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Get in the Game
October 10, 2003
By Doug Snider

For the first time in over forty years as a registered voter, I made a campaign donation for a presidential candidate. Even through some of the bitterly contested presidential elections of the past, I never felt it was my duty to do any more than cast my vote. This time a lot of things have changed and much more is at stake for all Americans.

My contribution to the campaign of General Wesley Clark helped him reach $3.5 million in just two weeks. That impressive statistic has to be weighed against the fact that my tax dollars continue to pay for flying George Bush around the country in our airplane to pick up the corporate payoffs he is counting on to fund an uncontested Republican primary. His targeted $170 million will buy a lot of dirty tricks. We all paid for his aircraft carrier stunt, but ironically it now appears that his opposition will get more mileage out that footage than the Bush campaign will.

My small contribution was a greater personal sacrifice for me than the $2000 bets the high rollers are placing at Bush fundraising dinners all around the country, and I don't even get a meal out of it. All I hope to get in return is a new administration with the same sense of what is fair and what is American that I was raised to believe in. If all goes well, my taxes will probably go up as well.

Why is this pending election bothering me so much? It should bother all of us that the democratic process we chose over two centuries ago is being reduced to a cynical science that has little to do with the will of the people. Electoral "mad professors" like Karl Rove are playing a dirty game that apparently has no rules. The well-bankrolled recall in California and the boundary tampering in Texas are plays that serve to defeat the notion that each of us has a vote that counts. The 2000 fiasco in Florida may have already disabused you of that myth.

The gurus of today's politics depend upon an ill informed or misinformed electorate. The alarming percentage of Americans who bought the fabricated reasons to invade Iraq, the reasons belatedly disavowed by most of the Bush administration, is a sad indicator of how poorly informed most who will cast votes really are. Even more telling are the results of a University of Maryland study showing that the largest percentage of people holding these erroneous views relied upon Fox News for their enlightenment. In an age of information when we all have ready access to the truth, this state of affairs is appalling. The real danger of unregulated media domination is abundantly clear.

We have entered an era when totally contrived candidates can be victorious. Real qualifications seem to have little importance if the game is played with ruthlessness, skill and a huge war chest. Bush in 2000 and Arnold in 2003 indicate a dismal and potentially fatal trend in our choice of leaders. If Ronald Reagan's simian co-star from "Bedtime for Bonzo" is still alive, I wouldn't count him out.

The Bush campaign attacks on John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary give us some insight into how nasty the coming election could be. When they staged a vicious dirty tricks campaign in South Carolina, they were not even desperate and their target was a fellow Republican. Given Bush's plunging ratings and the strong field of potential challengers, the gloves will be off for this clash.

The age old plea to register and vote may not be enough to get us through this pivotal election. To reclaim our democracy we will all have to make personal sacrifices and contribute what we can, time, money or both, to the cause of the candidate we believe will lead us back to our traditional values and, yes, a new kind of patriotism. No matter who you select as your preferred alternative to four more years of misery, get in the game. Reasonable people cannot remain on the sidelines this time. Speak out, register and, when you vote, take an informed friend with you.

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