Democratic Underground  

Help 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.

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