It may be altogether easy for the world to cheer for Kerry. But irrespective of who wins, the real cause for thought, if not disquiet, ought to be how fundamentally America has changed over the years. So much has happened since the 1970s. But of all major mutations, it is the decline of the Left (or in fact Liberal) thought in US policy and the rise of the Right that is remarkable.
One of the main reasons for this is that American society in the aggregate is more prosperous than ever in history. Consequently, many of the triggers for empathy have been diluted. Not only have the civil rights and gender campaigns been highly successful in social and political terms, they have also altered the economic demography of the country.
The Liberals have ceded their passion and edge to the Conservatives
The Conservatives are a powerful force in US thought and policymaking
A record number of Americans today (almost 70% of all households) own their own homes, health insurance is expensive but extensive, people have more leisure time, and the overall standard of living has improved.
All this is, of course, set against spiralling expectations. But a real apples-to-apples comparison since 1970 shows that America is far better off now. The experiments of the Great Society have apparently worked out well, and outside of some pockets such as immigrants and single parents, things have improved tremendously.
This has led to complacence within the Liberals who have ceded much of their previous edge and passion to the Conservatives. Worried by what they saw as a destabilising counterculture from the 60s and 70s, the Conservatives have been investing time and money in creating intellectual and emotional appeal to reclaim the space they lost. And 25 years later, the American media, public opinion and scholarship are being influenced by conservative thinktanks in an increasingly sophisticated and increasingly successful way.
A perfect example of this is the one-sided reportage in the mainstream American media during the early days of the Iraq war which pushed a barely-masked ideological position and a brazen falsity without anybody really checking the facts or just taking a sceptical line.
More generally, the American Right has prevailed on many fronts in recent years. This success goes beyond the current crop of neo-cons who are so disliked in other countries.
The decline of intellectuals on the Left and the rise of intellectuals on the Right has dramatically changed US politics, both within its borders and abroad. Some estimates suggest that the Right spends over $ 5 billion annually via research grants and scholarships to promote a conservative agenda.
Irrespective of whether it is Bush or Kerry who wins, the American Right has become a truly powerful and well-embedded force in US thought, attitude and policymaking. The real long-term issue for most nations will be how to engage and deal with them.
The author is editor of India Focus