The two conventions aptly define the crossroads that we are at, at the moment. Do we move forward to embrace the new realities, of a diverse, multicultural and multi-religious America and face the challenges of a declining infrastructure and global competitiveness, or will we turn backwards and find refuge in imaginary homogeneity and like an addict look for solace in the very thing which is the source of our problems -- harvesting America without investing in it?
Republicans are right -- not everything is right with America. Our economy is flagging and even though we are out of a deep recession, we are having trouble creating jobs and generating growth necessary to offset the accrued losses in prosperity. But they are wrong to blame it on President Obama, whose only crime is that he has failed in three and half years to undo the damage that George W. Bush (remember him, he was a Republican president until 2008) did to us in eight years. Republicans who publicly pledged to ensure that Obama would fail after they took the Congress in 2010 also share responsibility for the slow recovery.
Our challenge is two-fold. Not only do we have to invest in restoring our economic vitality -- that includes rebuilding basic infrastructure like highways, expanding public transport systems, revitalizing the energy sector, returning to manufacturing, shoring up the quality of public education -- while ensuring that those who are suffering because of our diminished economy are not left to fend for themselves without health care and pathways to economic revival.
We know what the Republicans did from 2000 to 2008, gave the rich the new famous Bush tax cuts, which led to the deep recession of 2007. They borrowed trillions to wage unnecessary wars and expanded the debt and squandered the surplus that they inherited from Bill Clinton. When Bill Clinton left, the economy was booming and there was a surplus and he had balanced the budget. When George W. Bush left we were deep in debt, in the worst recession since the Great Depression and we were losing nearly 700,000 jobs a month, thanks to Republican ideas on how to govern.
Republicans were brutally honest about two other things in Tampa -- one that there is something fundamentally lacking in Mitt Romney hence the entire focus of the convention was to humanize him! They tried to use the convention as an elaborate Etch-a-Sketch, to re-invent Mitt Romney as more human. I admire their ambition. Secondly, they were honest enough to recognize that if George W. Bush or Dick Cheney were invited to the convention, it would remind Americans how devastating Republican governance had been to America's well being, the last time they were in charge.
I wish the Republicans had devoted more energy in trying to humanize their ideas and policies rather than their candidates, especially those who can flip at the drop of a hat. I heard nothing in their message that explained why Bush-Cheney policies would work this time, after they failed so devastatingly last time.
The Democrats on the other hand, pleaded with Americans to hope for change. Bill Clinton gave a great speech, also signaling that unlike the Republicans, the Democrats are not ashamed of their past. As the only president to balance the budget and generate a surplus in decades, President Clinton reminded Americans that while Republicans talk of fiscal responsibility, it is only Democrats who have delivered it in recent history.
President Obama was Barrack Obama once again. He reminded us all, why America fell in love with him in 2008, and why all of us, Republicans included had such great hopes from him; that he would undo in four years the mess that Republicans took eight years to create.
Once again he made big promises, a bit more tempered by age and experience, but promises nevertheless. He probably will not deliver all of them again. But I believe in his vision for an America, that is fully inclusive, that cares for the rich as well as the poor, that believes in marching forward as a collective rather than one that abandons those who can't keep up while boosting those who are already ahead.
I am sure that if President Obama is re-elected, and the Republicans hold the Congress he will be denied again. But he would have set the country moving in the right direction, just as President Clinton did in the 1990s. And if Americans make the mistake of bringing the Republicans back in power, as they did in 2000, then I pray that the inertia that President Obama imparted is so robust that the Republicans will never be able to reproduce the economic crisis of 2007 again.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan has a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University. He teaches Islam and Global Politics at the University of Delaware. He is also a fellow at the institute for Social Policy and Understanding. As always, his political views are his alone (http://www.ijtihad.org).
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