October 26, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The
Don't know about you, but one week before Election Day, I'm cautiously
hopeful and nervous as hell.
It looks and feels like Bush & Co. are going down - Kerry's momentum
is building, Bush's "favorable" numbers remain stuck in the mid-
to high-40s, more and more "Bush states" are in play, so many conservative
leaders, writers, newspapers and magazines are abandoning the GOP
But, as P.T. Barnum or some other political scientist must have
said, don't ever underestimate Americans' tendency to vote against
their self-interests when frightened or in reality-denial.
And Karl Rove still has a week in which to launch his V2 rockets
at the Democrats. Whether he is desperate enough to go maximum will
depend on his reading of the GOP internal polls. If he still believes
he can pull off an Electoral College victory by energizing his fundamentalist/rightwing
base and suppressing the Dem vote - through slime and sleaze and
intimidation and computer-fiddling and reducing the number of new
registered Democrats by thievery and threatening poll "monitors"
- he'll hold back his major weapons.
But if what he's hearing in the various toss-up states continues
to sound bad - Kerry doing well in enough of them to deny Bush victory
- he may go for those extreme measures. Whether that will be an
American/Israeli attack on Iran's nuke sites, or rounding up some
Arabs and charging them with a new terrorist assault on U.S. soil
("Who's your daddy? We're protecting you, vote for us"), or a simulated
assassination try, or declaring martial law and "postponing" the
election - whatever, he'd consider doing it.
These Bush & Co. guys aren't going to give up willingly and just
walk away. They feel they've worked too long and hard, decades really,
to finally get where they can actually institute revolutionary changes
and take what they want at home and abroad - profit, power, control,
"respectability" - to let loose of those reins.
DEALS WITH THE DEVIL
And so, they'll do what they have to do to stay in the White House,
even if it means making deals with the devil. They most probably
will initiate court cases challenging the election results in various
state courts, to buy themselves some more time to fiddle with the
system and, they hope, gain an ultimate victory. They might even
try to kick the outcome back into the U.S. Supreme Court. If that's
their last-resort plan, they may find the reception there a bit
chillier than in 2000, inasmuch as Bush & Co. are trying to reduce
the power of the Court to interpret the Constitution, and such moves
might well be looked at askance by the Supremes.
But, if by chance, John Kerry emerges the clear, unchallengable
victor - too many popular votes in too many states - they know they'll
have nearly three months before inauguration to mess with the system
of transition. Bush will make a huge number of recess appointments
for key positions, sign numerous executive orders altering the way
environmental and corporate laws are enforced, maybe get the U.S.
involved in more international adventures abroad, and so on. The
entire object in this case would be to force the incoming Kerry
Administration to spend most of its term trying to undo four solid
years of damage, rather than being able to move forward on its own
And, if Kerry wins but has to face a Republican-controlled Senate
and/or House, as seems likely, the GOP will be able to make life
even more miserable and impossible for the Democratic President.
The object would be, of course, to so hobble Kerry as to make it
easier to topple him or another Democrat in 2008, and get back to
the business of business before that unfortunate Democratic interruption.
EARTHQUAKES IN THE PARTIES
Regardless of who wins on November 2, there will be a seismic
shakeup of both major political parties, maybe even of the entire
If the Republicans lose, prepare to witness a political bloodletting
of major proportions. The traditional conservative/centrist wing
will want to wrest power from the hard-rightists who they feel have
hijacked the GOP and taken it to defeat. The extreme positions taken
by Bush & Co. domestically, and the budget-busting and reckless
adventurism fomented by the Cheney/Rumsfeld neo-cons abroad, will
be savaged, and that crew probably will go into temporary-eclipse
phase. (Some of the worst offenders may even wind up in criminal,
or international, courts of justice.)
If the Democrats lose, the political civil war will take place
between those in power who are all too prone to tack to the center
and center-right, and those liberal/progressives who are no longer
willing to compromise like that, since such a strategy took them
to defeat, twice.
In short, there will be wholesale realignments within both major
parties, and I would expect a major expansion in popularity of the
Greens and other alternative parties - which might well be attractive
to those in the 2004 electorate who are sick and tired of the lesser-of-two-evils
option and who could not work up a passion for either candidate.
THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD
Again, regardless of which party emerges victorious next week,
many in those parties will be susceptible to being lured away. If
Bush & Co. win, the few remaining moderates and traditional conservative
Republicans may well feel ostricized inside the GOP, and come to
believe that the hard-right crowd is not for them. They may try
to found their own party or join with the Democrats or go check
out the Greens.
Many progressive Democrats, and I am one such, will give a President
Kerry a chance to establish himself and move the country back more
to the center and center-left. But if he does not change some of
his campaign positions - if, for example, he goes for military victory
in Iraq (hard to imagine, given what Kerry knows and has experienced
with regard to Vietnam), or continues to give the Israeli government
carte blanche to run roughshod over the Palestinians - we may well
move to the Greens or further leftward. (But progressives won't
do so easily; since they will have leverage with Kerry, inasmuch
as liberal/left forces helped him achieve his victory, they will
expect to have a place at the decision-making table.)
In sum, this election promises to be one of the most important
and momentous in American history, and the fallout from it will
be unusually significant, realigning the social and political structure
of America for years and perhaps decades to come.
WHAT TO DO NOW
But all that's so much future analysis. What do we do now?
There is one week left. We must continue to try swaying the few
undecideds, but our real focus needs to be on energizing the Kerry
base and getting them to the polls, preferably for early- or absentee-voting,
but most assuredly on Voting Day. Phone callers and drivers are
We need to make sure Kerry voters are able to cast their ballots
free of intimidation, and that their votes are counted fairly and
honestly. If you see something suspicious, immediately call your
local election supervisor, and Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
We liberals/progressives have worked like dogs these past many
months to get to the point where a Bush defeat is possible, indeed
likely. Let's finish the job, passing so many Kerry voters through
the process that Rove will not even consider trying to steal or
manipulate or challenge the clear Kerry victory.
And then we can get on with the difficult but glorious job of
renewing democracy, re-establishing Constitutional justice, and
(while protecting ourselves from our enemies) promoting peace. It's
"hard work," to quote Bush, but so satisfying. Let's do it.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government, has taught at various
universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle,
and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. He is a contributing writer to the recently-released
"Big Bush Lies" book.