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A good election to lose?

Peter Cranie, Green Party National Executive member, on the US election


We’ve woken up this morning to find that George Bush has been re-elected to the position he gained illegitimately in 2000. This time the US President does seem to have won the popular vote. In the last four years he has divided his nation and the world. His administration’s ideologically driven agenda has succeeded in doing more damage to international diplomacy than any other single event of the past sixty years.

As a social environmentalist, I knew a Kerry victory would have brought hope for international attempts to broker progressive agreements to tackle environmental issues. I know that Kerry would have been more cerebral, diplomatic and practical than a 2nd term Bush could ever be. However, on the substantial issues of international politics, little separated these two options.

We should all be consoled by a longer term prognosis – this was a good election to lose. Like the 1992 UK General Election, last minute expectations have been confounded, with the incumbent somehow winning the race. Why has Bush been re-elected? It is important for us to recognise polls suggesting that 70%+ of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein did have links to Al Qaida.

We need to look beyond the immediate priority of the Iraq question. Bush remains President of a nation with a debt saturated economy, dependent on economic support from the emerging superpower China and hamstrung by a hostile international community. Like Major in 1992 Britain, this is a crisis of his own making. He has an economic mess to clear up, and four years will not be enough. US voters have grown accustomed to economic success, and it will be upon this basis he will be judged in 2008. He has been set up to fail. The clean sweep of Republican victories leaves them in control of the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court. The Republican Right will take the blame for the events of the next four years.

John Kerry would have been more Carter than Clinton. A single term of a Kerry Presidency would have led to prolonged Republican dominance from 2008 onwards. We can instead expect Democrats to rebuild behind a potential Clinton campaign in 2008. On the left of the Democratic Party, Ralph Nader will once again be the target of Democrats looking for a scapegoat. The US Greens will continue to grow slowly, but lack national coverage. What we should expect is a New Democrat branding that will echo the Blairite revolution in Labour in the mid-1990s. The Democrats will remain the best of two bad options.

Republicans will see their grip on power erode. Compassionate conservatism, which draws policy from the Christian fundamentalists on the far right of their own party does not have long term solutions to the problems faced by the US. In a second term of Bush administration we can expect the ambitious right wing to prolong this period of global instability in the short term. My hope is that the financial reality will force Republicans to re-evaluate aggressive foreign policy. One thing is certain, the end of the US economic empire will be a worrying time for us all.


November 2004


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