November 2, 2004

Two Very Different Visions

ABC has an investigative story on Bush and Kerry campaign rallies.

The point of the investigation was simple. Wear an opposing T-shirt and try to get into a Bush or Kerry rally. Or, get into the rally and then put on the T-shirt. The ABC producers who were involved got legitimate tickets and acted courteously. In this way they could observe the campaign’s reactions to the T-shirts alone.

What follows is interesting.

Different Approaches

Both campaigns clearly did not want the media to focus on these opposition representatives at their rally. However, The two campaigns had very different approaches to handling the situation.

At the Kerry rally, the people were surrounded by Kerry signs to shield them from the cameras, and they were told that they could be ejected if they caused trouble (but they were actually welcome to stay).

At the Bush rally, they were not tolerated at all. They were ejected, and law enforcement was involved. Read the story (it;s not long) for the complete details.


For me it comes down to this. For the Kerry campaign:

And at Kerry’s Boca Raton rally, one of the faithful Democrats could be seen calming a woman upset at the sight of the Bush-Cheney T-shirts.

“Feel proud that we let them in,” he said. “That’s what democracy is all about, that’s what we’re fighting for.”

For the Bush campaign:

“Hey folks, it’s a private event,” he said. “Can you find your way to the nearest exit? Maybe some law enforcement can help?”

Campaigns are often thought of as a good test for a candidate because they are, in a number of ways, a microcosmic version of running the country. Larger themes are played out in small during the campaign. Day to day crises are handled, problems solved, money spent… it’s a harrowing endeavor and a crucible that helps us determine whether a candidate is qualified for the job.

During this stressful times, elements of an administration’s true nature is revealed. This exclusion is a leitmotif of the Bush administration. This is the America you’re voting for when you’re voting for Bush. Throw in the dirty tricks that the Republicans are unleashing on the desperate hours (“Gay Marriage” push polling in Michigan, An attempt to cause a hoax endorsement scandal with Gen. Schwarzkopf in the final 48 hours..) shows a party on its way to losing something larger than the election. The party is losing its soul, if it hasn’t lost the damn thing already.


By soul, I mean its basic connection on a core level with American values. Personal freedom, responsibility to the truth… hell, good sportsmanship even.

Don’t vote for that America. I don’t care what you think you agree with them on. If the core is rotten, none of the other stuff matters. If you can’t tolerate disagreement, how can you hope to make any friends? If you feel it’s so important to win that you resort to the sort of low tactics Rove is known for, what is it that you’ve won, really? The golden egg of power, sure, but you kill the goose for it. Eventually, in its place will be, not a goose, but some foul creature that you’ll neither recognize nor want to keep company with.


I’ve learned a lot from this election season. No matter the outcome later today (or whenever this is all settled) I will have learned something valuable. I learned it as I made lamented the presidency of Bush out of my frustration with the man. I learned it as I struck out at what I saw as his mistakes and his manipulations.

I learned something about my nature, my reactions, how I communicate with people. This weblog was a part of that. I am still trying to understand what I’m learning about myself, and maybe I’ll write something long and boring about it sometime. But for now, I’ll leave you with this:

One campaign surrounds its candidate with the faithful and makes them swear an oath.1 One can speculate why, but we know from other contexts that the candidate is willingly shielded from critical opinions. They have built around him a warped version of reality. Within a warped reality you cannot seek to convince others (you don’t need to—everyone agrees with you). Those who disagree are not potential converts, they are outsiders.

Another candidate lets people into his rallies and hopes they will change their minds

Which America do you want to live in? The one that survives by embracing and extending, or the one that contracts into a hard, jingoistic core, tossing off anyone who doesn’t take the oath until it must operate as if it is under siege? And do we have a responsibility to be like one or the other vision for our own part? As Mahatma Gahndi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

(Thanks to TalkingPointsMemo for bringing this story to my attention)

1 Jesus Himself said, “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34-37). (Bible Tools: “Should a Christian Swear an Oath (Matthew 5:33)?”)

Posted by James at November 2, 2004 12:50 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved