Just a week until Election Day and no honest person can tell you who’s going to win the presidency. I’ve put modest amounts of dough on George W. Bush to squeak past John Kerry by a 1.5 percent margin in the popular vote, while taking the Electoral College with a tally short of 300. That’s a far cry from 2000, when I was certain the Texan would defeat Al Gore comfortably. There’s too much conflicting information buzzing on the internet about last-minute dirty tricks, upcoming stories that’ll embarrass either candidate and an absurd number of national state polls that are at odds with one another.
On Oct. 24, for example, if you logged on to Real Clear Politics, two shocks assaulted the eyes: a poll (500 likely voters) finding a 48-48 tie in Arkansas, a state Kerry had written off, and a similarly weird snapshot in Hawaii (as Democratic a state as Rhode Island, despite encroaching GOP gains in recent years) that has Bush ahead by a point, according to that state’s Star-Bulletin. It all makes you dizzy, and with any luck the final result will be conclusive sometime in the early morning hours of Nov. 3. Otherwise, it’s a month or more of litigation and a bonanza for lawyers, a group of professionals held in about equal esteem as politicians and journalists.
Not that the previous week wasn’t without its moments of high-octane hilarity. By all indications actor Matt Damon seems to be a fairly intelligent fellow, a celebrity who makes smart career decisions (unlike his buddy Ben Affleck) and can now open a movie to huge box-office receipts. I thought Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s depiction of him as IQ-challenged in Team America was a riot and, unlike Sean Penn, Mr. Bourne Supremacy hasn’t made a stink about it. But when it comes to politics, Damon does appear a little slow. Who cares one way or the other if he’s an ardent Kerry partisan—in Hollywood, endorsing Bush puts you on the fast track to a blacklist—but his recent statement in Berlin last week was downright nutty.
Damon said, “I would pay $1 million to have Kerry in the White House.” Yeah? Considering that the native Bostonian commands Curt Schilling-like millions for a single film, isn’t that kind of on the skinflint side? One lousy million! I’d still disagree with his choice for president, but would have a lot more respect for the relatively young man if he’d pledged his next monstrous paycheck to a Kerry-friendly charity. I’m sure the Sierra Club, NOW or the ACLU would be grateful for the donation.
At least Damon can take comfort that another entertainer, Eminem, appears even more stupid, according to a recent Rolling Stone story. The white rapper told the biweekly that although Kerry hasn’t closed the deal on his vote, “Bush is definitely not my homie.”
On about the same intellectual plane is Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, who moaned in his November “Notebook” column that he, an affluent member of the Manhattan media elite, is a disenfranchised voter. Just like felons in Florida! Maybe Eminem can have dinner with Lord Lapham at Nobu, two “homies” just passing the time over $300 worth of sushi and sake while discussing Sudan, the inherent evil of Wal-Mart and those neat “No More Blood for Oil” posters that are for sale in certain parts of the country.
Lapham is disconcerted because, as a New Yorker, his vote won’t mean anything since the state is a gimme for Kerry, and then presents a repetitious condemnation of the Electoral College. The editor goes on and on—as if this is a new argument advanced by his ilk—about how most of the U.S. is shut out during presidential elections with the “swing states” getting all the advertisements and appearances by the candidates and their surrogates. Most people, I think, are pleased they’re spared the deluge of baloney, but not Lapham.
He writes: “The majority of the country’s African Americans live in the southern states, their presence unremarked upon and their concerns unaddressed by either presidential candidate, because the southern states routinely deliver their electoral votes to the Republicans. Similarly, in the New England states, the electoral vote routinely goes to the Democrats, with the result that both presidential candidates ignore the presence of conservative, socialist, libertarian, or independently minded voters in Rhode Island and Connecticut.”
What Lapham doesn’t grasp is that “swing states” vary from election to election—perhaps not every four years, but certainly in a 12-year cycle—and that it depends not only on the candidate but the era that puts a state in play. Surely he hasn’t forgotten Bill Clinton’s strength in the South in ‘92 and ‘96, or the not-so-ancient time when New Jersey, Illinois and even California fell into the GOP column.
Apparently not. He’d rather be down with the masses and declare himself “disenfranchised.” And this guy still has a job. Just like Manny Ramirez could use a “designated fielder,” I think Harper’s might try out a “designated editor.”
There’s a wealth of choices for the position. Perhaps the UK Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, who may have done the impossible on Oct. 23, writing a column that’s so paranoid and devoid of reason that he makes the entire BBC seem like a non-partisan organization.
Brooker writes (and the Guardian subsequently apologized): “[At least Kerry’s] not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backwards, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat… On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. [Brooker, like too many Europeans, doesn’t consider Israel “civilized.”] And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr.—where are you now that we need you?”
Harper’s could go the Rosie O’Donnell route, which would probably meet with Andrew Sullivan’s (this year’s David Brock) approval. Last Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale, O’Donnell headlined a sparsely attended Kerry rally and was sublimely on-message. After a rousing defense of the stout United Nations, Rosie turned on the accelerator, saying: “We were built on the foundation of freedom and truth and equality for all people. [I may have skipped history class one day, but Benjamin Franklin’s treatise endorsing gay marriage and his stinging rebuke of slavery eludes me.] And the rich, corporate, horrible, horrible people who have been destructing and ruining everything this country was made on has been really unbelievably damaging to all of us spiritually, emotionally, monetarily.”
Maybe Rosie didn’t sock away the millions she made from the corporate entities that funded her television show and magazine once upon a time, and it could be that unlike Damon she doesn’t have a million bucks to wish upon a star that Kerry occupies the White House, but couldn’t she do the public a favor and just disappear?
Or least take over Lapham’s job at Harper’s, which amounts to the same thing.
As I said above, the election results are anyone’s guess. But Democratic journalists are already preparing for the worst. Let’s start with Paul Krugman, who began his Oct. 22 Times column with the following message, undoubtedly approved by Kerry. “If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won’t be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.”
Nostradamus is alive and well.
Robert Kuttner, a Boston Globe contributor and president of the paleolib American Prospect, trumps even the noxious Krugman. His Oct. 20 Globe column, which doesn’t address the simple fact that voter fraud is a bipartisan vocation, worries, soulfully, that the country is heading toward catastrophe. He writes: “The Republicans are out to steal the 2004 election—before, during, and after Election Day. Before Election Day, they are employing such dirty tricks as improper purges of voter rolls, use of dummy registration groups that tear up Democratic registrations, and the suppression of Democratic efforts to sign up voters, especially blacks and students.”
Kuttner acknowledges that a handful of rich Democrats who, like the Kerrys, own multiple homes in different states, might vote twice or three times, but preposterously claims that the days of his side’s election shenanigans belong to the ages. Recounting the 1960 election, in which the campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were a bit slimy, Kuttner proclaims: “It was Richard Nixon, that scoundrel’s scoundrel, who resisted the temptation to mount a court challenge to the Illinois result because he felt the country couldn’t take it. Imagine longing for the days when we had Republican leadership as principled as Nixon’s.”
According to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz (Oct. 25), who wrote about Kerry’s journalist buddies girding for the worst next week, some fear the apocalypse is right around the corner. Columbia professor Todd Gitlin, a frequent Times essayist, said: “I would not be surprised to see outbursts of political violence the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Weather Underground of the 1970s.”
Get a grip, man. Does Gitlin really believe, in private, that without the military draft, which mobilized the youth-led protests of the 60s, that another four years of Bush will result in “political violence”? Maybe he hopes so—a delightful acid flashback—but 21st-century kids, at least those not indoctrinated by Boomer academics like Gitlin, have more to worry about than the media-created hobgoblin named George W. Bush.