Both Al Gore and John Kerry were roundly criticized for not focusing on the key Democratic issues of economy, environment and social security. Gore chose "character" and Kerry sort of chose the war in Iraq.
At the same time, hundreds of decisions the administration and or Congress have to make are being pushed beyond the election. In mid-November 2004, Condoleezza Rice replaced Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Bush unveiled his plan to privatize Social Security.
What are the issues that are being pushed beyond November 7, 2006? Here is a guess about five:
- Mark Foley -- Keeping his record intact, House "Ethics" Committee Chair Doc Hastings, from Washington's 4th District, will issue no findings or reports on any ethics violations. Arguably the most corrupt Congress in the past 100 years looked clean to Do-Nothing Doc. Oversight is a Congressional responsibility the GOP has confused with "overlook" in the cases of Hammer DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, the Abramoff coterie, and Iraq. Hastings' motto as "Ethics" Committee head has been "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
- The End of Democracy in Iraq -- Although not getting the media attention of "stay the course," the term "democracy" has also fallen from the official sound bites coming out of the White House. The pretense of a functional democracy in Iraq is over except as a myth for Middle America. The need for that myth will end with the closing of the polls on election night. The new regime propagated by the Neocons will be authoritarian and ruthless. It may arise under the guise of partition.
- The Economy -- The "political business cycle" is the practice of the incumbent executive to concentrate expenditures so as to gin the economic till in the months leading up to the election. Occasionally a compliant Fed will arrange interest rates to help. No doubt this most corrupt regime of the past 100 years has done all it can in this regard. But the ability of the Republicans to push the issue of the economy past November 7 is in part due to the absence of Democratic emphasis on this issue.
Massive and rising indebtedness (both public and private), a tremendous $3 billion per day trade deficit, and the demonstrably growing gap between the rich and the rest of us are big issues to Americans. An ABC news poll demonstrated this: 22 percent identified Iraq as the most important issue for voters in the midterms, but 21 percent picked the economy, and economic issues like health care (13 percent) and gas prices (5 percent).
- The Coming Attack on Iran -- The neocons would love to attack Iran. This is similar to the privatization of Social Security, in that it cannot be admitted before the election, but any strength at all for Republicans' war mongering will be immediately translated into a drumbeat to attack. The neocons have spotlighted Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no constitutional authority or power in the Iranian government. At present the logistic support centers are not in readiness, but with the elections behind them, don't be surprised if the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove team to starts trying to justify such an invasion. It may be that the near certain massive disruption to oil flows that are sure to follow will cause the administration's corporate con backers to rein in such a plan, if they can. A Democratic Congress could apply brakes as well.
- The Immigration Policy Fiasco -- The 700 mile, $1.2 billion fence along the Mexican border will be continued so long as it feeds a favored corporation, but the immigration issue will be quietly discarded. Its only purpose was to give the right wing something other than Iraq, the deficit, corporate corruption and administration incompetence to talk about. Adjustments to NAFTA and the trade rules that have cut the incomes of the poorest Mexicans in half are a practical route to slowing migration north. But don't expect that to happen anytime soon.
After the election, the question will be, "What next?" Calm competence will be the order of the day. A Democratic win will be only the first step in the campaign to take the country back.