2004 September 02 Thursday
The Tough Question: Who Will Be Worse, Bush Or Kerry?

On the Gene Expression blog Godless Capitalist argues that a defeat of Bush will lay the groundwork for a big shift in the Republican Party's position on immigration, more fiscal responsibility, and other needed reforms.

We must move to a revenue-positive or merit-based scheme as soon as possible to prevent the tripling of the underclass (it has already doubled) - and this will only be possible if Bushism is thoroughly repudiated. The party must look within to find out why it lost this election, and the answer must come back from the base loud and clear: Bush's proposed amnesty for 20 million illegal aliens cost him the election.

A Republican civil war is the only hope for a fiscally rightist party that stops illegal immigration, faces the diversity cult down in favor of individualism, and defenestrates the neocons.

PS: If only Arnold was an immigration reformer, he'd be perfect....

Aside: I don't know what exactly Arnie was trying to say at the Republican Convention but I just loved his line "Don't be economic girlie men".

Godless follows up in the comments of that post by arguing that Republicans are not going to change their policies as long as they think they have to be good soldiers lining up to follow commands of a Republican President.

a) if Bush is not defeated the immigration amnesty will become a permanent part of the party platform. It will be seen as something that did not cost Bush the election, even though Bush knows it's highly unpopular with his base. Failing a Mexican 9/11, at that point it will only be a matter of time before some kind of open-borders legislation.

b) a rightist Congress will gridlock Kerry for four years. The big problem now is that Republicans are good soldiers and are toeing the party line...which has been drawn FAR to the left by Bush on the aforementioned issues (esp. immigration & spending). With Kerry in office, partisan feeling *and* ideology will be free to reassert themselves.

In other words, the rightist Republicans are now being pulled to the left by Bush. But under Kerry, the leftist Republicans would be pushed to the right. THAT is the big difference, and it's really big.

Yes, think back to 1993 and 1994 and Newt Gingrich's aggressive leadership of opposition to Clinton. The Republicans will accept policies from Bush that would make them all up in arms if the same policies were proposed by a Democrat sitting in the Oval Office.

In that same comment thread Razib, while doing an annoying e.e. cummings impression, makes the excellent point that not only is Bush not a Burkean conservative but Bush has made such serious mistakes that the electorate needs to hold him accountable.

on paper kerry is really, really, bad. in real life, he is really, really, bad. i don't agree with most of his pap and i am repulsed by his personality. the problem is that bush is really bad (at least), but the republicans don't seem to want to ancknowledge it. they will acknowledge that kerry is really, really bad.

i think bush has the superficial aspects of right-wing presidency down pat, explaining the leftish rage and fury at him. but, i fear that he'll never really internalize the long view. as burke would say, " it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. . . ."

of course, if you think kerry would endanger the safety of the united states, and that bush is the only alternative on foreign policy, i can see why people would have to stand by him. i just happen to think he's made too many mistakes, and accountability is something that is important.

My problem with Bush is that not only has he made big mistakes but he shows every sign of not believing that any of his mistakes really are mistakes.

Over on the Marginal Revolution blog Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen have made a number of posts on the question of whether fiscal and economic policies will be worse under Bush or Kerry. The question can't be answered simply by looking at each candidate's spending proposals. While Kerry has made proposals that would cause huge spending increases there are, as Tyler points out, a number of reasons why Kerry might not be as bad as Bush on spending.

2. The Republicans become more fiscally conservative in opposition.


4. Kerry would be under constant pressure to show that he is "tough" on foreign policy. This will limit his ability to make domestic spending commitments. And if he does well on foreign policy, and appears suitably in charge, he could get reelected without much using spending to buy domestic support. If he is weak on foreign policy, will lots of spending really help him?

Also, the next presidential term is not the only thing at stake. Just as I've argued that the Republican leaders need to learn that there is a price to be paid for defying their base on immigration Tyler argues that voters, by their choice of whether to vote for or against Bush after Bush has greatly increased spending, will teach the Republicans a lesson about whether they can get away with fiscal irresponsibility.

5. If Bush is re-elected, it affirms that a Republican can get away with jacking up domestic spending. Such a precedent is worrying for the longer run, not just for Bush's second term.

I am of the school of thought that politicians need to be punished. A vote should not be made based simply on a decision on which candidate is worse but also on what message will be sent about past behavior and about what sorts of behavior the electorate will punish or allow in the future. Also, one needs to consider the argument that divided government produces the best conditions for preventing policy makers from implementing bad policies.

As for the argument that Bush will be better at doing what is necessary to fight the war on terror: Bush falls short in a number of areas on the terror front. Bush will not allow serious religious and ethnic profiling of airline passengers. Bush Administration visa policy toward Saudi Arabia is still too lax. Bush refuses to close the Mexican border to prevent Al Qaeda infiltration that way. Bush shifted special forces and intelligence agents away from Pakistan and Afghanistan to do the Iraq invasion. Just where is the biggest concentration of Al Qaeda? The answer to that question is either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, certainly not Iraq. I could go on. The point is that Bush is no great shakes when it comes to fighting Al Qaeda. He obviously treats a number of other issues (e.g. pandering to Hispanics, pandering to Muslims, following neocon goals for Israel) as higher priorities.

Kerry is such a lame candidate that Bush still might lose after all that Bush has messed up and failed to do. But if Bush loses it will be just as important what his loss is blamed upon as the fact that he will have lost. The mainstream press is going to ignore the extent to which Bush's immigration policy has angered his base. I expect Iraq will get the biggest share of the blame in the big media. Though when Kerry is unable to fulfill his own spending promises expect to hear a lot of spin about how Bush left the country in such a terrible fiscal state that Kerry has to wait before implementing his own social programs.

If Kerry wins one reason he might not be so bad from the Right's perspective is that he's not as talented as Bill Clinton. His ability to sell his programs is probably going to be much less. Though Kerry's knowledge of the Senate might make his Congressional relations much better than Clinton's. So that is a hard one to call.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 September 02 02:42 AM  Politics American Domestic

Luke Lea said at September 2, 2004 7:12 AM:

Bush's one unforgivable sin is gross incompetence. Thus, whether you agree with what he is trying to do or not, he has got to go. More and more Republicans are starting to realize this. The sense of loss at the Republican Convention on tv last night was almost palpable.

Invisible Scientist said at September 2, 2004 11:11 AM:

One problem with the Bush-Cheney team, is that they come from the oil industry, and as such they are NOT
sympathetic to the idea that an emergency project for new energy sources,
called "Bronx Project" (as opposed to of Manhattan Project) can save the US.
Instead, they would rather start a draft and send all the American kids to die in the
deserts of Arabia. They will use every dirty trick in the book to discourage alternative energy sources.

I do apologize to repeat myself like a broken record, but I am pasting again some links for the
Integral Fast Reactor, an improved nuclear reactor design that is 1,000 % more uranium fuel efficient, and
since it burns all the long term waste that it generates as extra fuel, the only remaining waste is the
low level waste with about 300 years of half-life, making Yucca Mountain unnecessary, so that the storage
problem for the waste is not an issue.
And the reason this Integral Fast Reactor is significant, is because it is already a demonstrated design that
is guaranteed to be competitive with coal fired plants, and since it can provide nearly unlimited energy for
thousands of years, we can also use it to generate hydrogen, and we can then make gasoline from this hydrogen
at a reasonable cost, and we can even use the electricity to charge fuel cells like zinc-air fuel cells for the cars.


Mark said at September 4, 2004 3:22 AM:

Could you please clarify for one not living in the U.S. what the Bush/Kerry difference might be in relation to the appointment of Supreme Court Justices?

Proborders said at September 4, 2004 1:17 PM:

Randall, a Bush defeat this November might produce calls for the Republican Party to become more moderate (more liberal). Some might say or imply that the Republican Party needs "to move toward the political center" and become more like the Democrats.

With the growing overall population of minorities who are considered to be disadvantaged (Hispanics and blacks)
a Bush defeat this November could lead to many Democrat Presidents in a row
(Kerry could be the President for the next 8 years; Edwards for another 8 years).

Perhaps after George W. Bush the next Republican President would be George P. Bush. That would take many years because George P. Bush won't be old enough to be President for a number of years.

Moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Congress could unite to approve of Kerry's proposed tax increase and his proposed spending increases as well.

Democrats could argue that the tax increases during the early part of Clinton's Presidency helped produce the economic growth during Clinton's second term. Increased taxation is likely during a Kerry Presidency in my opinion unless the Republicans maintain the House and no Republican US Representative crosses party lines to vote for Kerry's or the Democrats' tax increase(s).

Randall Parker said at September 4, 2004 1:38 PM:


There are too many issues on which Republicans and Democrats differ in terms of judicial philosophy to describe the difference in a nutshell. Do you have any particular areas of interest?

Expect Kerry to appoint judges who will be more friendly to the plaintiff's bar in civil suits but more friendly to defendants in criminal cases. Also, Kerry will appoint judges who will uphold Roe v. Wade to legalize abortions nationwide. Bush will tend to appoint judges who will at least chip at the extent of Roe v Wade and tend to turn the abortion issue back to the states to decide.

On racial preferences expect Kerry to appoint judges who are for them. Expect Bush to appoint some judges who are for them (probably Alberto Gonzales) and other judges who are against them.

Bush's appointees would tend to do less legislating from the court. But they'd still do some of it.

Randall Parker said at September 4, 2004 1:42 PM:


One of the reasons to be against Bush's reelection is that his success would set the stage for Jeb Bush and George P. Bush to become president. They'd both be bad news on immigration and racial preferences, especially George P. Bush.

As for the Republicans becoming more moderate: What will happen if Bush wins is that the public will probably vote Congressional control over to the Democrats in 2006. Whereas if Kerry wins then the Republicans will probably gain Congressional seats in 2006.

I expect a Bush defeat will lead to really big internal party criticism of the neoconservatives and of Bush's immigration policy.

Also, Bush's defeat will result in Bush appointees of questionable loyalties in the DoD to lose their jobs. That would be a big plus for US national security.

Mark N.Z. said at September 4, 2004 4:44 PM:

Supreme Court appointments

Thanks, you have covered much of it. But one area for the future will increasingly be sovereignty, whether in relation to prisoners resulting from war or terrorism, to the claimed jurisdiction of the U.N., refugees and illegal migrants...

And would free speech/hate speech come under increasing attack in the courts in the event of another 9/11?

It is one thing for a President Kerry to propose but would the current Senate assent? And who may go soon? O'Connor, Scalia and Rehnquist possibly, Ginsburg if her health relapses?

Questions, questions!

Proborders said at September 5, 2004 10:29 PM:

Randall, President George H. W. Bush was defeated for reelection in 1992. However, two of his sons were subsequently elected and reelected as governors of their respective states. George W. Bush, of course, became President of the United States in 2001.

A defeat of President George W. Bush this November could still lead to a President Jeb Bush and/or President George P. Bush in the future.

"Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party" by Balz and Harris can be viewed here.

Joachim said at September 7, 2004 10:28 AM:

" defeat of President George W. Bush this November could still lead to a President Jeb Bush and/or President George P. Bush in the future."

I disagree. A Bush defeat will convince most republicans that the bush dynasty is a curse for the republican party and america.

Derek Copold said at September 7, 2004 2:01 PM:

The search for the perfect S.C. appointment is little more than chasing after chimera. Even if we got five Clarence Thomases appointed, the underlying problem would remain: the Supreme Court is an effective uber-legislature. It can practically write any law it pleases. So, after another ten to fifteen years, we could be back where we started from: liberal judges passing activist law under cover of court ruling. The Judiciary Branch itself needs to be brought to heel.

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