Editor's Choice Archive 1

Election 2004 -- Has America Missed a Great Opportunity?

By Patricia Keegan

There is something funereal about watching a presidential candidate stand before a crowd of supporters and courageously concede his quest for the highest office in the land.

Senator John Kerry was noble and valiant in his tough battle for the presidency. He came to the race with all the attributes that Americans would presumably look for in a candidate to negotiate a viable path to the new world of the 21st century.

No one ever legitimately questioned John Kerry’s intelligence, his experience, his patriotism, his character, or his sincerity, which combined to gave him a unique window on the world. He had seen the horrors and devastation of war, and one has to believe that he would use military power only as a last resort.

There were two paths offered in the election. We chose to stay the course offered by the Bush doctrine, advocating pressure on the Middle East to democratize, believing that everyone shares a primary desire for personal freedom, and that, we, as sole superpower should define and advance that goal for them.

So far, the two examples of how we would achieve that goal are the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. The first seems to have had some success in getting rid of the Taliban and holding elections. The second, however, is a calamitous disaster. We have destroyed an entire country to get rid of one man. While I was against this war prior to its onset, I believe we should have departed Iraq when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. According to latest estimates, 100,000 Iraqis and over 1,100 Americans have died. Meanwhile, we have a worsening security situation, failing police force, growing insurgency, and no viable exit strategy.

If a more globally inclusive approach had been the choice, we might see ourselves as part of a larger partnership with all of Europe. From this partnership would have evolved a fresh and more energized support for what needs to be accomplished, both in Iraq and in the war again terrorism. Because of Europe’s remembrance of two devastating world wars in one century, Europeans have come to reject war in resolving conflict, and that is exactly the direction toward which America should be leading in this 21st century.

But, like a waxing and waning moon that spreads light across the land and is gone, we have a missed an opportunity to see things in a global perspective. Some recognized the historic significance of this election, others deliberately blotted it out. Now, at a crucial turning point in history, we continue down the path of being unending victims of our own incompetence.

We now have a president who said in a post election press conference, “I cut my eye teeth in the first four years in Washington.” That statement is worrisome at a time when we most need a seasoned leader. Senator Kerry cut his eye teeth decades ago.

It is time for the “red states” across America to realize that the world of today begins with our hometown economic problems of jobs and education, but transcends local interests into a global perspective. The issues facing us cannot be honed down to gays, guns, and attempts to trivialize God in political debates. That is regressive! If we sincerely wish to frame our aspirations under a moral values construct, we must begin by stating that unprovoked war is immoral. The obliteration of human rights is immoral, capital punishment is immoral, the continuous exploitation of the environment is immoral, corporate stealing of employee pensions is immoral, and on and on. The list reaches far beyond the three G’s: Gays, guns and God.

So why were the results of this election so diminishing? We have head pundits say that Republican strategists mined the intolerance and ignorance of the electorate. I think that unfair. Madeleine Albright, in her final year as Secretary of State, pointed to the problem that Americans, in general, know little about foreign policy. Therein lies the void that must be addressed. Our policy toward each and every country should be on the table, in the light of day for all to see. Front pages of local papers should carry international news. Unfortunantly, our media is firmly under corporate control. Pertinent questions are not being asked. TV viewers are manipulated, so how does information get to Americans so they can make informed decisions. Church pulpits are trending toward filling the void. Isolationism, combined with fear, is the outcome of this limited world view.

At this point, we should be moving forward in our efforts to win hearts and minds, yet we seem to be moving backwards -- regressing to small-minded parochialism and intolerance. But now, more than ever, is the time to keep our vision alive. We must get behind strong voices in Congress, including Senator John Kerry, who is more intimate with America than ever before and “has our back.” We have strong Democrats and strong, moderate Republicans who will continue to fight for progress, balanced by reason.

Though the light of optimism may be dimmed for awhile, the strength and energy of our inherent idealism must address these problems and overcome this staggering setback.