The presidential campaign debates are over, and the time for decision has come. The Nation endorses Senator John Kerry to be the next President of the United States.
Any stocktaking must begin, of course, by comparing the records of Kerry and George W. Bush. Yet the upshot of such a detailed comparison, though entirely favoring Kerry, is not our principal reason for supporting him. To make clear why, despite strong disagreements with Kerry, we not only recommend a vote for him but do so with fervor, we must step back from the candidates and their positions and set forth an independent view of what we believe are the stakes in this election.
The most important is the consequence it will have in what has emerged as a crisis of American democracy. The crisis began on December 12, 2000, when Bush was chosen to be President by the Supreme Court. The gift of a true electoral mandate now to this previously unelected President would give fresh legitimacy and momentum to all his disastrous policies. And that new momentum could in turn place our constitutional system itself at risk.
This magazine’s disagreements with Kerry are deep and touch on fundamental matters. We believed that the invasion of Iraq was “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time” (as he now describes it) before the war was ever launched; he has come to that conclusion only recently, having voted to authorize the war. We believe the United States should withdraw from Iraq; he wants to “win” the war there. We think the military budget should be cut; he plans to increase it, adding 40,000 troops. (For what, exactly? to fight another wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time?) We reject pre-emptive war; he embraces it. We oppose the wall that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is building on Palestinian lands; he supports it. We believe in the elimination of all nuclear weapons; he wants only to stop their spread. He calls for significant expansion of healthcare; we call for a single-payer system that would cover everyone. He opposes gay marriage; we back it. If he wins the election, The Nation will pursue each of these differences vigorously.
But while we have sharp differences with Kerry, we believe he has the qualities required for the presidency. He is more than “anybody but Bush.” His instincts are decent. He is a man of high intelligence, deep knowledge and great resolve. At times in his life–notably, when he opposed the Vietnam War–he has shown exemplary courage. He respects the law. He believes in cooperation with other countries and has the inclination and ability to bring America out of its current isolation and back into the family of nations. As a senator, he demonstrated concern for social welfare and has backed this up with enlightened policy proposals. He has supported civil rights and labor rights and opposed racism. He has supported the rights of women, including the right to an abortion. He has been an advocate of nuclear arms control and opposed the almost incomprehensibly provocative nuclear policies of the Bush Administration. He would rescind the most unfair of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. He would be a friend of the environment and return the United States to the negotiations on global warming.