Exactly six weeks from today the United States will go to the polls to elect its next President. The stakes are high. Yet the campaign season has failed to generate enthusiasm on issues that affect most Americans. Enormous amounts of political and organizational energies have regretably been spent on debating records from the Vietnam War era. An exercise borne out of vindictive politics rather than a desire to see the body politic address the issues of the people.
But we still have six weeks. Hopefully there will be some straight talk on fundamental issues of domestic and foreign policy. On the domestic front I would like to know precisely how the spending numbers add up when dealing with the war in Iraq and domestic needs such as health care and education. Senator Kerry has made a simplistic argument of rescinding the tax-cuts for the wealthiest to pay for his proposals. The precision of that calculation is up for interpretation and to some degree incalculable because of the volatile situation in Iraq. President Bush has been more audacious in his pronouncemnts promising more funding for the social sector without addressing the sources for these funds.
On foreign policy Senator Kerry should provide more specifics on what he intends to do. Simply stating that he would do things differently is not going to be sufficient to beat an incumbent who enjoys good support in matters of foreign policy. There are other issues on the international scene than Iraq. I haven't seen any difference in policy statements on the middle-east, south-asia, africa, drug-trade in latin america, relations with brazil, relations with india, and the list goes on... The war on drugs is forgotten. I don't expect these issues to make headlines but I hope that at some level these differences are laid out. Both parties should realize that in a close election where the demographics is diverse and immigrant numbers are increasing it is beneficial to spell out these details. Even today immigrants vote for candidates who have favorable attitudes towards their countries of origin. Just look at the Cuban-American population.
If this is to be viewed as a battle between unilateralists and multilateralists then the latter have a heavier burden to carry. They have to not only expose the failures of the unilateralists but also exemplify the efficacy of multilateralism. With the polls reflecting unconventional numbers ( numbers for the incumbent rising as a foreign war deteriorates ) this burden requires creative handling, which is yet to be seen.
The next four years can indeed change the world. Will the pre-emptive doctrine survive or will Iraq be the final stop? How are Iran and North Korea to be dealt with? How long can the deficit be ignored? Many more questions hinge on the events of the next 6 weeks. I hope all citizens do their homework before they head to the polls.