With President Bush’s State of the Union speech and the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic primaries behind us, the election year is underway, and the choice could not be starker. The Democrats are obviously eliminating all moderates and anyone who espouses support for the campaign in Iraq, and Bush, for his part, is openly defiant. I believe that we have not significantly advanced from the stalemate of 2000, and that, at the end of the day, the election will split along cultural/religious lines and the polarization of worldviews. In foreign policy, this boils down to whether one believes that the war on terror is a major confrontation between good and evil and that America’s role is to liberate large parts of the world from the forces of tyranny, or that it is a matter of law and order to be pursued by police action under the supervision of international institutions. In domestic policy, it turns on the electorate’s choice between America as “the opportunity society” within a moral order versus the “paternal state” protecting the “have-nots” from the fundamental unfairness of a regime driven by the special interests of the “haves”.At this point, the Democrats have not settled their nomination, although it seems to be John Kerry’s to lose. Contrary to some, I believe a Kerry-Bush race would be the most distinctive choice of all possible match-ups, and Republicans should welcome it, at least those with the courage of their conservative convictions, because Kerry more than any Democrat represents the legacy of the paternal state and the antithesis of the opportunity society in domestic policy and the legacy of liberal internationalism abroad. It will not be easy, however, and Bush will need to solidify his base early, primarily by doing two things—convincing fiscal conservatives that he has reversed his profligate spending habits and convincing social conservatives that he will make the wedge cultural issues central to his campaign as well as his governance and take them back from the activist judiciary. Let the games begin.
You are here: / / 2004 Election Kickoff