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2004 is still a few months away, but it promises to be a doozy. Already a good friend of mine has taped a home-made bumper sticker to her pickup truck: "Someone else for president," it says.
Well, yes. Helen Thomas and others have already called Bush "the worst president we’ve ever had," and there’s a growing sentiment that anyone, anyone at all, even someone randomly selected from a blind lottery, would be an improvement.
It’s a feeling that’s easy to share. It’s probably good for the country. But it could also be dangerous.
Unfortunately, the next president isn’t going to be selected randomly. Number 44 is going to be picked the same way Bush was picked, by people looking for "someone who can win."
Exactly how we got into this mess in the first place.
When professional politicians and their corporate masters sniff the wind and determine that it’s time to throw Bush overboard with the bilge, they’re not going to say, "Who’s qualified?" And certainly not "Who’ll stand up to us?"
They’re going to need someone who knows his or her place. A new personality who won’t shake up the system too much.
If I’m right, they won’t have far to look.
On one hand, we have the Democrats, a party that has drifted so far to the right that it regards Howard Dean, a mainstream conservative who supports the death penalty and opposes gun control, as a left-winger.
The corporate media have been debating who Dr. Dean is for months now. At first they thought he was Martin Sheen from The West Wing (governor from a New England State, a professional, short guy, etc.). Only when he raised big money and took the lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire polls did he turn into McGovern. Having seized momentum, Dean began moving aggressively rightward (or "toward the Center," to use the prevailing euphemism) and suddenly he was no longer McGovern, he was the new McCain, a real "straight-shooter" whose only problem was that he liked to start shooting before even shaking hands.
The comparisons are instructive. Nixon, of course, beat McGovern like a staked goat. Bush murdered McCain’s good name along with his candidacy in South Carolina.
To the real Left, Dean resembles neither McGovern nor McCain. He looks more like the New Bush (fiesty, combative former governor, tends to speak before thinking, signed Civil Unions bill to show his compassionate conservatism, etc.).
And look how the party treats candidates who actually want to bring our troops home from Iraq right now. It can’t wait for them to drop out and leave the debate stage to candidates who "have a chance," the ones who either voted for the war or think we just didn’t do it right — we didn’t "build a coalition." (The tendency of some of these candidates to position themselves as the new George Bush the First would be alarming if it weren’t so predictable.)
Preferring a new Clinton to a new Bush One, the Dems may wind up with Wesley Clark, famous rejected Republican, who "thinks" he recalls voting for Nixon. If Clark wins the White House, will Karl Rove return his phone calls then? This assumes Rove will even be able to get phone service in a Clark administration.
What would be Clark’s campaign slogan as the Democratic nominee? "Elect a real Republican"?
Which brings us to the other hand, where we find not so much the Republicans as just George W. Bush and a big wad of money and a lot of real quiet people. They know Bush lied to them, they know we’re in trouble in Iraq, they know the economy’s going down the tubes, but what the hey, they got a tax cut, didn’t they?
Never mind who’s a new McGovern or a new Eisenhower. The more telling fact is that (given the president’s nose-dive in the polls) there is no one in the Republican party willing to be called a Eugene McCarthy. Money talks, yes, but it also silences.
Funny how both "hands" of this analogy are right hands.
The idea of Ralph Nader entering the primaries as a Republican looks better every day. Why not, if Clark’s a Democrat?
Thank God we have California to entertain us until the presidential primaries are underway.
"We have people from every planet on the earth in this state," says embattled governor Gray Davis.
"I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman," replies Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger is the embodiment of "someone else for governor." Hell, so is the entire list of 135 candidates. And to think, this is what we want to bring to Iraq.
Republicans voted for "someone who can win" and wound up under fire in Tikrit. Never mind that Bush didn’t actually "win." Now it’s the Democrats’ turn to find "someone who can win." Where will that lead? North Korea? Iran? Some other country that would be glad to have "somebody else for dictator"?
You don’t like to see American troops used for target practice in Baghdad? Wait until you see them standing between Israeli tanks and Palestinian suicide bombers.
Someone else for president? You bet, but not if it means "I don’t care who." Let the bookies pick winners. Let the people pick a president.
DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com