Posted on October 18, 2004 in Washington Watch

Because I have been repeatedly asked the question, “For whom will you vote and why?” let me use this opportunity to respond.

This November, I will vote for John Kerry for President of the United States. I will do so, confident that it is the right thing to do for my country and my community.

Now this doesn’t mean that I agree with all of John Kerry’s positions. I’m a Democrat, but I’ve always challenged my party and its leadership when it was important to do so. Over the past two decades I’ve helped to lead the fight within the Democratic Party for Palestinian rights, against “secret evidence” and ethnic profiling, and against acquiescence to this disastrous war in Iraq. And during this campaign I have raised strong objections to a number of statements about the Middle East made by Kerry and his vice presidential running mate.

But even with this I repeat: On November 2nd, I will confidently vote for John Kerry. Here’s why: I believe, along with Senator Kerry, that at stake in this year’s election is the very definition of our nation-the values we seek to protect at home and project to the world.

The last four years have had a devastating effect on our nation. They have tested our national unity and our sense of mission. The Bush Administration has pursued domestic and foreign policies that have been both neglectful and reckless. Because of reckless tax cuts a record surplus was turned into record deficits. Previously strong alliances were compromised by a reckless and radical policy of unilateral preemption, while the significant diplomatic gains of the last decade were neglected or cast aside. Basic Constitutional protections were ignored or put at risk by reckless executive fiat.

As a result, we squandered opportunities that would have made our nation stronger, more prosperous, more secure, and better respected in the world.

Let me be more specific.

The war in Iraq has been a disaster. A dangerous and arrogant ideological group in the White House and the Pentagon lied our nation into war. Because they wanted this war they did not tell us the truth. Because they were driven by a fantasy that projected a “cake walk,” “flowers in the streets,” and “the birth of democracy,” they went to war without a plan. The American people, the Iraqi people, the world, and our nation’s image and standing in the world, are paying the price for this deceit and arrogance.

While President Bush has been praised for projecting a vision of a Palestinian state, every step taken by his Administration has made a realization of that vision impossible. During the past four years the Administration has failed to support even its own initiatives, from the ill fated “Mitchell, Tenet, Zinni” plans to the now dead “Road Map.” The results have been devastating to the Palestinians, the Israelis, and to the search for peace.

While President Bush has repeatedly affirmed his respect for Islam and the Arab world, he has failed to act in the face of repeated bigoted statements made by members of his Administration and his leading supporters.

Repeated initiatives taken by Attorney General John Ashcroft have done great damage to fundamental Constitutional rights, respect for the rule of law, and the image of our nation around the world. In all of this, Arab Americans, American Muslims, and immigrant Arabs and Muslims have paid dearly.

At the end of the day, it is vitally important that Arab Americans also remember that this election is not just about us. The coalition that has supported our civil liberties and our concerns for Palestinian rights and Middle East peace also has suffered during the past four years. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other constituencies who have supported our needs also need a change in the White House. Politics is about building mutually supportive coalitions. I believe that Arab Americans are better served by the coalition of peace activists and minority groups that comprise the base of the Democratic Party than they are by the Republican coalition that is driven by the religious right and neo-conservative ideologues. Just as the Bush Administration will continue to be pressed by its base to move in a rightward direction, a Democratic administration will be pushed by its base in a more progressive direction. I believe our concerns are better met by the party that includes: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Congresspersons like John Conyers, John Dingell, Marcy Kaptur, Dennis Kucinich, Jim Moran, Nick Rahall, Maxine Waters, and so many other champions of peace and justice.

Finally, we must deal with reality. I have great respect for Ralph Nader. His service is legendary and his principled challenge is inspirational. But this election is not about Ralph Nader. The real choice in 2004 is between George Bush and John Kerry. For me, it’s clear.

I choose an administration that is led by John Kerry and John Edwards, because, despite whatever differences I may have with them, I know that they will pursue diplomacy over unilateral military preemption. They can be better trusted to find a way out of Iraq than the arrogant crew that got us into that mess in the first place. They will protect our civil liberties and end the abuses of the Ashcroft era. And they will make the pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority rather than a neglected afterthought. In a recent letter to Arab Americans, senior Kerry adviser Rand Beers committed that a Kerry administration would do as much. Beers wrote:

John Kerry and John Edwards believe that bringing security and stability to the Middle East is vital to American national security, to the security of Israel and other countries in the region, and to the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable Palestinian state. In a Kerry-Edwards administration, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be an afterthought. . . .[Kerry and Edwards] will work tirelessly to achieve a stable, lasting peace with security in the Middle East and ensure that American leadership is a source of hope in the region.

Beers went on to say that a Kerry administration would

Take steps to end and prevent racial profiling. The Ashcroft Justice Department has unfairly targeted Muslim and Arab-Americans and has selectively enforced the immigration laws against these communities. John Kerry and John Edwards will uphold constitutional rights and protections, and civil rights laws.

That gets my vote.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org.

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