In the run up to the American presidential elections we will be asking a panel of BBC News Online users to share their views. Here, we asked them for their thoughts on the Democratic Convention, and John Kerry's speech.
MEET THE PANEL
Name: Chase Erwin
Lives: Austin, Texas
Works: Unemployed College Student
Current voting intention: Undecided
In 10 words or less:
"Idealistic, opinionated, careful to weigh options before making decisions"
In a perfect world, political candidates would spend less time criticising each other's credentials, and simply tell voters what they would do if elected.
That's why I didn't pay much attention to the convention at all until Thursday when Mr Kerry "reported for duty".
Since this is the first election year in which I can actually vote, I paid close attention to the speech.
I was so thankful that, for the first time in ages, I actually heard a straightforward plan for Kerry's presidency.
Most of it involved military policy that in most facets mirrored President Bush's ideas for restructuring intelligence, and supplementing our troops.
I got the sense that Kerry wouldn't do anything radically different than Bush, just in a more organised fashion.
It has to be the whole of the speech, encompassing military, education, health, energy and economic policy, that will sway undecided voters, not just the sum of its parts.
The key differences in the two men's plans for our country involve education and the economy, and if people listened, they now have a clearer idea what those differences are and what they could mean for the future of this country.
I concur, however what many people with legitimate reservations to the two main candidates fail to recognise is the Nader alternative. Whether they are truly ignorant of his candidacy or simply believe that he is not 'electable' it is not absurd to consider him as a realistic possibility for victory when you consider the striking similarities between Bush and Kerry. There are certainly enough people who oppose free trade, the death penalty, war, and the Patriot Act to give Nader a viable shot at wresting the Oval Office from the hands of the establishment plutocrats by attracting both disenfranchised Republicans, Democrats and his traditional constituency. He is the only candidate attracting voters from both the left and right. In short just what America needs to heal its vast political rift.
First, I'm interested to read the views of this thoughtful, 19-year-old. The differences between the candidates are found in places where most voters don't often look - like the judges they appoint (pro-life v pro-choice), the causes they support (faith-based causes or stem-cell research) and foreign policies. So, there really are differences, but they're hard to find.
Summer Mondeau, Napa, CA, USA
I am embarrassed and worried by the heightened level of animosity the Bush administration has spawned toward Americans, but I really don't see Kerry being much different. How can we believe he'll work hard at being president when he is AWOL as a senator? I would like to vote for none of the above. Politicians at the national level are so far removed from middle-class America that they are truly unable to represent us. It's enough to make an apathetic cynic out of a once-hopeful active member of this alleged democracy.
Paula Walker, Flagstaff, USA
Prior to the 2000 election, I too felt there was little difference between the candidates. Bush campaigned as a moderate, as did Gore. I voted for Gore, but wasn't overly concerned when Bush became president. How wrong I was! The last four years have completely changed the world's view of the US. I respect Chase's right not to vote. However, I am puzzled over those who say there is not a difference between the current administration and Kerry's plan. Even if you simply look at the environment, healthcare, and the economic plan, you can see major differences. I hope those that choose to give up their right to vote will at least take a serious look at both candidates before staying home on election day.
Laura Wampfler, Florida, USA
Kerry might not have a different policy in terms of Iraq, but he will lead the US in a much more organised fashion. The difference between Kerry and Bush is that Kerry thinks about the tough geopolitical situation before he engages in other conflicts.
Pavitra Pandey, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, USA
Kerry is a rich plutocrat like Bush and a convincing orator and phoney like Clinton. His polished delivery doesn't do a thing to counteract his actual miserable record of accomplishing virtually nothing of importance in Senate and his longstanding complicity with big spending Democratic Party special interests. He is just as bad as Bush on the Middle East. He and Bush as candidates offer no significant difference in reality, as Bush pushes the money towards the far right, which will eventually force a radical swing to the left, but Kerry simply sits in the middle as a theatrical figure that will not play well anyplace but a stage. I believe both are disastrous for our nation and further damage our Republic, and continue to move it to a ruthless plutocracy.
Aminah Yaquin Carroll, West Virginia, USA
My Belgian girlfriend and I watched the speech and she was amazed to see how militaristically and heroically it was structured. She said, Europeans would be shocked at that. And that was the Democrats! Of course I'll vote for Kerry though.
John Cronin, US student at Louvain, Belgium
I agree with chase's view. No difference in policy international, domestic. No president whatever party will undermine the U.S power and might. I call it the Anglo-American empire." If Michael Moore and some of the people and politicians around the world think there will be fundamental change. They will be sadly mistaken.
Ray Dickinson, Mandurah, West Australia