On the Record

The Importance of Election 2008

Thomas E. Mann

Thomas Mann joined People’s Daily Washington D.C.. based chief correspondent Li Xuejiang and Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation to discuss the importance of Election 2008.

Li Xuejiang: Which issues are most important ones that concern most American electorate? Do you think these issues have had an important influence on the primaries’ results?

Thomas E. Mann: Americans are most concerned about the dismal state of the economy, including high gas prices, stagnant wages, health care insurance coverage and cost, job insecurity and the credit crunch. They also remain very discouraged and unhappy about the war in Iraq. Neither set of issues was critical to selection of each party’s presidential nominee, because there was broad agreement within each party on how to address these problems. But the issues will be very important in the general election campaign, since the parties and their presidential nominees are far apart.

Li Xuejiang: Why are the American electorates so eager for a change? What kind of change do they want?

Mann: Most Americans believe things have gone very badly under President Bush: Iraq, the economy, Katrina, America’s standing in the world, the bitterly partisan nature of our politics, and the threats to constitutional government. They want to see the American dream restored, a lessening of ideological extremism, a return to civility in society and government.

Li Xuejiang:
What kind of change did Senator.Barack Obama promise to bring about if he were elected as next U.S. president?

Mann
: He is more thematic than specific in his promise of change but his basic idea is to build broad public support in the country well beyond the base of the Democratic Party on behalf of a progressive domestic agenda and a more enlightened and multilateral foreign policy. In an era of ideological polarization between two evenly balanced political parties, he seeks to build the political impetus outside Washington to bring change to Washington.

Li Xuejiang
: Do you think he can really change American politics? what kind of change can he achieve and what type of change can he simply not achieve as promised?

Mann:
That depends on how large an electoral victory he achieves and how skillful he is in attracting some Republicans in the House and Senate to his cause. Both process and policy reforms will be difficult to achieve, and he inherits a daunting set of problems. It will be difficult to meet the high expectations but not impossible.

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