It is hard to imagine a more important U.S. presidential election. At long last, the two parties are taking strikingly different positions, and the choice will be clear to voters. The election result could change our country: Will we devote nearly half of our resources to government to fund a European-style welfare state? Or will this approach be rejected?
There are three other 2012 elections that have greater long-run significance, if one can imagine that.
1. The Eighteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party
At stake are 14 out of 25 seats on the Politburo, the supreme body that runs China. These 14 seats will go to the “princelings” – the children of the elite, who increasingly manage the party, state, and economy. The princelings appear to be split between liberals and Maoists. The current wave of arrests of dissidents, the removal of the Confucius statue from Tiananmen Square, and the “revolutionary programming” on television are subtle signs that the behind-the-scenes power struggle has begun. This election will determine China’s stances towards political reforms and foreign policy – whether China will move towards democracy and a less aggressive foreign policy or the reverse.
2. The 2012 Russian Presidential Election
The odd presidential campaign between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev has also begun. Only one will stand for election against minor opponents. The “nomination” campaign will be fought behind Kremlin walls, but the candidates have staked out their positions. Putin (the ex-KGB colonel) is the champion of a strong Russian state, an aggressive foreign policy, an intrusive state, and is not concerned about the lack of a rule of law. Medvedev (the lawyer) supports a rule of law, a more accommodating foreign policy, the rights of opposition political parties, and halting the repression of journalists who write things the Kremlin does not like. This election will determine whether Russia sinks deeper into the KGB state that Putin has created or begins to pull itself out of the swamp of thuggery and corruption.
3. The 2012 (2011) Egyptian Elections
We do not know the election rules and dates of the first “free” Egyptian election in a half century. This election, now scheduled for November 2011 but likely in early 2012, will be the true test of the “Arab Spring.” Will it result in a real democracy with multiple parties contending against each other with a free press informing the public, or will the election go to the only organized party (the Muslim Brotherhood), which then proceeds to use all means available (following the example of Chavez in Venezuela) to insure its permanent reelection? Or will a true democracy, in which liberal political parties are real contenders, be the result?