in the Game
By Doug Snider
For the first time in over forty years as a registered voter,
I made a campaign donation for a presidential candidate. Even
through some of the bitterly contested presidential elections
of the past, I never felt it was my duty to do any more than
cast my vote. This time a lot of things have changed and much
more is at stake for all Americans.
My contribution to the campaign of General Wesley Clark
helped him reach $3.5 million in just two weeks. That impressive
statistic has to be weighed against the fact that my tax dollars
continue to pay for flying George Bush around the country
in our airplane to pick up the corporate payoffs he is counting
on to fund an uncontested Republican primary. His targeted
$170 million will buy a lot of dirty tricks. We all paid for
his aircraft carrier stunt, but ironically it now appears
that his opposition will get more mileage out that footage
than the Bush campaign will.
My small contribution was a greater personal sacrifice for
me than the $2000 bets the high rollers are placing at Bush
fundraising dinners all around the country, and I don't even
get a meal out of it. All I hope to get in return is a new
administration with the same sense of what is fair and what
is American that I was raised to believe in. If all goes well,
my taxes will probably go up as well.
Why is this pending election bothering me so much? It should
bother all of us that the democratic process we chose over
two centuries ago is being reduced to a cynical science that
has little to do with the will of the people. Electoral "mad
professors" like Karl Rove are playing a dirty game that
apparently has no rules. The well-bankrolled recall in California
and the boundary tampering in Texas are plays that serve to
defeat the notion that each of us has a vote that counts.
The 2000 fiasco in Florida may have already disabused you
of that myth.
The gurus of today's politics depend upon an ill informed
or misinformed electorate. The alarming percentage of Americans
who bought the fabricated reasons to invade Iraq, the reasons
belatedly disavowed by most of the Bush administration, is
a sad indicator of how poorly informed most who will cast
votes really are. Even more telling are the results of a University
of Maryland study showing that the largest percentage of people
holding these erroneous views relied upon Fox News for their
enlightenment. In an age of information when we all have ready
access to the truth, this state of affairs is appalling. The
real danger of unregulated media domination is abundantly
We have entered an era when totally contrived candidates
can be victorious. Real qualifications seem to have little
importance if the game is played with ruthlessness, skill
and a huge war chest. Bush in 2000 and Arnold in 2003 indicate
a dismal and potentially fatal trend in our choice of leaders.
If Ronald Reagan's simian co-star from "Bedtime for Bonzo"
is still alive, I wouldn't count him out.
The Bush campaign attacks on John McCain in the 2000 Republican
primary give us some insight into how nasty the coming election
could be. When they staged a vicious dirty tricks campaign
in South Carolina, they were not even desperate and their
target was a fellow Republican. Given Bush's plunging ratings
and the strong field of potential challengers, the gloves
will be off for this clash.
The age old plea to register and vote may not be enough
to get us through this pivotal election. To reclaim our democracy
we will all have to make personal sacrifices and contribute
what we can, time, money or both, to the cause of the candidate
we believe will lead us back to our traditional values and,
yes, a new kind of patriotism. No matter who you select as
your preferred alternative to four more years of misery, get
in the game. Reasonable people cannot remain on the sidelines
this time. Speak out, register and, when you vote, take an
informed friend with you.