Kenneth Corn (United States, English teacher at AC)
As I was asked to write on my personal view concerning the forthcoming Presidential election in the USA by the editors of ‘United Words’, I thought that I’d start with a couple of clarifications. First of all, though I was born in Chicago, grew up in NY, and lived for some years in California, I have now lived for about half my life in Great Britain. I am both a citizen of the USA and as of about 2 years ago, a citizen of the UK. I vote in both countries’ elections. The second thing, as I am sure anyone who has seen the ‘Obama’ stickers on my bag will realise, I am not without my own bias. In fact, I’m proud of my politics, and I believe that everyone has biases and political viewpoints (whether they are aware of this or not). That said, here are some of my thoughts on 2008 election process that is underway, and which culminates on November 4th 2008:
• Let’s cast our minds back into pre-history; back 8 years ago to the year 2000 when most of you were not even ten years old. At the cusp of the new millennium. Back before 9/11. A different world; and a different world that might have been. In the election of 2000 Al Gore gained more votes than George Bush. Due to the vagaries of the American version of democracy where votes in the Electoral College determine who will become president (it’s a long story…), and equally due to various political shenanigans in the state of Florida (State Governor at the time: Jeb Bush, George’s brother), George W. Bush became president after a prolonged process that was only finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court a couple of months after the election itself. We would certainly be in a different world now if certain factors led to a different outcome and a Gore presidency. It’s an interesting, but ultimately fruitless game to play ‘What if?’, but I think it’s fair to say that the various wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and that vague intangible war on ‘Terror’ would not be happening now; certainly not in the same manner. This is something that we cannot know, but it does pain me to think ‘what if?’ when considering that election. Eight years is a long time.
• As for this one, I do believe that it is a crucial election that will mark an important historical turning point one way or another. The very fact of a black man running for President, and a woman running for Vice-President (though this has happened once before; Geraldine Ferraro in 1984) will mark at least a superficial change on the American political landscape. Is America ready and able to elect an African-American? This is a big question, and the race issue looms large even if it is only spoken of in hushed or coded language. Of course, Obama is half white (on his mother’s side), but there would undeniably be a black First Family in the White House if he is elected. To my mind it would be a sad reflection on the state of the American nation if they reject Obama; he is the most impressive American politician, bar none, that I have ever seen. I am too young to have known John and Robert Kennedy as living politicians, never-mind Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, etc. In fact, that ‘etc.’ is a sadly short list in the USA as it is in most countries.
• Beyond the personalities, I believe this to be a crucial election for both the United State’s standing in the world and indeed the entire world that still has to co-exist with this, the last hyper-power that still reigns in the early 21st century. What may happen with a changing world order is still decades (at least) away, and the USA remains the economic and military giant whose actions will affect every single person on this earth. Out of the 6 billion or so earthlings, only about 100 million Americans have the vote in this election. Only about half that number will actually vote. Issues of war and peace, climate change, wealth and poverty, amongst others are dependent on the whims of those 50 million or so Americans who will make this more-or-less democratic choice in November.
• As for John McCain and the Republicans, I find it hard to see what they can offer except for more of the same. I believe McCain has more integrity and (marginally) better politics than the gang of neo-conservative thugs that surrounded George W., but he remains a limited, mainstream Republican who supports the war in Iraq (his claim is that he is ready for the U.S. to stay there for another 100 years if need be), is very wealthy (via his 7 house owning wife) and sides with this elite group on economic approaches to America’s problems, and is now pandering to the religious right-wing/social conservatives that make up his party’s base. The selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate is no boon for women and certainly not to feminists (of both genders). She is a right-wing, virulently anti-abortionist, gun-toting, creationist who represents values that are entirely anathema (look it up) to any of the so-called Hilary Democrats that McCain is hoping to court in November. My sense at this point, before her convention speech in Minnesota tonight, is that this is a political miscalculation on the part of McCain and his campaign team. But again, there are a lot of right-wing, anti-abortion, gun-toting creationists out there in the USA. And they vote.
So, we shall see. The former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously quipped that, “a week is a long time in politics”. There are still 10 weeks until Election Day. An eternity. A lot can happen. And will. If nothing else, it should be fascinating. There will be debates, and these will shape voters’ perceptions of the candidates (most Americans are just getting back from their summer vacations, and haven’t really been paying much attention). We’ll see how the economy goes; ultimately people will vote with their pocketbooks in all but the most extreme cases. There could be an ‘October Surprise’; an invasion/bombing of Iran? A military confrontation with Russia?
Overall though, I remain optimistic and hopeful. On November 4th, the United States and the world will have a real opportunity for change; and change for the better. I hope that we will seize that moment. Wouldn’t that be something?
– United World College Student Magazine –