Two weekends ago, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, which a careful demographic survey has revealed to be solidly Kerry country (one Bush bumpersticker to 8 for Kerry and several Kerry house signs.) Apparently the Southern part of the state, more religious, leans towards the more socially conservative Bush. Yet the entire state is relatively poor, and the Republican policies favor the rich. Is voting based on religious affiliation a vote on social issues, or a vote based on perceived “character”? Why aren’t voters more willing to vote for economic policies that will favor them? Or are people fooled into thinking that the Bush plan to “cut taxes” helps the little guy? Is the attraction to Republicans a pervasive false consciousness as to one’s own material economic reality?
Early this month, Cheney said that if Kerry wins the presidency, the country is in danger of another terrorist attack. Many people decried this assertion as beyond the bounds of appropriate politicking. It was certainly false. The statement implies that we are safe from terrorist attack now, and that a Kerry win would change that. And it was inflammatory, certainly. But was it beyond the bounds? Why is that sentiment any different from those put forward by proponents of the theory that we are safer under Bush or safer under Kerry? Why is it any different from the article on Salon this week, Whom Would Al-Qaida Vote For? which argues that Bush has been the best recruiter the group has ever had?

I think that by arguing that its “un-American” to say certain things (a view I think itself is un-American), and leaving it at that, we are missing the opportunity to address the underlying substantive question of safety. There are two visions here: an America that is safe because it is the only superpower in the world and will not hesitate to use that might in service of its perceived interests, or an America that is safe because it is the only superpower in the world and will not hesitate to work together with its friends and allies to bring economic prosperity, democracy and liberty to our fellow nations. Are we safer as the neighborhood bully, or as a good neighbor? People who think the bullies have it best will vote for Bush. I fear that might be the majority these days. But at least we will have offered a compelling counter-ideal.