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Don Kraus

Don Kraus

Posted: August 13, 2010 12:39 PM

The House, the Senate, and the World

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Thinking about sitting out the November elections because President Obama and Congress have let you down? Think again. The 2010 midterm could prove to be the most pivotal election of our lifetime.

This is already the most cutthroat contest I have experienced during the last 15 years of working on federal elections. According to The Cook Political Report, there are now 73 highly competitive House races, compared to 51 in August of 2008. 66 of these 73 endangered seats are currently held by Democrats, compared to 20 out of 51 in 2008. Senate Democrats are equally pressured.

Although my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions, endorses on both side of the aisle, these numbers do matter. In our latest Congressional Report Card the average Democratic grade was an A- in the House and Senate while Republicans averaged a D in the House and a D+ in the Senate.

While Republican wins in swing districts could result in a more moderate party, there is also a looming possibility of losing the internationalist majority in Congress that Citizens for Global Solutions has worked so long to establish. Tea Party endorsed Senate candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Clint Didier in Washington both want to see the U.S. out of the U.N. Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul insists that "funding of the U.N. as a whole becomes voluntary." So does Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who sponsored legislation that would "shift the funding mechanism for the regular budget of the United Nations from an assessed to a voluntary basis." Governments would vote with their wallets for their favorite U.N. line items, turning the U.N. into a Darwinian jungle.

2010 could decide if our nation will stay the course of responsible global engagement or slip back into a militant unilateralism. How the United States is governed matters not only to us, but to the world. All of the current international institutions that function today, from the United Nations to the International Criminal Court (ICC), were established with leadership from the United States. Implementation of credible proposals to empower international organizations will not be achieved in the future without U.S. support.

In 2008, speaking before a jubilant crowd in Chicago the night after his election, President-elect Obama reached out to the world saying:

To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

I was on a flight to The Hague that evening. My fellow passengers shared great expectations: The U.S. would reengage globally in a responsible and multilateral way. Obama would close Guantanamo, pull us out of Iraq, seriously address climate change, and begin to eliminate nuclear weapons. We would shift from being the world's "super power" to the world's "super partner."

The Obama administration has taken serious steps towards this vision. They have paid off years of past due assessments to the United Nations, joined the Human Rights Council, negotiated and sought ratification of the New START treaty, engaged with the ICC, are removing all combat troops from Iraq, and more. In a letter introducing the National Security Strategy, President Obama laid out his world vision:

The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times... stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; resolving and preventing conflict, while also healing its wounds.

The president's desire for an "international order" is a signal to both support his administration's efforts and to push the envelope of what can be achieved. But will we have the opportunity to do so? Or will the belief of uber-nationalists prevail, like those of the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly, who in her rant against the New START treaty said, "We live in a dangerous world in which bad guys respect strength and weapons and disdain weakness and disarmament."

Citizens for Global Solutions is working hard for a positive outcome from the elections in November. Global Solutions PAC is identifying and supporting candidates of any party or affiliation who share our internationalist values. We are reaching out to our members to volunteer, contribute and vote in November. In the end, it will be up to all of us. No one ever said that change would be easy. It's time to get to work.