October 10, 2004

Politics: Voting Conservative in 2004

Voting for president used to be so easy, at least for a conservative. There was the Republican candidate. You knew he generally stood for lower taxes, less government spending, giving fewer powers to the government, lower deficits and a zealous regard for individual privacy.

Then, there was the Democrat. You knew he generally stood for higher taxes, more government and deficit spending, and a zealous regard for civil liberties.

Throughout my own presidential voting history, the choices have rarely, if ever, been agonizing. Nixon vs. McGovern? Carter vs. Reagan? Reagan-Mondale? Dukakis, a Massachusetts liberal? Clinton? Al Gore? Ah, the good ol' days. Each of those races presented clear choices, easily resolved.

Now we have the election of 2004. For the first time in my voting life, the choice in the race for president isn't so clear And, among true conservatives, I'm not alone.

What's making the contest so difficult? It's certainly not that both candidates are so conservative that we have a choice of riches. It's not even that John Kerry is sort of right wing compared to George W. Bush. The incumbent clearly is the more "conservative" of the two.

But the concerns for many conservative voters -- concerns that may cause them not to vote for Mr. Bush on Nov. 2 -- fall generally into three categories: fiscal, physical (as in the physical security of our nation) and freedom (as in protecting our civil liberties).

When Bush became president Jan. 20, 2001, he inherited an enviable fiscal situation. Congress, then controlled by his own party, had -- through discipline and tough votes -- whittled down decades of deficit spending under presidents of both parties, so that annual deficits of hundreds of billions of dollars had been transformed to a series of real and projected surpluses. The heavy lifting had been done. All Bush had to do was resist the urge to spend, and he had to exert some pressure on Congress to resist its natural impulses to do the same. Had he done that, he might have gone down in history as the most fiscally conservative president in modern times.

by Bob Barr


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