is, however, unfortunate that Kerry refuses to publish his views on "Compassion." How am I to know where he stands? Does he believe in compassion? Is he against it? Perhaps he supports apathy, in which case I would expect him to lead the charge for a campaign to keep in the vote. This is clearly one example of the president leading the way, standing firm in his support of compassion. Attaboy, Dubya!
One interesting aspect of the Bush campaign's website is "The Kerry flip-flop of the day." This feature relies on the insulting idea that the American people are incapable of considering more than one point of view on a particular issue. What's more, the quotes presented are sometimes on entirely separate issues. Example: "John Kerry flipped on Health Coverage." In this "flip-flop," Kerry is quoted about the 1994 mid-term elections("[Kerry] said Kennedy and Clinton's insistence on pushing health care reform was a major cause of the Democratic Party's problems at the polls."), and then on his devotion to health coverage("Sen. Kerry says expanding coverage is "my passion."). How is this a flip-flop? It isn't. The Bush website is an exercise in negative campaigning, lacking in substance, and over-loaded with misrepresentation.
Despite Bush's many "flip-flops," the Kerry website focuses on their own candidate, addressing the issues and giving the American people credit rather than insulting their intelligence.
Still, many people seem to feel that they know where Bush stands on the issues. He doesn¹t have to offer specifics, he can say things like: "I believe there is a connection because there is a connection." Apparently that tells people more than enough about his policies, while they haven't a clue about Kerry's.
So, the question remains: why are so many people in the dark when it comes to Senator Kerry's positions? Obviously, we can no longer pretend that he hasn't put his views out on the table, considering the depth and scope of his website. And it seems like the "liberal media" would be pumping out his message 24/7, but that isn't the case.
Often, all we hear on cable news stations is some lackey for the left or right pointing to the latest poll, the one that puts their candidate 3 points ahead of their opponent. As my roommate, TTA founding member Philippe, and I watched a recent episode of "Crossfire" on CNN, Paul Begala and Robert Novak played an interesting game of "Dueling Polls." The result was clear: 36% of the media were completely full of shit, while the remaining 64% were only partly full of shit. Keep in mind this is an unscientific poll with a 467% margin of error.
Perhaps it is our own laziness that leaves us ill-informed. We are not looking for the answers, and we are not analyzing the information that has been presented to us. We simply sit back and wait for sound-bites, quotes taken out of context, and oversimplified points of view that only reinforce our previously held beliefs rather than challenge us.
And I think it's time that we challenge ourselves. If you won't, then I'll challenge you. I challenge you to defend your point of view and your positions, even if I agree with them. I'll play Dubya's, uh, I mean, Devil's Advocate.
Perhaps we should all take a week where we switch teams. CNN watchers can watch ABC news instead. Democracy Now and Air America listeners can watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I do it already. Well, okay, I don't listen to Limbaugh, but Fox News is pretty amusing.
Force yourself to dig deeper. Have discussions with people you disagree with, and don¹t get into pathetic shouting matches. My former neighbor, Derrick, was one of my favorite people to talk politics with. His ability to remain calm and collected during our disagreements enriched the debate. Of course, he and I will still be canceling out each other's votes this November.
It's also good to get people frazzled to the point that they can only scream at you or say things like, "I believe he has a good heart, and that's enough for me." But here's a tip if you don¹t want to be the one relying on pat answers like that: find the facts.
The candidates do have a responsibility to get their messages out to the public at large, but the real responsibility is yours and mine. Each individual has the responsibility to listen, to ask questions, to analyze the facts, and to determine the course of American politics when we vote. So kick it in the ass, already.