Seismic Shifts for Both Parties on November 2
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, "The Crisis Papers."
October 25, 2004
Don't know about you, but one week before Election Day, I'm cautiously
hopeful and nervous as hell.
It looks and feels like Bush&Co. are going down -- Kerry's momentum is
building, Bush's "favorable" numbers remain stuck in the mid- to high-40s,
more and more "Bush states" are in play, so many conservative leaders,
writers, newspapers and magazines are abandoning the GOP candidate, etc.
But, as P.T. Barnum or some other political scientist must have said, don't
ever underestimate Americans' tendency to vote against their self-interests
when frightened or in reality-denial.
And Karl Rove still has a week in which to launch his V-2 rockets at the
Democrats. Whether he is desperate enough to go maximum will depend on his
reading of the GOP internal polls. If he still believes he can pull off an
Electoral College victory by energizing his fundamentalist/rightwing base
and suppressing the Dem vote -- through slime and sleaze and intimidation
and computer-fiddling and reducing the number of new registered Democrats by
thievery and threatening poll "monitors -- he'll hold back his major
But if what he's hearing in the various toss-up states continues to sound
bad -- Kerry doing well in enough of them to deny Bush victory -- he may go
for those extreme measures. Whether that will be an American/Israeli attack
on Iran's nuke sites, or rounding up some Arabs and charging them with a new
terrorist assault on U.S. soil ("Who's your daddy? We're protecting you,
vote for us"), or a simulated assassination try, or declaring martial law
and "postponing" the election -- whatever, he'd consider doing it.
These Bush&Co. guys aren't going to give up willingly and just walk away.
They feel they've worked too long and hard, decades really, to finally get
where they can actually institute revolutionary changes and take what they
want at home and abroad -- profit, power, control, "respectability" -- to
let loose of those reins.
DEALS WITH THE DEVIL
And so, they'll do what they have to do to stay in the White House, even if
it means making deals with the devil. They most probably will initiate court
cases challenging the election results in various state courts, to buy
themselves some more time to fiddle with the system and, they hope, gain an
ultimate victory. They might even try to kick the outcome back into the U.S.
Supreme Court. If that's their last-resort plan, they may find their
reception there a bit chillier than in 2000, inasmuch as Bush&Co. are trying
to reduce the power of the court to interpret the Constitution, and such
moves might well be looked at askance by the Supremes. (See
But, if by chance, John Kerry emerges the clear, unchallengeable victor --
too many popular votes in too many states -- they know they'll have nearly
three months before Inauguration to mess with the system of transition. Bush
will make a huge number of recess appointments for key positions, sign
numerous executive orders altering the way environmental and corporate laws
are enforced, maybe get the U.S. involved in more international adventures
abroad, and so on. The entire object in this case would be to force the
incoming Kerry Administration to spend most of its term trying to undo four
solid years of damage, rather than being able to move forward on its own
And, if Kerry wins but has to face a Republican-controlled Senate and/or
House, as seems likely, the GOP will be able to make life even more
miserable and impossible for the Democratic President. The object would be,
of course, to so hobble Kerry as to make it easier to topple him or another
Democrat in 2008, and get back to the business of business before that
unfortunate Democratic interruption.
EARTHQUAKES IN THE PARTIES
Regardless of who wins on November 2, there will be a seismic shakeup of
both major political parties, maybe even of the entire party system.
If the Republicans lose, prepare to witness a political bloodletting of
major proportions. The traditional conservative/centrist wing will want to
wrest power from the HardRightists who they feel have hijacked their GOP and
taken it to defeat. The extreme positions taken by Bush&Co. domestically,
and the budget-busting and reckless adventurism fomented by the Cheney-Rumsefeld
neo-cons abroad, will be savaged, and that crew probably will go into
temporary-eclipse phase. (Some of the worst offenders may even wind up in
criminal, or international, courts of justice.)
If the Democrats lose, the political civil war will take place between those
in power who are all too prone to tack to the center and center-right, and
those liberal/progressives who are no longer willing to compromise like
that, since such a strategy took them to defeat, twice.
In short, there will be wholesale realignments within both major parties,
and I would expect a major expansion in popularity of the Greens and other
alternative parties -- which might well be attractive to those in the 2004
electorate who are sick and tired of the lesser-of-two-evils option and who
could not work up a passion for either candidate.
THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD
Again, regardless of which party emerges victorious next week, many in those
parties will be susceptible to being lured away. If Bush&Co. win, the few
remaining moderates and traditional conservative Republicans may well feel
ostracized inside the GOP, and come to believe that the HardRight crowd is
not for them. They may try to found their own party or join with the
Democrats or go check out the Greens.
Many progressive Democrats, and I am one such, will give a President Kerry a
chance to establish himself and move the country back more to the center and
center-left. But if he does not change some of his campaign positions -- if,
for example, he goes for military victory in Iraq (hard to imagine, given
what Kerry knows and has experienced with regard to Vietnam), or continues
to give the Israeli government carte blanche to run roughshod over the
Palestinians -- we may well move to the Greens or further leftward. (But
progressives won't do so easily; since they will have leverage with Kerry,
inasmuch as liberal/left forces helped him achieve his victory, they will
expect to have a place at the decision-making table.)
In sum, this election promises to be one of the most important and momentous
in American history, and the fallout from it will be unusually significant,
realigning the social and political structure of America for years and
perhaps decades to come.
WHAT TO DO NOW
But all that's so much future analysis. What do we do now?
There is one week left. We must continue to try swaying the few undecideds,
but our real focus needs to be on energizing the Kerry base and getting them
to the polls, preferably for early- or absentee-voting, but most assuredly
on Voting Day. Phone callers and drivers are still needed.
We need to make sure Kerry voters are able to cast their ballots free of
intimidation, and that their votes are counted fairly and honestly. If you
see something suspicious, immediately call your local election supervisor,
and Election Protection at 1-866-OUR VOTE.
We liberals/progressives have worked like dogs these past many months to get
to the point where a Bush defeat is possible, indeed likely. Let's finish
the job, passing so many Kerry voters through the process that Rove will not
even consider trying to steal or manipulate or challenge the clear Kerry
And then we can get on with the hard but glorious work of renewing
democracy, re-establishing Constitutional justice, and (while protecting
ourselves from our enemies) promoting peace. It's "hard work," to quote
Bush, but so satisfying. Let's do it.
Copyright 2004, by Bernard Weiner