America is at a crossroads. This election–next Tuesday, November 2–will determine the direction of our nation for decades to come.
Edmund Burke famously observed that the only thing needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. In 2004, conservatives cannot do nothing and remain true to their principles.
In the 2000 election, some four million evangelical Christians are estimated to have stayed home. The election was decided by 537 votes.
Conservatives can be a fickle bunch. We’re often disillusioned, always demanding; it seems no flesh-and-blood politician can satisfy all conservative desires. Some fiscal conservatives lament too much government spending under President Bush, pointing to the farm bill or Medicare prescription drugs. Some social conservatives call for more outspoken presidential advocacy, faulting the president for not better articulating the need for strong family values in the face of corroding cultural trends.
Those critiques are valuable and should be heard and considered, and advocates should continue to press them in the years that come. But November 2 is not about airing frustrations. It’s about the big picture, and standing up for what’s most important.
If you are a conservative, this election matters. Enormously.
This election is the most consequential we have faced in decades. As in 1980, we face a global threat to the safety and security of our nation, a crisis in values, and an utterly stark divide between the candidates.
President Bush is a strong conservative leader–a man of faith, principle, and resolve. He’s a president who loves America and is proud to defend its values across the world.
Senator Kerry is, in the assessment of the nonpartisan National Journal magazine, the single-most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate. His voting record is more liberal than Ted Kennedy’s, more liberal than Hillary’s. It is liberal across the board, domestically and on foreign policy.
That difference has consequences, which will manifest themselves for decades to come. Consider five critical policy areas:
1. Foreign policy. Three years ago, on a crisp blue September day, vicious murderers attacked us at home, killing innocents and declaring war on American values. President Bush has shown extraordinary leadership, courage, and calm resolve. As Rudy Giuliani observed this fall, thank God he was president. He was there for a reason.
Kerry, by contrast, is further to the left on foreign policy than any Democratic nominee since George McGovern. Like McGovern, Kerry is a decorated combat veteran, and his personal patriotism should not be impugned. But his policy views are dangerous.
For four decades, he has been an unyielding voice for appeasement–that is, for capitulation to those who would see America destroyed. From his early days as an anti-war protester, accusing American servicemen of widespread war crimes, to his years as a U.S. senator–when he championed nuclear freeze, called for massive reductions in defense and intelligence spending, staunchly opposed missile defense, and loudly resisted President Reagan’s leadership to win the Cold War–Kerry has been a constant critic of American fortitude. (For a more extensive account, see here.)
From Vietnam to El Salvador to Cuba to Grenada to the Soviet Union, Kerry’s far-left position was consistently in favor of Communist and totalitarian forces and against American strength or resolve. Even in 1991 his “global test” was not satisfied, and Kerry was one of the very few senators to vote against the first Gulf War.
Today, Kerry promises to fight a “more sensitive war on terror.” That milquetoast pledge–and his demonstrated public record–are antithetical to President Bush’s strong and steady leadership. Given the fanatical Islamic terrorists who aspire to yet more mass murder on the streets of America, his is not an approach suited to defending this country in a time of war.
2. The Supreme Court. The chief justice’s recent hospitalization is a stark reminder that the court is on the cusp of great change. The median age of the justices is 68. The chief is 80; John Paul Stevens is 84; Sandra Day O’Connor is 74. The next president could well appoint three or even four or five new justices.
And the court has positioned itself as the arbiter of many, if not most, of the issues that matter most to conservatives. The Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, the death penalty, campaign-finance reform, gay marriage, federalism, the Second Amendment, school choice–virtually all are teetering by 5-4 votes, where one or two appointments could change the course of the law for decades.
And, of course, abortion. President Bush has been a consistent and effective voice for life, and he has stayed true to his principles. By contrast, Senator Kerry’s positions would make him the most radically pro-abortion president in the history of the country. His extreme position tolerates no exceptions, no limitations whatsoever. He opposes parental notification, supports partial-birth abortion, and champions government funding of abortion. And, in this election, he has pledged to have an iron-clad litmus test for judicial appointments: Every single one would be as pro-abortion as he is.
3. School choice. President Bush has been an eloquent spokesman for education as the next frontier in civil rights, and for rejecting the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” For the poor, and for many Hispanic and African-American children, expanding choice and dramatically improving education is their only hope to realize the American dream. Kerry, by contrast, adamantly opposes school choice, would do all he could to throttle it. He would almost surely appoint judges who would try to ban it altogether.
4. Social Security private accounts. In 2000, President Bush made a conscious and courageous decision to champion private accounts and risk the certain demagoguery of the Left. Private accounts provide the promise to save Social Security from impeding insolvency, and the transformational potential to allow low-income and minority workers the ability to accumulate retirement assets and pass them on to their children and grandchildren. President Bush has pledged to make Social Security reform–protecting the retirement benefits of the elderly but providing options for personal accounts for younger workers–a central pillar of his second term. Kerry has categorically rejected any consideration of private accounts–period, under any circumstances.
5. Economic liberty and tort reform. President Bush has cut taxes every year of his presidency and his appointees have reduced volumes of government red-tape holding back small businesses. Senator Kerry is explicitly running on a platform of raising taxes on “the rich” and expanding government regulation of the economy. Not since Walter Mondale has a Democrat explicitly run on a platform of raising taxes, but Senator Kerry is proud to do so. And his running-mate, John Edwards, has spent his career as a trial lawyer. President Bush has championed tort reform, especially to reduce the out-of-control medical-malpractice rates that are reducing access to healthcare. Kerry and Edwards would oppose tort reform with all their might.
If you are conservative, you believe ideas matter. You believe in economic liberty, in a strong defense of America, and in family values.
On foreign policy, we are at war. Domestically, the Supreme Court is in the balance. And the candidates are polar opposites: a strong conservative versus a doctrinaire liberal from Massachusetts, from the very far left of his party.
Proverbs 29:2 admonishes, “[w]hen the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” Although those in politics should certainly be reluctant to claim righteousness, which comes only from the Divine, it is we the voters who decide who is in a position of authority. And their policy prescriptions matter enormously.
Any conservative who stays home next week has only himself to blame for a Kerry win. If you care about your principles–if you believe conservative ideas and values matter–you have only one choice. Vote for President Bush on Tuesday . . . and do everything you can to bring everyone else you know to the polls as well.
The stakes could not be higher.
–Ted Cruz served as domestic-policy adviser to President George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign and, in 1996, as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.