America’s Next President Will Be In Over His Head - part 1
by Joel Hilliker
“Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second Washington crowd: Change is coming!” John McCain promised in his speech at the Republican convention in September. He used the word 10 times. “We need to change the way government does almost everything,” he said. “We’re going to … make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace.”
Barack Obama, his opponent, has been promising change from the beginning of his campaign. “It’s time for Republicans
to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America,” he said—one of his 16 mentions of the word during his own convention speech. “And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
It is the perennial promise of politics. Something’s wrong with the way things are. We’re going to get in there and shake things up. Get this country moving again. It is the most oft-repeated theme of the candidate asking for votes. As soon as I’m in power, we’ll set things right. It is the essence of the nominees’ pitch: that utopia is just a vote away. We will sweep out the corruption and bring a new era of prosperity and peace. THIS time, it’s REALLY going to change!
The promise of change has, in fact, motivated most every putsch and coup and revolution in history. Think beyond America’s borders for a moment. Change was the promise Pervez Musharraf once offered Pakistan. It was the promise that inspired Palestinians to vote Hamas into power in 2006. It was the promise of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Change was the promise of Castro’s Cuban revolution, and of similar events throughout South America. It was the promise of most of the big men presiding over their bits of the African continent. Even Adolf Hitler campaigned to a disgruntled electorate on a promise to solve his nation’s economic woes. No leader ever sets out to create a legacy of same-old, status-quo failure.
Still, the fact remains that not one of the primary forms of government in human history—monarchy, democracy, republic, oligarchy, despotism, tyranny—nor system of political economy, from capitalism to communism—has brought about and sustained any real semblance of peace, prosperity and happiness for the masses. Not one has truly made good on its promise. All have been plagued by failure and corruption.
Among the innumerable company of history’s experiments in governance, the republic of the United States stands as the greatest. And still we see an election whose overarching theme is aimed at addressing broad discontent and anxiety among the electorate with the promise of change.
With thousands of years of such failure to look upon, why then do we cling to our conviction that a solution is almost in sight? The grim reality remains as the Prophet Isaiah described it nearly three millennia ago: “W
e wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.”
Like every presidential aspirant, John McCain is making some big promises. He has pledged, among many other things, that if elected he will combat hunger nationwide, save the Everglades, work to rid Africa of malaria, and win the war in Iraq. He will end dependence on Middle
Eastern oil, capture Osama bin Laden, expand the military, and ensure the nation has high-quality intelligence. He promises to restore people’s trust in the government, inspire greater public service in Americans, help smokers quit, protect doctors from lawsuits, ensure that students have access to excellent schools, secure America’s borders, fix FEMA, train workers for the new economy, and make U.S. employees more globally competitive. He also plans to balance the budget, stop wasteful government spending, rescue Medicare, and save Social Security without raising taxes. And this is just the short list.
Wouldn’t it be remarkable to see a president achieve all that? But wait. As far-reaching as these promises are, they don’t even touch those of his opponent.
Obama has promised, among many other things, that if America elects him, he will safeguard all nuclear material worldwide within his first term, stop new nuclear weapons development, finish the fight in Afghanistan, crack down on al Qaeda in Pakistan, end the Darfur genocide, and create a Palestinian state that exists with Israel “side by side in peace and security.” He aims to cut the world’s extreme poverty in half and boost international aid. He will help revitalize inner cities, overhaul immigration laws, outlaw discrimination against transsexuals, ban racial profiling, make the criminal justice system into one that will inspire every American’s trust and confidence, and even attract more doctors to rural areas. He will provide free college education for those who want to become teachers, supply health care and broadband Internet access for every American, preserve Social Security, rebuild aging infrastructure, and build a 21st-century Veterans Affairs hospital—all while slashing federal waste and cutting taxes for 95 percent of working families. He will “make sure our economy is working for everybody,” and generate “nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy.” He pledges to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, to reduce electricity demand even as the population increases, to “end the age of oil,” and to “work to solve this energy crisis once and for all.” Again, this is just cherry-picking from a much larger list of his campaign pledges.
It gives you a good idea of how socialistic the nation is becoming: The only serious contenders for its highest office are seducing voters with the lure of more government programs, more entitlements, and more regulations and laws.
But how much do Americans believe either of these men could actually keep these promises? Hard to say. Generally, politicians aren’t held too hard to account for their soaring campaign rhetoric.
It’s a good thing, too, because those promises are about to be absolutely shredded.
The Real Issues
For one, the system itself is designed to limit a president and prevent executive overreach. This alone would prevent most of those promises from ever being fulfilled.
But the reason those promises of change are going to meet the same fate they always have has more to do with priorities. Already, the concerns that many of those promises address are being overtaken by far more pressing, even existential concerns.
Right now, the American economy is embroiled in what Alan Greenspan has called a “once in a century” crisis. The economic damage is irreparably decimating America’s already shaky standing as global financial leader.