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tearing the rag off the bush again
Where?s a good party? PDF E-mail


Perhaps the best adjective to describe our presidential conventions is “noisy.”  You’d think, from the impact, that the noise was generated by a good percentage of the population, but the conventioneers at both events are really a tiny group who know how to get heard.
One has to admit it’s been a good show this time, mainly because, for many Americans, the disapproval of President Bush is so profound that defeating his party is highly motivational, while die hard Republicans are motivated to salvage their banner.  The fact is, though, that to vast numbers of Americans the two party system is  a transparent con.
In a nutshell, the parties don’t stand for any clear-cut principles or practices.
Some will say, of course, that Democrats hold the rich to their obligations to the little guy, oppose unnecessary war and want a sustainable, pleasant planet earth.
Others say that Republicans believe in an independent mindset that thrives in a free marketplace unfettered by intrusive government.  Republicans are also supposed to be “fiscal conservatives,” advocates of a government run like a frugal household in which expenditures do not exceed income.  And of course Republicans are supposed to uphold “family values,” a set of ill-defined concepts about marriage and children.
It’s all bunk.  Neither party represents any of those things.
Let’s start with the saintly Democrats.  I trace my own disillusionment with the Democratic Party back to 1964, when I stood in a large crowd in San Francisco’s Washington Square cheering Lyndon Johnson as he exhorted us to vote for him instead of the war-mongering Republican Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater, Johnson told us, would lead us into a disastrous and pointless war in Vietnam.  I did, in fact, cast my first presidential vote for Johnson, only to see him preside over a three year bombing campaign of North Vietnam which killed thousands of men, women and children for no coherent reason that our nation has been able to articulate.  Now, of course, it’s Bush the warmonger, pursuing a war in Iraq as unexplained and unpopular as the Vietnam War, but, as many Americans have noticed, the Democratic controlled Congress did nothing to stop the war.  After all, the prominent Democratic movers and shakers (including Joe Biden), voted in 2002 to empower Bush to start it.  True, Obama did not vote for the Iraq War Resolution , but he didn’t vote against it either, not being in the Senate at the time, and he did next to nothing as a Senator to stop the war.  Are we to accept him as anti-Iraq war simply because he’s a Democrat and he says he’s anti-Iraq war?
As for Democrats caring about the little guy in his struggle against corporate bullies, give me a break!  The Denver convention’s $55 million cost was covered by 60 giant corporations, all of them seeking legislative favor, both tax and regulatory.   The short list (per the Center for Responsive Politics and ABC News, which was barred from covering the lavish corporate parties for delegates): AT&T, Qwest, Comcast, Motorola, Medtronic, Lilly, Merc, United Health Group, Us Bank, Wells Fargo, State farm, Allstate, Visa, Coca-cola, Coors and Lockheed Martin.  Did you hear anything in Obama’s acceptance speech about this?  Did it seem to bother him that insurance companies underwrote his kickoff to a campaign promising universal health care?
Regarding a sustainable planet earth weaned from fossil fuels, the Democratic opposition to offshore drilling has collapsed in the face of the latest polls showing voter support for drilling.  Never mind that the experts see no bearing on the price of gas, contradicting the propaganda that persuaded the public that drilling would bring price relief.  The Democrats see the new polls and, Presto!, let’s drill!
Now to the Republicans.  Upholders of the ideal of self-reliance and the free marketplace?  Hardly.  Republicans invented corporate welfare, exemplified in the obscene handouts to Haliburton et al in pursuit of a war which appears to benefit no one but insiders.  Believers in small government?  Does anyone buy that?  Forcing a nation into a war which the majority of its citizens opposes does not suggest small government.
Adherents of “family values”?  Although we don’t know what the hell the phrase means, we can guess it has something to do with infidelity, divorce, pregnancy, and child rearing.  Does one really have to list all the prominent Republicans who have nothing special to claim in these areas?  At least the Democrats leave the subject alone.
The Iraq war as well gives the lie to the Republican claim to fiscal conservatism.  Estimates of the war’s cost are highly partisan, but it’s somewhere between $1 and $2 trillion- money we don’t have which adds to the national debt of $9.5 trillion (about $500 billion of which was accrued during the last two Republican administrations).
At the Republican convention there were attempts to tack on some additional meanings to “Republicanism.” The convention theme was “Country First!”  The obvious question is, what’s second?  People?  The concept needs fleshing out.  There was also a hue and cry asserting that McCain and secret weapon Sarah Palin will “shake up Washington” and “make America rich, not the special interests.”  A paradoxical quest, though, when you consider that ABC’s Brian Ross had the same difficulty covering the “wild whirl of corporate and lobbyist-paid parties” at the Republican convention that he had at the Democratic.  Which special interests are in for a shaking?  Perhaps not the National Rifle Association, Lockheed Martin and the American Trucking Association, which, per Ross, treated Republican delegates to a “raucous six-hour party at a downtown bar featuring music by the band Hookers and Blow.”

One should add that both parties are bending over backwards to be first in breaching gender and race barriers, and to claim the cachet of "Defender of Civil Rights."  Obama trumps Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell.  Palin would appear to trump Hillary, but when you take a good look at Palin, you suddenly forget how excited you were that she's a woman.  There's enough shabby behavior to go around, but for me what did it was the list of authors she tried to get banned from her local library; it included JK Rowling and Kurt Vonnegut.  I'm not going to rejoice at this woman.  Nor, for reasons put forward above, am I rejoicing at Obama.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that minority candidates who are tricky, stupid or combinations thereof do not count as breakthroughs.
With the Republicans and Democrats straying so much from their stated missions, it’s inevitable that many people will wonder why we don’t have a third (or should I say, second?) viable party.  We’ve certainly got cause and a mission: to represent truth in labeling against false advertising.
Doug Lasken teaches English at Taft High School in LA Unified. 
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