It’s a bit less than a year to the 2008 presidential election. Anything can happen.
As proof of that statement, anybody you asked on January 1, 2007 would have said that the Iraq war will be the dominant issue in November 2008. Ask that question today. Maybe not so much.
At least for now, the success of the change of strategy in Iraq leading to the so-called “surge”has taken Iraq off the front page. I have always believed that average Americans do not object to the U.S. being in Iraq. They object to the U.S. losing in Iraq. And for too long following the successful invasion, the ensuing chaos looked for all the world like a losing effort. Americans objected and voiced that objection, among others, at the polls in November 2006.
Assuming that progress continues in Iraq, the subject of the Iraq war — and the Bush administration’s role in it — loses a great deal of traction. Particularly for the Democrats.
So, under this scenario if it carries to Election Day ’08, what will we be voting on?
I think we’ll be voting on something infinitely more important and infinitely more uncomfortable.
We’ll be voting on what kind of a people we want to be.
If I were making the choice, I would say we want to be the kind of people who risked everything to come to this country in the first place. I believe we should be the kind of people who were willing to leave the relative comfort of the verdant east coast and forge westward across difficult terrain, building a vibrant continent on the journey.
I’d say we want to be the kind of people who are willing to bear the ultimate responsibility for our own lives. People willing to become sufficiently educated so as to offer value to prospective employers and thus earn our way in the world. I’d say we want to be the kind of people who don’t expect the government to provide for our old age, pay for us to go to the doctor or shield us from the consequences of our bad decisions.
I’d say we want to be free and self-reliant. Willing to assume risk in order to be free to reap a just reward.
I’d say we want to be the kind of people that naturally resist taxes. The kind of people who are willing to make politicians justify the taxes they take from us and to make wise use of our earnings.
I’d also say we want to be a people that will vigorously resist the efforts of fanatics and religious zealots from other countries to rob us of our way of life through the use of terror and mayhem. I’d say we want to be a people who stand up for themselves.
And I’d certainly say we want to be a people that believes that America occupies a special place in history and a special place in the world. A unique place as an exemplar of the value of individual freedom and individual opportunity.
But that’s me. Many of my fellow baby-boomers, either openly or somewhere deep down inside, don’t agree.
Three of those boomers are running for president.
They join a sizable number of Americans who believe that it is the government’s job to provide health care, a comfortable retirement and relief from the consequences of choosing to be unemployable (through the voluntary rejection of a government-provided high school diploma).
Risk-taking for these boomers and their heirs is fine. So long as the consequences of failure are mitigated by a government “safety net” and the consequences of success are taxed at a rate sufficiently confiscatory as to make those who are less successful less envious.
This line of thinking believes that the government should levy taxes in order to provide programs that shield us from the responsibility to provide for ourselves with regard to retirement and health care.
This group doesn’t believe in the fundamental goodness of the individual. They don’t believe that individuals are smart enough or resourceful enough to have full responsibility for their own lives. And thus they believe that the nanny state must institute programs and agencies that manage various aspects of our lives such as how we plan for retirement and how we purchase health care.
And very importantly, many from this group don’t believe that America is special. A beacon of hope and opportunity for a troubled world. Quite the contrary, in fact. They believe that America’s is the source of much of the trouble in the world. They believe that America deserves to be disliked by lesser nations and by those who would do us harm.
So, again assuming that Iraq continues to improve and assuming that the economy isn’t deeply in trouble, we’ll be voting for or against a set of beliefs more than we’ll be voting for or against an immediate set of circumstances.
It’ will be interesting to see what we believe.
That’s my word. What’s yours. Which set of core beliefs animates your politics? You Tell Me.