Last month, I reluctantly joined the Anybody But Bush camp. It was “Bush in a Box” that finally got me, a gag gift my brother gave my father on his sixty-sixth birthday. Bush in a Box is a cardboard cutout of President 43 with a set of adhesive speech balloons featuring the usual Bushisms: “Is our children learning?” “They misunderestimated me”–standard-issue Bush-bashing schlock, on sale at Wal-Mart, made in Malaysia.
Yet Bush in a Box filled me with despair. It’s not that the President is dumb, which I already knew; it’s that he makes us dumb. Don’t get me wrong: My brother is an exceptionally bright guy; he heads a think tank that publishes weighty policy papers on the failings of export-oriented resource extraction and the false savings of cuts to welfare. Whenever I have a question involving interest rates or currency boards, he’s my first call. But Bush in a Box pretty much summarizes the level of analysis coming from the left these days. You know the line: The White House has been hijacked by a shady gang of zealots who are either insane or stupid or both. Vote Kerry and return the country to sanity.
But the zealots in Bush’s White House are neither insane nor stupid nor particularly shady. Rather, they openly serve the interests of the corporations that put them in office with bloody-minded efficiency. Their boldness stems not from the fact that they are a new breed of zealot but that the old breed finds itself in a newly unconstrained political climate.
We know this, yet there is something about George W. Bush’s combination of ignorance, piety and swagger that triggers a condition in progressives I’ve come to think of as Bush Blindness. When it strikes, it causes us to lose sight of everything we know about politics, economics and history and to focus exclusively on the admittedly odd personalities of the people in the White House. Other side effects include delighting in psychologists’ diagnoses of Bush’s warped relationship with his father and brisk sales of Bush “dum gum”–$1.25.
This madness has to stop, and the fastest way of doing that is to elect John Kerry, not because he will be different but because in most key areas–Iraq, the “war on drugs,” Israel/Palestine, free trade, corporate taxes–he will be just as bad. The main difference will be that as Kerry pursues these brutal policies, he will come off as intelligent, sane and blissfully dull. That’s why I’ve joined the Anybody But Bush camp: Only with a bore like Kerry at the helm will we finally be able to put an end to the presidential pathologizing and focus on the issues again.
Most Nation readers are already solidly in the Anybody But Bush camp, convinced that now is not the time to point out the similarities between the two corporate-controlled parties. I disagree: We need to face up to those disappointing similarities, and then we need to ask ourselves whether we have a better chance of fighting a corporate agenda pushed by Kerry or by Bush.