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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card September 30, 2002

Torricelli and the Election

Robert Torricelli announced on Monday night that he was withdrawing from the New Jersey race for U.S. Senator.

The reason? He was lagging behind his Republican rival in the polls, despite the fact that Democrats don't lose New Jersey senate races.

And he was lagging because he had been caught taking what can only be characterized as bribes, and his opponent was actually rude enough to keep pointing this out during the campaign.

What astonished me was the utter moral blindness and self-pity of his announcement speech.

Over and over again, he talked about how it was such a shame that these days in America a person can work for years to build up a certain public stature, only to have a nasty and unworthy opponent tear it down.

Never mind that all the negative things his opponent said about him were both relevant and true.

And the crowning outrage was when he repeatedly spoke about how his opponent was completely unworthy to serve as a U.S. Senator, that he didn't meet the high standards of that noble office.

This from a man who sold himself constantly. It's like a prostitute attending a wedding and saying that the bride isn't worthy to wear white.

I don't know anything about the Republican opponent, but I do know this: There's only one person in that race who has proved on the job that he's unfit for the office of U.S. Senator from New Jersey.

Now it's all going to settle down to a quick court case. You see, the deadline for changing the ballot has passed, and so the Democratic Party is asking the state supreme court to overturn the law and allow them to put a different candidate on the ballot.

Republicans are contesting this, saying that nothing stopped Torricelli from withdrawing a couple of weeks earlier, and so why should the law be thrown out the window because he chose to wait so long?

We know, of course, how this story will be covered. The Democrats, trying to get away with changing the rules instead of living with the consequences of having produced a corrupt senator, will moan about how the Republicans are trying to keep the people from having a voice.

And the press will make it look like it's the Republicans who are trying to corrupt democracy.

If the court decides with the Democrats, then right will have prevailed. But if the court decides with the Republicans (and, of course, the law), then democracy will have been thwarted. That's the American press, and I doubt they've changed their stripes since Florida in 2000.

But that's a sideshow. There are national implications in that New Jersey election. The Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. Senate by a single seat. If Republicans have a net gain of one seat in the Senate, it will be a fifty-fifty tie -- and ties are broken by the Vice-President, who is currently a Republican.

That's why Torricelli was under such intense pressure to withdraw from the race for the good of the party. Tom Daschle and others are terrified at the thought of the monstrous Republicans getting control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

That's because they believe their own propaganda about the Republicans -- just as the Republicans believe their own propaganda about the Democrats.

Demonize the other guy long enough, and you start to believe he's a devil.

But just as Bush's election did not result in the horrible setbacks to civil rights that Gore's racist campaign kept screaming about, so also the change to a Republican Senate wouldn't lead to radical changes in American culture.

The truth is that revolutionary changes are rarely within the reach of Congress. Every member of Congress has to face reelection, and majorities are not maintained in most states and districts by being radical.

Democrats will still be able to "Bork" any genuine conservatives nominated for the federal courts -- they just won't be able to stop them from coming up for a vote.

And as for the war -- well, most Americans seem to understand what too many Democrats in Congress seem to overlook:

If Saddam isn't really a threat to America, the world will still be a better place if he is thrown out of power by American military action.

While if he is a threat to America and our allies and we fail to throw him out, we will discover our mistake when Saddam's weapons are used to slaughter hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent people.

And because most of the American people understand this simple fact, this fall's election is likely to turn into a referendum on the war.

And because most of the Democrats in Congress are not idiots, they know that if they don't support a war against Iraq, they will be tossed out of office by the voters.

Indeed, what Daschle seems not to understand is that by being an obstructionist on war and homeland security issues, he -- along with other vocal Democratic opponents of the war, like Al Gore -- is leading many voters to conclude that the only way to ensure that the government will act to protect them and their families from our murderous enemies is to vote against the Democratic Party.

And that's a shame, because I would much rather see this election be a real two-party contest instead of a referendum on the war.

If the Democratic Party had behaved in a bipartisan manner and been willing to compromise quietly instead of making loud public stands against the Bush administration's efforts to fight a very difficult war, then the people would know that no matter which party controlled the houses of Congress, our public safety would be well looked after.

And this is happening even though the press insists on taking every issue and blaming only the Republicans for the fact that there is partisan wrangling. The people might actually be catching on to the game and realizing that maybe the Democrats could compromise now and then in the public interest.

The problem is that the Democratic Party -- my party, I must point out -- seems to think that it is entitled to be the majority party, and when Republicans control a major institution of government it is proof that some horrible unnatural force is shaping America. Maybe that's why they were so grimly determined to steal the Florida presidential election while screaming that it was theirs by right.

But it's not a horrible unnatural force.

It's the natural response of the people to those who are arrogant in power and petulant when out of power. The Republicans spent a long time learning that lesson before they finally got back to a place at the table in Congress.

Not for one moment has the Republican majority in either house treated the Democrats as badly as the Democrats always treated them when the shoe was on the other foot.

Yet the Democrats have whined and moaned as if they were all being tortured for fifteen minutes every morning when they come to work.

I hope that it will not take fifty years out of power for the Democratic Party to find out that you can only claim to be the "party of the people" if you actually serve the genuine interests of the majority instead of remaining captured by strident ideological minorities that hate the public interest and fight it at every turn.

And in the meantime, what about this fall's elections?

If the Congress takes a vote on war with Iraq before the election, it will pass overwhelmingly because if it doesn't, it will be a staunchly Republican Congress that convenes in January.

And if Daschle succeeds in delaying the vote till after the election, then the Republican candidates only have to affirm their strong support for President Bush's effort to keep America safe from foreign enemies.

The public will get the message, and the result will be the same.

And if that happens, Tom Daschle will go down in history as just about the dumbest leader the Democratic Party has ever had.

Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.

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