Let me first establish my credentials. I became a Republican back in 1988 (when I was 14), despite the conservative Democrat family I grew up in. I voted for GHWBush in 1992 and bemoaned the election of Bill Clinton. I supported the impeachment and conviction of President Clinton. I voted for GWBush in 2000.
But I left the Republican Party in 2003 after deciding that the drift of the party over the last decade had left me outside of the party (I was always too much of an independent spirit anyway). I haven't joined the Democrat Party, I'm now an Independent (but that just doesn't feel very satisfying). This year I'll be voting for John Kerry. Why? Because even though I may not agree with Kerry on a lot of things, I don't thin we can vote for George W. Bush. Let me tell you why I'm, as a disaffected Republican, opposed to this President.
One thing I've long held to is fiscal responsibility. That's often called a conservative principle. Yet this President has been highly irresponsible with the public funds. One might respond that Ronald Reagan also ran up huge debts. I've always viewed that as required by ending the Cold War and cutting taxes to stimulate an economy that desperately needed it. Though the war on terror might require running a public debt, to cut taxes so severely after the greatest period of economic growth and prosperity in our history was unnecessary. Just a few years ago we were running surpluses. It looked like we had finally gotten in the fiscal house in order and would now be able to solve some of our abiding social problems. Now we are running huge debts and will be unable to afford to solve our lasting problems for some time. It is a betrayal of the "conservative" vision.
As a environmentalist, I can't support this President. The Republican Party has had a long, glorious record on the environment. Teddy Roosevelt created the National Park system. It was under Richard Nixon that the Clean Air and Water Acts were passed, along with the Endangered Species Act. Under GHWBush there was the Wetlands Protection Act and a new Clean Air Act. But from everything I hear and read this administration has an abysmal record on the environment, betraying the long held principles of the party.
It was Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft that understood that corporations could weld overwhelming power and not for the common good. Therefore, they busted trusts and reined in the corporations of their time. This administration has pandered to corporate interests, has not agressivley pursued corporate reform after the many recent scandals, and has cut taxes in ways that allowed the corporations to make more money and increase their power and influence.
I have always read the Constitution strictly. And part of what I have held to strictly is individual liberties. Yet this adminstration has violated civil liberties and supports infringing upon them even more, to the detriment of the Constitution. The Patriot Act will be viewed as negatively by history as the Alien and Sedition Acts. The holding of prisoners without legal council and any recourse is a violation of our fundamental democratic principles. And the encouragement of the amendment against gay marriage violates the 14th amendment of the Constitution.
I am an internationalist. Though there have always been some isolationist on all sides of the political spectrum, the Republican Party post-WWII was strongly in favour of engagement. I am a huge fan and supporter of GHWBush. The first President Bush was a great diplomat. He understood the end of the Cold War to be an opportunity for the international institutions created at the end of the Second World War to work as they were intended. It was a new world order that would be governed by the rule of law (go back and read the speeches of world leaders in 1990 and 1991). He proceeded to strengthen the role of the United Nations and fostered America's historic alliances, while creating new friendships. The world's dream after the end of WWII was to end arbitrary use of force and to use it only to help those in need and stop those committing evil. In the 90's we began to see how it could fulfill it's mission -- navigating the end of the Eastern Bloc and the reunification of Germany, liberating Kuwait, the humanitarian work in Somalia, etc. I think the first failure of the new world order was not getting militarily involved in the Balkans sooner. But the current President Bush has worked to destroy the work of his father and the dream since the Second World War that we could govern the world by the rule of law.
And my final objection comes not from my views on policy. I cannot vote for George W. Bush because I am a Christian. I am a disciple of Jesus the Christ. As such I am to be concerned for the least of these. As such I am to work for the inclusion of all people. Forgiveness, humility, and mercy are to govern my actions not vengeance, arrogance, and wrath. We Christians are to help to create a kingdom of peace and love.
What I can stand least about this administration is its abuse of religion. It uses religious language to convey that it is on a mission from God. Yet this mission violates everything I understand about God as revealed in Jesus the Christ. They pander to the worst forces in American religion and have empowered those forces in unprecedented ways. The level of dogmatic arrogance with which they swagger while they turn a ruthless attack upon their domestic political critics reveals a deep viciousness.
Ultimately, for me, the election of 2004 is not merely a matter of policy. I find it impossible to imagine how a "good" Republican or a "good" conservative could support this administration for re-election. But what I cannot imagine is how anyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus of Christ could vote for George W. Bush. I will borrow the apocalyptic hyperbole of this administration. The choice in 2004 is a choice for evil or a choice to resist evil.
And that is why this former Republican opposes George W. Bush.