Throbbing Political Pulse
By Bernard Weiner, The
traveling around the country, I (surprise!) talk politics
with folks I meet; it's often instructive and it serves as
a way of taking the social pulse. Last week's trip to the
East Coast, to meet with fellow website editors - mainly in
New York, but checking in with Crisis Papers compadres in
Washington, D.C., as well - presented me with both encouraging
and dispiriting signs.
The Congressional Democrats scurry around like frightened
rabbits, but out beyond the beltway this trip re-affirmed
for me that there are plenty of ordinary Dems - appalled at
Bush&Co. policies - who have more starch in their spines.
These Democrats seem willing to unite big time behind the
party's eventual candidate (providing money, energy and time),
even if it turns out that they might not agree with some of
the standard-bearer's positions. I heard this same commitment
from supporters of all the major candidates. This is a hopeful
To a person, these citizens - and even a goodly number of
Greens, and Republican moderates, angry at how their party
has been hijacked by far-right zealots - are willing to put
ideological considerations aside in the service of defeating
Bush in 2004. They know that this may be the last chance available
to break the back of the neo-con momentum currently wreaking
such havoc on our country, domestically and internationally.
This may be the final opportunity to stop the imperial war
machine as it greedily eyes other countries in the oil-rich
Middle East and elsewhere. This may be the last chance to
save and protect our Constitutional form of government.
I did talk to one Democrat who vowed he would support any
of the party's candidates but Joe Lieberman, whom he described
as "Rambo lite." The overall choice of the Dems I talked to
on this trip was Dennis Kucinich - my main-man as well - but
nary a one believed he had a snowball's chance in Hell to
get the nomination. They thought it would be Dean or (this
one surprised me) Gephardt, or, as a middle-range compromise,
But many of these same Democrats have told me that if and
when the Dem nominee wins the presidency, they are going to
go after the party's Congressional leadership with a vengeance.
Watching the Democrats cave time and time again to Bush's
threats and demands makes them ashamed to be in the same party.
The best recruiter for the Greens is Tom Daschle.
The sentiment I heard again and again on this trip was that
the Congressional Democrats "just don't get it." By which
was meant that the supposed Democratic leaders, by and large,
think their Republican opponents are just playing the usual
style of politics, and thus the Dems can deal with them in
the same civil way they've been used to for the past several
decades. The Democrats, I was told often, simply don't, or
won't, understand what activist role a Loyal Opposition is
supposed to play in the current world of cutthroat Washington
Because of this confusion and timidity, Democratic action
translates all too often into accomodation - formerly called
selling-out - that tends to give Bush&Co. whatever they want,
whether it be a blank-check authorization for war, a deeply
flawed Medicare bill that is the first step in the elimination
of that all-important program, a bloated $87 billion bill
to finance the Iraq war and to continue paying off corporate
behemoths like Halliburton and Bechtel, and on and on.
Getting It And Not
In truth, the Congressional Democrats do not get
it. "It" is the fact that the Republicans these days are a
different breed of political animal, operating from an extremist
neo-con locus - an arrogant, bullying approach to political
opponents, which has so discombobulated the Dems that even
Congressional Republicans that can't stomach the agenda are
happy to participate. These zealots are out not just to best
the opposition but to destroy it, in order to create what
amounts to a one-party state.
The most obvious recent demonstration of this was the way
the Administration's energy bill was created and rammed onto
the Congressional floor - hammered out in secret (both by
Cheney and his fellow energy-company execs, and later by the
Congressional GOP leadership), with absolutely no input from
Democrats permitted. Or the GOP unwillingness at times to
allow proper committee hearings where Democrat objections
can be heard, or to entertain Dem amendments to bills, etc.
Add this movement toward one-party rule to the increasing
militarization of the country, where criticism of Bush policies
and the incompetency with which they're carried out is painted
as support for terrorists; see the Republican National Committee's
TV ads currently running in Iowa. And then there's the shredding
of Constitutional guarantees of due process under the PATRIOT
Act, with even more being sought in PATRIOT Act 2, the so-called
The pattern is clear: under Bush&Co., we are moving more
and more quickly toward a kind of American neo-fascism, where
one set of ideas is all that will be permitted. (And you can
bet that plans are being hatched already in Ashcroft's office
for taking care of critical internet websites such as this
one: "detrimental to the war effort," you know.)
The progress made for most Americans under the New Deal
and Great Society programs of the past 60 years are being
rolled back. Private greed, corporate gluttony, more power
to the powerful, imperial rampaging abroad, the polluters
making the pollution rules, the working/middle class (and
minorities) taking it in the neck - all these and more help
define Bush rule, and will only get worse if the White House
remains in GOP hands after 2004.
I'm not exaggerating. The handwriting is already clearly
on the wall. War and represssion. It's that bad.
The Blues vs. The Reds
All those with whom I spoke on my East Coast trip, be they
liberal Democrats or traditional GOP conservatives, tended
to see the Bush Administration in much the same way as described
above. But, we all agreed, by and large we were talking about
the more metropolitan "Blue" states, those on the two coasts
that tend to be more tolerant, more liberal in social outlook,
more internationalist in foreign policy.
But what about the "Red," Bush-country, states in between
the two coasts? How to reach those citizens and convince them
that voting for Bush again is not in their interests?
Several of the website editors I talked with noted that
there have been increasing signs, backed up by polling, that
even in those Red states disenchantment with Bush&Co. is palpable.
Even in Kansas and Idaho, for example, many small-government
conservatives are deeply agitated by the extremist politics
practiced by the Bush cabal - starting unnecessary wars abroad;
creating a huge, Big Brother federal government; damaging
the economy and the resulting enormous job losses; decimating
Medicare, with Social Security next. Similarly, when I was
in Texas several months ago, I heard of lifelong Republicans
who already had announced that they would not vote for Bush
again; many letters from moderate/conservative Republicans
to The Crisis Papers and other political websites, from a
variety of states, echo that sentiment.
So fertile ground is open to Democratic plowing in supposed
Bush country. Al Gore vacillated back and forth in the 2000
campaign, but his initial more-populist message did resonate
with many voters; Howard Dean didn't handle his position very
elegantly on the need to talk sense to angry Southern white
males, but he, too, like Gephardt, is suggesting a campaign
that takes it to the Bush heartland on populist-type economic
issues, especially in the Republican-dominated South.
If the Democratic nominee can clearly articulate how it
is in nobody's economic or social interest to vote for the
Republican candidate - not even, in the long run, for the
corporate fat-cats - then Bush country itself is put into
play and the Dems have a hope of taking some of those electoral
votes. Especially given the latent disenchantment with the
Bush Administration among many true conservatives in those
The Odiferous Necklace
In short, the 2004 election can be won. Both because of
the candidate the Democrats will put up, and the scandals
that hang like a putrifying collection of roadkill around
George W. Bush's neck, most notably the coverup of Bush's
pre-9/11 knowledge, the felonious outing of a covert CIA agent
to punish a political opponent, the massive lying to the Congress
and American people that led us into an unnecessary quagmire
in Iraq, and so on.
So, yes, Bush is defeatable, but it ain't gonna be easy.
Rove&Co. realize what's at stake here - their last chance
to implement their far-right agenda, and set up their repressive
infrastructure, for another decade or two - and already are
way ahead of the Democrats in terms of fund-raising and money
available. They are much more adept, for example, in how to
employ the internet to their advantage, with the Dems just
getting started in playing catch-up. So that's a big disadvantage
one year ahead of the election.
Then, too, those opposed to Bush have to deal in a serious
way with the touch-screen computer issue, to eliminate the
possibility of GOP fiddling with the vote-counting software
that currently is controlled mainly by three Republican-leaning
corporations. Since those corporations refuse to permit state
election officials to examine and test the software, the only
way to ensure a thoroughly clean, suspicionless balloting
in 2004 is for the citizenry to demand a postponement of computer-voting
until the corruption and hacking issues can be dealt with
A major activist campaign should be mounted to convince
the various Secretaries of State - who will be meeting in
convention in February - to refuse to purchase computer-voting
machines for their respective states from these three companies
until the software can be examined, tested and, if necessary,
fixed, ensuring that later manipulation of the results cannot
be carried out.
If this process is not done, or cannot be done in time,
the only method that guarantees a fair and impartial election
in November will be to use paper ballots, hand-counted, with
GOP and Dem representatives observing the tallying. We've
already had a tainted, controversial election in 2000; to
restore faith in the democratic process, the 2004 election
must be fair, and be seen as fair, by the entire electorate,
untarnished by even a hint of chicanery.
If there is a fair and untampered-with election in November,
the Democrat will win. But that means that you and I need
to start our work now, one year in advance, to make
that happen. The name of the game is active citizen involvement
that will build to a crescendo of democratic (small- and large-D)
activism that will eventuate in putting Bush and his dangerous
cronies on the unemployment rolls where they belong.
Bernard Weiner is co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org),
and was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for
19 years. A Ph.D. in government & international relations,
he has taught at various universities.