The Great Debate

I mentioned in my last post that I am excited about the upcoming election.  Here is one reason why.  I think that it’s a great opportunity to have a real conversation about foreign policy, and the real and honest differences between the way liberals and conservatives view the world.

Let’s face it – if this race ends up being about domestic policy, Obama will win.  McCain has made it abundantly clear that he isn’t interested or knowledgeable about the economy.  He has no particular economic policy, beyond the fact that Grover Norquist tells him that tax cuts are good.  He’s in favor of preventing global warming, but not in favor of actually doing anything to make it happen, especially not if it takes the form of reducing subsidies to the companies that pump the petroleum from the ground which is responsible for it.

But I hope this doesn’t happen.  Stephen, over at Cogitamus, wrote a post yesterday saying that he sincerely hopes that the campaign doesn’t become a discussion on age, because McCain can surround himself with young, vital types, much like Bush surrounded himself with older, smarter, experienced Washington hands to prove that it didn’t matter if we elected a semi-retarded monkey not particularly intellectually curious fellow, because the grown-ups would be in charge.

I take a different tack on this – I also hope that the campaign isn’t about age, because although I think it’s a race that we can win, it’s not a win that matters, long-term.  The whole point of an election, to my mind, is that you don’t want to fool people into voting for you.  You want to convince them into voting for you.  That way, when you try to implement your policies, you can make an honest argument that it’s what you were put in place to do.  Remember how, in 2005, President Bush, fresh off his re-election that was based, in the main, on getting out the vote by driving up fear of terrorist attacks and gay marriage, tried to use that as leverage to destroy Social Security?  Well, he lost, partially because of the extraordinary efforts of Nancy Pelosi, but also partially because he had no credibility on this issue, because it hadn’t been an important one in the campaign.

Similarly, if the Democrats win a campaign based on age, or economic policy, or even on health care, it gives them no advantages they didn’t have before.  But if Obama can take on the Bush-McCain neocon worldview on foreign policy, and win that election?  Well, that’s man-bites-dog.  That’s news.  That’s the sort of thing that will make a real difference in the tilt of the election battleground in the future.

And so, I hope that Obama continues his practice of doubling down on his policy prescriptions that are not conventional wisdom.  It’s a risk, but I think the possible rewards are worth it.

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One Response to The Great Debate

  1. Shane says:

    The difficulty in having a debate about foriegn policy is that many (most?) voters don’t know much about the world at large, and certainly don’t understand the intracacies in foreign relations. Would it be nice to hear a well intentioned, good faith debate? Absolutely. But that will never happen. Instead we’ll get the back and forth of “I’m right, my opponent is wrong” and people will support whichever mentality fits their preconceptions.

    The reason that domestic policy will dominate this election is that people can relate to it… Whether it be losing a job, or knowing someone who does; or not having health care when sick; these are things that people can connect with…

    People can’t connect with whether our President should talk to the President of Iran, who doesn’t have the same authority, even though he has the same title.

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