There are less than 30 days to go before the midterm elections. Normally, voters stay away from the polls in these off-years because usually not much is riding on the outcome.
At the risk of over-iteration, I hope it's obvious that everything is riding on the outcome this time.
If the Bush Administration suffers a defeat at the polls, losing control of the House of Representatives, say, and/or can't recapture the Senate, it means its aura of invincibility is gone. The people have seen Bush&Co. in action and said we don't fully trust your judgement, we'd rather the power get shared with those in nominal opposition. Sand thus gets thrust into the Bush&Co. wheels, slowing down the juggernaut of those anxious for imperial military adventures abroad, those comfortable with the shredding of Constitutional due process and civil liberties at home, those willing to give away the environment to corporate polluters.
If the GOP is able to regain control of the Senate, and holds on to the House, there will be nothing to stop Bush&Co. from taking control of all levers of power in this country. The House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court, and most of the conglomerate-owned media will be in the hands of those whose policies would spell disaster for our land. [As one Senate Republican leadership aide put it, "When we take over the majority, we intend to move so fast to pass bills and confirm judges that have been held up by the Senate Democratic leadership that it will make their heads spin" (Roll Call, 10/7).]
You think things are bad now, with a wimpy Democrat opposition that barely puts up a fight, just imagine what it would be like if there are no brakes at all on the Bush&Co. agenda. (The true hero of the past two years is Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont who - fed up with the greedy, dangerous, power-hungry policies of Bush&Co. - joined the Democratic caucus and thus made the Republicans the minority party in the Senate.)
If we've learned anything in the past two years, we've learned that who occupies the White House and key chairmanships and the offices of the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader of the Senate does make an enormous difference in what is able to get passed and what is defeated, what far-right judges get approved and which ones don't, what legislation goes to what committee and what makes it to the floor for votes, what environment gets trashed by huge corporate political donors and what gets protected.
In what used to be known as foreign policy - but which is military policy to the Bush Administration - we've been informed that it's now official: From here on, America will move like an imperial power, a benign one, in the world. We will take over what we want, remove leaders we don't want, and keep anyone from getting strong enough to challenge us, just get out of our way and let us do our business. If we don't like what you're doing, we'll pre-emptively attack you. (What a precedent to set for other countries and terrorist groups!)
Bush&Co. has thrown down the gauntlet. They want it all. They're even willing to try to wag the dog, rushing America to a war that doesn't have to happen - at least not in the immediate future, devoid of a provocation and without a wide coalition of allies in support - and terming their political opponents unpatriotic for raising questions about the wisdom of Administration policies.
In short, this by-year election is unlike any other in recent times: the future of the Republic is at stake. I truly believe this, to my bones.
So, in these final few weeks before the polls open, it is essential that those of us dedicated to a more moderate view of political behavior, and to more progressive policies, get involved in the electoral process as never before.
And the goal, the only goal, has to be to bloody the nose of Bush&Co. at the polls. Work for the defeat of any and all Republicans, and for the election of any and all Democrats.
Yes, I know that some, maybe a good many, Democrat incumbents might be worse than some moderate Republicans. But we can deal with them later (and deal with them we must). The point now, the only point now, is to take the Congress out of the reach of Bush&Co., and thus make it more difficult for those greedy, power-hungry zealots to operate with impunity.
If the Democrats take power in both houses of Congress, they - and a good many moderate Republicans - might lose some of their timidity in confronting the Bush Administration, even to the point of holding tough hearings on the various scandals hanging around the neck of Bush and his cronies (pre-9/11 knowledge, Cheney's withholding of energy documents subpoenaed by Congress, the tie-ins to Enron cash, Army Secretary Tom White's outrageous conflicts of interest, Ashcroft's penchant for running roughshod over the U.S. Constitution, Cheney & Haliburton, Bush & Harkin Oil, and on and on).
What might be revealed by such meaningful Congressional investigations could lead to impeachments or resignations.
Those who argued in 2000 that Democrats and Republicans were so much alike that it didn't matter who won surely by now have seen that the differences between the two parties, seemingly minor, in practice are huge. Those of us who might favor Green policies and candidates have to recognize the objective realities of late-2002: the effect of voting Green in House and Senate races is to aid Republicans and thus ensure that further damage is done abroad and domestically.
(By all means, get those Green machines running in local elections, to help build the future voter base, but don't do anything that would aid the Bush Administration this time out in races where it counts - in Minnesota, for example, where liberal Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone is running neck and neck with his Republican challenger, but also facing a Green candidacy that does nothing but take votes away from him.)
The Bush Administration isn't hiding its agenda. It figures it can get everything it wants by manipulating the justified fear of the American people following a horrendous terrorist attack. It is doing this by waging a permanent war, abroad and at home, that aims to defang the Democrat opposition, silence critics, and permit the government to intrude its nose into every aspect of our lives - what books we read, what groups we support, whom we call, what we write on our personal email, what we tell our attorneys, etc. (Even many true conservatives are growing nervous at the growth of Big Brother government, with so much power concentrated in the hands of so few. Even they see that we are inching quickly toward a kind of neo-fascism at home, and imperial militarism abroad.)
I can't emphasize it enough. This election is pivotal for our future. Throw yourself into it as much as your energy and resources permit. Donate money, volunteer, pass out leaflets, go door to door, write letters to the editor, talk to your friends and neighbors, contact your email lists and urge them to vote, drive others to the polls, make sure to vote yourself, etc.
We can break the momentum of Bush&Co. atrocities. We can begin to bring our country back more toward the moderate center - and then move it toward more progressive policies. We can mobilize for victory. But we can get there only if we give it our all during the next several weeks. Let's do it.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American government and international relations at Western Washington University and San Diego State University. He was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years, and has published in The Nation, Village Voice, The Progressive and widely on the internet.