Millions of Americans will go to the polls in what may be among the closest elections in U.S. history. The stakes are the highest since World War II: Inherent in the decision is not simply a choice between the between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, but also decisions both about the role of government in society and about the role of the United States in the world.
"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," commonly called Obamacare, represents the largest government social service program since Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935. While many Europeans see national healthcare as either a right or the function of good government, the intrusion of government into both individual choice and the private sector offends many Americans' notions of individual liberty and responsibility.
At stake also is the future of the American military. The Budget Control Act of 2011 called for lowering federal spending by $1.2 trillion. Should a "Super Committee" fail to agree on such cuts, the law would trigger automatic cuts of more than $500 billion from the Pentagon budget. This "sequestration" would fundamentally alter the American ability to project power.
This year, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize but if the judges took their logic to the natural conclusion, the true recipient should have been the United States military. Europeans may look at the United Nations and other international organizations as the basis for international law, but since World War II, it has been the American ability to project power—and the American taxpayers' willingness to fund a robust military—which has enabled institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union to construct elaborate diplomatic and political structures under the guise of maintaining peace. Should the United States end its ability to conduct two military operations simultaneously for the first time since World War II, the assumptions upon which diplomats and statesmen operate will change drastically.
Presidents of both major U.S. parties have embraced notions of American exceptionalism and encouraged the export of democracy. No political program can demonstrate the importance of democracy more than the fact that tens of millions of Americans will go to the polls to hold their government accountable and peacefully resolve issues that could impact both life and death.