Having to choose between George W. Bush and John Kerry is like navigating between Scylla and Charybdis. On one side lurks the hoary beast of a decent man brought down by the neocons and their agenda of world domination. On the other churns the vortex of a man who is right on nothing and is willing to betray anyone—as he did his fellow soldiers, sailors, and Marines when he painted them as war criminals—in order to achieve recognition and high office. It is obviously a very difficult choice, so I will take the third way. But first, as my colleague Pat Buchanan states in his endorsement of the president, “Bush is right on taxes, judges, sovereignty, and values. Kerry is right on nothing.” So why not Bush? Why not do, as Pat says, what the pirate Jean Lafitte did when he asked to fight alongside his countrymen against the Redcoats in the Battle of New Orleans? I am, after all, a lifelong conservative Republican.

The answer is that the party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William F. Buckley Jr., a party motivated by libertarian impulses and deep convictions about personal freedoms, ain’t no more. Since when is a Leviathan federal government with a record deficit a conservative Republican one? How does a Bush administration supposedly committed to ideas like limited government, personal freedom, and a balanced budget explain a $450 billion budget deficit, the loss of American manufacturing jobs, and the promise of an amnesty for illegal aliens? How can the party of Robert A. Taft excuse the catastrophic war against Iraq and the idea that those who opposed it are traitors, an accusation Pat, Scott, and I were tarred with by Ariel Sharon’s agent David Frum?

The words of Gen. George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, come to mind: “I would be loath to hazard American lives for purely political purposes.” Yet Bush continues to heed men whose policies have radicalized the Mideast and converted much of the Islamic world into a giant recruiting station for Osama bin Laden. As Buchanan wrote recently, the Republican Party is now the party of big business, big government, and big war.

Tom DeLay is a disgrace, a brutal fund-raiser who resembles Robert Torricelli and Alfonse D’Amato, not what a conservative Republican House majority leader should be in my book. Once upon a time, conservatives believed in ideas and individualism, now it seems money and power are what counts. So despite his personal decency, I cannot in all honesty endorse Bush for a second term.

Kerry, of course, is far worse, a disaster in the making. Not only has he dismissed the president’s promises to enact amnesty for illegal aliens as insufficient, he has vowed to sign an amnesty within his first 100 days in office. Again, as Pat writes in his endorsement of the president, the people on Kerry’s side are all those I despise, the George Soroses, Barbra Streisands, and Michael Moores of this world. What unites the Kerry army is hate for George W. Bush. Marching under the Michael Moore banner, they have no message except to get rid of the 43rd president. If this is a policy, I’m Monica Lewinsky. Their self-righteous anger is negative and as dishonest as John Kerry’s false populism. Signing the Kyoto Protocol and adhering to the rules of the International Criminal Court will only weaken America and yield national sovereignty.

Which brings me to my choice, Michael Anthony Peroutka. Yes, I know, it sounds like a wasted vote, but is it? He is the nominee of a small third party called the Constitution Party. The point of voting for Peroutka is to help create an alternative. After all, there has to be a start somewhere and adhering to the Constitution as Peroutka advocates is a pretty good way to begin.

Peroutka defines his party as a Christian one dedicated to preserving the foundations on which the American Republic was based. He is predictably against abortion and gay marriage. Peroutka is also opposed to mass immigration, and he strongly supports national sovereignty. As Samuel Francis has written, Peroutka “is a charming and decent man of deep convictions and principle, has a ready grasp of the principles he supports and knows how to explain them.”

As it happens, National Review was founded 50 years ago next year. If anything, it looked like a quixotic effort at its birth. Yet 25 years later, Bill Buckley and his crew had managed to sweep Ronald Reagan into office. Peroutka’s presidential bid looks just as idealistic, perhaps even more so. What is a conservative Republican to do except send a message and, in the words of Buckley, yell “Stop” to runaway government?

Without big ideas, elections become about personalities—popularity contests, nothing more. Both major candidates are filching each others’ rhetoric and pandering. All that matters is the sell, not the content. Kerry is an opportunist sans pareil, Bush a man under the wrong influence. Vote for the real deal, Michael Anthony Peroutka.