Sunday, July 11, 2004

Dear Readers,

This week John Kerry picked John Edwards as his running mate and the run-up to the 2004 Presidential Election has officially begun. We have decided to devote all of our essays up until election day to issues directly pertaining to the candidates and their platforms. This week we begin with differing predictions on the outcome of the election and in the next few weeks we will go into more depth on the candidate’s specific economic and social policies, as well as their foreign policy proposals. We look forward to a lively discussion surrounding what will certainly be one of the most important elections of our lifetime.

VOR

A Kerry-Edwards Landslide

Everyone knows political predictions are even worse than economic predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a big Kerry victory on November 2nd with the following (major) caveats: no major terrorist attack or unforeseen crisis occurs in the next four months and Bin Laden isn’t somehow killed or captured. Also, by landslide I refer to an electoral landslide, not a significant popular mandate. Here’s my reasoning:

1) John Edwards is going to help draw many Democrats in poor and rural areas who might not have voted and this will help shift the balance in Kerry’s favor in many swing states. Plus, his charm will work like magic among many suburban women who will also come to the polls in record numbers.

2) The economy is already cooling off and with high gasoline prices all summer long, Bush will not be able to claim economic victory as he had hoped for. In addition, although over the last few months the overall jobs situation has improved throughout much of the country, it has actually gotten worse in some of the key swing states such as Ohio.

3) Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq is unlikely to get much better any time soon and the probability of continued U.S. casualties is high. There are no more big events scheduled for Iraq between now and the election and people will quickly forget about Saddam’s trial and the transfer of sovereignty if there continues to be a steady stream of violence.

4) The vote on the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage is scheduled for the Senate and will do little to help Bush since the religious right is already firmly in his camp, but it will remind millions of gays, many of them Republicans, that they have an enemy in the White House. In addition, even many conservatives are offended that Bush has suggested doing something as radical as amending the Constitution for an issue that is largely semantic.

5) After the first of Bush’s TV commercials, in which a random Arab-looking man was shown while the narrator discussed the threat of terrorism (I guess they didn’t want to remind people that Bin Laden is still on the loose), many American Muslims have become even more suspicious that the administration is not sensitive to their fears and they disproportionately live in swing states.

6) The Bush administration’s record on the environment is arguably the worst in the last 30 years and although not a major issue at the moment (while people are preoccupied with terrorism and pink slips), it might resonate with people as the election draws near.

7) Women’s rights groups are justifiably concerned that a Bush second term will lead to a further erosion of reproductive freedoms both at home and abroad and they are working tirelessly to make sure women get out to vote.

8) Although Bush made inroads with Hispanics in 2000, his immigration policy has gone nowhere and he has alienated many Mexicans-Americans by largely ignoring the Mexico-U.S. agenda after 9/11. In addition, many young Cubans have been angered at the recent moves by the Administration prohibiting travel and mail service to Cuba (in order to bolster the conservative base of older anti-Castro groups) and this political strategy may backfire in Florida.

9) Kerry is promising young people a great boost in financial aid and scholarships for colleges and has been campaigning a lot on college campuses. In addition, the Rap mogul Russell Simmons has so far registered almost two million of the Hip-Hop generation and they are much more likely to vote for Kerry than Bush.

10) Many "old-school" Republicans have been greatly disturbed by what they perceive as the damage Bush has done to established conservative ideals, such as running a record deficit and getting involved in a massive nation building exercise without the proper planning, and they may very well turn on Bush, or perhaps simply not vote.

11) There are a slew of reports scheduled to come out this summer with respect to intelligence failures and none of them are likely to reflect well on the Bush administration.

12) Kerry proposes to rescind the tax cuts for the top 3% of the population earning over $200,000 a year and use this money for a major expansion of public health care. If the public is clear on this issue there is no doubt that they will side with Kerry.

13) Last, but not least, from the moment Bush took office and refused to divulge the names of the people comprising his “energy task force” (I bet Ken Lay’s name is prominent among them) to the vindictive outing of the CIA operative to the continued misinformation about the links between Al Qaeda and Saddam, the Bush Administration has been continually associated with secrecy, evasion and deception. We’re not just talking about who someone had sex with, but issues of the most serious nature and Bush’s main advantage entering office, that he is a “straighter-talking” honest man, no longer holds with the majority of Americans. This will ultimately prove to be his Achilles Heel.

In summary, by any and all standards this election should’ve been a slam dunk for Bush. If he had actually acted more conservatively, both on the domestic and international front, I don’t think a Democrat would’ve had a chance. The fact that his approval rating is the lowest since he took office, way below 50%, seems to indicate that his days as President are numbered. The fact that Kerry’s approval ratings are not higher at this juncture is due to the fact that the public is first deciding whether they want four more years of Bush in office and the answer is no. With Edwards now on the ticket and his hands on the largest “war chest” for a challenger in U.S. Presidential history, Kerry has plenty of time and resources to make his case that he is the rightful successor.

On November 2nd we’ll see if I could make a living as a fortune teller or if I should consider a new hobby.

J.S.


Why Bush Will Win in November

Sometimes, if you believe in something enough, you decide that it must be true. Such is the psyche of Democrats leading up to the November election. Democrats have long memorized and recited the many failures of the Bush administration, from the trumping up of flawed intelligence about WMD to the economic downturn, with under funded social programs and the Patriot Act not far behind. While Democratic critiques range from reasonable (tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the top 1% percent of taxpayers and lead to huge deficits may not be the right way to grow the economy) to the over dramatic (The Bush administration has destroyed our credibility around the world), the nature of their insistence that Bush not be re-elected has taken on an almost messianic air. After all, a breathless liberal told me the other day, “even people in those red states have to see what’s going on. I mean, don’t they know what’s going on?” What started out as a bold statement ended up as something weaker, as if she was questioning the very sanity of her fellow Americans. Since many Democrats argue over the very legitimacy of the Bush presidency they find it very hard to understand how anyone could ever support Bush, so they conclude that “they”(red state people) just don’t understand. Despite a virtual deadlock in the polls, Democrats remain confident that they are finally going give George Bush a “one-way ticket back to Crawford, Texas.” I’m not so sure. I predict a narrow Bush victory in November and here’s why:

1.Bush has endured the worst period of his Presidency and is still polling even with Kerry. Recent polls have showed a dead heat or a slight Kerry/Edwards advantage. But after the Iraq intelligence mess and daily death toll, the 9/11 hearings, Michael Moore’s movie, and several scathing books and newspaper exposes, aren’t Bush’s poll numbers surprisingly resilient? Learning from his dad’s losing re-election bid, the President has catered to his base and is reaping the rewards. Bush’s support among conservatives and Republicans is still very high and benefits from the contrast of the most liberal Senator in America, John Kerry. Absolutely nothing in the polls indicates a Kerry landslide, or any landslide at all for that matter.

2. Bush is an excellent campaigner and fundraiser who is just warming up. For all the vitriol Democrats spew about Bush, they forget about what a skilled and successful politician he is. He defeated a very formidable Ann Richards in his first try for Governor and won reelection easily after his first term. He “won” the debates against Al Gore and raised ungodly sums of money by effectively utilizing his “Pioneers” and “Rangers” who bundled large sums of cash for him. Kerry is also raising money well, but is less exciting to his base. After all, the euphoria surrounding Edwards this week told us as much about the Democrats’ concerns with John Kerry as anything else.

3. Iraq may have turned a corner. Liberals and anti-war critics underestimate the achievement of the handover on June 28th. By putting an Iraqi face on the new government, we have already taken an important step in the reconstruction of Iraq and perhaps even the entire Middle East. While Americans are still providing security, Iraqi forces are increasingly becoming involved in fighting the insurgents and maintaining law and order. For the first time since the war, Iraqis can look to their own leaders for accountability instead of the Americans. (The original Governing Council was a failure) This situation bodes well for American troops, who can now concentrate on more traditional missions rather than public works projects. The news out of Iraq will improve this fall and benefit Bush.

4. Swing state values will matter more than swing state job losses. While 3 million jobs have been lost since Bush took office, over 1 million have been restored (of course with less benefits and pay in some cases) The economy has been on the upswing the last few months, despite the disappointing jobs reports last month. The hearts and minds of voters in Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and other states will be up for grabs. When it comes down to it, I think these voters will be more comfortable with Bush than Kerry. Kerry’s eloquence and penchant for nuance will actually hurt him in some places, while Bush will come across as representing the values of Middle America on guns, abortion, and gays. While Democrats can hardly fathom it, some people actually like Bush’s speaking style and manner.

5. There is always a chance for a July surprise. As a recent New Republic article indicates, the Bush administration is turning up the heat on the Pakistani government to hunt down Bin Laden and his deputies. The instruments of power are clearly with Bush on this issue, as we can expect a high value terror arrest or foiled plot to come between now and November. In the unlikely event of another attack, the country will once again rally around Bush and the election will be a moot point. Remember the post 9/11 approval ratings? The uncertainty surrounding terrorism actually favors Bush.

6. There is still time for Kerry to be successfully labeled as a tax raiser and a social liberal. While Kerry’s policies are hardly radical, the Bush campaign has already attacked his votes for higher taxes and against the Defense of Marriage Act. Kerry’s record is very clear on social issues, as he is against the death penalty (possible exception for terrorists), pro-choice (but personally maybe pro-life), and against gay marriage (sort of, he takes awhile to explain it). By the way, he also voted for the Iraq War but against the 87 billion dollars to fund it. Did I mention that the Republicans have labeled him a flip-flopper? Even staunch Democrats have to admit that Kerry’s record can be confusing, so what will swing voters think? Bush has the time and money to define Kerry in minds of the most important voters, and he has a lot to work with.

In the end, this election will hinge on Iraq and the economy, and both bode well for the President based on my analysis. On secondary factors such as likeability and social issues, I see a slight Bush advantage as well. I didn’t criticize Kerry for his slow start because I actually think that he doing the right thing by waiting until after the convention to start talking more about policy. In addition, Kerry’s VP choice was excellent in timing and logic. He has done many things well and is a great candidate. I am afraid that it just won’t be enough.

R.C

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