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Coming back from having observed the elections in Venezuela just a few weeks ago, the presidential campaign in the United States looks flat and artificial by comparison. An expected 90 million people will not go to the polling booths this time around. The challenges expressed by the candidates are just not at the level of the difficulties faced by the population at large. The U.S. now has 15% of its population at or below the poverty line. Still, after three Presidential debates, neither candidate has spoken about how to address this issue. To be fair, Governor Romney has mentioned poverty five times, and President Obama has spoken about those “who want to climb to the middle class” without being explicit. Ignoring the issue of poverty is a missed opportunity according to new polls commissioned by the American Values Network. In total, 87 percent of the voters, across ideological lines, reported that they believe that the working poor should be a top government priority.
The real question in this election is: what happened to the Democrats during the past four years? The political direction of the U.S. didn’t change, the concentration of the economic power has increased, Wall Street is stronger than ever, and fifty million people are living below the property line. Of course, the administration faced enormous difficulties, mainly on health and immigration issues. But what a disappointment in front of so many missed opportunities during these four years! The first failure was the Democratic Party’s inability to capitalize on the power of the youth, who campaigned and elected Barak Obama to the presidency, but who were left with nothing the day after the election! The second missed opportunity was the inability to capture Osama Bin Laden. It could have been the trial of the century and could have served as a platform to initiate worldwide discussion on many important issues, such as the relationship of the West and the rest of the world, Islam and its place in today’s society, economic parity across the world, and most importantly, the subjects of violence, justice and nonviolence. Instead, our Government illegally killed him in a foreign land! Do we have to remind our Government that the law of the land is: someone is innocent until s/he is JUDGED and PROVEN guilty? The third missed opportunity for this Government was its decision of not engaging with the Occupy Movement that mobilized millions in hundreds cities for months and took the media by storm. The administration could have created a space where open debate could take place about subjects such as the function of Wall Street in our economy today, and the paradox of money and democracy. The fourth missed opportunity was the bail-out of the biggest banks. Instead, the opportunity could have been utilized to break them up into smaller institutions with specific functions – banking, credits and insurance – thus helping end the era of monopolies that make people powerless by controlling all aspects of their economic lives!
Watching these Presidential debates, it is quite clear that both candidates eventually