Opinion » Bill Cope

Two More Bits ...

Of unsolicited advice for Democrats


If I seem terse, forgive me. But as Keitel told Travolta and Sam Jackson in that movie, time is of the essence.

1) A few weeks back, I suggested Idaho Democrats should send their presidential campaign opinion letters to papers in those battleground states where the outcome of this election isn't as predictable as here in Republican Hog Heaven. The reason: Why throw a limited water supply on a fire that's already burnt your storage shed to the ground when you could be using it to douse down the smoldering garage wall a few feet away?

What I didn't say then but I've thought of since is that a significant percentage of Idaho citizens weren't Idaho citizens 30, 20, even 10 years ago. I'd bet there are entire subdivisions out there between South Kuna Colony and North Star Estates without so much as a single native who can find Skookumchuck Creek on a Gem State map or answer which mountain is named after William Borah.

Or maybe they can, but the point is a ton of people have moved here lately. And by lately, I mean the time it takes to completely overwhelm our school systems, our roadways, our peace of mind and our way of life. Well, okay, done is done. You can't go Homedale again, like Thomas Wolfe almost said. But the other point is, out of all those people I wish the hell hadn't moved here, a goodly share of them undoubtedly came from what are now considered swing states--Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Oregon, etceteras, etceteras--and it is to those people I speak. The Democrat portion of them, at least. The Republican portion can skip what I have to say and go directly to The Advice Goddess or the dating services or whatever it is they look at while they rummage around in the back of BW when they think no one's watching.

They gone? Okay, I have composed a letter to the editor of a Middletown, Ohio paper. I spent some years in that town and I feel I have a better chance at influencing those people I used to hang with than if I were a total stranger writing randomly to places I've never been. Same goes for you. Feel free to use this letter as a model, but remember, papers don't print form letters, so make it your own, immigrant.

Dear Middletown,

What business does an Idaho fellow have writing a political letter to an Ohio paper? First of all, I am not a stranger to your town. For a decade, I worked in your mills, played music in your symphony, performed in your community theater, made Middletown friends and married a Middletown woman. (A Trenton lady, to be precise, but close enough.) I returned to Idaho in 1983, but I still have dear memories of my years there.

Secondly, Ohio is the front line of this presidential election, and Idaho isn't even in the fight. There is no question our four electoral college votes will go to Bush, ours being the most Republican state in the union. Eighty percent of our state legislature, every member of our Congressional delegation, and all but one of our elected state officials are Republican. And what have all those Republicans done for Idaho?

Our schools are in shambles, both figuratively and literally. Idaho ranks among the lowest of the low for education funding, and facilities are crumbling while our leaders struggle to find ways to avoid paying for repairs. Idaho wages, thanks largely to the Right-to-Work scam, are among the stingiest in the nation. Our magnificent natural environment, Idaho's greatest asset, is constantly under assault. GOPsters refuse to do what is necessary to save the magnificent salmon runs that once blessed this land. Sprawl is allowed virtually unchecked since developers and Republicans go together like hands and gloves.

This is only a partial accounting of the miseries a solid Republican regime have brought to one small state. Idaho's influence in national politics is nearly nonexistent, but at least we who suffer from this GOP scourge can appeal to our friends and family in swing states. Please, Ohio has an opportunity to stop the nation from making the same horrific mistakes we in Idaho have made. Vote for John Kerry.

There. Now go to work. And keep it under 300 words, since editors of daily newspapers generally think that whatever they have to say is deserving of a lot more space than what you have to say.

2) This bit of advice is for one Democrat only. That being John Kerry.

No offense, John, but when I began this piece, you had a few million of us worried. To put it mildly, your nuanced approach was not sailing well on the sea of American superficiality. Sure, it was perfectly clear to me what you've been trying to say about Iraq, and I also recognize it's been scads more consistent than Bush's "mexed missages." But out in the sports bars and auto body shops of America where the height of sophistication is listening to Limbaugh in stereo, your campaign was beginning to smell of "Loser." And we all know you couldn't count on the national news sources to help you out. Particularly the television media ... why, those jokers spend more time reporting on Donald Trump's latest fire than they do on the candidates' positions.

So on the very morning of your debate, I advised that you should put the greater share of your money into a few of those infomercials that served Ross Perot so well. Remember? They allowed Americans to spend 30 minutes getting to see what Perot was all about, what kind of person he was, the full, in-context content of what he had to say, and it was mighty effective, right? I believe if Perot had not been running as a third-party candidate, he'd have won.

It would work for you, too, John. In a solid half hour, not only would the country see who you are, you could lay out the complete narrative of why you voted the way you did on Iraq, why you changed your mind, and how it's all led to where you stand currently. If there's one thing Americans can understand, it's transition, as long as it's clear to them how one thing led to another. They even got Pulp Fiction, right? ... once they understood the story line.

Never mind, though. You fixed it yourself. Thursday night, you left Bush wallowing in his own drool. America could clearly see you're a thoughtful leader in a time that demands thoughtful leadership. Stay on track, brother.

But I still think those extended, Perot-ish presentations are worth thinking about. If I were you, though, I'd forget all the pie charts and bar graphs or you'll come out looking like Bill Nye the Science Guy.