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If politics got real, the debate on campaign finance reform would focus on how ordinary citizens can acquire a measure of power in America's money-drenched democracy.

As the first voting of the 2000 presidential election approaches, in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, public disinterest is palpable.

These excerpts are from Jim Hightower's If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates (HarperCollins).

I watched these presidential hopefuls join
Together for debating in Des Moines,
And many times I heard allegiance sworn
To Jesus and to babies not quite born.

The spectacle of human beings acting out mindless violence through pack behavior instills more terror in the heart than perhaps any other event in the natural world.

The records show, as you have heard,
McCain is not a cuckoo bird.
Yes, he's OK. That's no surprise.
Now how about the other guys?

The last remaining superpower
Might get a leader who would tower
Above a smallish premier of Japan.
The Third World wouldn't be euphoric

CORRECTION (from the Dec. 27 issue): In Micah L. Sifry's "Public Citizen No. 1" [Dec. 20], Carl Mayer, although he is among those urging Nader to run, was incorrectly identified as a member of the Draft Nader Committee. Also, the town of Amherst is in Wisconsin, not Michigan.

A version of this article also appeared in Salon magazine.

Imprisonment and torture are the sort
Of things that might just drive a person daft.
So just in case that happened to McCain,

The candidates are constantly reviewed.
The questions raised by analysts include:
Will Pat Buchanan matter as a mauler?

Blogs

Poet Crystal Valentine: “Maybe politics aren’t Armageddon enough for us”

December 22, 2014

In late 2010, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa faced down a cop revolt and won—emerging stronger and more popular.

December 21, 2014

Here's to a new year!

December 19, 2014

Only Congress can lift the embargo, and prominent Senators have threatened to block any ambassador to Cuba.

December 17, 2014

The two countries have resumed a dialogue after fifty years.

December 17, 2014

A review of the Obama administration's deportation practices reveals flagrant disregard for the law, and even human life.

December 17, 2014

Dick Cheney clarifies what he means by American Exceptionalism.

December 17, 2014

Doesn’t our acknowledgment of the abuse prove our fundamental decency?

December 15, 2014

Rev. Al Sharpton should not co-opt the grassroots protests that have broken out in reaction to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

December 15, 2014

Obama should honor the people who tried to stop the torture regime.

December 15, 2014