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What's At Stake In This Election

Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Four years ago, I was confident that Kerry would win, and I was wrong. Brazen Hussy has never forgiven me for it. Looking back, I let my desire for Bush's defeat cloud my judgment. This cycle, I am considerably more confident that Obama will win, and have said so repeatedly.

By any objective measure, the last four years have been a total mess, and by the usual pattern the incumbent party should be turned out of office. Most political forecasting methods suggest a narrow to comfortable Democratic victory in 2008 - which is what happens when you have a weak economy, an unpopular president, and 80% wrong-track numbers. My only real concern has been that an unknown number of Americans who might otherwise vote for a Democrat might not vote for Barack Obama because of his ethnicity. I suspect that most of those people wouldn't vote for any Democrat, but you can't be sure until election day. I've not always been happy with Obama's strategic decisions, but on the whole it's been a good campaign.

I refuse to over-react to the polls. I've said many times that the polls are going to bounce around a great deal after the two conventions before setting down around the time of the first debate. I expect Obama to do quite well in the debates, and alleviate some of the concerns about his candidacy. I also refuse to take the importance of any running mate selections too seriously - people don't vote for president based on running mates.

But McCain is keeping this election close, and has a chance to win.

This election is a test case for me. It's when I'm going to make up my mind about some things. I could give the American people and the democratic system in this country excuses in 2004, because after 9/11 people were (naturally) freaked out. But the vast majority of Americans now say that they're very dissatisfied with the direction of the country. McCain has been a loyal member of the governing majority that has chosen that direction. Hence, his election to the presidency should be nigh impossible. Should be.

And if McCain wins? Do I decide that the American Republic is so hopelessly corrupted, so easily led astray by ridiculous (and let's be honest, evil) campaign appeals to xenophobia, group loyalties, fear and hatred? Is the media coverage of American campaigns so valueless, so compromised, that a fair election is impossible? Is the Republic essentially broken?

I think this election really comes down to one simple question: are Americans still capable of governing ourselves? If the electoral process does not discipline the party in power after repeated failures, then how is any democratic accountability possible? If Obama wins, then there is reason to believe that the system, however creaky, still works. If he doesn't, then there is equally reason to believe that what has historically been true about this country is no longer true; that our democracy is no longer self-correcting.

Which is a very scary thought, isn't it?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:34 AM
  • This is EXACTLY what is scaring me so much. If McCain wins, then I am not sure what hope one can possibly have for representation and accountability. Or (in my darker moments) democracy generally. Which is why I very well may develop my first ulcer in the next two months.

    By Blogger Maggie, at 11:17 AM  
  • Personally, I'm impressed that you still have the confidence in the system that you do. I gave up after 2004, and that was after the mess that was 2000. I quit teaching governance because I could no longer believe the system worked.

    I'm thus much less optimistic about getting the Bushies out of office. I hope a lot, but I'd not take that bet.

    By Blogger Belle, at 9:08 PM  
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