URBAN COMMENTARY:

Too Bad: Personality, Not Issues, Gives Bush an Edge

by Jesse Fask
       This election doesn't excite me. It will be the closest presidential election of my lifetime and I found myself switching to baseball 30 minutes into the second debate. To people who know me and read my column regularly, this shouldn't be a big surprise. I tend to write and talk more about popular culture, sports, myself, anything before I talk or write about politics.

       But I've always been intrigued by presidential elections. This election just makes me feel desperate as a life-long Democrat. How is Bush winning? The economy is so good. It shouldn't even be close. Al Gore should win a landslide.

Hopefully, I'm just paranoid. But as confident and excited as I was in '92, I'm nervous and unsure about this election....

       I think back to 1992, when my generation was introduced to a new type of president. We'd only seen Reagan and the first George Bush, two of the oldest presidents America has ever seen. I felt it was supposed to be this way. John Kennedy was a legend I'd heard about but never lived through. It seemed, in my youth, that the country was run by a fossil, an out-of-touch old guy who spoke for the rich and the status quo.

       1992 was a time when something was happening, at least I thought so as a sixteen-year-old. The Berlin Wall was down. The Soviet Union had fallen. The L.A. Riots had happened, legitimating the hard-core hip-hop music I'd loved for years. Nirvana was speaking to me and all my frustrations and anger.

       And here came Bill Clinton. I mean it's not like David Bowie was running for president, but I was expecting four more years of Bush, who did more for making Clinton look cool than Richie Cunningham did for the Fonz. I mean, Clinton got up and played an Elvis tune on the Arsenio Hall show. This was not your grandfather's presidential candidate. And Clinton came out of nowhere, like the Miracle Mets. He was so easy to root for. He seemed comfortable dealing with young people. And it was my supposedly apathetic slacker generation that really put him into office.

       But now everything has changed. I feel like if '92 was "Star Wars" (the George Lucas one, not the Reagan one) than 2000 is like "The GOP Strikes Back." Not that George "Dub-ya" Bush could ever be as calculating or conniving as Darth Vader. Maybe in this scenario, Vader would be his tragically unhip daddy, pushing buttons behind the scenes. I mean, to me "Dub-ya" seems like a bumbling fool up there on TV. I didn't trust the guy when his biggest decision was whether to re-sign Nolan Ryan or not. I mean. the Rangers were a bad team.

       I bet former President George Bush is at home salivating over the recent poll results. His son is a regular guy, not cold and impersonal like him. Clinton destroyed the father with charisma, now it's the son's revenge. George W. may blunder, but he looks human doing it. He cracks jokes. He looks uncomfortable at times. But people identify with him. Then next to him, robotic Gore sheds another condescending laugh and a sneer. More votes for Bush. Gore needs votes from southerners and midwesternersăpeople who want a gentleman.

       In reality, that's what Americans vote for. Not about issues. Not about possible Supreme Court appointees. It's personality. And Gore's is more like former president George Bush's personality than Bush's own son. Both Gore and former President Bush were sensibly chosen running mates for dynamically charismatic leaders. Both know a lot about the issues and were well-trained for their jobs. But both are about as awkward as a 12-year-old girl in high heels.

       And now, I'm seeing this all from a different perspective. It scares me that the Republicans seem poised to pull off a stunning victory. Hopefully, I'm just paranoid. But as confident and excited as I was in '92, I'm nervous and unsure about this election. Maybe Gore can pull it out, riding the Clinton administration's economic boom as George Bush did with Reagan's successes in '88. But, eventually Gore is doomed—at least until one of his daughters emerges as a blonde, beautiful, and charismatic presidential candidate and then maybe it'll be Gore's time to smile, Because, it seems to be daddy Bush's now.


       Jesse Fask, a budding writer and youth counselor who lives in Hampden, is considering a career in teaching.



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This story was published on November 1, 2000.