Sea of Noise

Thu, 14 Oct 2004

Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush

The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow nicely summarizes the reasons that conservatives (and, even more so, libertarians) shouldn't vote for Bush in Salon:

Jonah Goldberg, a regular contributor to NRO, one of Bush's strongest bastions, complains that the president has "asked for a major new commitment by the federal government to insert itself into everything from religious charities to marriage counseling." Indeed, Bush seems to aspire to be America's moralizer in chief. He would use the federal government to micromanage education, combat the scourge of steroid use, push drug testing of high school kids, encourage character education, promote marriage, hire mentors for children of prisoners and provide coaches for ex-cons.

Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan worries that Bush "is fusing Big Government liberalism with religious right moralism. It's the nanny state with more cash."

Yet, that's not the same as saying that we should vote for Kerry. (Though, Doonesbury creator Gary Teudeau can hope.) The best argument for voting Kerry is only a little better than "how much worse could he be?"

Moreover, whatever the personal preferences of a President Kerry, he could spend only whatever legislators allowed, so assuming that the GOP maintains its control over Congress, outlays almost certainly would rise less than if Bush won reelection. History convincingly demonstrates that divided government delivers less spending than unitary control. Give either party complete control of government and the treasury vaults quickly empty. Share power between the parties and, out of principle or malice, they check each other. The American Conservative Union's Don Devine says bluntly: "A rational conservative would calculate a vote for Kerry as likely to do less damage" fiscally.

This does seem a lot to expect from a Republican majority that has gone along with the Bush agenda and renominated him with little in the way of principled opposition. Perhaps this is the year for libertarian Republicans to ask, instead, "how much worse could it be if I voted my principles?"

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