Commentary - #6 October 10, 2004

Let us all ask two questions

Let us all ask two questions at this critical point of a historic political year: (1) What?s the good news?, and (2) What?s not being said by the major candidates?

The good news is that there has been an incredible increase in the electorate, in the number of potential voters, especially in targeted ?battleground? states like Ohio and Florida. This has been due largely to aggressive voter registration (VR) efforts by MoveOn and ACT, organizations dedicated to defeating Bush. Thus, it should be no surprise to learn that most of the new registrants have Democratic leanings. Only a small minority are Republican. And so Bush is likely to lose Ohio and Florida and may lose the election. Not enough Republican volunteers have responded to the President?s call for an aggressive VR effort and/or the effort did not aggressively pursue those eligible to vote but unregistered.

OR ? here?s another possibility -- Perhaps the Republican Party has relied too much on true volunteers. There are Democratic volunteers, too, of course, but many of those who have been motivated by ?anybody but Bush? have been paid $9-12 per hour for their so-called ?volunteer? efforts. Ads soliciting such help have been appearing week after week for many weeks in major newspapers. Both ads and efforts are bankrolled by a few very wealthy people such as George Soros and Peter Lewis, who have been putting up millions of dollars, not for the sake of renewing grassroots democracy but simply to beat Bush. The good news on the VR front, therefore, is not unalloyed. It comes with questions and qualifications. What happens after the Nov. 2nd election? Will the new wave of grassroots political activity, so great to see breaking on the bulwarks of both major parties, dry up and disappear ? as did the wave that broke on the shore of New Hampshire during the 2000 presidential primary season?

And even if many now coming forward to help with the 2004 campaigns do stay involved after Nov.2, what does continuation of the new political ?ground war? mean for the political parties? What percentage of this war has been fought with volunteers from local political party organizations? Most seem to be mobilized by the new, non-party, ?527? organizations that have been financed as indicated earlier. So will the local organizational foundations of the parties continue to weaken? Most important: Does the new wave of political volunteers, activists and voters spell an end to the long-term trends that have been affecting political participation negatively? If so, then we all win, no matter who wins the White House. We could take our politics back from the political pro?s, junkies, media pundits, big money and politically self-interested.

Now, what about the other question: What?s not being said? Hark back to the first presidential debate. Were you satisfied? Yes, Kerry?s ?plan? for Iraq is an echo, but why were both candidates? echoes of silence in key areas of concern? We?ve got two spinners for President but the webs they weave contain too many holes. Why no admission and serious discussion of mistakes that have been make in Iraq (by President Bush) and what we can learn from them? Why no real understanding or dissection (by Sen. Kerry) of why Bush?s ?preemptive strike? policy is wrong? What does leadership mean to Kerry and why has he shown so little of it in the U.S. Senate? Why should he not be labeled a rank political opportunist? Why does he appear to some of us who have seen him close-up in Massachusetts to be a stuffed shirt in an empty suit? If only our candidates were worthy of us, the great majority of the American people. But if more of us don?t step up to the political plate to participate, how can we reasonably expect better candidates to arise?

If the new citizen-actors now appearing to help with the 2004 campaigns remain active in the political theater rather than running for the exits after the Nov. 2nd election show is over, then we, the people, will have our victory after all, no matter who becomes President. We will win no matter whether the parties welcome us into their ranks or not. If they do, our continued involvement will transform them. If they don?t, our absence will impel the parties to reform and revitalize themselves, else they will go the way of the dinosaurs they are in danger of becoming. Either way, we the people win. We also win if, as mostly independents, we gather together to form an independents? party. One of the major parties will go the way of the Whig Party of 150 years ago. Which one will it be? ? the one that fails to enable and empower the great American majority to take back what should, after, all, be THEIR political system in a democratic republic.

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