The Final Moments
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 10/30/04
I write this piece the day after the final Presidential debate of 2004. I now know who who’s gonna win the election & who I am voting for. John Kerry. The Green Party. Yes, Kerry won this debate, & the other 2, & Senator John Edwards defeated Vice President Dick Cheney in the VP tilt. So, why am I voting Green? Well, no person of intellect & vision will be voting for Bush. In 4 years he has made virtually every wrong decision on every major issue- from the wars, the economy, stem cells, etc.- to the fact that he cannot admit he’s made an error. John Kerry, at least confronted his flip-flop issue, whether you like his defense or not, & knowing the President’s record is as wishy-wishy, while the President did not even attempt an answer to his personal Achilles’ Heel in Debate 2. Yet, I will not vote for John Kerry. Were Edwards the Democratic nominee I’d vote for him in a heartbeat- he actually has a vision, plus he has the balls to tear at the corporate testicles that need so much to be torn at.
Kerry is a nice man, a decent guy- but, he’s a mummy. He has no vision to get out of Iraq- had he vowed to at least get out on a blurry timetable he’d’ve scored points. He has no substantive health plan- a little tinkering here & there. This nation has a 140 million working people that can pool their resources & provide a low cost pool. Kerry mentions none of that- scared off by socialized medicine claims. As someone who has had minor recurring medical problems over the years I know that palpably the claims that our medical system is the best are wrong. People I’ve met from Canada & Europe are aghast when they hear stories of people postponing operations for fear of bankrupting their families. Only in America are drug companies allowed to have no caps on profit. Only in America is a doctor’s medical recommendation contravened by a bean counter at an HMO. Only in America do the CEOs of HMOs ride around in private jets. Only in America are healthcare companies considered business investments, rather than public health necessities. President Bush knows this, & likes things the way they are. Senator Kerry knows this too, yet his health plan is a joke. 1) It never addresses the aforementioned points. 2) It will affect only a relative handful of people- estimates are less than 1/3 of those currently uninsured gonna get insurance by his plan, & HMOs will still be able to veto needed treatments. 3) It’ll never remotely get Congressional approval. John Kerry is a creature of Washington D.C. He actually enjoys politics & its minutiae. Nothing will change.
This is why I’m voting Green. I wanted to be able to vote for Ralph Nader a 3rd straight time but he’s not gonna be on the ballot in Texas, & I don’t think write-ins are allowed. So, next Monday, when I go to vote early, I’ll be voting for David Cobb of the Green Party. The Greens are what the Democrats once were. I saw several debates on C-Span between 3rd Party candidates. There was a dangerous Fundamentalist Christian named Michael Peroutka stumping for the Constitution Party, a humorously apt narcoleptic octogenarian Socialist named Walt Brown, & Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik, who seemed to value corporate over civil liberties. Nothing consterns me more than the ceding of noble libertarianism to these Philistines who run that party. That leaves the Greens. I would urge others to check out their website www.gp.org & see if we can get them above the 5% threshold to get Federal matching funds. I firmly believe that if ex-Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) & Harry Truman (a Democrat) were alive today they would be Greens. Regardless, with Texas going for W, even were I more sold on Kerry it would be tactically smart to support an alternate voice.
As for the debates & the race for the Presidency- I think Kerry, barring his going Michael Dukakis on the stump the next few weeks, sealed the deal last night. He clearly defeated President Bush in all 3 debates. I’m not talking substance, however, because Ronald Reagan proved that to win over the stolid & cowardly American electorate you just have to be likable. Kerry did that in this last debate. Let’s briefly scan the debates. In #1 Bush lost big- in all polls. Kerry was in a slump after his convention, & then going Dukakis in not fighting back against the Bush-sponsored swiftboat lies. If you’re not gonna defend yourself will you defend this country? Remember when Michael Dukakis infamously said he’d lecture his wife’s rapist on the social ramifications of his act, as he was mid-rape? Well, ok, he didn’t say that- but he might as well have. That was it for his chances. Kerry seemed to be going the same route.
Then the 1st debate- Kerry gained stature by being on the stage with Bush, dwarfing him not only in height, but in facts, presentation, & demeanor. Bush looked peeved, disgusted that he had to be in the same room with Kerry. It was Al Gore’s 2000 Debate sighs all over again. Polls showed Kerry won huge- almost all in double digits, with some margins as high as 24 points. Worse for Bush was that all independent/undecided voters gave higher margins to Kerry than mixed polls. In the Vice Presidential debate John Edwards was supposed to get chewn up by Dick Cheney, yet it was the VP who several times refused to elaborate on questions & points. Edwards showed why he was an excellent lawyer. While the margins were not as huge as the 1st Presidential debate Edwards was a clear winner in virtually every poll, again with independent/undecideds giving larger margins to Edwards than the mixed polls. The biggest factor in that debate was that Edwards won over younger, independent voters by being upbeat, while Cheney played to the worst Democratic stereotypes about himself, especially by not elaborating on his profiteering on the war via Halliburton.
The 2nd Presidential debate saw major overcompensation by Bush. He seemed to be on speed. Kerry, however, was relentless. He boxed Bush in & the President was reduced to aphorizing, over & over. But, his biggest gaffe came in rudely interrupting moderator Charlie Gibson, of ABC News. Kerry’s margin of victory was smaller than the 1st debate & the VP debate, but still solid, yet beyond the margin of error in all the independent/undecideds. More importantly, in the key demographic of uncommitted women, the President came off looking bullying & uncaring.
After this debate the Bush strategy changed- it was clear there was no way they would get the bulk of undecideds, so the best strategy is to call Kerry a Liberal- to Dukakis him like his dad did against the impassive governor. A high turnout means a kerry victory, a low turnout is Bush’s only hope. But, this is not 1988, & the Republicans’ strategy of voter suppression in major urban areas has tended to rile up black voters still angry over their disenfranchisement in 2000.
That brought us to yesternight’s last debate, & final impressions. Kerry merely had to maintain his looking like a viable alternative, while Bush wanted to use scripted lines from his dad’s anti-Liberal playbook. It didn’t work. Despite my deep reservations about him he gave his best performance of the 3 debates. Before this year the President had never lost a debate in the media spin- now he’s 0 for 3, with Cheney’s drubbing to boot. Bush was scattershot all evening- somewhere in the nether between his surly Debate 1 arrogance & dickwaving Debate 2 machismo. Again, I won’t even go into substance, since, post-Reagan, substance does not matter, although Kerry was, surprisingly, far more eloquent on religion than Bush. That said, John Kerry is flat out the best Presidential debater of the television era. Only JFK came close. Kerry is like an android in terms of being able to laser in on questions & expound.
Bush supporters were kicking themselves for their many proscriptions for the debates, saying that this inadvertently helped Kerry stay on focus, & there’s some truth to this, BUT, I don’t wanna think about the bloodbath that would’ve occurred had the candidates been allowed to follow up, challenge, & question each other. The rules DID benefit Bush in that they allowed him to minimize the damage. With them these debates were a late round TKO, or lopsided unanimous boxing decision. Without them, well- Little Big Horn! What makes Kerry so good is that he’s not only a relentless automaton of facts & composure, but, unlike- say Jimmy Carter- he’s an amoeba. Wherever you hit him, he surrounds you, goos your logic with a fact you not only did not even know, but were clueless as to having a provenance- he cites obscure Congressional reports, pundits from your own side, & is never fazed. He’s the best of Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan in the debates. Bush, meanwhile, hyperventilated several times, & showed, in these debates, he’s the anti-Carter, but not in the positive sense.
In his debates against Reagan Carter overthought things- in effect, he was too smart, & could not dumb himself down. Bush, however, simply lacks the facility to think things through- he flies by the seat of his smirk. A few months ago I said this race reminded me of the 1980 Carter-Reagan race, & that it would be close until the last weekend, when there would be a big swing Kerry’s way. I believe I was prescient & will be vindicated, even though I thought Kerry had folded his sales before the debate. Why will there be a swing? Because the undecideds will probably go 3-1 for Kerry. With an undecided base of 8-18 percent that’s a 4-8% swing difference in what seems an otherwise dead heat. Taking the minimum 4% swing, tossing out 2-4% that go for 3rd parties & you’re left with a 50-46% or 51-47% Kerry popular win, & I think my 80-100 point electoral swing will prove closer than the 2000 rerun most predict. Simply put, back-to-back close elections are rare, & incumbents usually win or lose big.
Here are the poll #s for the last debate. CBS had it 39-25% Kerry only using undecideds, CNN had it 53-39% Kerry with an even Republican/Democratic split at 36% each, while, most tellingly, ABC gave it 42-41% Kerry with a 38-30% Republican advantage. On style Kerry won this debate with a bigger margin than Debate 2. The image is he’s pulling away. Yes, despite my reservations about Kerry, & decision to go Green, there’s no doubt, to the middle ground, that Kerry won the debates on substance, too. All he has to do is stay on focus & pounce upon the increasing desperation of the Republicans. Bush has the worst economic record since the Great Depression- worse than the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, lied about WMDs, has gotten 1000+ American soldiers needlessly killed, saw his neglect lead to 9/11, & just promises 4 years of the same. Kerry should be winning big- were Clinton running this race would never have been close.
Yet, Kerry now sees the path to victory & he only needs the steeliness of his debate demeanor to pull him through, because most undecideds, like me, will choose him, not Nader nor the Greens. Here’s where he sealed the deal, & if he does win, it will stick out as the ‘There you go again/You’re no Jack Kennedy’ moment of the 4 debates. In the final question the candidates were asked about the women in their lives & the President turned on the charm he’s been accoladed for- stating he’s learned to listen to his wife. It got the 1st round of applause of the night, & some laughter. Then it was Kerry’s turn. Bush seemed to feel he might sneak off with the debate with that final moment. Surely the automatonic amoeboid would Dukakis himself. No, he parried with an even funnier line, that got a better reaction, he said, ‘We both married up. Some would say me more than others.’ That was the final nail in the coffin. Even the President couldn’t control himself, & burst out laughing. Kerry is not Dukakis, & this Bush will, like his dad, be a 1 term President.
His ‘Liberal’ label will drive away undecideds who want substance. & I learned an interesting fact from several tv talk shows, PBS, & C-Span. After a final debate an incumbent President never has gained voters. I.e.- his final post-debate #s of likely voters never increases, they’ve either remained steady or lost- swing voters always go for the challenger. I’ll bet that among likely voters Bush gets no higher than 47% post-debate, & that’s his ceiling in the popular vote. As for the electoral college? Here’s the current wisdom (with electoral votes), & how I think it’ll play out:
New York- 31
21 states- 172
4 states- 45
11 states & DC- 168
3 states- 32
11 states- 121
I agree with all the solids. Bush leads 172-168. I think Kerry will retain his 32 leaning votes & Michigan should become a solid Kerry state. Bush, however, has 2 problems. 1st, if Colorado splits its electoral votes, which seems likely, even a win means 4 less votes. Also, I think Kerry might sneak off with Arizona- with a popular Democratic governor. By 2008 this will be a majority Democratic state, due to Hispanic influx. But. let’s give all the votes to Bush, minus 4 in Colorado. That leaves Bush at 213, & Kerry at 204.
Out west I think Oregon makes a Pacific Kerry sweep, & New Mexico goes Kerry, they’re a few years ahead of Arizona demographically. Bush takes Nevada. That leaves Bush at 218, Kerry at 216. In the upper MidWest, Kerry will take Wisconsin, & just slide by in Minnesota- their urban areas enough to tip the balance to Kerry, while the more rural Iowa goes slightly Bush. This leaves Bush at 225, & Kerry in the lead at 236.
That leaves Florida- 27, New Hampshire- 4, Pennsylvania- 21, Ohio-20, & West Virginia- 5. I now wanna look at a Bush best case scenario- because these 5 states are the real keys out of all the rest. The economy is the biggest issue in the 3 blue collar states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, & West Virginia. I just don’t see Bush winning these 3 states. West Virginia went Republican last time, in an oddity, Ohio has just been killed economically, & Pennsylvania’s 2 big urban centers of Philadelphia & Pittsburgh will trump the Pocono Republicans. Those 46 electoral votes give 282 to Kerry, with 270 needed. At best, Bush takes Florida & New Hampshire’s 32 for a 256 electoral vote total. Even if Colorado rejects splitting its electoral votes & Bush wins that’s still a 278-260 Kerry win.
But, if Kerry’s momentum can continue, & he stays relentless, he’ll win bigger. Let’s give back the 4 electoral votes from Colorado & we’re at 282-256 Kerry. My gut tells me New Hampshire will complete a New England sweep for a 286-252 margin. But, I think 1 of 3 other things will happen. When undecideds go in to vote they will look at the last 4 years & ask the old Reagan query- if they’re better off than 4 years ago- something Kerry should have articulated. I think Arizona can break for Kerry- that’s 296-242. Also, Iowa may just go the same way for a 303-235 Kerry win.
If that’s not the case then the Republican suppress the vote strategy may backfire, & nowhere will that harm them more than Florida- where folks are already angry at the slow response time of the Federal government to their hurricane trifecta. If Florida goes for Kerry then the 286-252 for Kerry swells to a more comfortable 313-225 margin. That’s, to me, the most likely scenario, I see Kerry getting to 300 electoral votes. Bush can only win by taking Florida, either Ohio or Pennsylvania, & hoping Minnesota turns. I don’t see it. However, Bush’s relentless negativism could lead to a significant shift. Only Kerry, in the last debate, spoke of what he would do in the next 4 years that would not be like the last 4, while Bush promised more of the same. A worst case scenario- which I would rate a 20% likelihood- is this. Kerry retains his leaning states, while Arizona & Colorado’s full 9 electorals go Kerry’s way. Of the swing states, Bush can only nab Nevada & Iowa- that leaves Bush at 210 & Kerry at 328- not quite a blowout, but, if that happens, it could make for a national shift toward Democrats, at least Presidentially, & would be the 4th consecutive popular Democratic win.
Regardless, there is some irony & symmetry in this election, because I think it’ll be a sort of quarter-century bookend to the Carter-Reagan election. Islamic Extremism (Ayatollah Khomeini) led to the assumption of Right Wing Extremism in this country. Had Carter won, a likelihood save for the hostages, Reagan & the Far Right would have been devoured by the Bush, Sr.-New England patriarchs. Just as 9/11 was the last dying spasm of Islamic Fundamentalism before it caves in to McWorld, so it is apt that another Islamic Extremist (Osama bin laden) topples the American Far Right. Very interesting, as Curly Howard would say. I say, Let’s go Greens!
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the 10/04 Hackwriters website.]
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