Politics

I have been a good girl. I have avoided politics and world events for some time now, concentrating on what I most desired to write when I started this site. Still, there have been some tentative questions sent my way from those who found this site when I was initially dealing with the upcoming war in Iraq, and it has been a while, so…

Handicapping an American Presidential election more than a year before it takes place is an exercise for fools and masochists. Rather than look at the relative merits (or lack thereof) of assorted candidates, I would like to look at two core issues that must be dealt with by American voters in the next election.

One oft-noted characteristic of American politics is how the economy reflects on the President, even though the President has relatively little to do with the strength or weakness of the economy. In 2000 the world was witness to an incumbent Vice President losing the Electoral College vote while coming off of what was arguably the greatest economic boom in the nation’s history. Much has been made of how Al Gore essentially squandered his powerful advantages, and of course there is the on-going and moot non-debate regarding the Florida ballot; however, it is my contention that in 2000 one thing caused the Democratic candidate more pain than any other and that was the American voter finally seeing past the idea of the economy reflecting upon the relative merits of a Presidency. Failure to recognize this created an ideological blind spot for Gore and his campaign. They assumed strength of support that was not actually there and hence were vulnerable.

The upcoming election will not turn on the economy. For one thing the economy does appear to be improving and any candidate seeking to make hay against the incumbent by arguing the economy could be stripped of the weapons in his arsenal. Conversely the incumbent President can count only on less animosity and not some great ground swell of support from a resurgent economy. The 1992 admonition of “It’s the economy, stupid!” has lost its ability to motivate since the American voter finally seems to grasp just whom the word “stupid” actually referred to. The politics of Economy may yet return to the forefront, but not in this election. Bear in mind, of course, that I have been wrong before.

The obvious fulcrum of this election is the War on Terror, but it does not break down neatly in to a “for and against” dichotomy. For one thing all of the serious candidates opposing the incumbent President are essentially in favor of prosecuting such a war. Instead of promising to end the fighting and bring the troops home, they are arguing that they are better suited than the incumbent to handle the complexities and make the tough decisions. This is a shrewd move on the part of those seeking to unseat the current President. It is also an immense boon to the American voter.

These days I am a woman of leisure. I spend my time at the University, at the shopping malls, in the parks, at the movie theaters and the like. I spend my time listening. What I am hearing gives me hope. Americans, whether they are old or young, concerned of the world, or hedonistically aloof, seem to have a fairly firm grasp of what is at stake, a far better understanding than either the media or the politicians give them credit for. They fear the war, some even despise it, but consciously or subconsciously, they all understand what is at stake.

So the stage is set.

There is no certain method to determine if any given event is a cultural or historical turning point. One can see the signs, the hints of gravity surrounding events, but it is history and history alone that passes final judgment on such matters. Still, I can taste the suspense in the air surrounding this election, not only from the fanatical fringe elements of the political spectrum, but from all corners.

The question of this election is who can best prosecute this war to a successful conclusion. The best choice is by no means clearly defined. While I have been generally approving of the conduct of the current President I do hear the criticism of those who claim he has failed to make a strong case for sacrifice in the pursuit of the enemies facing the West, and I do not find their concerns to be unfounded – premature perhaps, but not unworthy of debate. For without the commitment of the American people this war can most assuredly be lost, and with that loss the best hope for the future of humanity could be lost as well.

At the peak of the power of the Roman Empire you would have been hard pressed to find any who would openly entertain the idea that Rome could fall, that her power could evaporate, that she could cease to be the center of the world. Oh, certainly there were some for the Romans had been taught the classical meaning of Tragedy by the Greeks, but by and large the response to such a notion would be to cast about and point to the magnificence, the wealth and the power on display as if that were all the response required.

You Americans are subject to the same sort of blindness. If the troops come home and Iraq is left a chaotic mess in the hands of some feeble United Nations protectorate, so what? What impact would that have on the average American? Would there be no television? No Super Bowl? No tacos at midnight? No Senior Prom? What would be the evidence that some classic Tragic Flaw had been allowed to go unchecked and uncorrected?

Again, history would have to be the judge.

Yet as I listen I discern the evidence of understanding: the realization that for good or ill the die is cast and to withdraw now would be folly of the most egregious sort. It is an uneasy sort of acceptance for this generation of Americans is not so accustomed to the concept of non-retractable acts. You are used to the concept of Warranty, and Insurance, and the protection afforded by the skilled attorney-at-law. Nonetheless, you are aware that a line has been crossed and most of you seem to understand that it was not your political leaders who crossed it.

The political process in America is chaotic by design and this causes some discomfort for those who feel they know with absolute certainty what should be done regarding the War. That the conduct of the War should be at the mercy of the political process at such a critical juncture makes many people uneasy regardless of their political orientation; however, this is the proper place for this debate. It belongs squarely in the political arena of a Presidential election for this is the only way for the clear consensus of the American people to be heard. The notion to fear is that no such consensus will emerge, but I suspect that will not be the case.

Americans need to become deadly serious regarding this struggle. You need to understand what is at stake, and what may be required of you as a people and a nation. At this moment in history America stands at the apex of world power. You are the wealthiest nation on Earth. You are the most productive people on Earth. All who hunger for education and desire to be at the cutting edge of research and discovery in the hard sciences seek after your universities. Your military power is unmatched. Your culture is unique in the world in its regard for the rights of the individual and its glorification of individual initiative and effort.

You Americans consume so much. You Americans produce so much. But that is not enough. You Americans are being called to step in to the cross hairs of History, to Stand To and march deliberately in to the crucible. The mission of forging a hopeful future for all of humanity is yours because there is no one else who can shoulder that task. Only you have the power to act. Only you have the treasure to spend. Only you have the cultural and political philosophy that can lead and prevail in this fight.

So, if the war is the central point, what is the question? Simply this:

Will you be warriors? Or will you be slaves?

Americans need to choose a President who can stand before them and tell them that there are real sacrifices to be made. Not higher fuel prices, not extra hassles at the airport, but Sacrifices with a capital “S”. Loved ones overseas. Loved ones lost. Lives on hold and dreams deferred or lost forever. Americans need to choose a President who can tell them these things and explicitly trust them to understand. You need to choose a President who will trust you to step up to the challenge.

You Americans need to understand that such leaders do exist, that there are some small number amongst those who will stand for election in November of 2004 who can do this. There are also several who cannot.

Choose wisely.

6 Responses to “Politics”

  1. to the concurers gos life, to thoughs who dissagree, death or worst, so be first and finelly, disarm for all or nothing. You can forgive your self, for your thoughts or your words, even your deeds, but all mighty God WILL NOT. so now it is your turn, turn it into something Great, all otherthers bless you, and them.

  2. I linked this piece just before the President’s speech tonight and I have to wonder if you saw anything tonight that might fulfill some of what you were looking for?

  3. The speech was a necessary one, and it certainly came across as rather clear-eyed and earnest. Beyond that it is simply too early to tell.

  4. A rousing call, MD?

    It is very true that what is required to make what is possible happen is far more than the vast majority of us have given.

    And the people of the United States are the only ones in any position to make that decision.

    I wonder, as a species, if we are ready for it.

    The choice in front of us is sacrifice for the good of humanity or hold on to our #1 standing for as long as possible.

    If we take the steps towards trying to lift the planet to our level, we will no longer be on top.

    Perhaps I’m just pessimistic, but I think we’ll make a noble try, and fail.

    That doesn’t mean that the noble try won’t be worth it.

    It sure beats hanging on to be selfish – and the experiences will be good for the species.

    I wonder if we’re even talking about the same thing.

  5. Just found your site through Dean’s World.

    I just want do say thank you for giving words to many of my thoughts.

    I’ll be a regular.

  6. The above comments were first posted on 09/07/2003, 09/07/2003, 09/07/2003, 09/08/2003, and 09/14/2003, respectively, before being re-posted here this morning.