Last night the funny and inspiring Steve Raker sent a group of us a message that said simply: Can you feel it?

Inside the message were just four words: It’s the tipping point…

Steve was referring to yesterday’s Ipsos/AP poll showing Kerry ahead 50-46%. I think he’s right in his perception that the advantage has tipped. I’m also beginning to think that the pollsters have completely misunderstood the very small ‘undecided’ vote: The 92% of people who are not undecided are merely saying they’ve made up their minds for now who to vote for, not that they won’t change their minds between now and election day. A significant majority of Americans describe themselves as moderates, and they are flexing their political muscle. John Kerry’s campaign made a shrewd (or cynical, if you’re cynical) choice to position their candidate as more moderate than Bush, and it’s working. I believe what we are seeing in the polls is a large number of people saying: OK, now I know a bit more about him, I trust this Kerry guy not to do anything crazy and embarrass America. At the same time, I’m not happy with what’s going on in Iraq. So in terms of foreign policy it’s now a toss-up, and I’m really unhappy about what’s happening here in America, so maybe I’ll vote for Kerry. The Republican Congress will keep him in check anyway.

This is not the polarized thinking we outside the US so often hear about. It’s very pragmatic, considered, middle-of-the-road thinking. It’s even, perhaps, an expression of annoyance at being taken for granted. A quiet little rebellion by God-fearing, church-going, moderate conservative Americans against the frothing neocons that keep telling them, in wacko mailings and fear-mongering sermons: Of course you’re going to vote for Bush in November, but can’t you campaign for him, too, and talk to your friends and persuade them, and by the way we need you to give us some more money

In terms of foreign policy, and policy on health care, I don’t see a lot of difference in positions between Kerry and Bush. What I do see is a great difference in approach between the two candidates and their machines. While they both reserve the right to make unilateral decisions to protect American interests, for Bush this is a preferred course of action, while for Kerry it’s a last resort. The Kerry campaign has the advantage of intelligence, an appreciation for diplomacy and complexity, a preference for a moderate course of action. Despite the neocon smear campaign to paint Kerry as a Swift Boat rogue and flip-flopper (which was a brilliant plan, incompetently executed), the Kerry campaign has positioned their candidate as reasonable and decisive. This is the balance moderates, I think, want to see.

In terms of economic policy, education policy, and policy on the environment, I think the candidates are poles apart, and this is overwhelmingly in Kerry’s favour. American’s aren’t buying the nonsense that offshoring is good for the country, that the erosion of decent jobs has stopped, or that monster deficit spending will somehow fix itself. And while the environment is not a critical issue to most voters, there is great unease at Bush’s reckless record — for their children’s sake, at least. Bush’s backers have simply been too extreme in their programs in these areas, and this has given conservatives an incentive, and an excuse, to vote for Kerry.

The news, both at home and abroad, is likely to continue to be bad, and that should tip the balance even further. While it’s too early to rest in the campaign, especially with the corruption of the vote in Florida and the vulnerabilities of the voting machines in many states, it’s time to start thinking seriously again about the program to undo some of the damage of the past four years, and the five critical steps I described last year to rebuild the American civic state. These five steps will not be high on the agenda of a new Kerry administration, but it’s absolutely essential that progressives, and all Americans who care about the sorry state of democracy and civil liberties, keep his feet to the fire on these five issues, so that we don’t have to face the nightmare of the last four years again.

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  1. gbreez says:

    keep his feet to the fire on these five issuesI plan to, as do many of us here in the states who are aware of the immense mess that will have to be cleaned up post Bush. It seems a cycle: Republicans screw everything up. especially the economy; Dems clean up the mess. My particular areas of concern are the war(ending it NOW),reining in the government & re-establishing citizen control on all fronts), restoring lost civil rights and stopping their erosion and re-establishing deplomacy with the rest of the world. The US is in a very sorry state. :(

  2. David Jones says:

    Tippa canoe and Kerry too!

  3. Fiona says:

    Good ideas to keep at the top of the list. Lapsing into frivolous commentary here… But when I went to your civic state link, I was struck by the difference between the picture of you there and the pic on this page. Doesn’t even look like the same person. Interesting how we change.

  4. Fiona says:

    Dave — join other Sloggers in an AIM chatroom tonight for the debate? Check Rayne today for details. are invited but only if you promise not to post any charts or graphs. :-)

  5. JackW says:

    Re: Tipping Point…..there were some interesting internals in that Ipsos poll, including a hefty swing to Kerry on favorables on foreign policy. This is critical, particularly wrt to the Rovian/Shubbery ‘Protector against Terrorism’ meme. In fact in the previous Zogby poll this was Bush’s only strong internal, and in that one he had a 56 point lead. So if Protector morphs Albatross the Rovians are doomed.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Fiona: Sorry I was out and missed the debate — I was otherwise engaged and afraid to watch anyway. So much depends on so little in these debates. As for my picture, the ‘new’ one is actually older, and I put it up because I’ve had complaints about all the other ones. I’ll be putting a current picture up soon.

  7. Firas says:

    That photo which begins the post–would you know where I can find an original version? That is so going on my website header.

  8. Karen v.H. says:

    Your five points for rebuilding the civic state are excellent. Educating the electorate seems especially urgent. We’ve seen how much the B/C campaign relies on the fact that many people don’t know how the Senate works, etc. The question is how to raise the level of “political literacy” in the country. Are there any organizations or institutes devoted to that specific project? Seems like there needs to be something like that. The Political Literacy Foundation or some such.

  9. Dave Pollard says:

    Firas: It’s here: Karen: I don’t know for sure, but I think I recall that PBS or NPR had a series of programs about this, meant for schoolchildren but suitable for all. Can’t find it on their site, though. Anyone else help?

  10. Don Dwiggins says:

    Re the last paragraph: I think the best way to “keep Kerry’s feet to the fire” will be to take direct popular action — “If the people lead…”I also think that the best chance for such action will be on issues that progressives, traditional liberals, and “paleo-conservatives” can agree on, such as:- restoring civil liberties (I just heard a discussion in which both Republicans and Democrats called for rolling back the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act), – effective clean money laws in elections (in Arizona, a very conservative state, they have a powerful law providing public funding for campaigns for statewide offices; there are a few other states and local governments with similar laws),- and rolling back the concentration of ownership of the public media (the Bush cabal has managed to keep a powerful bipartisan push in Congress to rescind the FCC ruling of June ’03).Such a movement would also be a solid first step toward repairing the quality of public discourse. (Of all Bush’s lies, “I’m a uniter, not a divider” is probably close to the top. Or maybe he really wanted to be that way, but was just overruled by Karl Rove.)

  11. Don Dwiggins says:

    One more thing: the title of this piece reminds me of a site I recently came across: “The Radical Middle” —

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