This was written in the Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington
paper) on Wed. Oct. 6, 2004. It was written by Mathew Manweller
who is a Central Washington University political science professor.
The title of the article was “Election determines fate of nation.”
"In that this will be my last column before the presidential
election there will be no sarcasm, no attempts at witty repartee.
The topic is too serious, and the stakes are too high.
This November we will vote in the only election during our
lifetime that will truly matter. Because America is at a
once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an election hangs
in the balance.
Down one path lies retreat, abdication and a reign of
ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its
past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands.
If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo through the
next 50 years of history.
If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current
occupant of the White House, the message to the world and
ourselves will be twofold. First, we will reject the notion that
America can do big things. Once a nation that tamed a frontier,
stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce
to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big
of a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future
presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult
challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity
that has characterized other civilizations.
The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to
future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular
decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the
demands of history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn
away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.
Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe
that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia we showed
terrorists that you don’t need to defeat America on the battlefield when
you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded
America can become a defeated America. Twenty-four-hour news
stations and daily tracing polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut
into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10.
The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist in
every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is the timidity
of American voters. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of
grizzly photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the
American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there.
Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American
administration without setting foot on the homeland.
It is said that America’s WW II generation is its ‘greatest
generation.’ But my greatest fear is that it will become known as
America’s ‘last generation’. Born in the bleakness of the Great
Depression and hardened in the fire of WW II, they may be the
last American generation that understands the meaning of duty,
honor and sacrifice. It is difficult to admit, but I know these terms
are spoken with only hollow detachment by many (but not all)
in my generation. Too many citizens today mistake ‘living in
America’ as ‘being an American’. But America has always been
more of an idea than a place. When you sign on, you do
more than buy real estate. You accept a set of values and
This November, my generation, which has been absent too
long, must grasp the obligation that comes with being an
American, or fade into the oblivion they may deserve. I believe
that 100 years from now historians will look back at the election
of 2004 and see it as the decisive election of our century.
Depending on the outcome, they will describe it as the moment
America joined the ranks of ordinary nations; or they will describe
it as the moment the prodigal sons and daughters of the
greatest generation accepted their burden as caretakers of the
City on the Hill."