With the presidential race so close, it remains clear that both candidates will continue to attempt to sway swing-voters’ opinions in the last few days of campaigning. While some voters may be undecided, a handful of professors at Temple are securely behind their candidate.
“I’ll probably be voting for Kerry,” said Dr. Ralph Young, a history professor. “If the Democrats nominated anyone else, I probably would have voted for him,” he said.
Even though his vote for Kerry may be to get Bush out of office, there are aspects of Kerry’s record and career that Young finds attractive. This respect is garnered primarily from Kerry’s service in the Vietnam War and his criticism of it in front of the U.S. Congress after he returned.
“I admire that he was an anti-Vietnam advocate. It took courage to fight back,” he said. “It’s courageous for a soldier to be critical of policy that put him in harm’s way.”
Young acknowledges that Kerry is perhaps too conservative on many issues, but still considers him a better candidate than Bush. He argues that to find success with the American populace politicians need to primarily lean to the right.
“For any Democrat to win they have to sound middle-of-the-road, more like a Republican,” he said.
While he understands that Dean’s antiwar stance may have pushed Kerry further to the left than his campaign originally had intended, he hopes that Kerry’s progressive side will expose itself if he wins the election.
“I’m speculating that [Kerry’s] more antiwar than he’s letting on,” Young said.
Still, he feels that John Kerry is far from perfect. His disagreements with Kerry, however, are minor compared to his extreme disapproval of the Bush administration.
“I really think Bush has done tremendous damage. Some of that damage may be irreversible,” he said. “He’s radical. He’s endangering American principles.”
He feels that Bush has put America in danger and has made is more unsafe than it was prior to Sept. 11.
“Bush has been very damaging,” he said. “Bush is fanning the flames of radical Islam. He’s fueled terrorism.”
Finally, he said that Bush is truly a threat to democracy and that reelection would be ideologically devastating.
“If Bush loses, it would restore my faith in American democracy,” he said. “You don’t need to be that intelligent to see [Bush’s] denial. If people can’t see this, you wonder, ‘What’s wrong with people?’ To me it’s a no-brainer.”
Dr. Wilbert Jenkins, a History professor, also supports the senator. Before a few weeks ago, Jenkins was on the “anyone-but-Bush” platform, but has recently changed his reasons for supporting Kerry.
“Prior to the presidential debates, I was voting against George Bush,” he said. “After the debates, I’m voting more for John Kerry than against George Bush.”
Jenkins argues that the Bush campaign simplified Kerry’s job by focusing mainly on Kerry’s weaknesses, as opposed to Bush’s strengths. To get American approval, then, all he had to do was show that he was strong and decisive.
In general, he feels the Democratic Party has supported his domestic policy values like affirmative action, gun control, abortion, or opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But there are issues that the Democrats need to work on, according to Jenkins.
“I don’t think they do enough on problems in inner cities,” he said. “I don’t think they stand up for people of color as much as they should.”
However, regarding foreign policy, he thinks that Democrats and Republicans have a far-too-aggressive approach. He has a hard time siding with either party and has proven to disapprove of many wars America has engaged in.
“I look at foreign policy in terms of Democrats and I swallow hard,” he said. “The only war that this country, in the last 15 years, has taken a part in that I support is Afghanistan.”
He feels that Bush handled the Iraq conflict entirely wrong and sympathizes with the families that have lost loved ones.
“It must be really painful for these families to see these reports saying that there were no weapons of mass destruction and no 9/11 link,” he said.
Jenkins is confident in Kerry’s success and feels that four more years of Bush would be terrible.
“I’m absolutely certain Bush won’t win.” he said. “If he does, it would damage the psyche of the American people and it would be a catastrophe to the United States in the international arena.”
Political science professor, Dr. Richard Joslyn merely wants the candidate who will support pure democracy the most.
“I’m an advocate of democracy,” he said. “I clearly support Kerry.”
Joslyn says that the differences in the candidates come from what they feel the role of the role of government should be. While Bush feels government should be used primarily in protecting Americans, Kerry feels the government should play a bigger role.
“Kerry believes the public sector is better than the private sector in doing good,” he said.
Joslyn feels the government has a responsibility to help those who are not financially secure, or are in unfortunate situations.
“I don’t think we can throw everyone who is somehow harmed, devastated, ignored, by private sector on the trash heap,” he said. “We can certainly care about those who are disadvantaged.”
Kerry may not be perfect in his eyes, but he doesn’t view him as a flip-flopper and feels that he will genuinely do a better job than Bush.
“Kerry will be more apt to fund public education,” he said. “I think he’ll be more thoughtful about flexing American military might.”
The private sector, with profit as its number one priority, is dangerous to the less fortunate according to him. To cater to the interests of the poor, one cannot rely on something that works best, by definition, under less control, according to Joslyn.
“The power that is exercised by the private sector is worrisome,” he said. “I don’t have the faith in the private sector that Bush does. I can’t remember a president that has embraced the private sector as much as [he] has.”
However, Joslyn hesitated to call Bush a capitalist with only the interests of the rich in mind. He feels that, while Bush is mistaken, he has strong convictions about his values.
“I think he’s truly believes the private sector produces better results than the public sector. That’s worse than naked greed or fat cat ‘crumminess,'” he said.
He thinks that Bush’s large deficit is a way to put reliance on the private sector by effectively rendering the public sector useless. No new government programs can be established because of it and those in power will have to resort to the private sector for aid, he said.
“[Bush] views the deficit as a good thing,” Joslyn said. “He’s going to leave the government with such a huge credit card debt, everyone’s going to be trying to figure out how to get it down.”
Ultimately, his decision to vote for Kerry derives mainly from the fact that he disagrees with Bush so much. Bush’s far-right tendencies, according to Joslyn, are a large reason why Kerry is getting much of his support.
“The difference between myself and George Bush is extreme,” Joslyn said. “I would say the only reason the race is close is because Bush has gone so far right that it has made Kerry more attractive.”
While Temple students may not be as certain as these professors, Election Day is drawing closer; the flip-flopping will have to end and decisions will have to be made. Perhaps the differences that distinguish these men are worth making a choice over.
Jonathan Rashid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.