from an Unlikely Source
March 30, 2002
By Patrick Ennis
Now that we have passed the first anniversary of the coup
that toppled American democracy and installed the Bush regime
in the White House, and are looking ahead to the mid-term
congressional elections this November, there is already much
discussion among Democrats about who their candidates could/should
be to oppose George II in 2004, and what strategy must be
deployed. The restless opposition never sleeps, it seems.
I wonder if we aren't failing to see the forest for the trees.
It is possible that significant elements of the GOP may turn
against the president in '04, as happened to his father in
'92, with Democrats lifting nary a finger, except perhaps
to call attention to the reasons Bush has already given them
to do so. This includes, among others, both libertarians and
far-right extremists, who can and likely will field their
own presidential candidates.
The reason such candidates failed to draw voters away from
the GOP base in the last two presidential elections is obvious:
They had no chance whatsoever of winning, and a vote for them
would have been a vote for the Democratic candidate, the worst
possible option in their eyes. But then, that was true in
1992 also, and Ross Perot still managed 19% of the vote nationwide.
This total included many libertarians incensed over Poppy
Bush's broken "Read My Lips" pledge on new taxes.
So, Democrats have a vested interest in making certain elements
of the Republican base who aren't particulary Republican,
unhappy with Republicans and the president. Libertarians and
Christian conservatives spring readily to mind, as both are
numerous within the GOP and both tend to be well organized
politically. It is not even necessary to make these erstwhile
Republicans enamored of their own third-party candidates -
say, Harry Browne (again) for the Libertarians and Gary Bauer
or Pat Buchanan (again) for the Christian Right - it is only
necessary to give them sufficient reason to turn on their
Republican incumbent. An anti-Bush vote would be as almost
as good as a pro-Gore (or Kerry or Edwards, etc.) vote.
And they are not necessarily pragmatists, you know. Consider
the way conservative Republicans in California rejected moderate
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dick Riordan, despite his
overt support from the White House, in favor of right-wing
ideologue Bill Simon, who has little chance to unseat Democrat
Gray Davis in such a liberal state.
So what may make Christian conservatives stand on principle
and turn against Bush in 2004? Barely a year into the reign
of George II, there is already his failure to deliver on his
promise of private school vouchers as part of his education
reform package, his promise of an "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives"
which has not gotten off the ground, and the open courting
of the Hispanic vote, which parallels the overt and unabashed
"pandering" to the African-American community for which conservatives
have been haranguing Democrats for years.
Toward that end, the GOP is encouraging party leaders who
are not already bilingual to take Spanish lessons - rather
inconsistent for the party that brought us "official English"
and "English only" education. But what is much worse, in the
eyes of the Christian Right, is the GOP's much more low-key
solicitation of - dare I say it aloud? - the gay community.
Gasp! Sinners! Abominations before God! I did mention that
this pandering is low-key, didn't I? Good. No surprise there.
The question: How to publicise the fact.
Then there are those maddeningly elusive independent libertarians.
Wrapped in a flag, holding a rifle and a copy of the U.S.
constitution, and quoting Thomas Jefferson, libertarians espouse
both the left and right of the political spectrum, pledging
allegiance to the whole of the constitution - or at least
to their interpretation of it - libertarians are widely credited
with costing Al Gore both his home state of Tennessee and
his former boss's state of Arkansas in 2000, primarily because
of a perceived hostility to the 2nd Amendment.
Is there anything about the Bush administration so far (remember,
we have a good two and a half years yet to go) to start these
Friends of Franklin thinking of revolt? Of course! We can
start with the ironically named "Patriot Act," which curtails
civil liberties, the very raison d'etre of civil libertarians.
Then there is the president's decision to impose tariffs
on imported steel, a move that, while popular with blue collar
labor unions, is seen as a slap in the face for free trade
and a betrayal of general principle for the sake of political
expediency. And let's not forget Bush's freshly inked signature
on the hated Campaign Finance Reform Bill, which had the NRA
and other libertarian as well as conservative groups scrambilng
for the courts to challenge its constitutionality before the
day was even out.
The likelihood of luring the Christian Right and the civil
libertarians into the Democratic fold is practically nil.
But that is not necessary. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
If Democrats can just get them to vote for somebody - anybody!
- other than Bush, they'll likely win a plurality in a 4-5
way race. Just as Nader in 2000 pulled votes from the left,
Buchanan or Browne (or whoever represents their factions)
in 2004 will pull votes from the right.
So while Democrats are busy pandering to their traditional
core constituencies, they should also be giving thought to
pruning some limbs off of the Republican tree.