KERRY: IN SEARCH OF EXCITEMENT July 8, 2004 by Joe Sobran This is a great country. It has a huge talent pool of gifted people with original minds. I'm awed by it every time I browse at Borders Book Store: so much to choose from! So why do our presidential options come down to a pair of men like George W. Bush and John Kerry? Is our political system designed to filter out better, more interesting choices? It would appear so. Thanks to UHF and cable TV, we no longer have to choose among three networks. Borders offers an infinite selection of books. Even at McDonald's, we have other options besides hamburgers and cheeseburgers -- fish and chicken sandwiches, salads, and so on. But in politics, it's the same old menu: a Republican hack or a Democratic hack. And we are told that our two-party system is the glory of democracy. Other countries should be so blessed. Multiparty democracies, where people may actually get to vote for the candidates they prefer, are deemed "chaotic." Both major parties aim at blandness in selecting their presidential candidates. A mildly explosive Howard Dean must yield to an "electable" John Kerry; even Ronald Reagan was once thought "too extreme." A third-party candidate who threatens to upset the balance between the Big Two is considered a "spoiler." Oh, all right, Ralph Nader has the right to run for president, but it's just a technical legal right that he shouldn't actually exercise. He's being "irresponsible." So in the two-party system, the quest is not for the guy you really want, but for the guy you think most of the electorate will settle for, even if they don't really want him either. It's like my pet definition of public opinion: what everyone thinks everyone else thinks. In a system dedicated to the proposition that all "responsible" candidates must be colorless and unprincipled, it doesn't take much to get the pundits excited. Kerry himself did it last winter by emerging as the most "electable," if least inspiring, Democrat. Now Kerry has caused another media frenzy by picking John Edwards as his running mate. Only in a system where ennui is the norm could a political nobody like Edwards cause pulses to race. What is his record? What does he stand for? No matter. The pollsters are already asking the public for reactions to his selection. The pundit chorus sees Edwards as balancing the Kerry ticket. Since his brief voting record is nearly as liberal as Kerry's, it's hard to see how. Because he's a Southerner? He's barely known outside North Carolina, where he's still a newcomer anyway; he won't be able to deliver the Republican South, where George W. Bush is popular, to the Democrats' column. True, he's not from Massachusetts, and nobody would call him a Brahmin; as he keeps repeating, his father was a humble millworker, a fact that is supposed to give him a populist pedigree. He's younger and better-looking than Kerry, who vaguely reminds you of Boris Karloff. And they say he's a good campaigner, rousing crowds with the same tear-jerking skills he perfected in the courtroom as a trial lawyer. It's to Kerry's credit that he has realized he needs a running mate who is less boring than he is. If you come across as an old reptile, maybe it's not a bad idea to balance the ticket with a young mammal. That American politics has become the ugly sister of the entertainment industry is now a commonplace. Kerry is doing his best just to keep the audience awake. Of course he won't go to the desperate extremity of offering a message. Each party wants you to think the other party is very bad, while minimizing any substantive difference with it. If Kerry can be said to have any campaign theme at all, it's that he would administer the Bush agenda more competently than Bush does. At least Bush has a theme: We're winning the war on terrorism, your taxes are lower, and the economy is fine. You may not believe it, but you know what it is. Kerry sounds like a sore-headed nitpicker whining about "tax cuts for the rich" and "corporate interests." As long as Dick Cheney's pacemaker holds out, we're in for a very dull campaign. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2004/040708.shtml". Copyright (c) 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer: "SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write PR@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."