Bedtime for Democracy

The voting booth has become the abattoir of the national will

Well, yeah, having Texas oilmen with CIA ties at the helm when decisive action on global warming and alternative energy is needed isn't a best-case scenario. At a time when world peace hinges on careful diplomacy, we also now have a president with, apparently, a pontoon bridge where his synapses should be. Having one who at least notices he's standing in front of a thicket of microphones before he starts calling people "assholes" would be preferable. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It doesn't look good.

But maybe the Bush Mach II years form the dark, dense planet our democracy needs to curve around—like a space probe—in order to reach maximum velocity. As Nader put it, when the times cry out for activism, whom would you rather have in office: A sedative or an irritant? Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and I think more people are waking up to that.

Will environmental laws be gutted, and corporations rampage like foxes too long denied the henhouse? Not so easily, I think. Citizens are more wary now, more active. The WTO protests wouldn't have happened in the '80s. Things are getting interesting, and the very fact that an unelected president will be residing in the White House will be a daily reminder of that.

We in Orange County can hope that Newport Beach congressman Chris Cox doesn't wind up with a cabinet post, like Secretary in Charge of Looking Smug.

Bush is coming in under a dark cloud, not with Reagan's "morning in America" mandate. I betcha the economy is going to tank during his watch—not his fault, but because it's riding on speculation—and that's not going to help him. People are going to have many occasions to remember that this president wasn't the one we wanted.

Even people who are crowing now about the Supreme Court decision deep down have to feel how unwholesome it is and will be wary of future extremes. And the Supremes may very well soon have to eat their words on elections and equal treatment under the law, when their precedent is brought up in cases dealing with the racial and economic inequities in our voting procedures, and guess who wins next time as a result of that?

My friend Kim also sees things in terms of dark forces at work, of the same sort of rich, cynical, power-hungry assholes calling the shots that have been doing so since feudal times. With ever-increasing riches and influence continuing to flow to the richest 1 percent, there's a case for that.

But there is also this: they are human, as subject to fear and love as the rest of us, as possibly open to change. They don't want to poison their kids or pack them off to a new Ice Age unless there's enough profit in it. Maybe it isn't that they are doing such a good job of ransacking the planet and spoiling elections as it is that the rest of us aren't doing such a good job yet of convincing them otherwise. It is morning in America, folks; it's just kind of a shitty morning, with no one around but us to make it better.

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