What changed my mind? It wasn't the Democratic party in general. They're still relatively wishy washy, politically correct to a fault, and lacking the conviction to point out that not only is the emperor naked but the people who still support him are HURTING AMERICA.
To some degree it was John Kerry himself. I thought picking Edwards as his running mate was a really good move. Not only was Edwards someone who the hardcore democrats had come to like over the course of the campaign, not only is he an attractive and charismatic candidate, but he was someone who there were rumblings of Kerry having problems with. There was a suggestion that Kerry would choose someone he was more familiar and comfortable with, someone who would be sure to stay on message and comfortably in Kerry's shadow.
He didn't. He went with the guy that the Democratic voter base wanted. He went with the guy who might have outshined him. He showed some guts and a willingness to listen to the people, in direct comparison to Bush who stuck with the unpopular Cheney, a crony of his father.
I wasn't pleased with Kerry's campaign for the most part. For one thing he didn't annunciate clear policy until later in the campaign, and even then it was mostly on his website rather than in the interviews and speeches I saw. His turning the focus of the campaign to Vietnam was just stupid. For one thing it left him vulnerable to lies and distortions, not to mention truths about his own youthful activism that were unpleasant in the eyes of just the sort of people that Kerry needed to convince most. Then there was the lack of attacks against Bush for the first few months. It was just a poorly run and unimpressive campaign in general. Kerry improved just before the debates, though, and during the debates themselves he was great. While others I watched them with criticized Kerry for not being rough enough against Baby Bush I thought he was perfect. He looked presidential and in control the entire time, while hammering Bush without being mean about it. Bush looked so bad, especially in the first debate, that he could have looked sympathetic in his helpless stupidity if Kerry had turned vicious. He did not and Bush looked merely incompetent. I liked that a lot. Kerry looked regal and powerful, but all business. Nothing personal.
The performance in the debates made me think that Kerry would probably be an above average president for this particular situation. What we need is someone who won't lose his cool. Someone to help manage the disaster that is our foreign relations and patch up some of the deficit. To use a football metaphor, we need a pocket passer who will stand in there and play steady and strong. That's not to say that he shouldn't ever change in mind, he should, he just shouldn't get emotionally charged up about it. Cold calculating analysis.
But Kerry's not the reason I'm voting for him either. The reason is, unsurprisingly, Bush. He's just been horrible. Unflinchingly unrelentingly horrible. He hasn't tempered his ridiculous behavior at all in the last few months and he'll be even worse if he wins again. He'll be a dumb fanatic with nothing to lose.
So I'm voting for Kerry because I don't want to feel that I did what I could to prevent this. I can't bring myself to make telephone calls or canvas for Kerry because despite my more positive impression of him I still don't have enough faith in him to be supportive, and frankly I don't know if I could keep my cool speaking to undecideds at this point. What is there to be undecided about? But I want my vote counted for Kerry. I know that New York is not in play. I know that one vote is pretty meaningless. I suspect that Bush will try to steal the election in other states and that whether or not Kerry wins the popular vote won't matter, but I want my voice to ring clearly as an indictment of Bush in a way that voting for a third party candidate would not. I don't just want to say "Anybody but Bush" but "The Democratic alternative is markedly better than George W. Bush." I am voting for Kerry because there are points where saying "The alternative IS better, there IS a real choice here" matters, and that's what I am going to do.