October 20, 2004
By The Plaid Adder
In 2000, Nader garnered most of his electoral support by making
the argument that the two major parties had grown so close together
that there were no longer any significant differences. He's still
trying to make that argument now, but just about nobody is buying
Especially this October, the differences have become pretty dramatic.
You see, right now, even if you can't make head or tail of the ideological
positions, there's one very easy way to tell the two parties apart.
The Democrats are busting their asses to get voters to the polls,
and the Republicans are busting their asses trying to keep voters
That has always just baffled me. I know many fine upstanding Republicans,
and all right, fine, on many an issue dear to my heart I can still
see room for honest disagreement. But how you go to bed at night
knowing that your party depends on voter intimidation and election
fraud to stay in power I do not understand.
I lived in North Carolina for a while, and it was an open secret
there that Republican operatives routinely scammed heavily African-American
districts any way they could - malfunctioning voting machines, deliberately
deceptive mailings, intimidating phone calls, and all this over
and above the outright race-baiting that was a central tactic of
many Republican campaigns.
Now the rot has spread to the rest of the country. After all that
brouhaha over Florida last time, there are once again charges that
the Bush-controlled state government is using a doctored felon list
to disenfranchise African-American voters.
In Nevada, the Republican-operated and Bush-connected firm Sproul
& Associates is under investigation for having systematically destroyed
the cards they were collecting from voters who registered as Democrats.
In Ohio, the Republican secretary of state's shenanigans finally
earned him a smackdown from the state supreme court.
My guess is that in every battleground state, if you dug deep
enough, you would find corruption like this. For instance, Sproul
& Associates' "Voters Outreach" company was responsible for registering
voters in 10 different states. There's no reason to assume that
they operated any more honestly in the other 9 than they did in
Disgusting and frightening as it is to watch the Republican party
trying to steal another election, there are two encouraging things
about this picture. 1) News of this theft in progress is coming
out before the election this time instead of afterwards.
2) What was it that Bush said about the insurgency in Iraq a year
or so ago? "The severity of the attacks is a sign that the enemy
is getting desperate?"
And that's how I read the news that's come out over the past few
weeks. The Bush team is working overtime to try to steal the election
because they already know, despite all the polls and all the public
blustering, that there's no way their candidate is going to win
Instead of compulsively scrutinizing the latest opinion polls
as if they were tea leaves, I would suggest that the best omen we
could possibly have is the rising stench of desperation exhaling
from Republican operatives all over the country.
Possibly the rankest whiff arose from the mouths of Dick and Lynne
Cheney last week after Bush lost his third presidential debate.
After watching the top of their ticket lose three out of three debates
to Kerry, all they could come up with was, "He called my out lesbian
daughter a lesbian! No fair!"
Folks, if you really want to know why the 'outrage' manufactured
by these 'angry parents' over Kerry's mention of Mary Cheney in
his response to the "Is homosexuality a choice?" question is a complete
load of horsehockey, you're welcome to check out my rant on the
For now, I will merely observe that by getting the media focused
on that single exchange, Rove managed to temporarily obscure the
obvious fact that Bush's performance was, once again, an unrelieved
It wasn't enough that Bush evaded all the jobs questions by turning
them into questions about education (yo, George, it doesn't matter
if the American workforce is educated 'for the jobs of the 21st
century' if all the jobs of the 21st century have been outsourced
It wasn't enough that Bush's tepid response to the question about
why he didn't renew the assault weapons ban - because Tom DeLay
told him it wouldn't get through anyway - was immediately blown
out of the water by Kerry in a display of exactly the kind of steadfast
resolve that Bush has been trying to brand as his trademark.
It wasn't enough that he outright lied - and better yet, accused
Kerry of lying - about having told the country years ago
that he was no longer concerned about where Osama bin Laden was.
And it wasn't enough that Kerry undercut Bush on the "faith" issue
by wrenching the Bible out of Bush's sweaty hands and administering
the smackdown that hypocrite has long had coming: "Faith without
works is dead."
No, the crowning glory of Bush's 3rd debate performance was that
he did, actually, no shit, drool
So, saddled with a candidate who has just revealed himself on national
television to be - literally - a dribbling idiot, what's a Mayberry
Machiavelli to do? After last week's column, it was brought to my
attention that I was not the only person out there who had ever
thought about fitting Bush up with an electroshock device. In fact,
none other than Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, had jokingly
identified the now-infamous 'bulge' visible under Bush's suit jacket
as a "shock collar": "That's how we got him to stop scowling."
Now, it's normal enough for Bush's opponents to daydream
about things like this, but when it starts coming from the guys
who are supposed to be leading his team you have to wonder.
It suggests, among other things, that Bush's handlers are getting
fed up with their inveterately untrainable pet. They're tired of
cleaning up after him, and that rolled-up newspaper doesn't seem
to be doing any damn good. They're finally finding out that Bush's
inability to learn from mistakes is a problem for them -
just as it has long been a much more serious problem for us.
Even the chatter about Rove's dirty tricks and the constant speculation
about what he has up his sleeve for the final weeks of the campaign
is, if you read it the right way, encouraging. For instance, we
are all now timorously awaiting Rove's "October surprise." I'm going
out on a limb right now to say that in my opinion, the October surprise
is that there will be no October surprise.
First of all, once you have been expecting something since the
start of the campaign, it ceases to be a surprise. Second, and I've
said this before, I think that Rove and company have become so radically
dissociated from reality that it is now impossible for them to manufacture
For instance, producing Osama bin Laden on October 31st would certainly
be a nifty surprise for them; but frankly I don't believe they can
do it. This administration's incompetence in matters of intelligence
gathering and foreign policy has been shown up at every stage of
the Iraq campaign. Why should we assume that the same team that
actually did not bother to put together a plan for the occupation
before they started the war could also manage to finally get their
mitts on the man who has been either dead or eluding them for the
past three years?
The cessation of hostilities in Iraq would be nice; but it doesn't
look as if the "Bad People" are planning to cooperate. The suggestion
that Bush might make an eleventh-hour surprise visit to the troops
in Baghdad is intriguing, but in the end I have to say I don't think
it's realistic. First of all, Rove has already done that once, and
clearly did not get very good bang for his buck. Second, the fact
that there are now attacks taking place inside the Green
Zone suggests that they cannot guarantee Bush's safety over there,
and third, I think that after what our soldiers in Iraq have been
through, the only way Rove could put together a backdrop of happy
cheering soldiers for Bush to pose against would be to issue military
uniforms to the members of the campaign staff. And even they would
probably come out looking kind of glum.
No, in my humble opinion Rove is rapidly running out of ideas,
just as he is rapidly running out of October. He has reached the
phase of his career that every great artist dreads: he's starting
to repeat himself.
The one thing we do know that Rove has lined up for us is that
the Sinclair Broadcasting Group will be forcing its affiliates to
air an anti-Kerry polemic called "Stolen Honor" in the days before
the election, under the pretext that a tendentious misrepresentation
of events that took place 30 years ago qualifies as news. Well,
Rove has already played the Swift Boat smear card and wound up with
The increasingly successful boycott of Sinclair Broadcasting Group,
and the startling ravings of its owner, are going to garner more
press than the event itself. Their broadcast may have some effect
or it may have no effect, but one thing it won't be is a surprise.
And whatever election fraud the Bush team engages in on November
2nd, that won't be a surprise either. That's one thing we have going
for us now that we didn't in 2000. In the months after November
2000, the shock prevented our elected representatives - and, be
honest, most of us - from taking action to stop the outrage in progress.
Nothing like this had ever happened before. We were all afraid to
find out what would happen if we refused to accept a tainted election.
Well, now we know what happens when you do accept a tainted
election, and we know damn well we can't afford to let it happen
We can indeed count on the Bush team trying to steal Florida again,
and who knows what else; but we can also count on Kerry not to be
bullied into conceding the election, or to be suckered by any sweet
talk about how he has to give up a legitimate victory so as not
to divide the country. Four years after the candidate who won the
majority of the popular vote accepted the Supreme Court's decision
in favor of his rival because he thought it would be the best thing
for the nation, we now know better. The best thing for the nation
is to bring integrity back to the democratic process.
That's what thousands of individual citizens all over the country
are doing right now. While Rove is sitting in his war room trying
to come up with the dirty trick to end all dirty tricks, the rest
of us are out trying to win an election the old-fashioned way: by
working for it.
One thing that does not show up in any of the polling reports is
the number of ordinary Americans who were never involved in the
political process before who are up to their elbows in it now. People
I know who have always voted but who would never have exerted themselves
any further are suddenly donating money, writing letters, canvassing
neighborhoods, and signing up to drive people to the polls. I'm
writing this column from a hotel room in a swing state, where my
partner is taking a week off work to help get out the vote. The
fact that she's over there working the phone bank, like the fact
that I'm sitting here writing my 33rd column, is a testament to
how much has changed in four years.
The only good thing to come out of the debacle that was Election
2000 is the national realization that we cannot take democracy for
granted. Our institutions will not, by themselves, protect us from
ruthless abuses of power. Neither can our elected representatives,
who become prisoners of the system once the party in power starts
gaming it. We the people are responsible for preserving our own
democracy. This year, all the evidence shows that we finally get
that. And that's why this year, Bush will neither win nor steal
himself a second term.
My partner just called; she's coming home from the phone bank.
It's been a rough year to be a wedge issue. John Cornyn has called
us box turtles; Rick Santorum has called us perverts; Alan Keyes
has called us selfish hedonists; and now John Kerry has been pilloried
for calling us all God's children. After four years of fighting
to protect what we love about our country from the people who are
trying to destroy it, I think we have earned the right to call ourselves
patriots. And together with the thousands of ordinary Americans
who have joined the battle this time around, I think we can also
call ourselves the October surprise.
The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally
demented online audience since 1996. More of the same can be found
at the Adder's Lair at http://www.plaidder.com,
but seriously, instead of wasting your time there, just grab a dozen
of your closest friends and go help get out the vote.
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