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The Change Election


 

No matter how you look at it, Americans will choose their next president by assessing the top of the ticket, and, more specifically, the policies, the values, and the vision they espouse. Both candidates are now proposing an agenda of change, and experience is becoming less and less a decisive factor. The choice of Sarah Palin contributed to this new reality and the choice of Joe Biden helped reduce the vulnerability of Barack Obama on the experience issue. To better comprehend the choice involved, it will be essential that Americans compare John McCain and Obama far more than they do their respective running mates.

Since January, this blog has consistently identified change as the major factor in this election. This is why I have favoured an Obama victory, even over a strong and capable candidate such as Hillary Clinton. The change promoted by Obama is transformational, while Clinton promoted a more transactional version. I also believed that McCain represented the best choice and the best hope for the Republicans if they hoped to hold on to the White House, and argued that he was a change agent in his own party. Until the Republican convention, it was shaping up as change versus experience. But now it is all about change and the difference has to do with what kind of change.

Presidential elections have a lot to do with character and personality and there is ample evidence that this can be more important that policies. The management of an election campaign—which lasts close to two years—can illustrate to some degree the kind of administration the winner will implement. This is why it is fair to say that election campaigns in presidential contests do matter.

When we look at the character and personality of McCain and Obama, it is clear we can see contrasts. One represents a generation that lived the culture wars and participated in an actual war (Vietnam), while the other represents a post-Vietnam reality. McCain is said to be pre-baby boomer and Obama, while chronologically a baby boomer, represents the so-called millennials. It is said that an Obama victory will result in a generational shift; we can now assume that, should McCain win and Palin become vice-president, the Republicans will have provided their version of a generational shift. Overall, however, both McCain and Obama represent fundamental, time-tested values of family devotion and love of country. Choosing on the basis of values will be difficult because each in their own way passes the presidential test.

The difference has more to do with the orientation each would bring to the country. Here, the contrasts are also evident but they are much more determining. On tax cuts, McCain would continue the Bush program while Obama would bring middle class tax relief. On the economy, there is nothing significant in the McCain plan for stimulus other than what has already been proposed by George W. Bush. Barack Obama, on the other hand, clearly seems to be heading in a different direction and his challenge will be to communicate it in ways that contrast sharply with the position of the McCain-Palin ticket. He has not accomplished this as of yet. On the question of energy independence, John McCain is a late convert to offshore drilling and to alternative energy sources, but after 26 years in the Senate and a voting record contrary to his current positions, it is difficult to be convinced that change is on way. Obama does not exclude offshore drilling, but presents a more comprehensive package that appears more in-line with the compelling plan presented by oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Obama’s goal of reduced dependence on foreign oil seems less improvised than that of his opponent.

The issue of healthcare is probably the area where McCain and Obama differ most. Back in 2000, McCain and Bush promoted essentially the same policies they are promoting today. Greater tax credits and greater choice, but very little about accessibility, coverage, and nearly nothing about compassion for those uninsured. At that time, Al Gore and Bill Bradley, both Democrats, were arguing for greater coverage, more compassion, and a more active government role in reducing the number of uninsured. They were not promoting Canadian-style medicare—they were advocating direct access to the existing government programs offered to government employees and access to new programs. In the year 2000, we spoke of 36 million people who were uninsured in healthcare. Eight years later, we are at approximately 45 million. McCain offers fundamentally the same approach that he advocated in 2000, but Obama’s policy is seen as a realistic and attainable plan which would reduce and possibly eliminate the number of people who have no health insurance. He intends to support this approach by eliminating the Bush tax cuts that favour the rich—cuts that are now endorsed by McCain.

Regarding the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can argue that their current positions are starting to converge. Obama’s idea of a timetable for withdrawal is favoured by the Iraqi government and is looked on favourably by the Bush administration. McCain does not favour a timetable, but agrees with Obama that more troops must be deployed to Afghanistan. The big difference between the two has less to do with the possible end of the wars, but more with the beginning of those conflicts. Both McCain and Obama agree that the war in Afghanistan was a good decision while Iraq is another matter. McCain was for the war before it began and now takes credit for the surge and its success. Obama was against the war and argued that going into Iraq would mortgage success in Afghanistan and victory against Al-Qaeda. The evidence suggests Obama was right and the American population seems to agree.

Granted, there has been some excitement in the past ten days around the McCain-Palin ticket. Yet, when we probe deeper, we see clearly that McCain intends to continue along the same intellectual path on all the major issues affecting the United States over the past eight years. I like McCain, and I believe he is a fine man, but should he win the election, change would be mostly in tone—and perhaps in manner—but certainly not in substance. An Obama-Biden victory would clearly represent a break from the past policies promoted by the Bush-Cheney administration. Will America be different in four years? Will it regain its moral leadership in the world? The choice is between where we are and where we want to be.


 

The Change Election

  1. “…while Obama would bring middle class tax relief.”

    Nobody believes Obama will bring middle class tax relief.

    Obama … argued that going into Iraq would mortgage success in Afghanistan and victory against Al-Qaeda. The evidence suggests Obama was right… That is a non-sequitur and there is no “evidence” to suport it. It’s an unsupported democratic talking point.

    McCain-Palin, being mavericks within their own party, will bring about change, even though they are Republicans. Obama-Biden will bring about change, but the change they will bring is conventional democratic big-government approach to problems which doesn’t have widespread appeal. Obama’s policies appear positioned well to the left of the Clinton administration.

  2. Will America be different in four years? Will it regain its moral leadership in the world? The choice is between where we are and where we want to be.

    Who is “we”? I thought you were a Canadian. Or are you doing a Michael Ignatieff?

  3. Jarrid: “McCain-Palin, being mavericks within their own party…”

    Sorry, you lost me.

  4. “Joe Biden helped reduce the vulnerability of Barack Obama on the experience issue.”

    It is arguable if Biden has reduced Obama’s vulnerability but he’a a walking gaffe machine. Biden’s best so far was to ask the guy in a wheelchair to stand up the other day.

    “Granted, there has been some excitement in the past ten days around the McCain-Palin ticket.”

    The race has been totally transformed and you write about ‘some excitement’ but I guess we should be glad that you acknowledge the change at all.

    “Yet, when we probe deeper, we see clearly that McCain intends to continue along the same intellectual path on all the major issues affecting the United States over the past eight years.”

    McCain is a conservative so of course he’s going to have the same intellectual path as Bush. But what you are leaving out is that both McCain and Palin have history of doing what they think is right. McCain = Abramoff scandal, Gang Of 14, calling evangelicals ‘agents of intolerance’, McCain-Feingold.

    Palin has taken on the heavyweights in the corrupt Republican Alaska branch.

    Obama/Biden just go with the flow and do nothing about trying to clean up their own party. It’s more of the same. More regulation, more taxes, more lobbyists. Nothing’s going to change with those two clowns and they don’t represent change because they sound exactly like every Dem nominee going back to Johnson, except Clinton of course.

    And I agree with Dot, who’s ‘we’.

  5. Good luck with the CHANGE argument Republicans. When the experience argument didn’t seem effective enough, Hillary sought CHANGE as well. We know how that campaign ended. Now if Palin could just figure out what the Bush Doctrine is… (I’m not saying I could come up with much of respone either… but i’m not running for VP)

  6. Blues Clair

    I think Hillary/change is different because her and Obama basically had the same policies and she’s been around for years. She had to stick with experience because that’s what she represented. And don’t forget that Hillary did pretty well at the end, when she was ‘change’ candidate.

    McCain/Palin can present themselves as being different because they have record of not following party line, which Obama/Biden don’t, and they do represent ‘change’ in a way that’s seems to be resonating with American voters at the moment. And Palin is clearly inside Obama’s head causing him to make school boy errors.

    Palin is to Obama what Obama was to Clinton. A dark horse with little ‘experience’ claims the brass ring while the other one is left standing holding ashes.

  7. I’ll just have to take your word for it jwl, as you provide no examples of McCain (who you know voted with Bush 90% of time) not following the party line.

    “I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn’t a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn’t a governor for a short period of time.”
    – Senator John McCain
    Oct 2007

  8. “It is arguable if Biden has reduced Obama’s vulnerability but he’a a walking gaffe machine”

    Was Biden the one who didn’t know how many houses he had? Or the one who didn’t know what the Bush doctrine was? Does Biden keep talking about Czechoslovakia? Is he the one who can’t remember if he supported a bridge to nowhere or not?

  9. Jarrid:

    Since Bush has been in office, government and government spending has actually increased. So this Republican idea that they will reduce govt. is, pardon my french, b*****t.

    McCain promises to continue the Bush tax cuts that affect only the richest Americans. What not offer tax cuts across the board?Well, I guess someone has to pay for the that costly error in Iraq… why not the middle class?

    And Palin, actually increased the sales tax in Alaska by 2%.

    So McCain , who voted 90% with Bush, is now going to change Washington. How exactly? Will he eliminate earmarks? Well, he promises to do so. He should ask Palin all about it as she was very good at lobbying Washington to get some for her own state.

    Wow, Jarrid, real mavericks indeed. They same one thing and do another.No wait, that’s the same Washington BS all over again.

  10. Jwl:

    How exactly did Palin take on the corrupt Republican politicians? She hired a Washington lobbyist to get earmarks for a bridge to nowhere. She got the money, abandoned the plan once Congress had shut it down and then kept the money anywhere. Sounds like she was the “corrupt Republican politician.” And about what Troopergate? Oh, no, she’s real honest and she will bring this honesty to Washington. Please, she’s not a pitbull, she’s just a good ole boy in a skirt…

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