The alleged key elements of President Bush’s 2004 re-election strategy have been recently revealed. The president apparently intends to emphasize the war against terrorism and homeland security. For many, this was no surprise since it has been clear since Sept. 11, 2001, that the war against terrorism is as much about moving a domestic right-wing political agenda as it is about fighting terrorists.
Since 9/11, Americans have been subject to a failed military strategy in Afghanistan, which has done little to destroy Al Qaeda; we face regular terror alerts that are about as helpful as knowing that someday our sun will go supernova; and finally the beating of war drums regarding Saddam Hussein, despite the failure – at least as of this writing – to reveal any concrete evidence of possession of weapons of mass destruction. Rather than feeling more secure, most of us feel less secure.
What is striking about this strategy is that it ignores the domestic situation. This is far from surprising since Mr. Bush has a failed domestic strategy, to say the least. At its clearest, the strategy is pro-corporate. The administration came into office applauding corporations and claiming that they had received a bad rap. During the first two years, however, we have borne witness to historic exposures of corruption at the highest levels of corporate America. This has been accompanied by a sluggish economy, low levels of consumer confidence, and the steady disappearance of anything approaching a social safety net.
Yet there is little discussion of this crisis. Nor is there real discussion about environmental deterioration and the growing proof of global warming, or of the healthcare crisis that continues to witness more than 40 million uninsured.
For reasons that probably have mostly to do with fear, President Bush remains popular here at home. By contrast, around the globe the level of unease is astounding.
The unilateralism and arrogance of this administration has everyone holding their breath. The fact that there is no significant international support for a U.S. attack on Iraq is illustrative. Not since the Vietnam War has the United States been more isolated. However, we have an administration that does not seem to particularly care about that.
Rather than assuming the president is unbeatable in 2004, it would be worth examining the issues that are facing us, not limited to the war against terrorism and homeland security. What is desperately needed is a compelling scenario that emphasizes two main points: (1) we are not better off today than we were prior to the Bush administration, and (2) international arrogance on the part of the United States may result in a massive backlash that could mean anything from more terrorist attacks to trade wars.
The administration’s record, rather than being impervious, is actually very vulnerable if an alternative emerges that is based on understanding the fears, angers, and hopes of the people of the United States. This means that this alternative must pay more attention to one-on-one discussions with voters than trying to outshine the administration’s television ads.
The basic lesson of politics is not only that it is local, but also that in order to win over anyone, it starts with personal discussion and connection.
As was demonstrated in the 2002 election when less than 40 percent of the electorate participated, if the people feel alienated and their views are ignored, they will vote all right … they will vote with their feet.
Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a long-time labor movement activist who currently serves as president of TransAfrica Forum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org