Will the US Elections Bring Change?

The upcoming election is shaping up to be a crucial battle as more and more Americans become disgruntled and call for a change.

With disquieting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plunging paychecks, increasing debt, and lost jobs, cultural issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and racial politics-critical issues in national elections since Ronald Reagan-are losing their allure with voters anxious about real threats to their existence.

“Political coalitions get old just as people do,” says Morris Fiorina, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of the upcoming book, The Great Disconnect in American Politics. “The political structure is ossified, stuck in the controversies of the 1960s, and Republicans are in trouble because issues like race and abortion do not resonate as strongly with a new generation of voters.”

Obama represents change, which accounts for his appeal among young voters. In a poll conducted before the national Super Tuesday presidential primary at Stanford University, 53 percent supported Obama, 24 percent supported Clinton and 5 percent supported McCain. And the youth vote could make a difference in the upcoming election.

Daniel Wirls, professor of politics at UCSC and author of The Invention of the United States Senate, predicts that this election could bring a major turnout of young voters with a new perspective: They don’t view issues in the same way as older voters do. Comparing the candidates leaves Obama with many advantages, but young voters need to turn out where they will make a difference, in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan.

“This is the clearest example in modern times of a presidency defined by one thing and one thing alone-the war on terror,” says Wirls. “Bush’s popularity rose to 90 percent after 9/11 as people rallied around the flag. But the war ground on with little progress and began to be seen as a mistake by more and more people-even the economy didn’t become an issue until the past six months-and he continued to slide in public opinion polls.”

Americans are unhappy with the way things are going, but they are also extremely cautious. People want change but don’t want to upset the status quo; they want an end to the war but fear significant changes. They want economic change but are unsure about what a president can do to change the economy. And, although Americans want to hear something different, the candidates are moving toward the center to avoid frightening voters. Wirls wonders whether Obama’s moderation of his message will lead to a loss of the enthusiasm he created in the primaries.

“If Obama continues to pull his punches and moderate his positions, young voters will wonder about him,” says Wirls. “He only looks different in comparison to his competitor: McCain allows him to look different no matter what.”

While discontent is an issue in the presidential campaign, the war and the economy are in the forefront of voters’ concerns. Sheldon Kamieniecki, dean of social sciences at UCSC and author of Corporate America and Environmental Policy: How Often Does Business Get Its Way?, sees the economy as a more important issue in some states than the war. The energy crisis is tied to the economy and spills into environmental issues, as Republicans push for opening public lands and areas off shore to oil exploration. Health care, also tied to economic concerns, and education will also be important campaign issues.

McCain got off on the wrong foot by proposing offshore drilling and nuclear power, two unpopular issues many states including California and Florida. McCain’s campaign also appears confused. Instead of running as a maverick and a populist, his advisors are attempting to repackage him as a conservative, which doesn’t work. His supporters are not enthusiastic. Nationally, support for Bob Barr, the libertarian candidate, could siphon conservative Republican votes away from McCain. Will core conservatives stick with McCain and will Obama discourage youthful enthusiasts as he moves to the middle?

“We may be entering an era where both liberals and conservatives have extra room to change their positions on issues and not worry so much about their base,” says Kamieniecki. “Both sides may be more willing to move to the center in this election with less fear of losing their base. McCain started with a problem of his conservative base, but Obama’s main challenge is to broaden the base of traditional liberal support to reach business people and the white working class-the Reagan Democrats.”

After his successful visit to Europe and the Middle East, Obama appears to have many advantages; but the dynamic flow of a campaign can take unexpected turns. Few would have predicted that a Swift Boat Campaign would have derailed John Kerry, a seasoned veteran facing a president who went AWOL during the Vietnam War. Successful negative attacks by McCain, the bombing of Iran or other unforeseen circumstances could radically alter the campaign before November. Daniel Wirls warns, “Don’t think things are as they seem because there’s a good chance they won’t be.”

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of America Unhinged: Politics and Pandemic in the 2020 Election (2021). He can be reached at: monkerud@cruzio.com. Read other articles by Don.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on August 6th, 2008 at 6:14am #

    people who work for other people are serfs. they are not free. they are dependents.
    solzhenitsin was for eterne slavery of the working people.
    surely, eons ago there wasn’t serfdom/slavery, etc.
    in talking ab. changes, if serfdom/dependency doesn’t change even an iota, the change we will see under obama, wld be mostly cosmetic.
    of course, pentagon may kill/maim/make refugees in the next 8 yrs several mn people.
    and then a new charismatic leader emerges full of glittering generalities, verbal briliancies, sweet promises, etc.
    and more people get killed/abused…..
    thank u

  2. Susan said on August 6th, 2008 at 1:06pm #

    The US Elections and Change
    Tuesday November 7, 2006 was the midterm election day in the U. S., more than 40% or about 80 million Americans exercised their rights and cast their ballots in that day, which by the standards of this country was an improvement.

    The majority of those who participated in these elections, showed their discontent about the terrible things that happened inside the country and by the aggressive behaviour of their government around the world. They simply wanted a change.

    Republicans always expressed that they are not pro-corporations (but they are), and Democrats always stated that they work for the middle-class (but they do not). Hereby, they acknowledged that the U.S. society is a class society. In this society, which is undoubtedly capitalistic, the majority of people are workers, working people, unemployed, discriminated women, disenchanted youth, impoverished students, sweat-shop immigrant workers, poor and deprived who were poorly represented or not represented at all by their merits. They should organize and struggle for their rights.

    It is evident that without these progressive elements, the change which was viewed by 3 out of 5 voters – and of course it was the will of the majority of those 60% who did not participate in that election – will not take place.

    But what happened on that day was historically important and a step forward. The right wing politicians already have started their counter-attack especially through corporate-media, to neutralize the people’s achievements. To bring change, the American people have to be vigilant and continue their historic march toward progressive targets. This, will be good for them as well as it will be helpful for the well-being of all the peoples around the world.

  3. Max Shields said on August 6th, 2008 at 5:43pm #

    More of the Same, Packaged as Change
    Barack Obama and Afghanistan

    When asked in Berlin by CNN’s Candy Crowley whether he believed the United States needed to apologize for anything over the past 7 ½ years in terms of foreign policy, candidate Obama responded, “No, I don’t believe in the U.S. apologizing. As I said I think the war in Iraq was a mistake…”

    So what does our contemporary “charmer of change,” Barack Obama, propose regarding Afghanistan?

    In mid-December 2006, a charter member of the U.S. defense intellectual establishment and enthusiast of precision bombing, Anthony Cordesman, fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, advanced a set of proposals which would allegedly allow the U.S. to win the war in Afghanistan. The essence involves: far greater amounts of military and economic “aid’; the economic aid must be managed from the outside; the aid should focus upon projects like roads, water and to a lesser degree, schools and medical services; NATO allies especially slackers like France, Germany, Italy and Spain need to increase aid to Afghanistan; U.S. military forces are too small “to do the job” because of competing demands from Iraq and, hence, again those same NATO allies must provide larger, stronger and better-equipped forces to engage in combat (without political constraints); and as in Iraq, emphasis needs to be upon proper training of Afghan army and police forces. Cordesman wants the U.S. to furnish an additional $5.9 billion during the current fiscal year. In effect, Cordesman proposes nothing which has not long ago been suggested (even back in the days of Vietnam where the official clamor was for more “aid” and Vietnamizing the fighting).
    Candidate Obama appears to have adopted wholesale what Cordesman was proposing about two year ago with one qualification: Obama recognizes that the U.S’s traditional European NATO allies will not provide large numbers of additional fighting forces, hence Obama proposes rotating three divisions or about 10,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

    If we examine candidate Obama’s most important prepared foreign policy speech to-date, that given on July 14, 2008, we find the elements of what as president he might do in Afghanistan. He forthrightly casts his interest in Afghanistan purely in terms of “making America safer”:

    I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

    In other words, Obama is committed to “finishing the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” translated as the fight against “Muslim extremism.” Notwithstanding that this examplifies a worst case example of fallacious sunk-cost reasoning, George W. Bush and candidate McCain would not disagree. He continues

    Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That’s what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that’s why, as President, I will make the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win…. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, and more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights. …Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people.