Two Historical Paths On November 2 - Choose One
The Two Historical Paths on November 2 -- Choose One
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
Virtually everyone agrees that this presidential election is the most important one in the modern era, and will determine for a long time in which direction this country will move.
So, thanks to a writer's magic wand, here are two newspaper articles from the year 2024 that lay out in stark terms the ramifications of a Kerry or Bush victory on November 2, 2004.
Which historical path would you and your children -- and, perhaps more importantly right now, your still-undecided voting friends and colleagues -- want to walk down? The decision is yours.
What Happened After Bush's 2004 Victory
(Agence-France Presse) George W. Bush's second-term victory in the 2004 election was a watershed in modern American politics, and set the tone of HardRight conservative rule that dominated the early part of the 21st century, according to a wide variety of prize-winning American historians.
Despite his narrow victory, Bush, proclaiming an electoral "mandate," expanded his brand of government -- permanent "war on terrorism" abroad, a crackdown on dissent at home -- and in so doing, established the tone and momentum for HardRight conservative domination of America's institutions for nearly the next two decades, said Prof. Charles Calthorp of Princeton. (See entries on Jeb Bush, George Prescott Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom DeLay, Richard Perle, and Ann Coulter.)
One of the reasons for this dominance was that the traditional two-party system in America collapsed after Bush's victory. "The Democrats were weak, disorganized and on the wrong side of history, said Prof. Kenneth Starr III of Pepperdine University. "The Republicans became the only major party able to exercise rule."
Many of the remaining elected Democrats chose not to run again, or wound up blacklisted by the ruling Republican faction. "They saw the handwriting on the wall, and either signed up, exiled themselves abroad, or chose to keep their mouths shut in other professions," Starr said.
According to Prof. Amy Tribe of Harvard, the "Democratic Party split after the election into an accomodationist wing -- 'go along to get along' was basically their motto -- and a progressive wing, appalled that their candidates had lost so many presidential elections by abandoning the party's fighting spirit and mainstream liberal issues. Eventually, that wing of the Democratic Party merged with the Greens, and founded the successful GDC (Green-Democratic Confederation)."
However, that political flower took a long time to bloom, said Prof. Antoni Golan of Duke University, "because so many of the original thinkers and activists -- academics, Democratic aides, internet writers, grassroots organizers, many of whom would have become leaders in such a party -- were rounded up and sent to the Bush Administration's RRCs (rehabilitation re-education camps), where they were incarcerated for years."
Scores of such internment camps, according to Crocker, were established in sparsely-populated rural areas in the West, to deal with huge influxes of convicted protesters (termed "anti-patriots") after the Bush and subsequent Administrations invaded and bombed several more countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
More prisoners, especially women and their doctors, arrived after the U.S Supreme Court -- with the addition of several Bush-appointed justices -- overturned the controversial Roe v. Wade decision that had permitted women the right to choose abortions.
According to newspaper accounts at the time, Republican Administrations, needing more guards and national-security police to keep tabs on the citizenry (with electronic, internet and personal surveillance), set up its own police force, the Homeland-Security System (H-SS). They had to turn away hundreds of thousands of applicants, interested in steady, good-paying jobs, with governmental benefits for them and their families not available to the general populace.
Internationally, the U.S. was, for at least a while, the supreme power in the world, and not averse to exercising its overwhelming military force. However, said Prof. Eric Boudin of Colgate, "technology and high-tech weaponry could not destroy the guerrilla rebellions that were constantly springing up, and terrorism against the U.S. inside and outside the country was rampant and exceedingly deadly -- especially when biochemical agents, and dirty radiation bombs were used. Further, the political civil war in America constantly threatened to rage out of control."
Islamist forces and political parties throughout the Middle East and in Asia, angered by what they interpreted as "Christian-Jewish crusades" against their religion -- a point reinforced by statements from religious zealots high up in the U.S. government -- became even more popular and strident, said Prof. Hamid Sharani of NYU. "More and more wars were launched by the U.S. and its relatively few allies, in order to keep the insurrections controlled," he said.
"All potential competing sources of power were decimated," said Sharani. "The politically-defanged United Nations, for example, did little more than charitable work, helping children and families in various wartorn areas of the world. The key political decisions were made in Washington, D.C., the effective center of the U.S. empire."
"Eventually, of course, as always happens with huge, farflung empires, the U.S. ran into real problems. First, by not planning fast enough for alternative sources of energy, even America found that its lock on oil worldwide would not suffice. The economy went into a tailspin. Many governments chose not to own U.S. bonds and other financial instruments. The resulting economic Depression created scenarios reminiscent of the 1930s.
THE REBEL FORCES
"More and more poor, formerly middle-class, families became increasingly enraged at government policies that led directly to their deprived conditions, and began joining forces with the rebel forces opposed to the HardRightists in control."
In addition, said Dr. Barbara Garfunkel of Purdue, "by sheer weight of numbers and religious and nationalist fervor, such countries as China and the Muslim nations forged a kind of loose alliance and threatened to fight back. It was around this same time when the Green-Democratic Confederation -- gaining political traction as the polluted water and air got undrinkable/unbreathable, with enormous drains on the health-care system -- began to assert its growing popularity as a mainstream alternative to the ruling Republican tribunes.
"The GDC was joined domestically by a merging of far-right survivalists and leftwing resisters, anxious to restore the primacy of the original Constitution of the United States."
That, according to most historians, was the beginning of the end for what Bush and his neo-con advisers had started in the early years of the 21st Century.
What Happened After Kerry's 2004 Victory
(Post-Times) Twenty years after John F. Kerry defeated incumbent President George W. Bush, noted historians continue to proclaim that the 2004 election was a watershed one in the history of American politics and society.
"What you have to understand," said Yale professor Enrique Lugo, "is that the Bush Administration, using the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack as cover, had carried out a radical policy-revolution. Internationally, that led to the U.S. 'preventively' invading other countries that were not threatening America, causing tens of thousands of deaths and injuries, to our own soldiers and to innocent civilians, some from battles and many from the uranium-laced weaponry employed.
"Domestically, under the guise of hunting for those terrorists who had killed 3000 people inside the U.S., the Bush Administration had frightened the population into accepting a fascist-like martial state; Constitutional rights protecting citizens from unbridled government power were superceded by even harsher Patriot Act-type laws."
"The incoming Kerry Administration, with the help of a friendly Senate, was forced to spend virtually all of its first term dealing with damage control resulting from its predecessor's extreme policies," said Prof. David Litz of Tulane. "For starters, it managed over time to turn the disastrous Iraq war over to the Iraqis themselves in coordination with a United Nations peacekeeping force composed mainly of troops from Islamic countries, thus allowing the Americans to withdraw the bulk of their occupation armies.
"Corrupt and corrupting contracts with foreign companies were canceled and native Iraqis received the bulk of the reconstruction monies instead, a side-effect of which was to reduce the pool of unemployed young men gravitating to the violent, anti-American insurgency.
THE IMPACT OF TORTURE
"An Islamic party eventually won the national elections, partially in reaction to Bush Administration policies -- including state-sanctioned torture of Iraqi detainees -- but Kerry, in concert with America's traditional European partners, was able to bring Iraq into normal diplomatic relations with the West. With its allies on board, this renewed coalition hunted down and captured many of the worst terrorist groups, and marginalized and finally dealt in some fashion with the remaining smaller factions."
One key to the success of this anti-terrorism campaign was the move to solve the seemingly intractable Israel-Palestine puzzle.
Bush's policy, which had given Israel's hard-line government carte blanche to handle the Palestinian situation in whatever way it so chose, gave way to Kerry's more balanced approach. "Kerry remained a stalwart supporter of Israel's right to exist and thrive in the midst of an Arab region," said Professor Arwan Talebi of Columbia University. "But he saw that in order to reduce tensions, and terrorism, in the Muslim world and within the U.S. as well, the Israel-Palestine problem would have to be addressed seriously.
"After Sharon and Arafat exited the scene, the resulting accords between the two warring nations, arranged under the energized auspices of the Kerry Administration, did significantly reduce tensions in the Middle East and beyond. Especially successful in this regard were the various job-creation programs established for Palestinian young men, which over time led to the flowering of the new state's 'economic miracle'."
KERRY'S REFORM AGENDA
Domestically, said Standford Professor Catherine Chen, "a whole raft of initiatives were introduced by the first Kerry Administration. These new reforms made it illegal for corporations to write the regulations on their behavior and products; enforced and strengthened anti-pollution laws; moved toward less reliance on increasingly scarce oil reserves and encouraged alternate-energy R&D; kept rightwing ideologue judges off the appeals courts and U.S. Supreme Court; reduced the astronomical deficits run up by the Bush Administration; restored the integrity of various social programs such as Head Start and Social Security and Medicare; ensured that virtually all Americans had access to affordable health care and prescription medications, and so on."
In short, said Chen, "America moved away from its temporary fascination with the extreme right philosophy propounded by Bush Administration officals, and back toward the moderate center, and on certain legislation just left of center."
Said Professor Max Gordon of Notre Dame, "The neo-conservative imperial imperative that had left America isolated and a pariah in much of the world -- feared but not respected -- was in disrepute, and there was a return to a more realistic foreign policy, with many of the same goals but without the arrogant militarism. The U.S. often got with diplomacy what it could not win with the bayonet and bomb."
THE CENTER HELD
"When Americans saw what could be accomplished to help the population," said Professor Abaka Mohammed of Brandeis, "and that the worst fears of rightwing politicians and pundits about those policies did not materialize, successive administrations learned to shun the extremes on either end of the political spectrum; instead, as had happened in previous decades, the parties operated pretty much along the slightly-left-of-center/center/slightly right-of-center continuum. Political stability and rapid social and economic progress was the result. So, in a way, the extreme recklessness of the Bush years provided a strong, negative example of what not to do, and led to the positive developments and role-models later."
Prof. Ricardo Montoya of Harvard agreed: "The electorate's reaction against the mean-spirited and dangerous extremism of the Bush years meant that Kerry and his successors over the past two decades could move to address serious foreign and domestic concerns that had been left to fester. Faced with these problems, Kerry focused his attention on the worst aspects of ethnic and religious intolerance domestically, and upon the strengthening of international institutions abroad, with America once again a full and willing partner.
"Had the dark shadow of Bush Administration misrule been permitted to continue, there is no telling in what dire straights this country and the world would be in today. Thankfully, the American population awoke, as if from a bad nightmare, and re-asserted its desire to do good for itself by doing right. We here in 2024 are all the lucky beneficiaries of such a popular electoral uprising in 2004."
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government, has taught at various universities, was a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). He is a contributing author to the recently-released "Big Bush Lies" book.