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What the hell happened and what do we do now?

By geary yonker

You can blame a broken system, but it does not change the result of that system. You can accuse people of cheating, but it does not change the fact that they won. Like many of you I wince every time G.W.’s likeness appears on my television screen. At these times I ask myself, “ What the hell happened?”

George W. Bush - Leadership n' stuff How could this buffoon be elected to be the most powerful individual on this planet? Yes, our election system is broken. Yes, a last-minute partisan decision by the Supreme Court sealed the victory for Bush. But how was it even that close? Are there that many dolts in this country? No. Don’t get me wrong, there is very large dolt population in this country, but there are more of “us” than there are of “them.” This where the answers start to develop, when you look at “us,” “them,” the Great-In-Betweeners, and the Couldn’t-Care-Less.

The Great-In-Betweeners are the folks in this country who feel that it is their duty to vote but do not really have any strong political leanings. They vote because they still believe in the system. They see its corruption but still believe in “The American Dream.” I may not be one of ‘em but I sure-as-hell respect ‘em. They work, they pay their taxes, and they try to make a better life for their children. They are the indispensable spine of this nation: the center. Gore and Bush spent the majority of the fall campaign coveting the center. Like two insurance salesmen they presented their respective benefits packages to the center:

Plan #1: Tax cuts for everyone and better return on your Social Security investment. Plan #2: Tax cuts for some and guaranteed return on your Social Security investment. The plans were so similar they were indistinguishable to most of the center. They ended up voting on the oldest issue in the book: TRUST. The men of the center did not trust Gore because of his blemishes from the Clinton presidency. The women of the center did not trust Bush with their reproductive rights or the futures of their children. In the '80s the center voted for Reagan. In the '90s they voted for Clinton. In 2000 the center was spilt almost evenly.

Last November half of all eligible voters did not vote. These non-voters have many reasons for staying away from the polls. Some see our system as fatally flawed. Some still believe in our democracy but are waiting to be motivated. It is my belief that the majority of these non-voters just don’t care anymore. It is not that they don’t think their vote counts, I think they just “couldn’t-care-less” about the outcome. A presidential election seems to have no effect on their everyday lives. Like the center they have no strong political leanings. As long as they are allowed to live their everyday lives without a hindrance they’re just fine. The Couldn’t-Care-Less are a product of the American prosperity of the late 20th century. There are no pressing issues to them other than work, what’s for dinner, and who’s getting kicked off "Survivor." With election and campaign reforms some of the non-voters can be lured back into the system but I believe that most of them will still choose to watch rather than participate.

“Them” had been planning for this election for years. Organizing in chambers of commerce, country clubs, and fundamentalist churches. “Them” raised their money and rallied their troops. That’s the advantage “them” has, they fall into line quite quickly and easily. They got really, really organized. They hand-picked their candidate from a family they could trust. The candidate encountered a man more worthy than he in the primaries, but then the organization kicked in. “Them “ did not break ranks. They did what it took to win. That’s what “them” does best. Like a pledge to a fraternal order whose father was the head poo-bah, he was in from the beginning. “Them” likes to stick to the plan, feels uncomfortable changing directions in mid-stream.

"Them" anticipated an attack from their right in the general election. It never materialized. “Them” was unified. Their more extreme characters hid behind the scenes, bided their time. “Them” put on a happy face. Enough of the center bought it to bring them close. When they saw the election results, they made phone calls. They had the right people, in the right places, at the right time. “Them” did what it took to win.

We are “us.” We may not all see ourselves as “us,” but then we don’t like being defined. We don’t fall into line easily. We all see ourselves as individuals. “Us” is chaotic by nature. “Us” is progressive. “Us” is blue collar. “Us” is underclass. The one thing that binds “us” together is that we don’t want “them” to win. This is a tenuous relationship. We were spoiled by eight years of power. We were sure the center would not buy “them’s” candidate. How could they vote for that boob? “Us” did not anticipate a schism. A portion of the progressive branch felt that their voices were not being heard, that they were being ignored. They were right. Courting the center won “us” the White House for the last two elections. In this election it would weaken our base. Our diversity of ideas is our greatest strength and weakness. Even though more of the center voted for “us,” we lost. We lost according to broken rules.

What the hell do we do now? We get really, really organized. The fight never ends; the conditions just change. “Us” is good at playing the underdog. Will “them’s” victory inspire more people to become active in politics, to vote? It probably won’t; the Reagan Years did not spur a new activist movement. Most of this country has already forgotten about the drama that followed November 7th (new season of Survivor!). Look around at “us” because this is all we have. There is no “new voter posse” coming to the rescue in ‘02. For the progressives that left our block in 2000 I have one thing to say. Until there is sweeping Constitutional reform in this country we are stuck with the system we have. That system is a two party system. Yes, it should be reformed but it’s not going to happen during this administration. If we fracture into separate camps then they will win again. There are more of us than there are of them, but they are more unified and better organized. We now make the choice that will determine the future of this country: unity or defeat.




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Copyright©2001 by geary yonker.

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