Wow. Obama certainly has the momentum. I had been leaning towards Hynes but when I actually took a close look at the candidates I realized Hynes wasn't anything new. Obama was. He will be a great voice in the U.S. Senate.
His competition in the general election will be Jack Ryan - as if Illinois needs more people named "Ryan." That worked out so well last time. It will be a good race, but if this primary is any indication, Obama's progressive platform is far more popular than people think. Ryan may have a great resume (investment-banker-turned-high-school-teacher), he is going to have a tough time against a star candidate like Obama.
When I was in Turkey I took a class on Modern Middle Eastern History and at one point in the class I was asked by the professor what would happen to Bush's chances of reelection if there were another terrorist attack. I replied that another major attack on the U.S. would probably hurt Bush because the people expect him to do what is necessary to keep them safe. The professor said that my response showed that I was a Democrat - correctly of course - and that ended that. But it is clear now that I was right.
In the wake of the Spanish election results which clearly were altered because of al-Qaeda's train bombing just days before the election, a national survey in the U.S. is showing exactly what I predicted. When asked if they would be more or less likely to vote for Bush if there were another major terrorist attack before the election, 29% said they would be more likely to vote for him, while 49% said they would be less likely to give him four more years.
In contrast to the Spanish electorate, I think this type of response shows that voters expect their executive to keep them safe, and if they fail they should be kicked out. The Spanish voted the Popular Party out of office because they think that if they ignore the threat of terrorism that it will ignore them back. Spanish voters have opened the door for terrorism to play a real role in legitimate politics. It's sickening.
Here in America a vote against Bush because of a terrorist act would be because he had failed to keep the homeland safe. If he can't keep the American people safe, maybe its time to give someone else a chance. Voters would be right in doing so since John Kerry is far more committed to homeland security by seeking funding for first responders and increasing the abilities of those who protect our ports and cities from the weapons of mass destruction that could destroy a city. Bush has neglected these areas and has instead diverted the war on terrorism to Iraq, which had no relation to the evil that struck on September 11. John Kerry wouldn't have to "increase the intensity" of the search for bin Laden - it would already be at full intensity, as it should have been since September 12, 2001.
Voters want a president who can protect them. If there were another attack Bush would feel the consequences. Voters want more than empty words. They want security.
Spanish voters have let al-Qaeda win. It is as simple as that. Just days before the parliamentary elections in Spain, Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party was poised to comfortably be reelected. Aznar had stuck his neck out and had supported the U.S. effort against Iraq and had been a leading voice of support for the war against terror. Spain had raised its international profile by being the third largest force that contributed to the effort against Saddam Hussein. Despite Aznar's bold moves, Spanish citizens were still 90% against war in Iraq. Aznar was showing that he wanted Spain to be a part of the defeat of tyranny and a leader in the battle against terrorism.
But then came the Madrid train bombing.
It is becoming clear that al-Qaeda was responsible for this attack. It chose Spain as a target precisely because it has been so forthcoming in its governmental support of the war against terror. Spain was hit because it had sought to be on the right side of history and had stood up to al-Qaeda.
What was the response of the Spanish electorate as a result of the train attacks?
They caved. The Spanish people decided to appease al-Qaeda. They put up a white flag and elected the Socialist party which had vowed to remove Spanish troops from Iraq, where they had been helping to restore order to a struggling nation. Instead of standing up to al-Qaeda's challenge and saying "we won't take this," the Spanish people said, "we'll stop hunting you and your destructive ideology - pretty please don't use your terror against us." It was the weakest thing the Spanish could have done. They blamed their own leaders for having courage, not the terrorists who had committed the horrific act of terror!
As such al-Qaeda became a formidable player in politics. They had accomplished what every traditional terrorist strives for: political change. The Spanish people told al-Qaeda they would be intimidated by terror. They allowed al-Qaeda to choose their government through the use of terrorism.
How do the Spanish think this will play out? That if they isolate themselves internationally and avoid all proactive steps against terror that they will never be attacked? Are they hoping that the U.S. will keep the world safe and then hope that Spain will be the last to fall to terror if it just ignores the threat? The absurdity of this reminds me of the famous quote from a German Lutheran pastor during World War II. He said:
"In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me."
Spain chose not to speak up. They think that ignoring the threat of al-Qaeda will leave them safe while the rest of the world will go down in flames for fighting back. This might be the worst day yet in the war against terror, for it is the first time that al-Qaeda has shown its true power to affect change through terror.
There is seriously something wrong with Russian democracy if the typical response to elections is, "I voted for Putin because he is going to win anyway and what is the point in voting for someone else?" Perhaps Putin would have won anyway even in a well-functioning system, but the fact that this election was seen as a way to "strengthen his grip over Russia" is troubling.
Russian democracy is still under the shadow and influence of communist party rule. Voters still sense that their vote will not count. That is why Putin has been on an all out push to get people to vote - albeit for him, since he has taken precautions to prevent any real competition to his rule. Voters no doubt see Russian democracy as another variant of voting in a one party state. They may be able to vote often and freely, but the choices were limited to say the least. Putin has only encouraged that pattern.
Russia needs some democratic reforms. Shouldn't be we worried about that just as much as democracy elsewhere? Afterall, Russia is the one with the loose nukes.