As someone who actually pays attention to politics I've had a very difficult time understanding why anyone could vote for George W. Bush. Okay, if your goal is to bring about armageddon the President is your man. But for everyone else he makes no sense.

As a liberal, I have never supported the President, except in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and the war he justly made on Afghanistan. On that point America enjoyed a true bi-partisan consensus and it amazes me that he did not ask Congress for a Declaration of War. The USA Patriot Act, his total worship of corporate welfare, clear opposition to environmental protection, his fundamentalist pronouncements and his 'fuck you' attitude toward our European allies are enough to terrify me. Perhaps the reason he and 'Vladimir" get along so well is that they are two peas from the same pod.

But why do conservatives support Bush? Conservatives have long argued for limited government and fiscal responsibility. Bush has turned the budget surplus created during the Clinton Administration into record budget deficits. That should come as no surprise. Many economists never bought the blithe promises made before the first income tax cut. Anyone who has followed budget numbers for the past couple decades can see that we 'tax and spend Liberals" are far more concerned with fiscal responsibility than our conservative counterparts. As conservative commentator David Brooks put it, "If you want to control the deficit, vote for a Democrat."

Outside the Cold War, conservatives have also shown traditional suspicion of foreign adventures, particularly those involving nation building. In fact the President categorically expressed opposition to such adventures during the 2000 presidential campaign. Afghanistan is readily explained by the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, But not Iraq. The fact that the have botched the occupation so horrifically ought to terrify conservatives.

A new study from Middle Tennessee State sheds imporant light on why Bush might still win. The answer is simple: we're clueless. You'd think that after three debates and six months worth of political campaigning the people would at least have a handle on where the two candidates stood. But we do not.

Only 52% of Tennessee voters knew that John Kerry wanted to roll back tax cuts for Americans who earned over $200,000 per year. Twenty three percent thought the roll-back was the President's position. Only half thought Bush the candidate who supported giving school vouchers. Thirteen percent though it was Kerry. Only 42% correctly identify Bush as the candidate who would like younger workers to be able to privatize some of their Social Security contribution, while 19% think that was Kerry's idea. Seventy-one percent of these same people claimed to be very interested in election, with only 6% claiming disinterest.

As Linda Ellerbee used to say: "And so it goes."

Political scientists have a truism: "People get the government they deserve." I do not think Tennesseans particularly less informed than the voters of my own state of Ohio. If we vote for candidates based on ignorance of where they stand and the issues to be decided it's hardly surprising that Americans might make a bad choice.

But think of this when you vote. Look down your ballot. See the issues, the local and statewide candidates. If this is all we know about our Presidential candidate then what basis have we for deciding who shall serve as county engineer?

Democracy is a gift, because it stands between us and despotism. But that gift implies responsibility. Americans often express frustration with the quality of candidates on both sides with the associated attack ads and political catch-phrases. If we vote for candidates based on half-truths and sound bytes then attack ads and spin is all we demand. And we will get the leaders we deserve.

To read about the study done by Middle Tennessee State go to: