Can Bush Replay Nixon?
Twice in the post World War II era has a US president come up for reelection in the midst of a war with a considerable number of US troops overseas as invading or occupying forces.
The first such occasion was the McGovern-Nixon race of 1972, and now Bush Jr. takes John Kerry into the ring on November 2. The president hopes to follow in the footsteps of his fellow Republican who in 1972 won by a 62-38 percent knockout.
Back then, amid massive anti-war protests and the slow filtering in the media of what was really happening in Vietnam, the South Dakota senator ran on a pledge to end the war in Southeast Asia. However, Tricky Dick, running on false patriotism, pulled out all the stops and McGovern was sideswiped.
Nixon’s conspiracies caught up with him after the elections and nearly two years later he was forced to resign in disgrace.
Bush may not be thinking landslide but another questionable victory in Florida in a neck and neck race could be enough to give the world 12 years of the Bush family, with Jeb waiting in the wings to prolong the dynasty.
The presidential race is unquestionably shaping up more as a plebiscite on George Jr. and Halliburton than a contest between Republican and Democratic Party candidates and their platforms. A race between Bush and the growing anti-Bush movement that hopes to tip the balance in favor of the Democrat.
Bush paints himself as a “compassionate conservative” and a “wartime president” who will get the job done in Iraq and beyond. The Kerry camp emphasizes that George W. betrayed the nation with his false pretexts for going to war and that the price tag has jeopardized the economic future of the country.
The Democratic Party challenger receives an important boost from the anti-Bush efforts that sees the incumbent as being possibly the most dangerous president in history.
Bush’s 2000 opponent Al Gore threw in the towel in the name of protecting the system after the Supreme Court and the Senate legitimatized the Florida orchestrated theft of the 2000 elections.
Now, in order to succeed, Sen. Kerry and the anti-Bush campaign have their work cut out to increase public awareness on policies that have created more enemies than friends abroad and more poverty at home.
To its advantage, the Bush team and a complacent mainstream media has so far steered the campaign away from economic issues where his tax policies have lined the pockets of the already rich and neglected minorities, the poor and much of the middle class, many of whom are still unaware of what’s hit them.
In less than four years the large US budget surplus created in the 1990s under the Democrats has turned into a squalling $422 billion annual deficit under the Republican White House and Congress.
The president’s allegiance to the “moral” crusade of the Christian right, including those who would have mother’s die to defend the fetus, violently oppose same-sex marriages, and rejoice over the renewed easy over-the-counter access to high-power assault weapons, is a large solid and committed base that turns out at the polls.
In order to win the Democrats must motivate that large segment of the population that is not moved by fanaticism and is worried about increased violence in American society. This puts pressure on the Kerry camp and the anti-Bush activists to convince the undecided, students and other first time voters.
Five weeks before the elections Bush holds a lot of cards because he has the home court advantage enjoyed by nearly all incumbents.
Meanwhile, to Kerry’s benefit, the growing anti-Bush movement has an all-out effort planned for the coming weeks including a 60-venue swing-state speaking tour by award winning filmmaker Michael Moore that began Sunday in Michigan.
Here are some of the president’s not-so-secret options in the coming weeks before the election:
- Fabricating or using threats and acts of terrorism to incite fear, provoke flag-waving and a rallying around the skipper.
- Evoking media self-censorship because national security is supposedly at stake. (The New York Times and Washington Post cried mea culpa for their coverage of the Iraq invasion, but when push comes to shove where will they really stand on Bush?).
- Noting the continued bi-partisan support for funding the war in Iraq, this cuts the credibility of any criticism of Bush policy.
- Using incumbent’s power to manipulate short-term economic decisions and indicators to project better times just around the corner.
- Controlling the Florida voting apparatus in case of a repeat of 2000.
These factors notwithstanding, a growing number of public figures and ordinary citizens are literally sticking their necks out to dethrone the president in this anti-terror rerun of the anti-communist McCarthy era.
From small home gatherings to Internet forums and large public activities they stress the importance of the November 2 elections in order to put an end to a senseless war and get politicians to begin addressing the serious economic, social and environmental problems affecting the US and the world.
The vast majority of the electorate has already made up their mind. Now, the question is whether the citizen groundswell can motivate a significant portion of the previously uniformed or new electors to vote for Kerry and prevent Bush from getting, like Nixon, a chance at Four More Years.