Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Democratic Primaries Get Interesting

John Kerry now seems to have a 10-point lead in New Hampshire, which is frankly a good thing in my view. I would rather that Joe Lieberman have been the Democratic candidate, but since that isn't going to happen, better John Kerry than Howard Dean or John Edwards.

The only unknown quantity is Wesley Clark; the guy has no political track record to look at, and although he's a general, it is clear that he was far from universally loved and admired by those who served with him in the army. Domestic policy clearly takes a back-seat to foreign affairs in Clark's consciousness, and while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it means that one has little idea just what he proposes to do about healthcare, education and all the other day-to-day concerns that can't be subsumed under the War on Terrorism mantle.

As a small "L" libertarian, I'd rather have a candidate who combined social liberalism with fiscally conservative policies, but I realize that it simply isn't going to happen anytime soon. My choice then comes down to picking between a candidate who is more liberal than I'd prefer on things like taxation, but who at least won't be bashing me over the head with his religiousity, or trying to legislate sexual morality, and, on the other hand, a president whose sole nod to libertarian concerns - tax cuts - has been more than compensated for by his reckless spending and willingness to pander to the religious right. Frankly, the latter bothers me more than the former at the present time.

I'd feared that the Democrats were bent on depriving those of us who don't comfortably fit into either the "liberal" or "conservative" slots a true choice in the 2004 elections, by nominating Howard Dean, a candidate so extreme in his rhetoric that even a second Bush term, with all the attendant religiosity, "pro marriage" paternalism, devil-may-care spending and "Patriot Act" heavyhandedness, would seem the only option open to us. It's looking like my fears were overdone, which is bad news for shrill opinionators like Paul Krugman, but good news for American democracy as a whole. Bush is actually going to have to put some real effort into get himself re-elected.