In the September Atlantic, Michael Barone explains why "the coming election may be the most important in generations" (as the subhead says), why "Bush versus Kerry may represent America's most momentous electoral choice since FDR versus Wendell Wilkie–if not since Abraham Lincoln versus George McClellan" (as the pull-quote–really more of a pull-paraphrase–on the second page puts it). When the co-author of The Almanac of American Politics makes this sort of claim, you tend to pay attention. But the article (not online yet) does not quite deliver on the promise.
"The gap between the two candidates is substantial in virtually every area," Barone writes. A lot hinges on how you define substantial and virtually, I guess, but this seems like an overstatement in light of the important similarities between the candidates.
"On domestic matters Bush has governed further to the right than many anticipated he would," Barone continues. Again, it depends what you mean by many, but there has been a great deal of disenchantment on the right with Bush's big-government "conservatism."
Barone also claims that under Kerry, "domestic spending might be increased more than Bush would allow." I suppose it might, but since Bush's fiscal restraint often has been likened to that of an inebriated seaman, it's hard to see how Kerry could be worse, especially since he'd be fighting a Republican-controlled House and (probably) Senate.
Add to these eyebrow-raising assertions Barone's placement of Rudy Giuliani in the "libertarian" wing of the Republican Party, and you start to wonder if he's putting us on. As a clincher, Barone brings in Robert Frost:
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," begins one of Robert Frost's most famous poems. One cannot say with certainty where the Bush or the Kerry road would actually take us, but the divergence is not just rhetorical but real–and very wide indeed.
One cannot say with certainty what Barone was thinking when he wrote this piece, but by the time he got to the conclusion he clearly was not interested in the road less traveled by.