A Real ‘Choice Not An Echo’ Election
Every four years we hear pundits proclaim that this could be one of the most significant elections in recent U.S. history. Usually it isn’t.
The reason is that most of these elections pit two middle-of-the-road national parties with much the same views of government, give or take a few nuances, against one another, and the big decision for voters tends to involve one specific contemporary issue — not infrequently a foreign policy issue like a war (in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq).
Once in awhile, though, elections go well beyond a single issue focus and come down instead on the future nature of government itself. An excellent example of such an election was in 1964 when the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, used as his campaign slogan the memorable phrase: “A Choice, Not An Echo.”
This signaled that Goldwater genuinely wanted to change the terms of the New Deal government-private economy relationship that had more or less been accepted by both parties since 1932 when Herbert Hoover took down a previously well accepted but very different relationship.
This coming 2012 November election is shaping up to be one of those rare real ‘choice not an echo’ elections (at least barring a new Mideast war). Through all the shadings and deceptions of the billion dollar ad campaign that is going to turn our national media into a grotesque and protracted mud slinging affair, the basic decision here is the relationship of the government with the private sector in the operation of the domestic U.S. economy.
Should the government regulate certain sectors more or less? Should the government or private sources be more responsible for meeting the needs of the needy? Should markets be more shaped by government policies or the market’s own proclivities? How should the tax system be restructured to favor or not favor which interests and why? What kind of government-private relationships or lack thereof benefit the most Americans in the most ways in the short-term and the long term.
We’ve been dealing with louder and louder echoes for a long time. It’s time for real choices to be made. As a people we will soon decide, in the words of that wonderful old labor song: “Which side are you on, boy. Which side are you on?”
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