You Hire the Boss
As of this past Sunday, Ralph Nader has thrown his hat in the political ring, which helps illustrate a number of differences this year's election will have. For starters, this time Nader is obviously running on ego alone. That he has the nerve, after the last three and a half years, to state (as he did in 2000) that there is "no difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties says a world about the state of affairs inside Nader's brain. Does he think that a Democratic president would have pushed through three separate tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy while the nation spiraled into deficit? Does Nader truly believe a Democratic president would have railroaded the nation into an unprovoked war with Iraq on the basis of jury-rigged information that went contrary to the reports created by our own intelligence agencies?
Does Nader truly believe that a Democratic president would have given recess appointments to the federal bench to two programmatically fundamentalist conservatives who both raise significant doubts to their beliefs in the most basic tenets of the 1960s civil-rights movement? Does Nader really think that a Democratic vice president would hold secret meetings with the energy industry, allowing them to virtually write government policy, and then fight to keep the notes of those meetings secret all the way to the Supreme Court?
Nader will, in all likelihood, be a footnote to this coming election. The true test is, if you are a Democrat, who you believe would make a better steward of the nation's interests over the next four years: John Kerry or John Edwards.
In truth, we here at Animal Control haven't made that decision yet. But we do realize that while electability might be a practical issue, there are bigger responsibilities when deciding who can best duck the mud sure to be fired by the right-wing press. Make no mistake: In 2004, the media is no longer an inert catalyst in the electoral process. The recent smear campaign against Kerry amplified by the Fox News Channel/Washington Times/Limbaugh media axis can testify to the fact that the eventual Democratic nominee will not have to worry about just the supposed "above the fray" re-election campaign George W. Bush will claim he is running. This election quite likely will feature similar baseless allegations along with whatever else can be brought up to distract voters from the administration's record over the last four years.
Texas political columnist Molly Ivins recently observed that Kerry and Edwards are kind of like what you'd get politically if you split Bill Clinton in half: Kerry embodies the policy-oriented, studious wonk half, and Edwards radiates Clinton's Southern, "retail politics" meet-and-greet side. These, of course, are simplistic descriptions, but there is some truth to them, and you will hear this theory from the press, which loves to dwell on simple stylistic differences.
The fact is, although presidential campaigns often are about "character" and other insubstantial traits, issues and policy are what matters. For too long Americans have treated the presidential election as more of a vote on the homecoming court than what it is: a referendum on the person who will set the course for the economy, foreign policy, employment rights, and issues of basic privacy and equality for all Americans, as well as for many of the people in countries who have to deal with us. Governance is serious business.
When asked during the 2000 presidential debates what health-care platform he supported, Al Gore said he was in favor the Dingell-Norwood compromise to add more people to the health-care rolls. Bush didn't know enough about Dingell-Norwood to even comment on it, dismissing it as "Washington talk."
In modern political discourse, that someone vying for the highest office in the land wouldn't have an idea about a bill that affects such a large number of people on an issue such as health care is astounding. That a cynical press would attack the man who did his homework and knew how the levers of government works and knew where he stood on the actual bill before Congress is disgraceful. This was what we were subjected to in 2000. One can only imagine what we will be treated to in 2004.
In the next six days, you'll have an opportunity to scrutinize the candidates for yourself. The convenience of the Internet means that you can go to candidates' Web pages and see where they stand on issues. Granted, political Web sites are unfiltered advertising for the candidates, without an objective compare-and-contrast of their records. In many cases you'll be judging apples against oranges, policywise. But sadly, with the press' abdication of its duty as a dispassionate arbiter of the policy beliefs of the candidates, you'll be on your own in judging their relative qualifications and stances on important issues facing the United States in 2004 and beyond.
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