I will say it: John Kerry can win this
election. Inconclusive polls aside, Kerry has some real advantages
on Bush, not the least of which are his domestic plans and his
running mate. If Kerry manages to shift the focus of this election
away from the endless referendum on Iraq and the inane
“values debate,” he can hit Bush where Bush is weakest:
the domestic policy front.
The Bush team has played a smart but risky game. It has taken
flashy issues such as war and national security, and elevated them,
front-and-center. Commander-in-chief George W. Bush has declared
war on terror, liberated the Iraqi people, made America safer and
stabilized the world by deposing a lunatic with(out) weapons of
mass destruction. This fixation on international issues, however,
has come at a cost: Domestically, Bush hasn’t done anything
impressive. His sole economic policy has been the institution of
tax cuts, his major healthcare initiative has been a prescription
drug benefit that helps pharmaceuticals more than either seniors or
taxpayers and his flagship education plan (No Child Left Behind)
isn’t even adequately funded. His pet project, a
Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, is lip service to
the loony Right. For Kerry, an opportunity exists to define and
promote a John Kerry agenda that can draw support independent of
the “Anybody-but-Bush” sentiment.
With international policy, Kerry and Bush are at odds about
details. Bush wanted the war in Iraq, Kerry voted to authorize it.
Bush was supportive of the June 28 transfer of power, so was Kerry.
Bush doesn’t like evildoers; Kerry shares a similar
sentiment, even though he might refer to them in a more technical
manner as “terrorists.” The finely drawn line between
the two is that Kerry wants the cooperation of allies and he thinks
he can get it, while Bush wants the cooperation of allies and has
shown he can’t. The Bush foreign policy has mired the United
States in a horrible international mess, but Bush thinks he’s
right and Kerry has to face reality: pulling out of Iraq
unilaterally and immediately would be disastrous. The result,
inevitably, is that both plan to stay in Iraq. With Ralph Nader
launching his ego trip (candidacy), Kerry has to worry about
liberals breaking with the Democrats and tossing the election to
Bush. In the foreign policy arena, if the best Kerry can do is to
adopt a subtle rendition of Bush’s policy, he has to define
Case-in-point: healthcare. Essentially, Kerry rescinds
Bush’s tax cut to all those making over $200,000 a year. He
uses this extra $631 billion over 10 years to fund his healthcare
plan, estimated to cost a little over $650 billion over the same
period. The income threshold for Medicaid is raised, so many
working-class families become eligible for government healthcare,
and the government agrees to pay 75 percent of any healthcare costs
in excess $50,000. Paul Krugman, economics professor at Princeton
and columnist for the New York Times, has argued that the plan will
not only drive down everyone’s premiums by about 10 percent,
but also adequately cover millions of families who make too much to
qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. In
his own words, “This is a truly good idea … Mr.
Kerry’s plan would help far more people than it would
hurt.” Bush, by comparison, has yet even to articulate a plan
for providing healthcare to all.
Potential president Kerry also has a trump card: Senator John
Edwards. Republicans have good reason to be scared; Cheney vs.
Edwards is an unfair fight. Edwards revels in front of cameras,
Cheney dislikes campaigning. Cheney is associated with Halliburton;
Edwards is associated with the working class. Edwards has energy;
Cheney has heart problems. Already, Edwards has invigorated the
ticket: Kerry has been seen laughing at recent campaign stops!
Republicans are panicking — Edwards was clearly a good
With the President on the defensive about Sept. 11, the CIA and
the Iraq war, a Democratic victory in November seems possible.
Riding last week’s wave of good press, it is now up to Kerry
and Edwards to find their issues, sell their plans and fight this
campaign on their terms.