And in this corner …

The political silly season is upon us now in full scream and it’s only going to get crazier and weirder as the days go by. The bad craziness – to steal a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson – has yet to explode upon us here in Oregon, at least on the presidential level, but we’ve enough potential bizarreness brewing both locally and nationally to get the pot boiling hot and hard. Some of it is even of a caliber to attract the attention of an overloaded full-time grad education student juggling work samples and major project action with family life. So let’s pull up a keyboard and hit some of the high points in the latest sampling of political weirdness.

On a national level, Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie sent out a memo in late October urging fellow party leaders to paint Democrats as a party of “protest, pessimism and political hate speech.” Gee, sounds like the famous old line of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” that was slung around by Republican Samuel D. Burchard in 1884 with regard to Democrat Grover Cleveland, running against Republican James G. Blaine. Good golly, Miss Molly, does this mean that 2004 is gonna be a ripe, hot ol’ time for mudslinging as Gillespie and his buds come out rolling with lovely little alliterations to catch the sound bites? At least the Cleveland-Blaine race featured a traditional Democratic scandal, centering on whether Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (massive scandal for that era). These days the stakes run higher, with the Iraq war policy, the War on Terrorism, and the slumbering threat of the implications of the Patriot Act sweeping down upon modern voters … well, okay, the two or three out there who still faithfully stick their ballots into the mailbox.

Statewide, the Citizens for a Sound Economy, the carpetbagging Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax political organization that came into Oregon to promote the repeal of the $800 million tax increase that was the Oregon Legislature’s last-ditch attempt to balance a creaking budget, hauled in former Texas Republican Congressman Dick Armey to rouse the troops just this last week. Armey, the national chair of Citizens for a Sound Economy, was in fine form as he lashed out at moderate Republicans on the national level, calling them “bed wetters” and hinting the same held true of local moderate Republicans. Joy, oh joy. Once again we see ideological politics at its finest, where holding true to an ideology is much more important than working together to serve the people. I particularly liked the quote where Armey flat out said he didn’t know much about the local issue; he just needed to know what the local leaders wanted.

Nice work if you can get it, huh?

Then comes the bombshell that the FBI has been monitoring the tactics and training of anti-war demonstrators, scrutinizing both legal and illegal acts. They’ve told local law-enforcement agencies to report suspicious activities at protests to counterterrorism squads. Um, doesn’t that end up putting a large chunk of PSU students under surveillance? I know that nostalgia is a big business these days, but geez, I thought flashbacks had been limited to entertainment and fashion. Guess I was wrong. Somebody (read John Ashcroft) must have been homesick for ol’ J. Edgar’s COINTELPRO program of monitoring political enemies. Doncha’ just love it?

Of course, any regular reader of the Good Doctor Thompson’s political writings (as opposed to his drug-crazed rants … and yeah, there is a difference between the two) would have a cynical appreciation for the possibility that this scrutiny actually never ended. But that might be paranoia speaking, although even paranoids have enemies. Then again, maybe too many of us were lulled into complacency during the Clinton era.

It’s almost enough to make me want to go stick my head back into the books and massive piles of project papers taking over my dining table. No … no … anything but that! Aaah!

On a more serious note to all of you out there, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the final push toward finals and forget to pay attention to the political scene. If you haven’t registered to vote, get yourself out there and do it, no matter what your political orientation is. Inform yourselves.

It’s your future, too.