Election 2000 has proven to be one of the most substantive campaigns in recent years. Both respective campaigns have focused largely on the issues providing striking contrasts and parallels. At the end of these three presidential debates, it is clear Al Gore and George W. Bush each clearly stand for different policies serving different people.
Al Gore is a champion for working families. In the debates, he stressed the importance of making sure that amidst the current prosperity, Americans choose to leave no one behind. Gore argued that the policies of fiscal responsibility that brought the national debt to an all-time low and the nation to an unmatched period of prosperity must continue. Gore didn’t sidestep or jump around the issues – he said outright that education is his number one priority. Al Gore knows where the heart of America is, and he understands the issues the average American faces.
George W. Bush has proven to be an advocate for the rich. He wants to use up the nation’s prosperity right now by spending money on a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. This sets up a striking comparison when the two candidates are asked about how to use our prosperity. Al Gore proposes a smaller tax cut that goes to serve working families through programs like the College Opportunity Tax Cut, which provides a tax deduction for college tuition. Bush’s plan gives relief to the wealthiest one percent in this country who would receive 43 percent of the tax cut. It’s not a question of facts or figures; it’s a question of whom these candidates represent and for whom they are willing to fight.
Another striking contrast in these debates was the issue of education. Both candidates were asked repeated questions about education. In one debate, over 20 questions were submitted about education from the audience. Both candidates talked about accountability and they differed very little here as opposed to their widely disparate positions on other issues. George W. Bush wants to mandate standardized testing every year forcing teachers to spend most of their time teaching to pass the tests instead of teaching students for the sake of learning. This proposal would force schools to turn away children who don’t make the grade. Al Gore demands accountability for students and for teachers by including tests for teachers in the subject area they teach as part of his national accountability program.
When the debates moved to the issue of public school funding, there was a telling difference in the philosophies of these two candidates. George W. Bush supports school vouchers. No one disputes that. In fact, the very man who tells everyone he believes in local control would create a nationally mandated program of school vouchers that would force ailing communities to lose their best students. When George W. Bush sees failure, he walks away, as it is something for which he cannot take credit and is therefore not useful. When Al Gore sees failure, he stays and fights to make things better for Americans who need help. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on voucher programs that leave crumbling schools crumbling and failing systems failing, Al Gore wants to invest money directly into turning around failing schools by bringing education specialists to work with the community and figure out what can help better the system. Al Gore fights to make things better; George W. Bush just wants to avoid being around when his policies make things worse.
George W. Bush kept reiterating that he wasn’t a Washington man and that he was from Texas. Of course, Bush ignores the fact that his vice presidential running mate is his daddy’s own prototypical Washington insider. As a Texan myself, I saw evidence of Bush’s Texas roots not in his veiled attempts to simplify his language or put on a little extra accent but in his response to gun control questions. One man asked George W. Bush why he would not support the Brady Bill. Instead of answering a fair question with his reasoning on the issue, Bush talked about his thoughts on guns without ever even saying the word Brady. That, my friends, is the Texas two-step.
If you want a candidate that will dance around the issues and who cares most about the wealthiest one percent of Americans, then Bush is your man. He made that clear in the debates. However, Al Gore is the champion for working families. He has a strong record, a clear vision and a dedicated commitment to making America better every day. In a substantive campaign and through three informative debates, Al Gore has stepped forward to fight for students and families. Now it is up to voters to make the right choice in one of the closest elections in history and elect Al Gore president.
-The writer is national political director of the College Democrats of America and president of the GW College Democrats.