Oct/Nov 2000  •   Salon

Wow, This Really Bites

by Tom Dooley

I'm a liberal. I put a lot of trust in those "thinkers" George W. Bush so derisively mentions—the ones in Washington DC supposedly trying to micro manage our lives and plunder our hard-earned tax dollars. I trust them, at least, more than the slim majority of undereducated, under-informed, and over-nourished Americans who at this late hour appear to have elected Bush as our next president. I trust them more than I trust the wealthiest one percent of Americans Gore keeps talking about—or the wealthiest five percent for that matter, who between them own 95 percent of the wealth in this country, and who I'd just bet would like to get their hands on the rest. I trust them more than I trust the corporate GMs beholden to that wealthiest five percent, who as they've demonstrated time and again throughout history are willing to piss all over everything that gets in the way of their bottom line. I trust them more than the religious fanatics who preach the word of God but commit violence against abortion doctors and homosexuals. I trust them, and I trust Al Gore, with his Harvard education, book publishing credits, and three decades of public service, more than I trust the nation of fools who made Charlie's Angels the number-one grossing movie at the box office last weekend.

With all due respect to the people who call themselves conservatives and voted for Bush, some of whom are my friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers, what the heck are you people thinking?!

Do you honestly think Al Gore wants to take away your hunting rifle? Do you honestly believe George W. Bush has an ounce more character than Gore? What the heck is character, anyway? Is character having your daddy bail you out of the draft? Is it sniffing cocaine or getting arrested for drunk driving? Is character being involved with shady oil dealings and government bailouts? Is it defined by owning a major league baseball team? By having a speech impediment and saying more stupid things than Dan Quayle? Is character defined by claiming to be a right-to-lifer, but presiding over dozens of executions every year?

Conservatives claim they're tired of having a Slick Willy in the Whitehouse. Did it ever occur to anyone that George W. Bush is far more like Clinton in the slick department than Al Gore? If Bush is indeed elected, we'll have a slickness all over again, and to make matters worse, it'll be totally without substance. Bill Clinton, for all his foibles, was and is a genius. He was a Rhodes scholar. While G.W. was dodging Vietnam by going AWOL from the National Guard, Clinton was studying at Oxford. Oh, but wait, I suppose Bush and the rest of the conservatives would like us to believe that being edumacated at Oxford is a bad, sinister thing.

Doesn't it confuse you as much as it does me when the Republicans claim Gore should be considered complicit in all the wrongdoings of the Clinton administration, but they then turn around and say he doesn't deserve any credit for its achievements? Doesn't an alarm go off when conservatives say Clinton/Gore don't deserve any credit for our unparalleled prosperity, but they then turn around and give Bush credit for everything remotely good that's happened in Texas?

And what about those miraculous doings in the lone star state? What did G.W. manage to do down there while he was governor? Students are scoring higher on standardized tests I guess, but would it be overly liberal to read the fine print and point out that the only standardized tests they did significantly better on were the ones designed by the state of Texas? Turns out that compared to the rest of the nation, Texan students are struggling just about as bad as before. Hmmm. What do that meen?

When Karla Faye Tucker pleaded for a stay of her execution, based on the argument she had been rehabilitated, born again, and posed no further threat to human life, she stated she didn't want or deserve mercy, but that she felt she could use her life in prison to minister the word of God to other murderers who sorely needed said ministering. Many people took her side, including Pat Robertson, the Pope, and even family members of Karla Faye's victims. Bush turned her down, stating in effect there should be consequences for one's actions, and he was going to leave the granting of mercy to a "higher authority." Not to say Bush should be likened to a murderess who used a pick-axe on her victims, but I think there is an interesting irony in all of this. Bush, an admitted wastrel, has excused himself from four-fifths of his life by claiming he was changed when a personal encounter with God in his 40s made him more "serious," and the very same moral-minded people who applauded his decision to execute Karla Faye Tucker have now possibly elected him to the highest office in the world. In effect they've rewarded him for a lifetime of having things handed to him—for a lifetime of goofing off.

Okay, but maybe Bush wouldn't make such a bad president. I shouldn't be so quick to judge. Perhaps his much ballyhooed management style, the one where he doesn't sweat the details, demands quick, to-the-point oral summations, and relies heavily on his advisors and aids to use good judgement (umm, just wondering, could this management "style" be more an indication Bush can't read, has attention deficit disorder, and delegates authority because he lacks the knowledge, resolve, or wisdom to make decisions himself?), is just what the country needs. After all, this touted Bush leadership turned the Texas Rangers from a really sucky baseball team into a club that managed to lose in the first round of the playoffs several years in a row. Maybe an oil man is just the sort of leadership we need right now to reach out across party lines and find a solution to the global warming Al Gore wrote a book about over ten years ago (global warming, by the way, is now looking to be worse than anybody expected). Maybe a good-old-boy from Texas is just the sort of catalyst needed to bring about peace in the Middle East. Surely world leaders the world over are salivating at the prospects of chewing the fat with ol' G.W.

Well, what's the use? There's simply no point to my going on about how completely farcical Bush's alleged victory is. He's either going to be our next president or he isn't, and there's nothing anybody outside of a few hundred lawyers and a batch of Florida public servants can do about it now. And if he is, I suppose we'll just have to weather the storm.

On the other hand, we can and should do something about the election process in this country. I'm less concerned about Bush, actually, than I am about the fact that our voting process is so sloppy, hundreds of thousands of Americans are routinely disenfranchised just because they had a faulty ballot, or a machine failed to count it right. It takes a close election before we realize what a lot of guesswork it all is. Now it really chaps my ass to think of all the times my generation has been admonished for voter apathy. Sure, we're not supposed to be apathetic, but let's look at what happened to me last week. I spent an hour trying to find out where I was supposed to cast my ballot. When I finally found the place, the basement of a local elementary school, I had to stand in line for 50 minutes to register. FIFTY minutes in line, after being at work for ten hours. And now I find out there's a chance my vote didn't even get counted. Certainly if I lived in Palm Beach, there'd be a chance it not only didn't get counted, but that it counted for a candidate I despise. Why shouldn't I and every other American be apathetic? Or on the other side of the coin, why shouldn't we be rioting in the streets?

The last couple months have seen high profile elections in Serbia and Ivory Coast end with the initial "loser" of the election calling for people to take to the streets in protest. In those elections, the enemy of democracy was clear to all. It was a powerful and dishonest incumbent who was unwilling to give up power. Here in America, there is a much more insidious enemy of democracy. It's not Al Gore, who called to concede defeat as soon as he thought he'd actually lost the election. It's not George W. Bush, who for all his foibles probably isn't evil. It's an election process existing in the most technologically advanced country in the world that attracts fewer than half the people eligible to vote and then manages to be so inaccurate and/or misleading that a candidate the majority of people didn't want still wins. We should be protesting in the streets about that!