The Possibility of Change in Washington

February 5, 2008

Today is Super Tuesday and we are all supposed to vote for the candidate who will bring “change” to Washington.  But what kind of change is actually possible?  Democrats wistfully long for an alternative universe in which Gore or Kerry had beaten Bush, but let’s seriously consider how our world would be different:

If a Democrat had been President for the past eight years….

1. No occupation of Iraq (although they all voted for it, Democrats would probably not have taken the initiative to falsify so much intelligence) .  Some of our contributors disagree, and have claimed that 

Secretary of State Holbrooke would not even have had Colin Powell’s minimal qualms about such a war.  And think about the pressure Gore would have received from the right, who still controlled Congress (not to mention the AM radio waves).  Gore would have been forced to show his toughness, his mettle.  I think our tendency to imagine Gore would have acted differently is a superimposition of the new and improved Nobel Laureate Gore on the old politician Gore.  Also, let’s not forget that Lieberman, who is a clone of Dick Cheney on issues of foreign policy, would have been vice president.

2. Serious action on global warming
3. A more forward thinking and lucid foreign policy which better preserves American hegemony
4. Marginally increased foreign aid to the world’s poor
5. No torture of detainees or spying on Americans

How it would be the same

1. Absurd wealth concentration: 2% of the world’s population controls 50% of the wealth and 50% of the world’s population controls less than 1% of the wealth
2. Well over 1.5 billion people living on less than 1 dollar a day.
3. Occupation of Afghanistan
4. Unconditional support for Israel
5. No serious attempt to deal with the consumerism and commodification which create the industrial conditions responsible for global warming.
5. All foreign aid is given out through the same, horrible USAID.
6. We continue to pursue free trade policies that manufacture poverty

This is just a short list.  There are obviously many more items for both.  I hope these lists can illustrate that when we say this election is a nonevent, it is not to suggest that there is literally no difference between parties or candidates.  The question is one of emphasis.  Most Americans believe the differences listed above are VERY important.  Indeed, they are all that matters, as to address problems on the bottom list is “unrealistic.”

The disagreement on the Left about whether or not to vote then comes down to a question of what voting means, what it entails as a personal statement and as a moral action.  Such a discussion is beyond me right now.  I am toying with some Marxist/utilitarian/deontological comparisons, but none are wholly coherent.

Rather than a philosophical analysis, how about some feedback: Are you choosing to vote or to “sit this one out?”  Why?

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