George W. Bush and his puppetmaster Karl Rove tried to upstage the Democrats with a State of the Union Address full of tricks and gimmicks, martian distractions and rattling sabers.
It backfired. The stunning results from Iowa far overshadowed Bush's lame, malapropic stump speech. Space travel, gay marriage, steriods in baseball, these are the burning issues for a Republican Party smug enough to be certain they can steal any election.
The week's signature GOP moment came from Tom DeLay's Texas, where a woman who sells vibrators was arrested for possessing more than two. In a state that's just been redistricted to prevent any Democrats from going to Congress, we see the GOP as the ultimate Luddites. Are Texas men that insecure? What will they ban next? Massage oil?
Come November, we can expect Osama bin Laden to be miraculously "found" whenever Rove decides the timing is best (Osama is currently lodged in the Carlye suite at the Bush residence in Kennebunkport).
A terrorist attack will explode here or there precisely as the Democrats gather steam. Bush may dump Dick Cheney into a cardiac unit to grab headlines and expand his base.
Remember, please, that Karl Rove, who runs the Bush apparatus, cut his teeth as a "Dirty Trickster" for Richard Nixon. Bush's father was elected in 1988 in the infamous "Willie Horton" campaign, the most racist in modern history.
These amoral assassins will fling the lowest available dirt on whoever got in their way, and nobody has mastered the craft better than Rove. With unlimited money to spend, your worst ethical nightmare is their bottom line.
But we're seeing a pattern here. Every time Bush jumps in the polls, he slumps back down.
From the gigantic rush he got after his "trifecta" on September 11, the polls fell to where they were before the terrorist attacks. From his "Mission Accomplished" flashdance on the decks of the Abraham Lincoln, back down he crashed as the bloodshed continued. From the "miraculous" capture of Saddam Hussein (where is he now?) the polls again plunged as the grassroots Iraqi resistance goes on. From the "booming" economy we see the Bush bounce going flat as no jobs materialize and deficits soar while the dollar slumps.
In short, George W. Bush is still George W. Bush: ruthless, corrupt, untrustworthy, closed-minded, authoritarian, inarticulate, intellectually challenged, programmed, cynical, dishonest, violent, a draft dodger and a religious fanatic who believes he speaks to and for God.
Through the Christian Coalition the GOP has a solid activist base of fanatic puritan fundamentalists unparalleled in US history. They have unlimited money. And they have control of the mainstream media, whose endless gush of right-wing bloviaters has just one mantra: "Bush will win, Bush will win, Bush will win."
But they can be beaten. Here are some of the things that must happen:
1) THE VOTES MUST BE HONESTLY COUNTED: As push comes to shove, there is only one issue in this campaign: will the votes be honestly counted. As Stalin infamously put it: it doesn't matter who casts them, only who counts them. We know that the 2000 election was stolen, and that the GOP would be more than happy to do it again through rigged voting machines without paper trails, the computerized disenfranchisement of "convicted felons" and other suspected Democrats, and whatever else Rove & company can come up with.
2) THE VOTES MUST BE HONESTLY COUNTED: In 2000 Al Gore sat passively and watched as the White House was stolen. This time, all serious candidates must hammer at this issue, over and over. Rep. Rush Holt's bill now in Congress to require a paper trail for computerized voting machines is just a start, but it's a good one. The Democrats must get that passed or let the nation know why it didn't, and what that really means if the GOP claims victory in November.
3) THE VOTES MUST BE HONESTLY COUNTED: But it won't be enough just to raise the issue. In every state there must be campaign committees explicitly charged with fighting pre-election disenfranchisement, as happened in Florida and elsewhere. There must be extensive inspection of all voting machines, ballots and other election procedures. The polls must be monitored. Unless the Democrats take concrete, effective steps to guarantee a fair vote count, there's no reason to bother with this election at all.
4-10) THE VOTES MUST BE HONESTLY COUNTED: It may also not be sufficient for the Democrats alone to do this. Serious petitioning must now be done to the United Nations, the government of Switzerland or whoever else might serve as a honest broker, willing to serve an international watch dog function to help guarantee the coup that began in 2000 is not given four more years to solidify power.
11) THE HOUSE MUST BE RE-REDISTRICTED: Through redistricting the GOP has already guaranteed that the Democrats have virtually no chance of ever re-taking the House of Representatives. In one fell swoop, with typical vicious cynicism, Rove and DeLay have eliminated a dozen Texas Democrats even before the election is held. Nationwide, the system is now so twisted Democrats could carry the composite House vote by a wide margin and still end up vastly outnumbered on the floor. This was not the intent of the nation's Founders and must be changed, by Constitutional Amendment if necessary. Millions of us, especially in urban areas, have been effectively disenfranchised for years. The Democrats must publicize this curse on the Congress, and then do something about it.
12) PREPARE FOR RACISM & HOMOPHOBIA---The stench from George H.W. Bush's racist 1988 Willie Horton campaign still taints the presidency. In 2000 the GOP machine specifically targeted African-American and Jewish voters in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and elsewhere with Jim Crow tactics that threw those states---and the election---to Bush. This year we can expect similar racism and the smearing of gays and whoever else might be available to mobilize the extremist "religious" right. Somebody should replay those Willie Horton ads to remind the nation who these people really are.
13) ENOUGH ABOUT RALPH NADER, ALREADY: For four years Democrats have indulged in blaming Ralph Nader and the Greens for "losing" the 2000 election. But Al Gore won by 500,000 votes. Add Nader's 2.7 million and 2000 represented a powerful Dem-green mandate, which Bush aborted. THAT'S what the Dems should have been screaming about for the past four years.
14) BUSH-ROVE WERE GOING TO STEAL THE ELECTION NO MATTER WHAT: Nader's supporters were not the mindless property of the Democratic party that Ralph somehow hijacked. And a GOP capable of stealing 16,000 votes in a single Florida district was more than capable of stealing all they needed, Nader or no.
15) PICK UP THE PHONE: Nader remains the most effective citizen activist in recent US history. He still draws huge (paying) crowds. He has a phone. And an office with a door that opens. So do the activists who chose to support him, and may yet again if the Dems repeat their folly of 2000. A few phone calls, some meaningful conversation, a search for common ground, some POLITICS, and maybe the Dems can mobilize at least part of an activist hard core they absurdly blew off in 2000. There's absolutely no excuse for doing otherwise.
16) FORGET THE CONFEDERACY: Conversely, those folks driving around with Confederate flags are going to vote for Bush. The old Slave South (Bush's REAL taproot) is not going to come around. But as Norman Solomon and others have pointed out, the Hispanic southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado) is in reach and need to be worked on. If, by miracle, Florida or Texas can be got, it's with Hispanic, not racist white votes. How about New Mexico's Hispanic Gov. Bill Richardson for VP?
17) REMEMBER THE ENVIRONMENT: Not even the bought corporate media can hide that Bush has launched a total kamikaze assault on the natural planet. This is an issue the resonates even with much of the fundamentalist right. Mother Earth is still right up there with apple pie. Forget the Confederate flag. Wave the Green one!!!!!
18) REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT: Bush's one legitimate applause line was that the Patriot Act is about to expire. Even right wingers like William Safire have been lining up against it. The Dems startled poor Georgie when they clapped for that line in his otherwise pathetic State of the Union. Much of the nation, left and right, feels the same. Use it!
19) REMEMBER WATERGATE AND VALERIE PLAME: Somebody very high up in the White House, probably Karl Rove and/or Dick Cheney, has committed a serious felony (and pissed off the CIA) by outing covert operative Valerie Plame. This cancer is eating away at the junta's core. If there is a single issue to push push push alongside the economy, that may be it. Think dagger to the Constitution. Think Dick Nixon, August 9, 1974, getting on that Plame...er, plane.
19) YOU GOTTA BELIEVE: The mainstream mantra that Bush can't be beaten is only true if we let them steal the vote count again. They've got the money. But they've got Bush. The "inevitability" of his victory is as deep as the headlights in his deer.
20) THE HARDER THEY COME: Our theme song. Buy the Jimmy Cliff album. Dance the dance. "...as sure as the sun will shine.......the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all....."
Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of The Free Press (www.freepress.org) and author of The Last Energy War (Seven Stories Press). His newest book is George W. Bush Vs. the Superpower of Peace, co-authored with Bob Fitrakis (Free Press, 2003).
Other Recent Articles by Harvey Wasserman