I’ve been generally fatigued by the Presidential campaigning lately (I’ll post more about that a bit later), and I’ve been trying to think about the real differences between the candidates and about how that would actually affect our lives over the next four years. I realized that one of the biggest differences between the two is the degree to which they are visionaries, and you’ll be surprised to learn that I think that of the two, President Bush is the visionary.
I don’t really agree with his vision for America, but President Bush does have a vision for the country that includes taxation, education, the legal system, and, obviously, foreign policy. I think his vision is utterly frightening, but the bigger problem is that he seems too incompetent to realize his vision. He’s gotten massive tax reform passed, but it hasn’t helped the economy as much as he would have thought, and it hasn’t helped out many Americans. He got his education reform through, but thanks to underfunding and poor conception, it has been a flop. He got his war with Iraq, but that has been a disaster. He talks about promoting democracy, but I don’t see many people around the world looking to America for direction in that regard these days.
That said, I think that many voters really connect with President Bush because he offers a vision for the country that he genuinely believes in and that sounds good on paper to about half of the voters. Probably even more than half, in fact. It’s just that many people know that Bush’s vision and reality don’t necessarily cross paths.
I think it’s hard for John Kerry to run against President Bush because he does not have a vision to offer, really. He has a number of specific policy proposals, most of which make sense. He’s obviously a smart guy, he’s shown physical courage in the past, and he’s won plenty of campaigns. But voters still say they don’t know where Kerry would take the country. I think that’s because Kerry doesn’t necessarily have somewhere he wants to take the country. People don’t hear a Kerry speech and think “I want to live in Kerry’s America.” This is also a sharp difference with his running mate. John Edwards has a vision for America and uses that vision to sharply critique the Republican platform with his “two Americas” theme.
One thing to remember, I think, is that the White House isn’t necessarily the best place for a visionary right now. We need a competent manager who is obsessed with identifying and fixing our country’s problems right now. The federal government is solely responsible for fixing the situation in Iraq, and the massive deficit spending that President Bush has introduced. The federal government can help to address the health insurance crisis in this country. The best President for America is a guy who can focus his administration on addressing these problems. In that sense, John Kerry might be the right guy for these times.