Monday, November 01, 2004

Whatever happens tomorrow 

The presidential campaign is drawing to a close. It's been fought under the shadow of two wars: the war on terror and (depending on your point of view) its extension or distraction from in Iraq, as well as the Vietnam War, not just on account of the never-ending search for parallels and lessons, but also because of the presence in the campaign of John Kerry, a man whose political life spans those two conflicts in a very physical as well as quite metaphorical sense.

Two days before the poll, do yourself a favour and read this long post by Isntapundit about
the true legacy of Vietnam. "Vietnam wasn't a strategic and military defeat. It was a cultural, intellectual and spiritual defeat from which America has not yet recovered. Our best chance to avoid repeating that disastrous history is to really understand it, which we have yet to do," he writes. And the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by left-wing propaganda into believing something else means that we still fail to understand the true significance of Kerry's candidacy.

In this context I'm reminded of the post I linked to yesterday by an Australian blogger,
the Currency Lad, who wrote: "It's possible that next week the American people will ask somebody to be the last man to die for a mistake. The man will be John Forbes Kerry. The mistake was the 1960s. Not the calendar entity - the relentless Julian odometer of time - but the fraudulent hybrid of moral relativism and civilisational self-loathing ignited in that era."

Only two more sleeps, as they say, and barring protracted legal challenges we should know the choice the American people have made. This election is notoriously difficult to pick. Most assessments agree that it might be very close and victory, whichever way it goes, will be narrow. But at the same time landslides can't be ruled out either (thus
Mark Steyn predicts a strong Bush victory while Australia's premier election prognosticator Malcolm Mackerras opts for a big Kerry win), because this is one of those rare times when quite possibly the extent of either the pro or the anti-incumbent feeling in the electorate is not accurately registering in the opinion polls. This is yet another reason why the November 2 poll reminds me of the October 9 Australian election. It doesn't necessarily mean though that in the United States, too, there is greater latent support for the right-wing incumbent than it's apparent in most of the pre-election research - although I certainly hope so.

It's become a cliche to say that whoever wins on Tuesday will have a hell of a job to do for the next four years. Will Bush's victory solve all the problems? Of course not; as the President himself say, it's going to be a long, long struggle. Four more years of George W will not bring us to a satisfying conclusion any more than four more years of Truman have ended the Cold War - and in the war on terror we're more at the Truman rather than the Reagan stage (although I think this one will not go on for 45 years). By the same token, would a Kerry presidency be an unmitigated disaster? Anything's possible - half a dozen American cities nuked, for example, or a multilateral "solution" that transforms a foreign conflict into regional conflagration - but it's unlikely. The corrective mechanisms of American politics make it very difficult for any one resident of the White House to stuff everything up completely. Setbacks yes - just think the Carter presidency - but followed by a renewed resolve; a sort of one step back, two steps forwards dance of American history.

Whatever the outcome on November 2, there will be a lot of teeth gnashing for months afterwards, from one camp or the other. The politically conscious strata of the American population is too polarised to allow the country to simply "move on" after the election. But although many dreams might end tomorrow, the history will not. Victorious or otherwise, we'll have to keep in mind that we're but little links in a long, long chain of struggle between freedom and tyranny, stretching from the antiquity to, hopefully (barring the Second Coming, nuclear war or a stray asteroid), well into the future. As such, it is our obligation to face the future battles with the greatest determination we can muster and despite any - momentary - obstacles that might fall our way.


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