Pretty good guys and some really bad bastards


Every election prediction I make turns out to be a hex on the poor leftie for whom I’m hoping and praying. So let me manoeuvre around this one as artfully as possible by quoting someone else “ someone who really does know what he’s talking about.

David Mark is an old, dear pal, a classmate from Columbia University, who, unlike me, is no misty-eyed partisan hack. In fact, he’s the impeccably neutral editor-in-chief of the Washington-based Campaigns & Elections magazine, the veritable bible of political professionals in the United States.

On Friday, he did the rounds of some big US media outlets “ National Public Radio, ABC, MSNBC and Fox News “ and predicted a victory for John Kerry in the presidential election, the voting for which will be either in its final hours as you read this on Wednesday or all over bar the interminable investigations.

He’s not forecasting a big victory, mind you; he thinks Kerry will win 272 electoral college votes to George W. Bush’s 266. Of the crucial swing states, he expects Kerry to win Pennsylvania and Ohio but lose Florida.

At first, I toyed with the delectable idea that Kerry might win the electoral college but lose the popular vote, just to watch the Bushies, in all their hypocrisy, scream. But now, despite Dave’s cautious prediction, I want a crushing Democratic victory “ White House, Senate, House of Representatives, governorships, state legislatures, city halls, county supervisors, sheriffs’ departments, insurance commissioners, even the dog catcher.

I’m serious. You have to have spent as much time as I have this year zig-zagging across America, especially the South and the Midwest, to realize just how bad these Republicans are. I’m not talking about Christian conservatives. As a person of faith myself “ albeit a liberal “ I can respect, even if I firmly disagree, with their interpretation of the life of the radical Christ.

I’m talking about the people who have drifted into the Republican base in the 1960s and 1970s and set up camp there “ and then got themselves elected. They were the dregs of the Democratic Party, who hated the civil rights movement and organized labour. These aren’t thoughtful conservatives who, after searching their souls, decided in good conscience they couldn’t support affirmative action or school busing. They just plain didn’t like black people or those who were audacious enough to join unions and demand a better deal.

If you doubt me, let me remind you that, less than two years ago, the then Republican leader in the senate, Trent Lott, the fourth-highest ranking Republican, said the US would have been a better country if, in 1948, more people had voted for Strom Thurmond, the racial segregationist who ran against Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey.

Then there’s the other kind of bottom-feeding Republican “ the billionaire businessmen like Ken Lay, the former chief of Enron Energy, who, as he was donating millions to Bush and his political cronies, was squandering the pensions “ the life savings “ of tens of thousands of his employees. The courts will soon deal with him.

There are many millionaires of good conscience in the US. Some set up a wonderful organization called Responsible Wealth. There’s a name for senators like Ted Kennedy and Mark Dayton and Herb Kohl, whose families ran retail empires; or John Corzine, who made a packet as a Wall Street broker; or Maria Cantwell, who cashed in big on the dot com boom; or Jay Rockefeller, who has never drawn a salary, despite thirty years in public service. They’re called liberal Democrats and every time they’ve voted in the senate, it’s been to make billionaires poorer and unions stronger and the environment cleaner and children healthier and the elderly more secure.

And over the next few hours, if the counting is fair, two of their colleagues, John Kerry and John Edwards “ who, given all the compromises of politics, are genuinely decent and thoughtful human beings “ will be president and vice president.

I know, I know. It’s all very misty-eyed. But in America today, there are pretty good guys and really nasty bastards. I’ve chosen my side.

There won’t be a Democratic rout but, if David Mark is right, it will be the narrowest of victories for Kerry “ and that’s good enough for me.

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