William Kristol argues that the stakes in the 2004 Presdidential Election are the highest since Reagan v. Mondale in 1984 or perhaps even LBJ v. Goldwater in 1964. I expect he is right.
Heres a sample: "Lets start with foreign policy. The Bush administrations response to September 11 was ambitious and unambiguous. It seemed to have bipartisan support for a while. No longer. Bushs Democratic opponent in 2004 looks likely to oppose fundamentally the Bush Doctrine and its most prominent instantiation so far, the war in Iraq. So we will have a Reagan-Mondale degree of difference on foreign policy, made more consequential by the fact that we are at the genesis of a new foreign policy era. The implications of September 11 for American foreign policy, the basic choices as to Americas role in the world, will be on the table. They will not be resolved in November 2004 once and for all--things never are. But they may well be resolved for a generation.
But even more striking is the divide over social and cultural issues. Bush is no aggressive culture warrior. But he is pretty unambiguously on the pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, worried-about-Brave-New-World, pro-religion-in-the-public-sphere side of the culture divide. The Democratic candidate is likely to pretty unambiguously embody a secular, progressivist, liberationist worldview. The partisan divide between religious and secular voters has been growing, and in 2004 it might well be the widest in modern American history. The losing side wont surrender, and the winner wont have an entirely free hand to make policy. But who wins will matter a lot."
Amazing that a country can be so divided on fundamental principle so evenly.