Sunday, November 12, 2006

What Americans Should Expect From This Election

For reasons known only to the gods of technology, my blog last week from election night failed to make it to most subscribers. Thus, I am sending again. If you are receiving this a second time, my apologies. If you are not receiving my blog regularly, please check your "Junk Mail" folder and if you find it there, make the change in your e-mail program so that it will not be labeled as "Junk."

San Miguel de Allende. It is a few minutes after 8 p.m. in this high desert town in central Mexico. I listen and I can tell there is not much happening on the streets tonight. Locals and expatriates alike are glued to their televisions. What happens in the United States affects the world and everyone knows it.

Even this early in the evening, the television behind me projects the House of Representatives will be turned over to the Democrats. The Senate is still too close to call.

The issue? The war. And as I sit here, I cannot help but reflect on a night in 1967 when I was glued to another television set watching the Tet Offensive unfold in Vietnam – a war that had no end in sight but that ended the political career of Lyndon Johnson. I wonder whether any of the newscasters will make that comparison and will recall that the “winner” of the 1968 election was Richard Nixon who told an entire nation that "had a plan to end the Vietnam War." Unfortunately, no plan existed and America would continue to fight and die for another five years. Nixon's sell ultimately became not victory but for enough time to build up the strength of the South Vietnamese armed forces so that they could defend their nation without American support -- what became known as the "Nixon Doctrine." It all sounds too familiar and in Nixon's case it was a dismal failure. In April 1975, Saigon fell and the war was over. Over 50,000 Americans had perished.

Whether Iraq ends differently will depend on many factors, including the outcome of tonight’s election and most Americans know it.

But Iraq is not the only conflict that will decide this election. As in the late-60’s, America confronts more than an unpopular war. There is an economic malaise among the general public that is palpable. As the economic tide has benefited the wealthiest Americans, there is an ever-widening income inequality, with the average American worker making less on an inflation-adjusted basis than he or she did six years ago. And depending on whose numbers you use, the average American worker has not received a raise above inflation since 1989.

San Francisco Federal Reserve President Janet Yellen observed this week that "[income] inequality has risen to the point that it seems worthwhile for the U.S. to seriously consider taking the risk of making our economy more rewarding for more of the people." She identified factors contributing to "feelings of discontent" among Americans, to include job instability, and the "dire consequences" of job loss.

In simpler terms, Joe Lunchbucket doesn’t understand what the economic “hoorays” are all about – he isn’t feeling the benefits of a rising stock market if only because he has no stock. What he does feel is the sting of the rising cost of medical care, gasoline, and college tuition. He worries if his factory will be the next to close. She worries about who will feed the family.

Tonight is indeed a referendum on the war but it is likewise a vote from the pocketbook of middle class America, and regardless of who wins there will be an expectation that there is a plan to deal with both problems – something more than another “Nixon Doctrine.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I intend to write to you every time I read one of your posts. I really appreciate being on your list and I enjoy your writing immensely. More than that, I consider your thoughts to be an affirmation of my perspectives...while I like getting all sides, I like thinking I'm right from time to time!

I'm visiting my brother in Ajijic again over the day I'll take you up on your offer to visit San Miguel de Allende to see you.

All the best,

John Swinburn

8:01 PM  

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