A friend writes:
I do wonder about your support for Bush, however. You are a Republican on ideological grounds, but I feel that Bush has done a fairly poor job of executing Republican ideology. Why do you support him? Maybe it is a "lesser of two evils" type of support, but your posts don't seem to have that tone. Anyways...just wondering.
Here is my slightly edited response:
I think this is a misleading description of why I support him. I've commented somewhat on this in a few blog entries, but I'm not sure I've expressed all my reasons for supporting him.
My reasons for being a Republican are mostly because Republicans tend to cater more to the issues I think are most important that I agree with them on than Democrats do. [I should say that this post shows why I'm as tentative on this as I am. Update: my links changed, and the link went dead, but I may have meant this post.] The only reason I'm in a party is so I can vote in a primary. It's purely pragmatic. I don't think I'd accept a political alliance with a worldly entity if I didn't think it would at least slightly increase the influence of my vote. My parents have always been independents, and I was too until I realized that I had the opportunity to vote in the NH primary in 1996. I later found out NH doesn't require that, but NY does.
First of all, I just like Bush as a person. He seems to be a genuine Christian believer, something I don't think has been true of most presidents. That will tend to increase the likelihood that he values the same things I do, at least on fundamental issues. He also just seems like a nice person who understands the average person, not because he's ever been one in terms of finances, but because he's not a lifetime politician but someone who spent most of his life being concerned more about the kinds of things most non-politicians care about. I don't think he's stupid, though he's no intellectual and isn't interested in issues for their own sake. Sometimes that's refreshing, though.
As for his views, I think I agree with him more than not, and often I'm agreeing with him more than I agree with other Republicans. He genuinely seems opposed to abortion. I don't think abortion is classifiable as murder, since that's a legal term, but I do think it's morally equivalent to murder in most cases, with some qualifications that aren't the usual ones. A recent post, I think, made some of those qualifications. [Update: Again, I'm not sure which post I originally linked to, but it may have been this one.] Republicans tend to agree with me on this, and I think it's one of the most awful sins of our time. (Divorce is the other that comes to mind, but I'm not sure that's in the same category, since it doesn't involve killing or even physical violence but just psychological violence. I do think tighter laws on no-fault divorce would be a good thing, but I'm not sure how far I'd go with it.)
I think Democrats have all the wrong views on race issues, despite some of them having their hearts in the right place, with Republicans tending to have no views or better views for the wrong reasons. I think Bush's background and family have opened him up to these issues more than even most Democrats, and his cabinet has reflected ethnic diversity more than any other without generally sacrificing on the quality of his people. This seems to me to be the right strategy. I haven't studied the details of his immigration policy, but there are things I like about it if it's done right. Sam doesn't even like it, but I really think he's onto something here, and I think he's basing the policy on a genuinely Christian value.
I think full-blown libertarianism is moral wimpiness (believing privately that things might be wrong but not being willing to have laws about them). It's a way to hold conservative views without embarassing yourself about it. I wonder if something similar goes on even with the economic conservatism of some Republicans. I tend to have mixed feelings about economic conservatism vs. social justice. I think Republicans tend to have the right views on the most efficient way to run a government, serving some of the most important interests of the people. However, I also think it's the government's responsibility to promote social justice. I'm not sure most government ways of doing it are the best, but at least Democrats tend to better in terms of the basis of their policies. I think the Bush Administration's compassionate conservatism tends to have better ways of achieving social justice goals than Democrats have done in the past. The spending is way too much right now, partly because he refuses to veto anything out of the fear of people criticizing him for hurting people by not funding everything Congress passes, but this really is an issue of a lesser of two evils. The Democratic candidates' proposed budgets are much higher, and this is allowing for the tax cuts they've proposed to offset that a little. I had a post about this a while back. Add to that the fact that I like the things he's spending money on more, and there's an easy answer who I like better on this issue.
On defense and terrorism issues, there's no doubt in my mind that I'd prefer him to any of the Democratic candidates, even with some of the worries raised against how he's done some things. I think the Iraq invasion can be defended within traditional just war theory, suitably modified in plausible ways for a terrorism WMD generation, and I think the evidence David Kay has found (which doesn't amount to no WMD being found but just no large quantities) is enough to justify self-defense, particularly given that the Clinton Administration agreed (and Clinton still does last I heard, which was some time in 2004). I'm more inclined to defend the humanitarian aid reasoning anyway, something more and more confirmed as a good reason as time has gone on, and the general problem with that approach had to do with legitimate authority, which I think can be explained given the U.N. incompetence and corruption before the war, at least among the nations relevant to giving the ok for this operation. The next highest authority level would be the individual nations willing to do what's necessary to enforce the resolution, which is exactly how Tony Blair defended it.
I hope that should clear up some of the reasons why I support Bush, not quite whole-heartedly but closer to that than simply a lesser-of-two-evils basis. Some of the main complaints about him from conservatives don't move me as much, because I tend to agree with him more than them on many of them. There are probably other issues that affect this that I'm not thinking of right now, but this probably shows which issues are more important to me at the moment of writing it, though that's also affected by which ones are being talked about more at the moment and are fresh in my memory.
[I didn't think to include this in my original reply, but I also think character is an issue. With some exceptions, I think the slate of Democratic candidates has been pretty poor in this area. Dean, Clark, and Kerry are probably the worst of the bunch. People have raised questions about Bush, but I think most of them had fairly easy responses, some were about things from before his surrender to Christ, and a few were unsubstantiated rumors with no more support than the adultery charges against Kerry. The ones that remain at best aren't clearly character issues or aren't clearly true, though there might be some evidence there. What remains is still better in terms of character than the primary opposition, and together with the other issues he comes out way ahead.]