Michael Totten

Meeting in the Middle (Updated)

I enjoy reading Andrew Sullivan in part because he teaches me new things, and also because I have something in common with him. He and I, at least for a while, were both undecided voters.
James Lileks thinks we’re strange creatures.

…the undecided voter, a creature whose existence I accept on condition that I am provided with photographic evidence, spoor from the wild and plaster casts of their footprints. But how can you be undecided? It’s not as if we’re dealing with two mysterious figures who suddenly burst onto the national stage with no preamble. Whoa, who’s this Bush guy? What’s he all about?

Ah, Lileks. Funny even when he’s making fun of moi.
Yeah, I felt pretty silly being an undecided voter and I’m happy to have moved on. (Doesn’t mean I’m happy with my options all of a sudden.)
Lileks gets it, though. At least he gets me and Sullivan.

Sorry; don’t mean to insult the undecideds. But really. Please. There cannot be more than 3,482 voters in this country who will stroll into the voting booth and flip a coin. Some of the undecideds are no doubt people who don’t like the guy who should be their guy, or like the guy who shouldn’t be their guy, and they’re really arm wrestling with themselves.

Yep. That’s pretty much it. Kerry should have been my guy, at least if the fact that I’ve never voted for a Republican president means anything.
Sullivan has always been a little more flexible and independent. But he was one of Bush’s biggest fans until recently when he decided (for reasons that make sense to me, if not to others) that he just couldn’t do it anymore.
I was alienated from my side. He was alienated from his. We have different backgrounds, but we meet in the middle. And because (at least partly because) we meet in the middle we see some of the same ironies.
Yesterday he wrote the following:

Kerry’s is clearly the more conservative position here. Conservatives have traditionally been doubters with regard to the transmission of Western values easily onto non-Western societies. They certainly don’t believe it can happen overnight. Bush is therefore running as a Gladstonian liberal in foreign affairs, which is why it’s strange to hear some conservatives writing as if Kerry’s candidacy is the equivalent of Armageddon.

He even used a similar title for his post that I used for mine when I made exactly the same point two days before he did.
The only difference here is that Sullivan thinks conservatives shouldn’t get bent out of shape by John Kerry’s conservatism while I think liberals should be happy with George W. Bush’s liberalism.
Left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. None of these labels mean the same things to me anymore. It’s no wonder I’m homeless. It’s no wonder the number of Independents keeps growing.
UPDATE: Via Sullivan (naturally) I found this interesting post by Cicero at Winds of Change. He says he’s voting for Bush and rooting for Kerry. Why might he root for Kerry?

If there’s solace to be taken from a Kerry victory, it will be the possibility that liberalism will be truly taken to task by historical forces, like conservativism has been.

Yes! So very few on the left have noticed or can even understand when I point this out. Conservatism has really been hammered by history – and it came out the other side better than it was. That’s what my hawkish case for Kerry was really about – hoping the same would happen to liberalism if he wins.
I wonder how many conservatives have noticed their own sea change between Bosnia and Iraq since their president shifted along with them? Well, Pat Buchanan has certainly noticed. And boy is he unhappy about it. I disagree with Pat Buchanan about practically everything, but I will give him credit for being alert.
Cicero has more, and you should read the whole thing.

President Bush, who ran on a near-isolationist platform in 2000, redefined conservatism in 2001 because the world changed. That’s why he’s got my vote. Mr. Kerry, so far, seems reluctant to redefine liberalism in the context of the modern world. His heels are firmly planted on a mountain floating on magma. As president, liberalism, as we know it, will either be redefined or it will perish.

UPDATE: Patrick Lasswell argues with me without quite realizing that I agree with him. Yes, Patrick. That’s why I’m voting for Bush and not for Kerry.