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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Great Leap Of Faith

"... this is after all another election hear, and almost everybody I talk to seems to feel we are headed for strangeness . . . of one sort or another. And some people say we are already deep in the midst of it. Which may be true. The evidence points both ways. . . . But from my perch in the catbird seat out here on the southernmost rim of Key West, the barometer looks to be falling so fast on all fronts that it no longer matters. And now comes the filthy news . . . -Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt, "Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith." Kevin reminded this afternoon that Hunter once compared politics to sex. To being better than sex. And indeed it is infectious. Once you get a bit of it in your veins, you are captivated and can't stop watching the train wreck. One of the things I really dig about politics is that once you get past the gatekeepers, once you get past the journalistic veil you discover that politics isn't black and white. That both parties aren't the same and that there is a wealth of discovery in discerning the minutiae in the body politic. Why the party sends one member of Congress or the Senate to speak on the Leher news hour on PBS but a different party member to speak on Fox - these little gestures of political manuevering can be telling. Why some issues play big on the big tablet (televised news media) and some issues (taxes, defense and smaller government for the GOP, health care, education, social security for the Dems.) will always be huge issues on the local level and get almost no media coverage at all. It is Machiavellian. It is like watching the real world version of Frank Herbert's Dune. It is like playing bridge or chess with a really crafty old fart who can read the tea leaves many moves in advance and taunts you to try and guess his game. I was a newspaper reporter and editor for about six years before I tossed it all in and sought out some security and regularity in my life and joined the corporate world. But I look back rather fondly to those days and following county caucuses. The most mundane issues are discussed and micro-analyzed, over and over again. I look back on the obscene hours I kept as I covered every county convention the Denver metro area. Each party worked to nominate its U.S. Senate nominees. I laughed as I watched Democrats in Colorado's Arapahoe County (a species that could easily file for protection under the endangered species act) or Republicans in Denver County (nearly the same status, but the Denver GOP has some huge guns, big money and a fierce temper and will never completely go away.) And so this year, with a big political season before me and a job that bores me, I am captivated by the political process. It seems that Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) will be the Democratic nominee. Once upon a time I predicted it, albeit it briefly. Then, I and so many other Democrats fell under the spell of Howard Dean. I also found myself charmed by Sen. John Edwards (D, NC) as well as applauding and cheering mostly everything that came out of the mouth of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) and the Rev. Al Sharpton, although I knew, as we all did, that they were unelectable. So to get my fix I am drawn to the web and the marvelous technology of the instant publishing blog. I go to Salon first. It is a paid subscription, but their election blog is great. Witty, snarky, astute and usually a few hours before the headlines. Knight-Ridder newspapers has a great political trail blog as well. As one of the largest chains of newspapers in the country, they have a very seasoned staff of reporters and editors invited to weigh in on the issues of the day. As a former Journo I must also tip my hat to the great journalism trade journal, The Columbia Journalism Review. CJR is a very respected rag that has put together a top notch blog to help put the media coverage and political events of the day in context. If you lean to the left as I do, give Mother Jones' Mojo Wire a look. Although not all snippets from the campaign trail, MoJo will keep you abreast of issues the progressive liberal side the debate is focusing on. There are plenty of others to be sure, but the ones above are my favs. I have already spoken about the Democratic Underground (sardonic and bitter.) There is also Daily Kos (a good day-to-day blog of strategy and gossip) and Common Dreams (with ties to Ben and Jerry there is a distinct populist air. And check out all their deep links on the left and right sides of their home page. That will keep you busy.). And, most importantly, remember to vote. Vote in the primary. Vote in the caucus. Vote in the general election. If the year 2000 taught us nothing else, it is that every voter counts. GOP strategist and GW Bush campaign aide Ralph Reed expects this election to be even closer than 2000 - if that is possible. And if you are Republican or Democratic, knowing that ought to get you off the couch and down to the local middle school to vote at your precinct.