In 1996, the first race on which I opined in print, the choices were pretty clear. If Bob Dole had defeated Bill Clinton’s re-election bid, we would never have learned the name Monica Lewinsky but also might not have experienced the great economic boom that put millions back to work and changed the welfare system as we know it.
The 2000 election represented democracy at its worst, with an unelected Supreme Court swinging the election to George W. Bush, a man who lost the popular vote by more than 500,000. The end result was eight years of terrorist attacks, a state of perpetual war and economic devastation that continues to this day.
In 2004, John Kerry fought an honorable and valiant campaign and, had he won, would have turned the direction of the country back toward peace and prosperity. A swing of a few votes per precinct in Ohio, and an honestly held election, would have made Kerry president and stopped the war and misery of the Bush years.
Four years ago, we elected a man who promised to change things. Barack Obama has kept most of his promises and the country is finally emerging out of the hole dug during the Bush years. Whether he did so quickly enough to win re-election will be decided next Tuesday, barring recounts, lawsuits or an Electoral College tie.
The point is that history has been unkind to the Republican plans to redistribute wealth upward and expand war and economic instability to all corners of the earth. The Democratic candidates, in each of the last four elections, have all promoted a policy of peace through strength and expanding the middle class so that all would benefit economically.
What worries me the most is that Mitt Romney looks and sounds very much like Bush in 2000. He sounds reasonable. He denies all attempts to portray his policies as radical. But he’s surrounded himself with pro-war, anti-middle class advisers who want military adventurism abroad and economic Darwinism at home.
Please don’t let yourself be fooled by Romney’s calm demeanor. Beneath that sparkling CEO smile and those words of compassion is an economic policy that would bury the middle class, reward the rich and send our military on conquest missions everywhere a real or imagined threat exists.
For various reasons, this could well be the last column in which I get to address potential voters in a forum such as this. I don’t want to waste the opportunity to remind you that a vote for the Republican agenda is a vote for misery, chaos, turmoil and death, while a vote for the Democratic program means a fair shake for everyone, an end to needless war and equal protection for all under the law.
The fact that Obama has been an imperfect president at best doesn’t diminish the fact that he kept most of the promises he made four years ago. He vowed to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and he did. He promised a universal health care program — and we have one. He said he’d go after terrorists — and Osama bin Laden is at the bottom of the ocean.
When he was seeking office, Ronald Reagan famously asked voters if they were better off than they were four years ago. The question this year is: Who will help guide you to a better situation four years from now? Is it going to be a return to the failed policies of the past or the honorable, compassionate, future-minded policies of the president?
Nearly all minds have been made up by now. The hurricane that was, at the time of this writing, threatening to devastate the Eastern Seaboard has wiped all other stories off the news. If there’s one thing cable news networks love more than a presidential election, it’s a scary hurricane.
If you find yourself, however, still undecided at this point, look at the record. Our country has fared better with the policies of Clinton, Al Gore and Obama than they have Bush and Dick Cheney. Romney is nothing more than a better-looking, less obviously satanic version of Cheney.
Right before the 1960 election, John F. Kennedy addressed a group of voters in Los Angeles. “In the presidential campaign of 1860, Abraham Lincoln wrote a friend, 'I know there is a God and I know He hates injustice. I see the storm coming, and I know His hand is in it. But if He has a place and a part for me, I believe that I am ready.’
“Now, 100 years later, the contest still is between freedom and slavery, we know there is a God and we know He hates injustice and we see the storm coming. We see His hand in it. But if He has a place and a part for us, I believe we are ready.”
For the sake of the nation, let us hope we accept the challenge and that we are ready for it. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance.