The Day Before

Posted in United States | 29-Oct-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The political world in Washington D.C. seems to be holding its breath – until tomorrow night.

In their view, a lot is at stake in these elections. Not only are the two candidates different people. Both stand for a very different mind set with very different political aspirations and objectives. The crystal ball is too foggy to make it possible to see a clear view of the outcome.

All pundits expect a very close finish. Both candidates have put major effort into visiting the so-called “battleground states” or “swing states”. Many predict the outcome of the election will be to a 50:50 split. Expectations that there would be a “last-minute-surprise” did not materialise – with the exception of the videotape Osama Bin Laden sent, which both sides take as proof for their respective assessment of the present status in the "war on terrorism". The decisive factor might be the young, first-time voters who obviously show more support for Kerry.

From a European perspective, it is interesting to ponder what might change in world politics if Kerry were to win. Often the answer to this question is that there would be more change in style and atmosphere than in substance. There is very little room for maneuver for the world's only superpower. The hegemon cannot shy away from his responsibility. Kerry would have to deal with the same hot issues – terrorism, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and China/Taiwan. There is no U-turn to be expected – no quick fix.

A president John Kerry would like and try to work with partners and allies with a more multilateral approach including international organizations and non-governmental organizations. But there is a red line in the sand. If and when vital American interests come under risk, even a President John Kerry would have to act – unilaterally or with another “coalition of the willing”, if a multilateral option were not available.

Kerry's expectations and promise to bring more allies – as in Germany and France – into Iraq along with stronger UN commitment might prove to be too optimistic. “Old Europe” would certainly prefer John Kerry, but it might be more difficult to say “no” to him than to George W. Bush.

Tomorrow night we will know more.