With John Kerry as their de facto nominee, Democrats now are in a position to marshal their efforts to put Bush out of office. But between now and November 2, Kerry and the Democrats will have to overcome several foreseeable obstacles.
Democrats go into this election as the financial underdogs. The Kerry campaign has raised an estimated $40 million, while the Bush campaign has taken in an estimated $150 million. This Republican funding advantage will allow Bush to buy many more television advertisements and consequently reach many more people.
To counter this, independent organizations critical of Bush have been buying air time and running their own advertisements. For example, MoveOn.org has run an ad that shows a lie detector oscillating sharply as Bush makes claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Yet, MoveOn.org has had trouble getting its ads on the networks. CBS refused to run another MoveOn.org ad during the Superbowl. (Perhaps the network thought it was tasteless.) And ABC and Fox as a matter of policy refuse to run so-called advocacy ads.
The Kerry campaign also will have to contend with Republican dirty tricks. This is a party that has lied its way into war, exposed the identity of a CIA agent (Valerie Plame) to punish her husband, and pilfered computer files of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee (see “Watergate Redux” on page 6). Already someone has used Matt Drudge’s Web site DrudgeReport.com to accuse Kerry of adultery and to circulate a doctored photo of Kerry and “Hanoi Jane” Fonda. More surprises are sure to come.
In the fall we can expect the television debut of “DHS: The Series,” a reality-fiction drama about two Homeland Security Agents, both Christians. Producer Joseph M. Medawar told the Boston Globe that “DHS” will “educate the public through a series taking two agents [who] put themselves on the line to serve this great country of ours and to protect us from the threat of terrorism.” The show’s stars include, among others, Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, both of whom contributed sound bites.
Yes, the Republicans will pander to people’s fears in order to win this election. Democrats should expect this and be ready to counter it. A recent Republican campaign ad, touting “steady leadership in a time of change,” features Bush, the attack on the Twin Towers and firefighters carrying a corpse draped in the red, white and blue.
Victim’s survivors are upset that their tragedy is being exploited, particularly in light of the fact that President Bush has refused to testify in open session or under oath before the commission investigating 9/11. Kristen Brietweiser, who lost her husband in the attack, told the New York Daily News, “After 3,000 people were murdered on his watch, it seems to me that takes an awful lot of audacity.”
Those of us who don’t want to see another four years of Bush should send a clear message that money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t buy the votes of an enlightened citizenry. It is time to begin thinking of the upcoming election in stark terms: people working for the common good fighting in the electoral arena against people who use fear and intolerance for political gain.
National Public Radio recently aired a commentary that put it this way:
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. …We will not walk in fear. … We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, “The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
That was not a critic of Bush speaking. It was CBS’s Edward Murrow talking about Senator Joseph McCarthy, 50 years ago, on March 9, 1954.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.