Jello Biafra once said that the thing our electoral process needs most (besides, perhaps, a sense of humor) is a spot for NONE OF THE ABOVE.
I couldn't help but think of that as I watched the '96 Presidential campaign unfold before my eyes a few months ago. The tally so far: one vaguely-progressive Democrat in the White House (and a slightly-progressive, but censorious and unelectable Democrat waiting in the wings); a fossilized old grouch as a Republican Front runner with a bunch of mixed nuts in tow; a pip-squeak loudmouth with 19% of the '92 election in his back pocket, but no effective plan to use them; and Colin Powell, who is either unsure of what he wants to do or just enjoys making us wait for it.
In short, the choices this time are so pathetic that you might as well be choosing between Beavis & Butthead and Dumb & Dumber.
A lot of the dialogue that's been going on in the race for the Republican primary is the usual, predictable sniping that we've come to know and loathe. In fact, I've decided that we ought to call the latest batch of Republicans the PAPs (Politicians Against Politics) with all the bellyaching they do about the evil of the political process. It's kind of like Rush Limbaugh telling us about the evil of the media, which he himself has become a substantial part of.
So what are the PAP smears up to? Well, so far the Primary-preparation debate's been focused on Bob Dole. Every candidate is trying to make themselves appear as far to the Right as they can without sounding like Adolph Hitler, and trying to make Bob Dole seem as moderate as possible without using the dreaded "L-word." "He's too moderate!" "He's not tough enough!" "He's a politician!" (and they aren't?)
To his credit, Bob keeps tooting his own horn and has refrained from smashing in theirs, but only time will tell how long he can continue. However, before we tout Bob Dole as our savior from the loonier parts of the Right, let's not forget his asinine attacks on Hollywood ala Dan Quayle and Pat Buchanan, diverting attention from real issues and trying to focus our ire somewhere else.
That right there calls his integrity into question, and I would also question his strength of character. Anyone can kick the sleeping lion that popular culture's become over the last decade, but it takes real courage to solve real problems. Still, it would be funny to see what would happen if we all woke the lion back up.
The rest of the PAP smear mixed nuts are the same, tired old combinations. Social moderation and economic conservatism seems to be the best we'll get out of them; the worst, on the other hand, is a hell of a lot worse. Chief among the clowns are the trio of Valuecrats who've risen to prominence by beating the dead horse of "Family Values" until it's just blood, bones, and hair: Bob Dornan, Alan Keyes, and Pat Buchanan.
Bob Dornan is that wonderful Congressman who kept insisting that Bill Clinton was a Communist spy during the 60's. (like the Commies would have hired that dildo to even sweep the floor!) He's also a homophobe, and is such a loose cannon that he tends to shoot himself in the foot on a regular basis. I predict Bob'll be out before too long.
Alan Keyes is much more interesting. According to Time magazine, he's only running to push the election debate even further to the Right, especially on abortion. I caught him in action on the "Macneil-Lehrer News Hour" a month ago, and I can quite confidently say that he's self-righteous: so self-righteous that he should sell his own shit as communion wafers! This is probably why he appeals to White Evangelicals, but he's too far to the right to survive the Primaries as anything other than a VP. He deserves some credit as the first Black Republican candidate for President, but that's like giving whiskey and a hot car to a three-year old boy.
And then there is Pat Buchanan (crack knuckles, grin), who almost single-handedly threw the election for Bill Clinton when the Republicans let him keynote the '92 Convention. Word to Conservative "Intelligentsia": if you're going to let someone vent their sexual frustrations on live TV, make sure they don't ape papa Adolph on acid. In fact, things might have been better if they let Adolph Hitler have the floor, at least that could have been written off as a bad joke. But millions of Americans saw the reality of what the Republican party stood for that year, and voted accordingly. (Call it the Ed Rollins strategy: now insert foot...)
So now Pat's back, running on his own platform as opposed to running against George Bush's. Whee, I'm touching myself. Never fear, true believers: this time I don't even think he'll get to belch out the national anthem at the convention, much less be a serious contender for ANYTHING, including VP. Buchanan is bad news to a party trying to get in by painting their leftist opponents as "radical," and no matter how far to the right the other candidates might float in the race to trip Dole up, they know to ease up come the Primary itself. Pat Buchanan's blend of conservatism is like farting in public when it comes to attracting John and Jane Q. Average Voter.
Speaking of farting in public, we come to Bill Clinton. While he's done a little better than I would have originally thought him capable of (though I'm still not sorry I voted for Ice-T and Sister Souljah) he's still an opportunistic waffler with all the integrity of silly putty. And, of course, after he's run his time, we get to look forward to Al Gore as a potential presidential candidate. Maybe I can get Al to take my prize-winning pumpkin as a VP so we can have two vegetables in the oval office?
Bill and Al's First Amendment adventures have been well-chronicled by THE ROC, so I won't waste time going over them again. But let's just say that while Dole or the others might be more willing to actually DO something about the "evils" of our popular culture, at least old Bill's just TALKED about maybe doing something. In that way, maybe it's good that we've got a waffle-iron in the White House, but there's a lot of room for improvement there.
And, of course, there is Ross Perot. (Snicker snicker tee-hee!) He threatened to jump in and out of the '92 election with such fervor you'd have thought he was having sex. And maybe that's all this is to him: he sure gets an orgiastic thrill out of being "in charge" of a bunch of "independents." He kind of reminds me of the circus clown who rides in front of the caravan, making a fool of himself to announce the great spectacle to come.
And what can we expect from the spectacle? We got a taste when he held that convention for United We Stand and the Republican candidate the conventioneers liked most was..., Pat Buchanan! At least UWS members have the honesty to admit they need more education on the issues, but lapping up Pat's tripe and begging for more indicates a need for more well-rounded education. That and a more competent educator!
And, last but not least, we come to the mystery candidate: Retired General Colin Powell. I'm convinced that he's allowing the specter of his candidacy to persist so long as his book's on sale, and will then scuttle all hopes as soon as he's milked the cash cow for all its white gold.
Then again, maybe I'm just being too cynical in my reading of him. He sounds like a decent chap, but everyone sounds good in their memoirs, and even better in their publicity stills. We know next to nothing about what he would do as President, much less how he would handle the complex issues that confront us. In fact, we know hardly anything at all about him, and maybe that's why everyone's caught Colin Fever: in an election that's been business as usual so far, we crave something new and unknown to show us there's still some magic in the mess. But the dark horse is not always the best ride, and until we know more, we ought to stop romancing his public image and concentrate more on the man, and his reaction to the issues.
In closing, the 1996 election promises to be anything but boring, and we at ROC will, as always, keep you up on the ever-amusing peccadillos as the Presidential pursuants try to pie each other in the puss. And remember: in politics, as in all things in life, let a smile be your umbrella when the shit hits the fan.
Jim Tremlett is the president of the Friendly Anti-Censorship Taskforce for Students (FACTS) at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. E-Mail: email@example.com