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|Published in the Columbia Missourian, September 2004|
Republicans for VoldemortRecently, a friend returned from vacation and told me that she had seen a bumper-sticker that I'd love: "Republicans for Voldemort." Of course, within minutes, I had Googled it, and found the website www.goats.com. I promptly placed an order for a dozen bumper-stickers. I know a dozen people who might appreciate the rough humor of the 'stickers . . .
What's that? You don't get it? Oh, sorry. Let me explain.
OK, think Harry Potter. Got it? Now, those of you who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter books and movies should get with the program, but I'll go ahead and give you the general idea of who Voldemort is: he's an evil wizard who will do anything to anyone without remorse if it means the slightest benefit for him. Voldemort espouses the belief that there is no such thing as good and evil, just power and those who are strong enough to acquire and use it.
Now, where was I . . . oh yeah, I ordered a dozen of these bumper stickers, figuring that I have a number of very liberal friends who would love to voice their assessment of the current administration in just this way. The packet containing the bumper-stickers arrived, and I started letting people know. I gave away about half of them right away, but I had some left over.
So I mentioned the 'stickers to another friend who is moderate with a slight tilt to the right, but who loves the Potter books. She said she'd LOVE to have one.
I tried them on a couple of other friends regardless of political orientation. In very short order they were all snapped up. Even a couple of people who told me that they had planned on voting for Bush took one.
Now, I'm not going to contact the Kerry campaign and recommend that they start passing out "Republicans for Voldemort" 'stickers. But there was clearly something going on here. There's a perception that the qualities embodied by Voldemort resonate with what people think of Republicans. No, I'm not saying that Republicans are evil, or equating them with all the things that Voldemort represents (though my friends who are very liberal wanted the 'stickers for that exact reason). Rather, there's a tendency for Republicans to be seen as more ruthless, maybe a little more willing to do or say anything to gain power or hold onto it. Whether or not that is true, it is what my independent-minded friends were responding to.
And I think that makes sense. This campaign has seen a lot of rough & tumble, more than we've seen in recent years. Each side has thrown a lot of mud, said a lot of things which are of fairly dubious validity. Each side has 527 Committees out there skirmishing, sniping at the other guys. Each side has enlisted the famous and infamous to their cause, firing rhetorical volleys, some of which are completely over the top.
But the Republicans seem to be better at it. You kind of get the feeling that in a fight, you’d want them on your side. That they'd not hesitate to gouge eyes, hit below the belt, kick the other guy when he was down to make sure that he didn't get up again. It's not pretty, and it's nothing that you'd really want to admit, but it gets the job done.
I think that this is why President Bush is doing well in the polls in spite of the fact that so many people say they don't approve of his handling of this or that particular aspect of the job of being President. There's been a net decrease in jobs since he took office. The Iraq War hasn't worked out anything like his people told us it would. More people are without health insurance. Et cetera, et cetera. Yet in spite of all this, he could very well win re-election, precisely because of the ruthlessness with which his campaign has been conducted.
Osama's still out there somewhere plotting God only knows what. Anyone who would turn commercial airliners into guided missiles in order to maximize civilian deaths wouldn't hesitate to do anything, no matter how horrendous. So there's a certain appeal in having your own guy who has demonstrated his own version of ruthlessness, a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.
Of course, ruthlessness isn't the only factor in facing such an enemy as al Qaeda. You also want competence. Personally, I'm convinced that the Kerry team would be much more competent in dealing with the problems and threats that face us, all in all, and do so in a more comprehensive manner. That's my opinion. But there's no easy way to sum that up, no way that it will fit easily on a bumper-sticker, certainly nothing like the simple eloquence of the sentiment expressed by "Republicans for Voldemort." Whoever came up with that was a genius.
all work © James T. Downey, 1993-2006
photos © Martha K. John, 1994-2006
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