Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Hamish MacAulay
The insider who calls himself an outsider with tax cuts for the rich is in the fight of his political life against a tainted insider who calls himself an insider with tax cuts for the rich.
It is election time north and south of the 49th parallel. In the north, we can pretend this is more than a two-party race. South of the border, down Washington way, the two-party system is, once again, forcing voters to choose between a man they do not trust and a man they think is dumb.
The rest of the world cares who becomes president we hope the Amercians choose the person best able to handle the foreign affairs of the most powerful nation on the planet. For Americans themselves, party politics and domestic issues are more important. Polls show that Americans clearly believe Gore is better qualified and able to handle foreign policy, but something other than his dazzling intellect is convincing half of them that Bush is the man for the job.
Elections are a time for those locked in the life-and-death combat of party politics to spread their gospel to the unwashed masses. Now, the gospels might all sound the same to the vast majority of us who just do not care about politics, but be assured each partys plan for the nation is the one that will create happiness and prosperity for all.
Despite Al Gores recent efforts, Americans have never tried to create the artifice that elections are about the best policies. Reflecting the American national identity, U.S. elections especially presidential elections are a mano-a-mano, us versus them, winner-take-all affair where style rules over substance.
U.S. elections reflect the assumption that the average voter does not know enough or care enough about the intricacies of government policy to decide whose platform is better. Party faithful understand that the survival of America depends on their candidate winning, and will vote for the person who spent the most money to win the nomination, no matter how stupid or unlikable he is. Voters not attached to a party only want to know that they voted for the person with the right character (whatever that might be) and skills for the job.
In the year 2000, Americans are having a tough time deciding who the right person might be. November 7 is likely to be one of the closest elections in U.S. history. The presidential race is a dead heat. The Democrats and Republicans could end up with the same number of seats in the Senate, and no matter who wins the House of Representatives, the majority will be less than seven seats.
Most polls give Georgie Puddin an Pie Bush a slight lead over Al the Living Mannequin Gore. With the margin of error included, the race could go either way. The Living Mannequin is crawling back into the race as the presidential debates become a dim memory and Americans return to the assessments they held about the two men before seeing them perform on television.
Polls show that Americans are concerned about the way Georgie Puddin an Pie might handle foreign affairs. Only 50 per cent of those polled in October believe he has the skills to negotiate with world leaders, and only 45 per cent are confident he has the skills to deal with an international crisis. The Living Mannequin scored 70 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.
Of course, in the icon-loving world of American popular culture, whoever is elected will become the best man for the job. After all, the voters have spoken and they can never be wrong.
In the Senate, the current Republican majority of 55 to 45 will be reduced. If the election results in a 50-50 tie, the vice president will have the deciding vote.
A big player in how the Senate turns out is now a corpse in Missouri. Mel Carnahan has a chance to be the first dead man elected to the Senate after he was killed in a plane crash it was too late to remove his name from the ballot. The Democratic Party is still campaigning for him because, if he wins, the Democrat Governor of Missouri would choose his replacement.
The House of Representatives will probably stay in Republican hands, which gives Gore the Living Mannequin some hope. Subconsciously, U.S. voters are reluctant to give one party control of both the legislature and the administration. Almost always, the party that takes the presidency loses the house. It is a fascinating voter-created check and balance that, of all the political stiffs, Bush might accomplish for the first time since 1954.
(For U.S. election coverage see www.washingtonpost.com or www.nytimes.com. If you are feeling adventurous, choose your favourite search engine and type an appropriate phrase i.e. Bush is a loser or Gore is a baby and see what happens. Just be prepared for the deeply racial overtones that continue to pervade U.S. politics.)
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