Seldom has a US presidential election produced so little clash of ideology or even of policy. But the outcome could make a big difference to the rest of the worldby Martin Walker / March 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2000 issue of Prospect Magazine
There is a distinctly unsettling chance that the next American president will have to deal with a Wall Street crash, a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or the instantly perilous crisis for the whole Pacific region of a Taiwanese declaration of independence. He may even face all three simultaneously. He will almost certainly have to contend with a more assertive Russia; with a new Balkan crisis, as a querulous Congress bickers over extending the stay of the American troops; and with a creeping estrangement within the Atlantic alliance as the EU continues to resist American food exports which contain hormones or GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
None of these prospects has yet emerged as a serious topic for debate in the US election. The farm state of Iowa, whose introspective caucuses now open the race, has seen far more discussion of the arcane matter of ethanol subsidy for farmers than GMOs. This is odd, because consumer resistance to GMOs in the US is growing to the point where the Heinz group has just announced that its baby foods would in future be GMO-free. Even the crisis in world trade talks after Seattle, with its ominous implications for US-EU relations, failed to ignite serious argument among the candidates. Russia’s assault on Chechnya has caught their attention, but President Clinton (and thus Vice-President Gore), Governor George W Bush of Texas, Senator John McCain of Arizona and ex-Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey have all taken the same line: vague threats to block western aid and credits.
Indeed, it is much easier to list the areas where the four most prominent candidates agree, rather than those where they differ. Republicans and Democrats alike are all free traders who back Nafta and, at least in principle, back the role of the World Trade Organisation. (The US’s most prominent protectionist, the former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, has almost dropped from the public eye.) Not one of the four main candidates wants to raise taxes, or to change current monetary policies. All worship at the shrine of Alan Greenspan, recently re-appointed to a fourth term at the Federal Reserve Board. Senator McCain has even quipped that should Greenspan die, he would have him frozen and stuffed and keep the corpse in place to reassure the markets.