In the 2004 Presidential electoral campaign, just as in the 2002 election, it was predicted that Americans might end up with a President who did not win the most votes. That did not happen.
However the result for the campaign was the focusing by both sides on a handful of states, making the intensity of the campaign, the number of visits, media events etc. much greater in the “swing” states than those considered “safe”.
The predicted higher than average turn out did happen. Organisations like the Business-Industry Political Action Committee claimed to have registered 800,000 new voters, and the AFL-CIO affiliated unions say they have collectively committed 5,000 full-time workers and 200,000 volunteers.
This year, the unions are expected to spend in the order of $150 million on the Kerry campaign. Student groups on campuses across the country are also helping out the Kerry campaign by organising voter registration and buses to transport volunteers where needed.
Unsurprisingly the key issue of the campaign was focused on the situation in Iraq. For Bush it was used to show what a strong leader he is (he doesn’t “flip-flop” like Kerry) and how in time of need he is willing to do what it takes to defend America. For Kerry it provided numerous examples of Bush’s incompetence. Not that he’s against the policies, just that he’d execute them better.
It would be crude to ignore some important differences between the candidates, (eg. Kerry is pro-choice, unlike Bush), but even the Economist acknowledged that when it came to the central issues of the campaign, John Kerry seemed willing to accept “a great chunk of the Bush legacy”. Not that it did Kerry any good.
It seems like the entire political spectrum has been blinkered to operate within this framework. Left wing anti-war and anti-corporate activists actively supported a pro-war pro-business candidate because he is less bad than the other pro-war pro-corporate candidate.
Large sections of the left that agree with a lot of what Ralph Nader stands for would not vote for him through fear that fewer votes for Kerry would keep Bush, the greater evil, in charge. The tightness of the polls made Nader’s stand much more difficult than 2000, as is the Democratic Party machine’s coordinated campaign to prevent him from even standing in many states.
After facing criticism in 2000 for causing Bush to beat Gore (not to mention, of course, the failures of Gore and the theft by Bush), pre-emptive blame is now being apportioned, and more is likely to be issued after the election.
It’s not hard to imagine the same arguments appearing for the next election in 2008, which will probably also be a close-run race, so if we accept them, we’d be putting on hold the building of a left alternative for at least another decade.