Now, from my younger years as a die-hard conservative until today, I have trodden a path that has led me to where I am. Especially for the sensitive Mormon set, let me explain how it is, that I, Mac Williams, could come to endorse a man that can only be described (by conservatives) as a left-wing bleeding-heart liberal.
I invite each of you to go and take this quiz, if you don't this post won't make as much sense:
I will post my answers, and reasons, to each of the questions posed.
#1 Should the United States have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein?
I answer "No, because there were no WMDs." Now I know that we weren't sure before. Since there were no WMDs, we should not have invaded, period. We cannot be in the business of toppling dictators, because if we're to do that sort of thing, then there are scores of governments that need the boot. Are we willing to spill blood to do that sort of thing? We did nothing, repeat nothing, as the news reported that Rwanda was machete-hacking itself to pieces in 1994, as at least 500,000 people died in a month. Where was our moral outrage then?
Our rush to bring democracy to the Middle East reminds me of Juan Ginés Sepúlveda's The Second Democrates, or reasons that justify war against the Indians, when he writes the following:
The Indians of the Americas are barbarous, uncivilized, and inhuman people who are natural slaves, refusing to admit the superiority of those who are more prudent, powerful, and perfect than themselves. Their subordination would bring them tremendous benefits and would, besides, be a good thing by natural right as matter conforms to a mold, as the body to the soul, the appetite to reason, brutes to gentlemen, the wife to the husband, children to parents, the imperfect to the perfect, the worse to the better, all for the universal betterment of the whole.
(Translation by Franklin W. Knight)
Sepúlveda compares the Christianization and Hispanization of the American Indians as the benevolent act of a perfect people aiding the imperfect in becoming more like their conquerors. He calls them natural slaves. Compares them to children, brutes, and matter unorganized. It reminds me of Roman attitudes towards their conquered subjects, and it absolutely reminds me of American haughtiness (that I supported at the time) of "bringing democracy to Iraq." Compare Sepúlveda's remarks with some of our political leaders and newspaper editors from five years ago.
The world is at a critical juncture. Once again, it has a chance to eliminate an evil element from its face. Freeing Iraq of Saddam will give that nation and the rest of the Middle East a chance to taste democracy -- the freedom to speak and learn and prosper -- and nurture the hope that starves terrorism. (Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 16, 2003)
We would undertake a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors. The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from insecurity and tyranny, and freed to determine for themselves the future of their country. We envisage a unified Iraq with its territorial integrity respected. All the Iraqi people -- its rich mix of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and all others -- should enjoy freedom, prosperity, and equality in a united country. We will support the Iraqi people's aspirations for a representative government that upholds human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.
(President Bush, Tony Blair, Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, and Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso; March 16, 2003)
We supposed that the Iraqis would want us to come in and set up democracy. While we certainly more politically correct than Sepúlveda, the rhetoric was very similar. We, the White Man, know better than you imperfect people.
If we had heeded T.E. Lawrence, who knew the area better than almost any European, when the Ottoman Empire was partitioned, much of this tribal/religious strife might not be happening. The Kurds would've had their homeland, the Sunnis would be part of Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites part of Iran; problem solved. But, that didn't happen, and it's not going to happen. We should not have invaded; to do so was Western vanity that we know better than the Iraqis how they should be governed. Enough with Democracy by force!
#2 What should happen to US troops levels in Iraq?
I answered D, maintain current troop levels, with future levels determined by events. Now that we are there, we cannot just withdraw our troops and let the country descend into madness. We made a commitment to that country, and even if we have to pay for it with our own blood, better that a few tens of thousands should die to preserve relative peace than have millions die in a horrible and regionally destabilizing civil war. We're talking human suffering on a massive level as hordes of people flee the country seeking refugee status in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and around the world. Millions of people will die. When we pulled out of Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge was able to run roughshod over Cambodia because we were no longer there on the ground to thwart them. I truly believe that millions will die if we just leave. The place is a nightmare of bitter feuds that go back centuries, not to mention the burning rage of revenge for recent killings that must be eating the hearts of some people. Others will want power, oil, land, what have you. It would catastrophic on so many levels for us to withdraw now. We're in this one for the long haul. No amount of decrying what Samuel Huntington might call the clash of "Arab exceptionalism" with Western democratic values can convince me that our leaving Iraq suddenly will not leave behind a shattered land, soaked in the blood of many any innocent Iraqi.
#3 Should the US government continue to fund the war in Iraq?
I answered yes, but the US should make the Iraqis reach certain benchmarks. If we need maintain current troop levels, of course we must fund the war. We should also encourage the Iraqis to reach benchmarks, so that someday we might actually be able to withdraw peacefully.
#4 What should the US government's focus be in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration?
I answered "Establish a new program for temporary workers, also known as guest workers"
As I've said en otras partes, if we made it legal for workers to come here and work, as they could for decades, then we wouldn't have the massive illegal immigration that we currently have to worry about.
#5 What should happen to illegal immigrants already in this country?
I answered "Allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country, and begin a path to citizenship that includes...."
People need to stop talking about amnesty, like these Hispanic workers that come here are criminals. We can't even get some of our citizens to get up off their asses and work for a living. These people come here seeking a better life for themselves, and are willing to work, and pay taxes, and contribute to the economy. Some candidates, namely Ron Paul, hide behind the notion that people want to curb immigration. Truth is, at every point in our history, the populace didn't like immigrants because they were different. It's ethnocentrism all over again.
Some claim that illegal immigrants overtax the medical systems, but the actual research shows that most Hispanics pay cash or have insurance when they go to the doctor. In South Carolina, the ratio of people being declared indigent is LOWEST among Hispanics than among ANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUP, including the WHITE MAJORITY. So, this constant spouting of impressions that people have because of their xenophobia is unworthy of politicians, and Americans who seek to represent a place, let alone a nation as president.
Personally, I would like to have a Western Hemisphere Union. I'd like to be able to go and work in Argentina, Barbados, or Colombia and vice versa. I would close immigration to all nations save those with close historical ties (e.g. U.K., France, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Israel, Liberia) but allow for completely free movement between anywhere in the Americas. But, that's not going to happen because of reactionary people who fear the immigrant. Undocumented workers aren't taking desirable jobs from people, they work in shit-jobs like McDonald's, cleaning hotel rooms, cooking, roofing, landscaping, and sheetrocking. Why all this fear and calling them criminals? Why are we even having a discussion about amnesty? If they come here and work and don't cause problems, where is the harm? Honestly? Don't sit their and take potshots from your privileged position by birth and tell me that if your family were poor and your government corrupt, that you wouldn't do everything to provide for your family. And this isn't American-style providing for your family with a house, two cars, vacations, etc; we're talking about sustaining life and health. This isn't a criminal matter, at best it's a civil affair.
#6 What's the best way the federal government can get more people covered by health insurance?
I answered "By establishing a national health insurance program." Our esteemed president recently vetoed the expanded children's healthcare bill. The medical care would've been paid for by an increase on the price of cigarettes. Please note, I am willing to pay substantially more from each paycheck so that I don't have to worry about healthcare for my kids. As it stands, I make $1,800 too much per year to qualify for Medicaid for my wee bairn. So, I'm left with the option of paying 25% of my income for not-so-grand insurance from my employer, or running the risk of paying out of pocket and facing some catastrophe, as my mom is now facing. I'd much rather pay 10% of my income to a fee-for-service government insurance program and not have to worry about medical care for my kids ever again. I do have intensive care supplemental coverage (for the whole family) through AFLAC. But, it isn't all that helpful without some other kind of insurance.
My father died 2 months ago on October 30th of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (confirmed by the NPRSC). He was in the hospital in a coma for six weeks. His medical bills están por allí de $250,000. Since he was self-employed, he had no medical insurance. My father paid the maximum in Social Security and Medicare taxes every year of his life. But, because he made too much last year to qualify for Medicaid, my mom now has to wipe out their savings to pay a medical bill that defines ridiculousness: A bag of iv saline solution costs $75, FOR SALT WATER!
I find it beyond hypocritical that Congress didn't overturn Bush's veto of an extension to the CHIP (children's health) bill to extend medical care to around 8 million un-insured lower middle-class children (mine included), when members of Congress have a free and universal health insurance for life that they gave themselves. If politicians don't have the courage to grant healthcare to all, in the world's wealthiest country, at least children should have it. And for all those people who claim that we have the best healthcare in the world, I DON'T GIVE A SHIT IF I CAN'T AFFORD ACCESS TO IT!
What good does it do me? And furthermore, according to this scientifically-sound study, YOU'RE WRONG!
#7 What should be the federal government's priority in reducing healthcare costs?
I answer, "Move to a single-payer, government-backed insurance system." If I am to give 1/4th of my income to something already, then why not have it go to taxes? That medical insurance companies are publicly-traded enterprises means that someone is profiting from my sacrifices. The Medicare system for the elderly is one of the most cost-effective and efficient systems around for administering healthcare. I would expect the same from a universal Medicaid system. Many of us are already paying more than we would for a universal healthcare system, and we're not getting back what we put in!
#8 What should the government do about same-sex couples who want to get married?
I answered it should be legal. Now, as a Christian, and especially as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have my own spiritual beliefs about the morality of the homosexual act. However, let me explain.
A. Sin is sin, why single out this one sin? Are we going to not allow divorcees to marry since Jesus said it constitutes adultery to remarry? Is adultery any less worse than gay sex? Seriously?
B. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment applies to all citizens, and we really cannot deny one group of citizens access to a civil right without ditching the 14th Amendment, which no one wants to do.
C. I have my religious faith, but other people do not share my belief. If we have the 1st Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion and by extension, freedom from religion, then how can we legislate morality. If we criminalize homosexual sex, then we have to criminalize all kinds of sex that some puritanical people call "unnatural acts" such as oral, anal, woman-on-top, etc. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that the government needs to stay out of the bedroom; I can see no CONSTITUTIONAL basis for denying marriage to any citizen.
D. This includes polygamy. The only argument that I haven't heard from people is that if you allow homosexual marriages, then you open the door to polygamist and polyandrist marriages. This could easily lead to group marriages, and human/animal weddings. This is the only legally defensible possible challenge, but no matter what happens, homosexuals will someday have the right to marry in this country. It's going to happen. While I do not condone lots of different types of behavior (drinking, drug-use, any sex outside of marriage), my own personal religious beliefs should not be the basis for denying someone else a civil right. Perhaps it will bring forth the calamities foretold by prophets of old, but legally we have no ground to stand on, and most conservatives agree that the Constitution is inspired, so what then?
This is thorny, but I don't think we can legislate morality.
#9 What would be the best way to improve the federal income tax system?
I answered "Scrap President Bush's tax cuts, and implement cuts for the middle class." I'm tired of oligarchical rule, in a nation where no one not a millionaire will ever be president, I don't want massive tax cuts only going to those who make more than $250k. While I recognize the need of freedom of capital to create jobs, the tax cuts went too far. The government needs more money to pay for some of the things that stimulate the economy and big industry (The Iraq War) and these people growing rich off the economic expanison of the last few years can pay more for the prosperity they enjoy. Taxes help everyone. The right balance is hard to find, but damnit we're at war, and this is the only time in our history that we haven't had a tax increase during a war. And this is a war without end. We all need to pony up. The poor can't pay anything, the lower middle-class is one layoff away from poverty, and the middle-middle class doesn't really exist anymore.
#10 What would be the best way for the federal government to deal with global warming?
"Invest in alternative energy sources" was my answer. I think that money in the right places (research universities!!!!!!) could do much to improve the energy production and efficiency of current sources. The freemarket will only seek out what can return a profit, and gas is still just too damn cheap and easy. Personally, I think it is far cheaper to try and reduce greenhouse gas via new technology and dealing with its consequences rather than trying punitive measures to stop or delay what is most likely unavoidable. I'm still pretty conservative on this issue, and I disagree with Kucinich, but a few issues aren't enough to derail my support of him.
#11 In terms of experience, what matters most to you in a presidential candidate?
Of course I say, "Has been a governor or mayor." Legislators make for shitty presidents, its confusing the two branches of power. Look at the last few legislator presidents Johnson (the worst president in US history in my opinion) and Ford (a place filler). The rest have all been governors; they've been in charge of something; they've known how to command, and have been proven successful.
Kucinich and I disagree on several issues like funding the Iraq war, gun ownership, abolishing the death penalty, his veganism, and the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. But, these things aren't my only issues. I find far more in common with him than with any other person. And I think his ideas about withdrawing from the Chinese-dominated WTO, ending the War on Drugs, legalizing marijuana, repealing the Patriot Act, and his desire to ban meat-packer livestock ownership to be in line with my own opinions.
So, according to the USA Today survey, my two most-in-common candidates are Kucinich and Huckabee. Huckabee is a religious bigot and doesn't have the foreign policy chops to be president. What I'd love is a third party in this country. One where there wasn't always a dichotomy, but where middle-of-the-road people, what used to be called Compassionate Conservatism, could actually find a platform, and a candidate--maybe someone like this man (despite his flaws).
Hate me if you must, but this is how I feel. I am but one man, one vote, and that vote will go to Kucinich in the primary.