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Did Someone Mention The Election?
Thinking a week or so ahead.


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Jonah Goldberg

Now that they’ve caught the sniper and his ward (“Holy mantrap, Sniper-Man!”), perhaps we can take a quick look at this thing called an “election” which is, like you know, really soon.

Last night — because my wife and I are so cool — we watched the Missouri senatorial debate between Jean Carnahan, Jim Talent, and two independent candidates from the Libertarian and Green parties. So let me just get this out here and now: I have seen the future, and its name is digger. Daniel “digger” Romano, to be specific. He’s the Missouri Green party’s candidate and he speaks truth to power. I cannot encourage you enough to check out his website (though the picture doesn’t do justice to digger’s graying dreadlocks) [link defunct] . I know they’re retiring, but just imagine the looks on Jesse Helms’s and Strom Thurmond’s faces if this guy walked into “the world’s most exclusive men’s club.”

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Toward the end of the debate they asked each candidate to talk about his role models. Jim Talent mentioned two former colleagues from the House of Representatives, one of them, interestingly, being Floyd Flake. Jean Carnahan cited Harry Truman. The Libertarian candidate, Tamara Millay, defied expectations when she did not name Zefram Cochran (inventor of the warp drive) and selected instead Thomas Jefferson. And my main man digger (he keeps the “D” lower-case — ‘cause that’s more real), clearly flustered by the need to narrow down his long list of “many role models,” selected the Zapatista rebels of southern Mexico. I’m not kidding.

One quality he particularly admired in the Zapatistas was that they’ve “mostly” avoided using violence against innocent people in their battle against globalization. I don’t know about the Missourians out there, but I was left desperately wanting to know what the rest of digger’s list of role models looks like. I would bet dollars to hemp that there are at least seven pictures of Che Guevera somewhere in plain view at digger’s pad.

Watching the debate reminded how much the sniper and Iraq really have crowded out the 2002 election from the “national discussion” (I put that phrase in quotation marks solely because I do not like it). If it hasn’t happened already, we can expect that someone on the Cynthia McKinney/Nation of Islam fringe will soon be declaring that Johnny Muhammad is a Lee Harvey Oswald-style dupe whom the Bushes set up to further distract the country from the elections and to paint black Muslims in a bad light. After all, the guy does have three names, which is the only essential ingredient for a murky, government-backed assassin, right?

LOSE/LOSE
Anyway, now that we are only a matter of days away from Election Day, it seems to me that — with the exception of judges — there aren’t a lot of reasons to root for the GOP. Oh, sure, wiping that smug smile off of Pat Leahy’s face and raising tariffs, taxes, and fees on any milk Jim Jeffords has ever cared about is enough to motivate you to build the pyramids. But, let’s face it. Bush has the most important thing he needs from Congress: backing in a war. And, aside from foreign policy, Bush hasn’t really done much for conservatives in awhile. He hasn’t been terrible on the domestic front, but he has been more or less MIA. I can forgive that, but in the political climate it doesn’t necessarily argue for giving him Republican majorities in both houses of Congress (again, the issue of judges notwithstanding).

If Republicans run the House and Senate, the Democrats will whine and complain — obviously. And since Bush will probably be focusing on a war and on getting reelected, he won’t be picking many good fights, from a conservative perspective. This means that in 2004, Democrats will be able to campaign on the need for sweeping change and how too little was done under the GOP. This will make Bush and the slim majorities in both houses very vulnerable — even if the war(s) go well.

If the Democrats get control of the House and Senate, they will probably launch a bunch of annoying investigations into Bush’s business deals, Enron, etc. Bush would run the risk of some political damage, but, at the same time, Democrats would run the risk of looking like shmucks going after a president during a war. Also, continued gridlock would allow Bush to run against a do-nothing Congress in 2004 and on his war record — which would hopefully give the GOP better and bigger majorities than we could possibly win in 2002.

OH NO
I know this is a huge shift in gears, but the rest of the above analysis is pretty intuitive at this point and I can always continue it later. But I’ve just heard that Paul Wellstone has died in a plane crash. I can’t say I was a huge fan of Wellstone’s political views (how could I?), but he always struck me as a decent and honorable man who was willing to question much of the cynicism within his own party. I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate to handicap this too much. But I do hope we don’t have another election turned into an epitaph, as we did with Jean Carnahan. Wellstone himself often said that politics is about the future and, staying true to that, we should not make his obituary into a campaign platform for some other Democrat.

For further discussion of all of this, please check out the Corner, and come Monday we can pick up this column where it left off.



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