Why I’m looking forward to 2008

By Brian Pierce

As I write these words, I have no idea how the midterm election turned out, but no matter what, the real problem is going to stay right where it is for another two years: the White House.

And so we have nothing left to do but look to 2008 with hope and anxiety. But the good news is that there’s far greater cause for hope.

There are two frontrunners for the presidential nomination in each party: for Republicans, Senator John McCain or former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; for Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama.

No matter which one of these candidates wins the presidency, history will be made.

Perhaps most historic would be a win by Giuliani. Whether he ran against Obama or Clinton, his nomination as the Republican candidate would likely lead to a third party candidacy from the religious right, a group defined by overreach and hubris. If the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Giuliani eked out a win, he will have proven that the Republican Party can win without tying itself to Christian conservatives. The religious right would be relegated to its rightful position on the political spectrum: the fringes.

For this reason, Giuliani is the only Republican I’d consider voting for over every Democrat’s new hero, Barack Obama. Obama is quite nearly the perfect politician, a master of striking balances, whether between intellect and folksiness, idealism and realism, or a belief in active government and a belief in the free market. He could spark a surge in black voter turnout that could put much of the south in play. He is the kind of non-threatening black man that white people can’t get enough of. He’s popular among women. And he is among the few Democrats who can speak in religious terminology without sounding phony (at a time when evangelical turnout is questioning the GOP, this could prove the key to a win).

But aside from his demographic appeal, it is also impossible to avoid the fact that he possesses a certain quality that comes along only a couple times in a generation, an innate sense of leadership that calls to mind Bobby Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt.

McCain would not be the history-making Teddy Roosevelt clone many Americans hope he will be, but he would still symbolize a break from the governance of George W. Bush. His moderate maverick persona, unlike Giuliani’s, is largely a sham. He decried torture only to vote ultimately for the Military Commissions Act allowing President Bush to redefine the Geneva Conventions (something McCain had previously said would endanger American troops). He joined with Russ Feingold to pass a campaign finance reform law which ultimately had little effect on reforming campaign finance. He appeared in political ads supporting an Arizona constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Still, he would almost certainly be a cure for bloated government, likely vetoing bills with too much pork barrel spending and pruning government waste.

Hillary Clinton would be most historic simply for being a public display of the glass ceiling beginning to break. But she would also, much like Obama, signal a return to the more open-minded political style of Bill Clinton. She doesn’t have a grasp on the inspiring rhetoric that Obama does, nor does she stand as good a chance of winning, but at least as a matter of policy she would offer the promise of the prosperous years enjoyed during the ’90s.

It seems inevitable that President Bush will be seen as one of the worst presidents in history at a time the country needed one of the best. But in his wake he has left a hunger for everything that he is not: competence, inspiration and a sense that the historic importance of the moment extends beyond partisan and ideological limitations. No matter who wins in 2008, we can rest assured that the country will be in more capable hands.