Election shapes up as the angriest ever
WASHINGTON – History will remember the 2000 presidential campaign as the one decided by an activist and openly partisan Supreme Court.
Now, four years later, we are almost certainly going to see the longest and perhaps angriest campaign in American history – one that may persuade many voters to stay at home and pretend it never happened.
Time, a lot of it, will tell whether the Democratic Party, specifically the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, decided correctly in compressing the party's selection process into a few winter weeks.
So far, it has worked the way he wanted it to: The Democrats have their candidate almost eight months before the November election, rather than the usual three months or so – and Sen. John Kerry has ample time and then some to introduce himself to the nation, raise enough money to challenge the rich party and find the nastiest things he can say about President Bush.
But how much mean spirit can the nation take? How much Kerry can we take? How much Bush can we take? How much innuendo? How much trash? How much lying? And just how much politics do we need or want? In an age of chain-reaction information – act and react, slur and rebut minute-by-minute – eight months could be the event and information equivalent of years in earlier, slower times.
The idea, for instance, of candidates taking real vacations, clearing their heads, is not an option anymore. They must make and answer charges immediately; there is no such thing anymore as "tonight's" news or "tomorrow's paper" in the game of slug and slime. It's all now, all the time.
On one day, the Republican speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, used his high office to attack Spain and its voters because he (and many Americans) did not like the election results there after last week's Madrid bombings. At the same time, Kerry said that Bush's failures in war and diplomacy "have left the real interests of our country and of the world in tatters across this planet."
Then the prime minister-elect of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, did his bit for cable news around the planet by jumping in to say he hopes Bush will lose in November. approved."
We can only imagine what months of political trash talk will do to our democracy. Most likely we are seeing the beginning of mourning in America.