With the U.S. and Iran playing geopolitical "chicken" and the November elections looming, it's worth considering how the tortured politics of the Middle East brought us Nixon, Reagan and Bush's second term. Arguably the almost certain winner of the fateful 1968 election was eliminated by Sirhan Sirhan and Ayatollah Khomeini delivered the hostages and the 1980 election to Reagan. As his first term floundered, Bush was rescued by Osama Bin Laden who decided both the 2002 and 2004 elections together with his evil twin Saddam Hussein, even though there was no connection between the two. Similarly, this year's election might be determined by another "October surprise" in Iran, if in a desperate attempt to rescue the Republican Party from the jaws of defeat, war fever breaks out again as it did three years ago when Operation Iraqi Freedom was unleashed on our television screens.
However it's more likely that reality will bite the mission Bush proclaimed accomplished, now the war we can't afford to lose, trumping whatever devious machinations are in store. Soon I fear we will witness retreat and defeat in Iraq as events careen out of control so much so that even Karl Rove will not be able to spin disastrous humiliation into a "turd blossom" of noble intentions ending up as roadkill on the path to democracy. Meanwhile, according to the polls, the public is ahead of the Congress and the Press in seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, and while they are angry at the Bush regime, they are often more disgusted with the Democratic opposition for not giving voice to their frustrations.
While satisfying the far right and energizing the far left, Bush has become the lightning rod for our polarized, strident and divisive politics. In short he has failed most Americans. This leaves the disaffected center, where traditionally both parties have gravitated for votes, up for grabs. From Main Street to Wall Street traditional Republicans don't feel represented by the Christian radicals who have captured their party. They resent religious intolerance and government intrusion into their personal lives, as well as illegal immigration, environmental neglect, corruption, cronyism and fiscal irresponsibility. Progressives too are alienated, angry with the Democrats who are mute in the face of the manifest criminality and incompetence of the Bush regime's domestic failures and foreign disasters.
Clearly neither party has a plan, manifesto or platform to appeal to the inchoate unease of the silent majority who know something is desperately wrong with the nation's priorities and direction but can't find a voice they trust. Progressives complain about Fox News and right-wing media brainwashing, but don't want to recognize that while this is a conservative country, conservatives are a lot more liberal than they realize. They just don't have the comfort zone to abandon the crude certainties of the Limbaughs, Hannitys and O'Reillys for a more nuanced truth.
In less than eight months Americans will decide whether we have democratic opposition or are a one-party-state, whether we stand for peace or war, for prevention over preemption. Whether we are a secular democracy or a Christian nation, a constitutional republic or a corporate empire. Haven't we had enough of this political masochism whining at the Democratic Party and muttering about the Republican Party? Isn't our divided nation at a critical crossroads and shouldn't Americans, not bad guys abroad, determine the next election?
With the President's poll numbers sinking below Nixon's before he resigned in disgrace, Bush is lucky we don't have a parliamentary system here because he'd already have lost a no-confidence vote. But our Founding Fathers required us to form governing coalitions BEFORE the elections not after, and that's where our democracy breaks down, we don't do the work of coalition building. Instead we wait to behold the candidate on a white horse and it rarely happens, we're always disappointed. Couldn't someone at the grassroots form a coalition of left-wing tree-huggers and right-wing hawks before we go broke borrowing money for a war to secure oil from people who want to kill us, feeding an addiction to a product that's killing the planet? Isn't going green our number one national security imperative? Let's not have another political "Groundhog Day." With issues looking for answers, why not start by knocking on your neighbor's door?