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PROFILE

M. SALEEM UMER

COLUMN FOR THE RECORD
SOCIETY POVERTY REDUCTION PROGRAM 
POLITICS & POLICY USA: ELECTION 2004 
 
USA: ELECTION 2004
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Democrats vs Republicans


By ABDUL QUAYYUM KHAN KUNDI
Mar 29 - Apr 04, 2003
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After a protracted fight, John Kerry has emerged as a democratic nominee for US presidential election in 2004. So far Kerry has focused all his energies in getting the nomination and has not clearly outlined his strategy to win against the incumbent republican President Mr. George W. Bush.

When defining the party lines between Democrats and Republicans we hear a lot about left and right wing tilt. One wonders about the emergence of this right/left philosophy. This term was first used after the formation of French republic soon after the revolution in 1895. People who were for the establishment were seated to the right and who were vying for change were seated to the left. In US politics left and right are defined as conservative and liberal respectively. Republicans historically are considered conservative and so is a right wing party. The difference between the two parties on some major issues has been blurring. The differences are so minor that most of the time the fight is between the two leading men and their campaign teams rather than party lines. A majority who are still in the middle or the center of the two extremes decides election results. In this article we are going to shed light on party positions and their performance on some key areas.

Foreign Policy: US emerged, as world power soon after the Second World War when the leading European powers like England, France, Germany and Russia were considerably weaker in terms of military and economic strength. It provided an opportunity for US to take a leading role in the ensuing world affairs and exert much higher influence in the world. US were a leading contributor to the ceasefire agreements signed with Germany, Japan and Italy. The rise to the superpower status reached its zenith with the break-up of former USSR into 13 independent states in 1989. Since then US has enjoyed the status of a lone power in the world with some potential rivalries from European Union and China. This status imposes a lot of responsibility on the US shoulders to act in a more sensible manner. The performance of the current Bush administration has been murky in this regard. The failure of diplomatic efforts, leading up to the Iraq war, to gain wider support from the NATO allies like Germany and France. Another mistake US has made is to reduce the importance of UN in solving global disputes. The ensuing discussion on the missing WMD and legitimacy of US reasons to go on war will become a major point of contention in the presidential race. Traditionally, republicans have been in favor of exerting higher US influence in world affairs. Democrats on the other hand are more inward looking and are more concerned with domestic policies.

Ecomony and Jobs: US just now is emerging from the longest recession in its history. Typically, a recession lasts for 18 months as compared to the current recession that lasted for almost 39 months. In economic terms, government spending plays an important role in overcoming recession. One reason for the current revival could be US war spending. But this spending is financed by a deficit of 500 billion dollars that is crowding out the capital from the private sector. This lack of capital for the private sector could have a long-term adverse effect on the economy. When Mr. Bush took office there was a budget surplus of 300 billion dollars. So the net effect of the last three and a half years is a deficit of almost 800 billion dollars and this figure is expected to grow further in the coming years. Prominent republican leaders have downplayed the impact of this deficit. But it will be a major debate point between the two candidates. By cutting down interest rates, the central bank has tried to encourage private sector to make more investment thereby creating more jobs. But the availability of capital is scarce because US has the lowest savings rate in the world. Most of the capital for US is provided by economies like China, Japan and Europe who are heavy investors in US government securities. Bush administration is claiming to create 2.4 million jobs during 2004. The figures released on March 4, 2004 indicate that US is lagging behind this target by almost 50% in the first two months. With low job creation, Mr. Bush could lose support among his voter during his re-election bid for the white house. John Kerry has yet to define his economic policy. But from his speeches it is evident that he is in favor of reducing the budget deficit, stop tax cut for the wealthy, and creating and retaining more jobs in US by imposing some form of tax on companies who are exporting jobs out of US. US have seen its longest boom in its history during the tenure of the democratic president Mr. Bill Clinton. If the economy does not perform well in the next 6 months Mr. Bush would have a tough time convincing his electorate to re-elect him.

 

 

Immigration Policy: Historically US has been an immigration friendly country. It is considered as a land of opportunity for people all around the world because of its openness to accept intellectual capital from the world and giving them an opportunity to express their talent. US constitution is based on providing an equal opportunity for all legal residents in the country. But it also attracts a multitude of illegal immigrants from around the world and especially from neighboring country Mexico. These illegal immigrants pose a security threat to the United States. But it also provides a steady flow of cheap labor to maintain price stability in labor-intensive industries. During his 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush promised to provide a relief for illegal immigrants who have stayed in the US for a certain amount of time. After the incidents of 9/11 these plans were put on back burner. Instead Patriot Act was enacted which gave more powers to the law enforcement authorities. One of these powers is to retain illegal immigrant for a period of 7 days without presenting them in court. This is considered a violation of human rights and also clash with the principles laid down by the founding fathers. Structural changes have also been made and a new department of Homeland Security is created which is also entrusted with immigration matters. Immediately after its creation, the department initiated a special registration program that was mainly targeted towards Muslim population in the US although the premise of the program was that it would cover all countries. But as soon as the registration of the 25 Muslim countries was completed the program was abandoned for lack of fund and its utility. Historically, Republicans are considered pro-immigration control whereas democrats have favored liberal immigration policies.

Besides these major issues there are some minor issues like abortion, gay rights and medic aid. The speculation is ripe in political circles that Mr. Bush is considering to replace Mr. Dick Cheney with Robert Juliani ex-mayor of New York. Mr Juliani claimed prominence during his role in the 9/11 crisis. Mr Kerry has yet to name a mate. Some people think he will name John Edwards as his running mates.