Five questions about America this election may answerBy Peter S. Canellos Globe Staff / November 2, 2008
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Is the "Reagan Revolution" over? Going down the stretch, McCain is campaigning heavily on Obama's comment that he wants to "spread the wealth." And McCain has even discovered a seven-year-old radio interview suggesting that Obama may believe in "redistributive" economics.During the heyday of the Democrats' New Deal coalition, which dominated politics from 1932 until 1980, the idea of spreading the wealth around was hardly political poison - it was the backbone of the party's economic philosophy.
Is America prepared to move beyond its racial divisions? On the day of Obama's Democratic nomination acceptance speech, tens of thousands of African-Americans, most with children in tow, waited for hours in security lines to enter Denver's football stadium to celebrate the crowning of the nation's first black presidential nominee.
Are young people becoming a driving force in American politics? Back in the '60s, the emerging Baby Boom generation pushed American politics leftward. But through the '80s and '90s, voters under 30 see-sawed between backing Democrats and Republicans, while turning out in smaller numbers overall. Their strongest sentiment seemed to be their indifference.
How much do Americans care about their image in the world?Arguably, the opinions of foreigners have never counted for anything in US politics. Some of the most unpopular American presidents in the outside world - such as Reagan - were hugely popular at home, while those most concerned with the world - like Hoover and Carter - were domestic flops.
What does it mean to be a conservative? The Republican coalition has been compared to a stool with three legs - strong national defense, low taxes, and conservative social values. It's never been a secret that many Republicans buy into only one or another of the three legs, but they've bought in strongly enough that their disagreements with the others haven't mattered. Recently, though, the stool has been wobbling.