We're the ones your mother warned your about...No, seriously. We are.

My liberal angst

I'm amazed by the level of angst among my friends and colleagues who are rooting for a Kerry victory a month from now. Both the more die-hard liberals and the middle of the road "Anybody But Bush" folks are reaching for their blood pressure medication in preparation for tonight's debate. Will Bush trounce Kerry by simply not sticking his foot in his mouth? Hasn't the entire set up for the debate favored Bush, since all he has to do is repeat his usual empty soundbites and shoot the camera that vapid stare, and never be challenged on anything at all? We watch "The Daily Show" (I'm not a stoned slacker myself, but perhaps I'm in a minority) and beat our heads along with Jon Stewart as he catches Kerry making rookie mistakes and just lying there letting the neocon cabal and Karl Rove shred him. We wait anxiously for the real John Kerry to show up, the champion debater, the combat veteran, the man who's been in public office for the better part of two decades, who fought off a serious challenge by a charismatic (and relatively moderate, compared to Bush) and popular Republican governor of Massachusetts. He's been doing this for a long time, so why is it so painful to watch?

In fairness, I've also never seen an election like this one, where so much was riding on one guy. Maybe it's my liberal bubble of friends and acquaintances skewing my perception that leads me to wonder who in hell is answering those opinion polls that show the candidates tied, because virtually everyone I know (outside my Conservative parents) want Bush gone. That includes a middle aged couple from Dallas who I met while in London last week. When they mentioned where they were from I expected to hear some gushing and I got it, but it was horrified gushing about how terrible Bush has been for the nation and the world. Call me sentimental, but I thought if two upper middle class white people from Dallas recognize the situation, there might be hope yet. And still, the polls keep showing Bush slightly ahead.

All of which just adds to the enormous amount of pressure on the Kerry campaign. There hasn't been a situation like this in my lifetime, where so much weight was hanging on one candidate, especially a challenger. Kerry is the only guy you have if you're against Bush, and Bush has so polarized the population that more than just the usual Democratic/liberal base have pinned their hopes on the Senator. The Green Bay football coaches get less armchair quarterbacking than the Kerry campaign does these days.

There are at least a good hundred solid, practical reasons why Bush must be removed, ranging from smaller issues like funding for UN programs to help prevent disease to the war in Iraq and possibly the survival of American democracy. Maybe there are just too many good arguments and the Kerry people can't pick one? Heck, they couldn't even withstand an assault on Kerry's war record, which supposedly was unimpeachable. Nevermind that the bottom line is and always should have been that the guy went overseas and got shot at - a lot - when he could've found a way out and Bush couldn't handle showing up for Guard duty. Nevermind that Bush's constant stream of haiku-like empty slogans, chosen precisely because a phrase like "family values" has no tangible meaning outside of a context and therefore can mean anything to anyone while not obliging the candidate to any specific course of action, fall apart upon any kind of close examination (the kind of investigation the mass media should be doing but won't because apparently the administration has the news network CEOs collective balls in a jar somewhere). Nevermind the concept of actions speaking louder than words, and Bush's protestations that he cares for little old ladies, children and puppies are all belied by his destruction of prescription benefits for seniors, cutting after school programs, etc.

Nevermind the more than 1000 dead soldiers, the tens of thousands of dead civilians, and a war that has no end in sight.

Kerry hasn't been able to rebut the schoolyard accusation of being a "flip-flopper."

It doesn't seem, to my amateur political eye, to be that big a step to move from a Kerry mea culpa on Iraq to turning that statement around onto Bush. He voted for the war, as a member of the US Senate. Was it the impulse of a soldier's loyalty to the commander in chief? A last gasp of generosity towards a president who has long since run up a deficit of goodwill dwarfed only by our real economic deficit? Whatever the reason, why can't Kerry come out and say "We shouldn't have done this and I shouldn't have voted for it, knowing what I know now. Unfortunately we're in this mess now and we need to find a way out."

Admitting that situations have changed is not the admission of weakness, when you consider that the greatest and most difficult act for any leader of men is not to maintain a position but to change it. The necessary virtue for leadership is a willingness to reevaluate a situation when new information becomes available and, when needed, to change course to suit. Decisiveness is not the same thing as intractable stubbornness. That's what you get when a five year old sticks his fingers in his ears and starts screaming "LA LA LA" so he won't have to face reality. It's not the way to lead a country of 280 million people and the world. Bush's existence in his censored, limited, rigidly controlled picture of how the world is has put him so far out of touch with reality he might as well be living in the Emerald City of Oz for all he knows about what conditions are really like both in Iraq as well as here at home.

The maddening question for me and for all us dedicated anti-Bush people is, if I can come up with this strategy, why can't Kerry's campaign strategists? And when are they going to get in the game? The hopes and possibly the future of the country are riding on their actions. It's a lot of pressure, but John Kerry was picked by the Democratic leadership partly because he's been under pressure before and came out alive.

Maybe that's the problem. There will be no medals for merely surviving this campaign, only for winning it.

~ DarkLady
September 30, 2004

~ DarkLady's Archive