I went to a fundraiser tonight for Congressman Ben Chandler, who’s running for re-election after being elected in February to the unexpired seat vacated by our sleazy current governor. It was quite a different experience than Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s recent appearance in his presidential campaign. It’s really ironic that a candidate who’s certain to lose can arouse feelings of hope and optimism, while one who has a pretty good chance of winning can leave you depressed and almost sick.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in the crowd. Chandler drew a much smaller crowd than Kucinich. And there was very little overlap between the two groups. In fact, I’m probably the only person that was at both events. So much for party unity. Looking around the Chandler crowd, I saw few people that I knew, and none that I would consider friends. The Kucinich crowd was full of familiar friendly faces, people I’m proud to know, people who have stood with me in demonstrations, and held the other end of campaign banners and protest signs. The Chandler folks actually looked more like the kind of people that yell insults at me from their gas-guzzling SUVs.
The difference became even more dramatic when Chandler spoke. When Kucinich spoke, he had a theater full of people enthusiastically applauding and cheering. That’s because he had a message. He spoke on issues that concern people. The major issue he discussed, of course, was the Iraq war. But he also spoke strongly and unequivocally on other issues that are important to all of us: environment, corporate greed, civil rights, Patriot act, global AIDS, etc.
Chandler, on the other hand, had absolutely no message. His speech provided no reason why I should feel good about voting for him (or donating to a fundraiser that didn’t even have an open bar!! $5 for a shot of Bourbon, on top of the donation!). He talked about how pleased he was with the strong win in February, and how he hopes to have an even stronger win in November. But for what? What good things does he plan to do with the power a strong win will give him? He offered no clue. But I don’t think anybody else there cared. It’s all about winning, not doing good.
He talked about how wonderful it is to be a Congressman, and how good it makes him feel when people treat him like a big shot. Not a word about whether he’s ever gotten a warm fuzzy feeling for taking a courageous stand on an important issue. He mentioned learning how to use his voting card to cast votes in the Congressional system; he didn’t mention what any of those votes were.
About the only time he talked about anything other than himself was when he got some polite laughter and applause with the old joke about Bush wanting to send men to Mars to look for weapons of mass destruction. Even that didn’t make me feel any better. It’s not original, and it’s starting to get way beyond funny. W’s missing WMD were his excuse for this war which has cost the lives of hundreds of US citizens and thousands of Iraqis. People should be angry about it, not amused. And as I looked around the room at those people chuckling about WMD on Mars, I bet that none of them had opposed the initial invasion of Iraq to seek out and destroy the non-existent WMD.
And, if Congressman Chandler isn’t enough of a disappointment, we also have a Senate race this fall. Our two incumbent Senators are Republicans, and even on a Republican scale, they’re two of the vilest, sleaziest, most despicable impersonations of human beings you’ll ever find. Jim Bunning, the junior Senator, is running for re-election against Dr. Dan Mongiardo, a physician from Eastern Kentucky whose parents were Italian immigrants, which should be an almost corny example of what the American dream is all about. Displaying his usual total lack of couth, Bunning joked at a campaign rally that Mongiardo looks like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. (I guess Italians and Iraqis all look alike to Republicans). When criticized for this blatantly racist slur, he first denied saying it, then, when confronted with a recording, said everybody thought it was funny.
With a creep like this representing us in the Senate, it should be easy to get enthusiastic about sending him back home in November. So I made a donation to Dr. Dan’s campaign. Shortly afterwards, I read a Herald-Leader article describing the similarity between Mongiardo’s and Bunning’s platforms. It made me wonder if I should call Mongiardo’s campaign office and ask for my money back. Or, since I charged it, maybe I could call Discover and have the charge cancelled. I don’t expect they would accept my claim that the charge was invalid because he acts just like a Republican.
And then we have the Presidential race. It’s certainly hard to get enthusiastic about Kerry. And apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way. When he visited Louisville earlier this week, he drew a smaller crowd than Kucinich drew in Lexington, even though Louisville is bigger. The only thing Kerry has going for him is that he’s not Bush, and sometimes it’s not even easy to see that. I will vote for him in November, but I really can’t raise much of an argument with people who call him Bush Light.