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Chuck Muth is President and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a professional political consultant. Mr. Muth is a professional campaign trainer, a newsletter publisher and talk-show host who regularly appears on political TV and radio programs.

Sunday

Muth's Truths, 10/24/04


STILL UNDECIDED AFTER ALL THESE FEARS

OK, I admit it. With just over a week to go, I’m STILL an “undecided” voter. Not because I don’t know the candidates, don’t know the issues and don’t know what’s at stake. It’s because I’m a limited-government Reagan conservative...and I DO.

Let me first point out that the presidential candidates are playing Electoral College chess. They’re NOT trying to win a plurality of the popular vote. They’re trying to win a majority of the electoral vote. Which is fine with me, since that’s the rule of the game as the Founders established it.

This means some states are safely in the Bush column and some are safely in the Kerry column...and some could go either way. Bush and Kerry are pretty much ignoring states which are safely in their opponent’s column and are focusing almost all of their time, effort and money on about a dozen “battleground” states.

Now, if it’s OK for the candidates to play Electoral College chess, it’s OK for voters to do the same. Which puts me in the unique position of being able to cast a “protest” vote on November 2 without risking the fate of the nation.

See, I live in Maryland. Maryland is as safely in Kerry’s column as you’re likely to get. If Maryland is somehow by some miracle in play for the Bush-Cheney team, they sure as heck aren’t going to need MY vote...because that will mean Kerry-Edwards will be getting slaughtered in the battleground states.

If, however, I still lived in Nevada...a key battleground state...this would be a no-brainer: Bush all the way. The country can’t afford to risk the security of the nation and the safety of our families to John Kerry and his “global test” for dealing with the terrorist threat. Nor can it afford to have a hair-obsessed ambulance-chaser a “heartbeat away” from the Oval Office. And I sure ain’t thrilled with the prospect of listening to four years of Mother Teresa calling opponents of her husband’s liberal agenda “idiots” and telling the nation to “shove it.”

But then you have the President.

While I’m with him 100 percent on pre-emptively killing bad guys who mean to do us harm, that’s about as far as it goes for this limited-government conservative. Of course, there’s also the tax cuts...but they’ve been relatively small compared to the GIGANTIC increases in spending...spending which has yet to earn a single presidential veto. In addition, Mr. Bush has done nothing of note in making this abomination of a tax code simpler and fairer via a flat tax or national retail sales tax.

On the other hand, he does have Dick Cheney and Laura Bush going for him. Plus Dr. Wade Horn.
Who?

Glad you asked. Dr. Horn is the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. He’s a darn good conservative who understands the balance required between philosophical purity and practical reality. Anyway, with President Bush you get folks such as Dr. Horn running the wheels of government. With John Kerry you’re going to get people who think Michael Moore is a genius.

This is a consideration not much considered by the average voter. It should be. Remember, we didn’t just get Bill Clinton for eight years; we got Janet Reno, too.

Nevertheless, compassionate conservatism is nothing but big government liberalism packaged in the soft rhetoric of high expectations. And it’s darn expensive, at that.

Frankly, I’m seriously worried about the fate of limited-government conservatism should the president be re-elected. I fear the Bush crowd will then claim a mandate to enact even MORE high-cost “compassionate” government programs over the next four years while promoting the notion that limited-government candidates of the Reagan model can’t be elected. This notion could have implications on our national politics for a generation or more.

But good Lord, look at the alternatives for those of us not in battleground states who have the freedom to cast a vote of conscience.

Ralph Nader? You’d have to be, as Sen. Joe Biden would say, brain dead.

Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party? Well, that “Constitution” part sounds good, but remember not to judge a book by its cover. Peel back the label and you find a candidate and a party bent on imposing a biblical governing agenda couched in constitutional rhetoric. This is consumer fraud and I don’t like bait and switch politics.

Then there’s Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party. One would think I’d find a natural home here with these principled limited-government folks, but the fact remains: Mike Badnarik makes Howard Dean and Jimmy Carter look like a hawks when it comes to the war.

The LP touts itself as THE principled party with regard to limiting the government to its constitutionally proscribed role. Well, national defense IS one of the few legitimate roles for the feds. Yet Badnarik is either too naïve not to know that the war in Iraq is part of the overall war on terrorism or, worse, simply believes we should withdraw from the world and only respond if and when attacked directly.

That may sound nice...until you consider that in this day and age 3 million of us could be dead from a suitcase nuke before Badnarik decides to use force. Heck, if that’s what you’re looking for in a presidential candidate, vote for Kerry. At least HE has a chance to win.

Not me. I choose life. I, indeed, want limited government...but that limitation is not extended to doing it to them before they do it to us.

I know, I know. It’s only a protest vote. Badnarik isn’t actually going to get elected. So there’s nothing to fear, right? Right. But I simply do not want to encourage the Libertarian Party to nominate another empty suit pacifist such as Badnarik...or Harry Brown from four years ago...in the future.

Frankly, I...and a LOT of other voters...am prepared to consider casting some third-party ballots. But we’re not going to do it just “because.” The LP needs to grow up and gain some political maturity. They need to take seriously the need to actually WIN some elections by giving us credible alternatives and campaigning like they mean it.

Howard Stern and Michael Badnarik are not credible alternatives.

And this LP campaign “strategy” to simply “spoil” George W’s re-election in battleground states doesn’t cut it either. If the overall objective is a limited federal government, never actually electing anyone to Congress...but spoiling the election for Republicans in favor of Democrats...is hardly the way to do it.

So my choice appears to come down to President Bush...or writing in the name of another candidate (staying home is a cop-out). And if I go that way, I think I’ll take my friend Rick Sincere’s suggestion and cast my “protest” vote for Ronald Reagan. If the point is to “send a message,” that would pretty much say it all. After all, the heart of Reaganism is: “Government is not the solution, it’s the problem.” That sure isn’t what “compassionate conservatism” is all about.

On the other hand, I might still be persuaded to cast my lot with President Bush and Dr. Horn. Highly respected limited-government conservative friends of mine - such as former Reagan adviser Lyn Nofziger and former New Mexico GOP Chairman John Dendahl - make very persuasive cases for re-electing W...and then fighting him aggressively over the next four years when his administration inevitably strays too far from the reservation.

Plus...John Kerry really IS that bad.

So, yes, with nine days to go I’m still an undecided voter. The president has done a fine job of securing his base of social conservatives, but he’s yet to seal the deal with limited-government conservatives, especially those of us who don’t live in battleground states. And for that, he has only himself and his record to blame.

All that being said, I still predict President Bush wins this thing going away. When push comes to shove, conservatives of all stripes really have nowhere else to go, and the national security threat really is THE issue in this campaign. On that issue alone, I still may cast a vote to re-elect. Decisions, decisions.

Prediction: Bush 54 percent, Kerry 44 percent...with the prez getting around 320-340 electoral votes.

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