The closest comparison seems to be the election of 1972. Back then the country was also in the throes of a divisive culture war (AM vs. FM, suits vs. freaks) accented by a real war (Vietnam). More important, the incumbent, Republican Richard Nixon, was a polarizing icon, a nemesis of civil liberties, a master of deceit, waging his misguided war in the name of peace. Sound familiar?
The analogy might be a bit dispiriting for freaks like us, though. After all, the counterculture vote evidently flopped at the polls that year and Tricky Dick, with his Kent States, his COINTELPRO domestic spying program, his dirty-tricks campaigning, his Christmas bombings, and body counts, was reelected in a historic landslide.
But there's an overlooked silver lining to the '72 analogy. The 26th Amendment had just given 18-year-olds the vote on the logic that if 18-year-olds could kill for politicians in Vietnam, they should be able to vote for or against those politicians as well (sound familiar?). And contrary to a shallow write-up in a recent Seattle Weekly that sneered at the youth vote (something they wouldn't know much about), the kids actually didn't fail that year. The 26th Amendment voters helped elect six additional Democrats to the Senate--giving the Dems a fat majority.
And so, one of the most progressive congresses in U.S. history took power and went on to pass landmark liberal shit: the Privacy Act (a comprehensive lefty swat at the creepy COINTELPRO-era FBI), which Bush is now trying to undo with the PATRIOT Act, the Endangered Species Act, the original Americans with Disabilities Act, the Housing and Community Development Act (banning discrimination in housing), and the War Powers Act, which forces the president to get congressional sign-off on military actions. The flaming 93rd Congress also went on to force Nixon's resignation, by threatening to impeach his ass.
If that list of accomplishments inspires you, then the following list of Bush's "accomplishments" ought to enrage you: a $1.6 trillion tax cut--nearly half of which went to the wealthiest 1% of Americans; a resulting $477 billion deficit, which means social security, homeland security, and important social programs are fucked; Medicare "reform"--an $80 billion drug company giveaway-- with exorbitant deductibles, rendering the supposed drug benefit useless, while forcing folks into the private sector where drug prices aren't capped; closed-door meetings with Enron executives (Enron!) to shape U.S. energy policy; and the creepy USA PATRIOT Act. Most of all, though, Bush sent our young troops to war (883 dead now) under false pretenses. Iraq is now a terrorist haven, rivaling Taliban-era Afghanistan.
Inspired and enraged. That's precisely how you should feel on July 4, 2004--as you contemplate the tattered constitution.
And you know, there's another historical election that could be seen as a useful analogy--the election of 1828. Just like this year, 1828's race followed a contested election. (John Quincy Adams lost the popular vote in 1824, but had been awarded the presidency by Congress anyway.) In 1828, voters corrected the "corrupt bargain" of 1824 and threw out the illegitimate incumbent. To help you do the same thing this year, our special July 4, 2004, patriotic election issue outlines the important races, includes a personality quiz (page 21) that will match you up as a volunteer with the right campaign, relates some titillating behind-the-scenes campaign tales (page 17) to make it clear that envelopes aren't the only things getting licked at volunteer headquarters, and provides a handy voter registration form (www.thestranger.com). --Josh Feit