It's a little more than seven weeks until we, as a nation, decide who we want (or, for many of us, don't want) as President of the United States.
A lot of noise is being made right now about the mechanics of the election -- paperless electronic voting vs. electronic voting with printed confirmation, punch voting vs. "connect the arrow" (can you believe, BTW, that the election coordinator who designed the infamous Florida "butterfly ballot" still has her job, and has designed yet another ballot for the same county for this election?), in-person voting vs. absentee. And yet, whatever the noise, the issue at the center is crucial, and the same as it ever was -- who do you want as your president?
Central also are the issues (though you'd never know it to watch the media coverage, obsessed only with character assassination): the economy, the war in Iraq, the "War on Terror," Social Security, Medicare, health insurance, women's rights, gay rights, the environment, and the list goes on and on. Chances are, neither major candidate (nor any of the minor ones) holds your same position on all of those issues. However, that is no reason to simply throw your hands in the air and not vote. This election is crucial to the future of the United States in the world, and the future of all her people. The numbers of poor and working poor are rapidly growing, the middle class is dwindling, the elderly are losing their benefits, reproductive rights are draining away, the environmental protections Clinton fought for are all but eviscerated and the United States, as an entity, is reviled in the world as never before. The economy is improving, but only if you are a corporation or an owner of large capital -- the typical working person's income has actually dropped some $1,500 in the past few years.
Secluded here in Los Angeles, I've been hard-pressed to believe that there is anyone in this country who doesn't see the massive failings of the Bush administration as I do -- when every single person with whom I come into contact is as disappointed in this presidency as I am, it is a startling thing to look at the polls and see a slight Bush lead. But my trip to the midwest this past week brought a clearer picture for me. After seeing a few of the "swing state" ads, after hearing regular people, many of whom are out of work or are slaving below the poverty line, speak with affection about Bush, or at least bewilderment about Kerry, who they see as soft, an "intellectual" and, incredibly, a liar (hello, pot, this is kettle...), I am less certain of a Kerry victory that I was a week ago. It seems incredible to me, but about half the country still really digs GWB.
I'm certain another week or so back in LA will shore up my confidence. In the meantime, please read these articles, and visit both the Kerry and the Bush campaign websites. And, for goodness sake, if you are in a swing state and are subject to the relentless attack ads (from both sides), visit FactCheck.org, so you can sort out the lies from the truth. Find out what is really going on in this country, how this administration is screwing regular folks, how an "ownership society" is really code for "screw the labor force."
I'll be back with more focused debate soon.
The articles here deal with the long-lasting legacy (read: stain) the first George W. Bush administration is likely to leave on the tapestry of American history, law and society, and what a second term might bring:
*A note. All of these articles are availible to read for free. Salon.com articles require you sit through a 15 second advertsiement in order to receive a "Day Pass" to Salon content. Other sites may do the same. It's painless, I assure you, and worth it.