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Issue Date:  November 5, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

In and out of play in the Midwest

Less than a week to go until the election as I write this, and I must confess to a certain yearning for my days on the East Coast where the politics, at least in mind’s eye, was always a bit more brawny and chaotic than I’ve experienced it here. That is not to say that Kansas City (the one on the Missouri side), where I work, has not had its history of zany characters and political giants and ne’er-do-wells.

But matters appear fairly tame these days, and that certainly is the case on the Kansas side, where I live and where the political map runs a deep red.

This is the state, after all, that gave us former Sen. Bob Dole, the late President Dwight Eisenhower and the brief flirtation with creationism as a required part of the science curriculum. One significant Democrat, Congressman Dennis Moore, who plays out in Eastern Kansas as the equivalent to a moderate Republican, is fighting for his political life against the real Republican, Kris Kobach, a young law professor who served in the current Bush administration as counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Kobach, in some of his declarations, would make Paul Wolfowitz look like he’s soft on defense. It seems he wants to fight with and defend against everyone.

But that’s about the only suspense. The presidential vote is locked up for Bush. So it is easy to take a kind of Kansas posture toward all the other political goings-on, which is to suggest by bearing and tilt of head and general look of disinterest that those in the battleground states and on the coasts are terribly unfortunate for all the indecision they must deal with.

On the Missouri side, however, things are picking up. There was quite a battle going on early in the campaign, if the TV ads were any indication (television knows no state bounds) until about two weeks ago when the state seemed to tip convincingly toward President Bush. The ads left and the sense of contest disappeared. That shifted dramatically with about a week to go as the polls tightened, and Missouri, as of this writing, is once again being termed “in play.”

~ ~ ~

By next issue, we hope the big national question is answered and that we have a clear winner. A walk through this issue, however, shows that whoever wins will face a list of enormously trying ordeals that seemed only to be highlighted by the campaign.

As Arthur Jones, who has been writing regularly about health care in the United States, makes clear in his analysis (see story), we haven’t begun to have the kind of deep and broad national conversation that will be necessary before any comprehensive health care plan will make sense.

Likewise, looking forward means confronting the reality of Iraq beyond the spin of the election season and facing the kind of sobering analysis that Stephen Zunes offers ( see story). That reality is largely that we have created a place of terror and terrorists and alliances where none existed before the war.

And regardless of who wins, some Catholic leaders will have to face in ways they probably have not imagined the consequences of their partisan activities. It might be helpful for them to consult their own past texts on political involvement, and then they ought to listen to their people and, not least, to priests like those in Milwaukee, who, to my ear, raise compelling, commonsense points ( see story).

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, November 5, 2004

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