PRIMAL SCREED/James McCarty Yeager

Don't Celebrate, Organize

Washington, D.C.

Guess what? No matter how the elections come out, the task is the same. Minimal as the Democratic contribution to building a non-racist, war-free, constrained-capitalism society may be said to be, it is doubtless more substantial, since less lackadaisical, than that of the Republicans. So if the Democrats win the House, Senate and Presidency, as seemed to me likely as recently as August, then the headline says it all. And if they don't, then the words of Joe Hill ring true again: "Don't mourn, organize."

The thing about that squint-minded, smirk-mouthed, possum-eyed, pussel-gutted, frat-rat, white-knuckled, rageoholic laughing killer from Texas is that, unlike the last Presidential candidate who wasn't all there and never had been, this one is no idiot savant. He's only half-qualified on that, as on so many other scores. By the time this paper hits your mailbox he may well have won the elected leadership of the world's largest empire. The dismal succession of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Senior is proof that if you start out low enough, even worse can happen.

However, if the American people voted their pocketbooks, then Al Gore becomes the only other Democrat to succeed a two-term Democratic President in two hundred years, besides Harry Truman following FDR and Martin Van Buren following Andrew Jackson. Didn't think it was that rare, did you? Aside from Bush Senior following Reagan, you have to go back to Hayes following Grant for a pure three-term same-party run, though Taft did follow TR and McKinley's joint two terms. (Ford following Nixon doesn't count the same way Johnson following Kennedy doesn't count: finishing out the term can't add up to three presidencies in a row.)

Incidentally, during his campaign for re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked by Liberal Republican reformers. He called them "narrow-headed men," their eyes so close together that "they can look out of the same gimlet hole without winking." I think that gimlet hole has been found again, sitting square in front of Shrub's face, and through it peer those two red eyes, like a grub-seeking possum snuffling across the forest floor.

However this comes out, it won't fundamentally have to do with the Hispanic vote, the black vote, or even the suburban vote. It is all on the women this time. If women support Gore with the same statistical ferocity that men are polled as supporting Shrub, then Gore wins. Conversely, if Shrub loses the women's vote by less than 10 points, and beat Gore by 20 or so among men, then Shrub wins.

Apparently 37.6 million people watched the third debate, about the same as watched the second. That's about 15% of the whole population, down 4 points from the 46.5 million who watched the first debate. I had to watch it with my earphones on listening to the pig Yankees play baseball on the radio. Well, that's over by now too.

Got a great lesson in body language from the debates, though. Unlike the Worship of the Lawn that is baseball, where the handsome priests go running around doing rituals with a ball, a stick and some leather while dressed in funny clothes, the debates were so solemn and depressingly meaningful that I couldn't stand to listen. Shrub didn't have an idea that wouldn't help the rich, Gore didn't say anything he hadn't said before. It was a guaranteed draw, which meant that Shrub won, since he was ahead in the polls at the time. But I liked watching Gore stride confidently around while Shrub stood and swayed like a cobra hypnotized by a mongoose. I hope it turns out to mean something on Election Day. It troubled me that so many reporters thought it meant something at the time. I'd rather they hadn't noticed and had maybe kept up with the content instead.

A friend of mine at pointed out that both presidential candidates had lots of undecided voters to fish for in the last weeks of the campaign. Regardless of which candidate they said they were voting for, a third of likely voters who indicated a choice for president said they supported their candidate only moderately, rather than strongly. When added to the undecideds, four in ten voters overall were not strongly committed to a candidate, pollsters explained in late October. That meant the potential for major changes during the final three weeks appeared quite significant.

All along I thought, and wrote in these distinguished pages, that Gore was going to beat Shrub by more than Reagan beat Carter. Thanks to Yassir Arafat and the USS Cole, that could still happen. But if people decided how to vote based on which candidate was more likely to fly off the handle and commit overseas forces to avenge American martyrs, that must have sounded more like Shrub than Gore. Even though Gore went to Vietnam and Shrub went AWOL from the Guard, the anti-Democratic bias of the military cannot have been much moderated in the voting booth. (Remember, surveys put the officer corps at 8 Republicans for every 1 Democrat, making the military the single most Republican of all the professions in the country.)

My sense is that, whichever way it goes, it won't be very close in the end. Just because people were undecided three weeks in advance doesn't mean a tie vote, it meant they were waiting to make up their minds. I expect it will be decisive, and I hope the Democrats take the White House and the House, if not the Senate. But as I said earlier, the task remains the same. It is not too soon to make noise about universal health care, public financing and free airwaves for all elections, and stronger transportation, industrial and farming cutbacks in pollution. There's a lot more work for both the government and the people to do, and you always start from where you stand. Even just after Election Day.

James McCarty Yeager will have spent Election Day standing at his suburban Maryland polling place handing out push cards, just as his mother taught him in Texas. at the age of eight. With any luck, he conned his high-school-senior son into helping.

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