Okay... I had promised myself to stay out of this debate, obviously fueled more by Bush supporters than by Nader supporters. I did my best in 2000 to warn progressives that Bush was a new kind of danger to the things we believe in, not just a part of the obnoxious system we've been fighting for the last 30 years, but a Hitler-like danger to democracy, world peace, and the global environment. The past 3 and a half years have more than proven me right.
But since it seems that many of you are not only too young to have a real historical perspective, but also too young to even remember the discussion from 4 years ago, here goes....
First, and most important, Kerry and the Democrats in general, unlike Bush particularly and the Republicans in general, understand that human-caused, global climate change is both real (Bush has denied it) and a serious threat to the well-being of all people and many other residents of this planet. It was the much vilified on this website Al Gore who signed us on to the Kyoto Accord, a weak but important first step toward reducing the damage of global warming. Bush, for those of you who can't remember yesterday, withdrew the US from that treaty, and has since weakened or outright abolished the minimal environmental regulations we had managed to fight into place since the early 70s. In 4 more years of Bush, there is no telling what more irreversible environmental damage will be done. If there is one over-riding reason to get rid of Bush, even with the less-than-attractive Kerry, the environment is it. At least we can engage the Democrats in this discussion. Yes, I've heard all the responses to this, how awful Clinton was to the environment, etc. None of these arguments even addresses what seems to me irrefutable: Kerry and the Democrats will be enormously better for the environment than Bush and his gang of oil-sucking armageddonists. Not perfect, of course, not even close to what we want, but better. And since some things lost cannot be restored (it takes 500 years to grow a 500 year old tree) even slowing the destruction of the environment is a crucial victory.
Secondly, a woman's right to control her own body. This is a clear and important difference between the two parties and the two platforms. Bush has already undermined this fundamental right, and will do whatever he can to weaken it further.
Third, and perhaps a little more abstract to those of you without economics training, the federal deficit. Bush has taken us in three years from the Clinton era of budget surpluses to the largest federal debts in history. I won't go into the theory of why this matters to all of us, but read some Krugman if you are interested.
I can name a number of other issues where significant and important differences between Kerry's platform and Bush's make our choice in the presidential election crucial. Minimum wage and jobs; our international relationships; civil rights; education; taxes; the courts: on all these issues the Democrats are several steps closer to progressive goals than the Republicans. And Bush has proven himself to be worse than most of the Republicans on all these issues.
Bush is a danger to our lives, our land, and our world. It's past time to dump him, even for a marginally better candidate. All of these "no difference" arguments are just plain wrong, ignoring important differences that really do make a difference.
Just for a little background, my current intention is to vote for Kucinich in the Oregon primary (yep, I registered as a Democrat for that purpose) and to vote the most likely candidate to defeat Bush in the fall. In a much younger time, I was somehow convinced to vote for the environmental candidate Barry Commoner in the 1980 election. Carter had not followed through on his campaign promise to get rid of nuclear power plants (anti-nuke was my main area of activism at that time), and I let that one issue push me away from him. Carter's defeat in 80, of course, ushered in the Reagan/Bush nightmare from which we have still never recovered. In 96, I voted Nader in his first run, as a message vote to Clinton and the Democrats, whom I rightly figured would still win handily. I vote green in any election where I think they can win, or where my "message vote" won't put in place a truly dangerous candidate. But this is not the time for a message to the Democrats. The very real increase in suffering, death, and environmental destruction that four more years of Bush will create is important to anyone who really cares about progressive issues.