Usually, when you are certain you are witnessing history (not just the day-to-day mechanics of living, but an event of vital importnace) as it happens it is because you are seeing something very bad such as the 9/11 attacks. Today is one of those rare instances when one can expect to witness crucial history unfolding. Tonight’s debate is the most important in the history of the institution since the get-togethers began to be televised in 1960, and given that this is the most important election since 1860, these are the most important debates since Lincoln and Douglas met seven score and four years ago.
Simply, these debates are John Kerry’s last, best chance to create a substantial swing in the electorate that could make him the front-runner. A draw or marginal victory would leave him within striking distance, but racing against the clock, and a marginal or clear loss might well have him figuratively counting the klieg lights. Because, in all likelihood, at least the medium term (next 5 – 20 years) sustenance of America as a viable Democratic-Republic depends on this election September 30, 2004 is forever amongst the most crucial dates in American history.
The efficacy of America’s democracy is already ebbing. Regardless of how one feels about George W. Bush’s governance of America, no one can deny that it has brought radical change upon America’s economy and foreign policy. That a presidential electoral campaign, a basic exercise in democracy, now 33 days from its completion has not produced any meaningful discussion of these changes demonstrates a harrowing failure of our current system of governance.
Unique amongst TV-age presidents, Mr. Bush has not had to account for the decisions he has made in his tenure, except for a late-summer interview with Tim Russert. Even Mr. Bush’s most ardent supporters considered that interview a failure. It is not for nothing that Mr. Bush has not had to answer for his colossal failures and blunders thus far through the campaign. Beyond the normal “chance for a comeback” dynamic, Senator Kerry has a unique opportunity to force Mr. Bush to answer for his actions, and therefore has a far better chance of staging a comeback then challengers like Bob Dole or Walter Mondale ever had.
I am far too partisan to make an honest assessment of the “winner” or to offer any predictions. Tonight I plan on consuming a massive quantity of gin and hope that history transpires for the better.