Since we go to press hours before the polls close November 5, I'm in a weird position as I write this. I don't know the outcome of the election, though I've tried to prepare myself.
Some things are as certain as conservative hatred of the "death tax" (it's actually the most progressive one we've got).
I know the Republicans need to win hearts and minds, since they've so obviously lost theirs. (The poisonous campaign against Assemblymember Susan John was one urine sample I used for my diagnosis.) And oh --- or doh! --- those Dems. Once again they've fielded some candidates who might better be put out to pasture, and I don't mean because of age. That they fell back on Walter Mondale and Frank Lautenberg as US Senate candidates-in-a-pinch shows how much the party is squeezed dry of fresh blood.
And what about the "minor" parties? They make too many preventable goofs. At least they can plead inexperience.
The question on all minds is this: Will this election bring the deluge --- the Republicans taking the Senate and thus controlling the Congress, White House, and yes, the Supreme Court? By the time you read this, we'll all know the answer.
But let's get real. If the Dems took both houses, and each house still had a small "c" conservative majority, the course probably wouldn't shift by more than a few degrees. The country's been driving with a locked steering column for more than a quarter century. Except for what's heard from a few small voices in the back seat, the dominant discourse swings from rant to sermonette. Which would be tolerable if the take-home message were "Love thy neighbor."
Instead, the message is "They're all out to get me," "they" being a group of pathetically minor foreign military powers, plus some freelancers the US helped put in business. And you know what? Bad as their sins are, "they" are doing nothing we haven't done on a larger scale.
Time for comic relief: It looks like the 2004 presidential race may be a rematch of Bush vs. Gore, not only with this blessed pair at the top of the ballot, but with electoral dysfunction all over again. It's always a mistake to believe the system's designed to work any differently.
Is that cynical? I don't think so. It's right there in the history books. Well, at least those not written by historians too comfortable publishing for this or that Big House. The US has always been more concerned about getting and spending, expanding and conquering, than about making peace and justice or building a new international community worthy of that much-abused name. You can read the next tragic chapter in the White House's recently issued National Security Policy.
My mood hasn't been helped by what I saw in the November 3 Democrat and Chronicle. The Living section had a side-by-side profile of a local military recruiter (by the way, what a shame the Rochester public schools were forced to re-admit these snake-oil salespeople) and a campus activist. It was the headline that got me: "Different paths to peace." It seems "war weighs [equally] upon those who will fight and those who seek another way."
Taken individually, the profiles of Sgt. Todd A. Crofoot and RIT activist Ivan Broida provide some insights. But that headline turns everything to mush. To paraphrase A.J. Muste for the umpteenth time: There's no other way to peace besides peacemaking. At this stage of history, to imply the Pentagon is a peacemaker is Orwellianism on steroids.
I really hate being a naysayer. But think of all the opportunities for true peace and prosperity our potentially wonderful country has missed. Whatever the vote tally, there'll be lots of money for "defense" but no Marshall Plan for the Rust Belt (of which Rochester is a charter member, despite its homegrown industry of self-imaging).
Our schools will have more fiscal crises, maybe to the point where no bailout will be possible. Many a local government budget will go bust, with the effects ricocheting toward the usual bystanders, the poor. It'll be interesting to see which goes through the roof first: health care costs or public anger at them. (You want universal coverage and public health services? Your name will soon be on John Ashcroft's little list.)
And as Social Security prepares to take a hit, everyone awaits expansion of the US social insecurity system, which rests on the fear of unemployment, shortfalls in child care, the lack of a decent long-term care policy, and other selling points of unregulated, unmerciful capitalism. Only yesterday lots of people were dreading Y2K. Now we've got real worries --- and we need to re-set some internal settings before midnight.