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Bernard Weiner: Seismic Shifts For Both Parties

Seismic Shifts For Both Parties On November 2


By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers

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 weapons.

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.

But, if by chance, John Kerry emerges the clear, unchallengable 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 agenda.

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 ostricized 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 victory.

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.

*************

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). He is a contributing writer to the recently-released "Big Bush Lies" book.


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