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The Boredom Hour

Last night's debate was exactly what one could expect from both Gov. George W. Bush and Vice-President Al Gore and the interests that they currently represent. Both candidates wasted no time running to the traditional voting "center" of the American Electorate and in the process revealed that the two-party monopoly on the issues that will be placed before the public is as powerful as ever and will continue unless the American people demand that it end.

The initial determination displayed by both candidates to focus on Medicare and pro-choice and pro-life issues was very clear. The efforts of both candidates, in this regard, is aimed at winning the support of senior citizens and female voters, two risk-averse groups, who both campaigns have determined are most important to win over in the last month before the election.

One of the more striking aspects of the debate, which very clearly reveals the establishment credentials of both candidates and their commitment to the status quo, was the unquestioned reference to the expected budget surplus over the next 10 to 15 years.

While the media likes to emphasize that Gore may be a big spender and Bush a big tax-cutter; rarely is it discussed that both men, in their leadership vision, have accepted the assumption that this country will continue at a certain rate of economic growth and will stay in budget surplus for the next decade. What if that assumption doesn't hold true - then what?

And if you have read the economic program of both candidates there are legitimate concerns that their plans will ensure that the era of budget surpluses meets an early demise.

It is also fascinating to see that both candidates spend so much time on a prescription drug benefit - a missing piece of an insurance program for 100 million people that are guaranteed health insurance by virtue of their age - while there are 40 million Americans who do not have any health insurance at all.

Talk about misplaced priorities.

When a bold strategy could be devised by either candidate to address this problem through reprioritizing government spending or through the use of fiscal and monetary policies to allow the marketplace to solve this problem, neither candidate has decided to do anything but talk about prescription drugs ad nauseum.

Watching a debate like this, where the issues are so static will be of little help to those Americans who are anxious to vote this November but who are presently undecided. And it certainly will do nothing to increase voter participation from those Americans who are so turned off and bored by politicians that they do not even vote.

And the sad thing about it is that neither candidate probably cares about that.

They spoke to their core constituencies and women and senior citizens who are stuck in the middle, and it was later for everyone else. It will be no surprise if polls reveal that both candidates are just as popular after the debate as they were before the debate.

They really were preaching to the choir though their campaigns will spin otherwise.

Blacks should certainly understand from this debate that unless riots break out in urban areas or civil disobedience is in full effect, there is little chance that the Black Electorate will get on the agenda of the two-party monopoly in any real shape or form.

When it comes to Blacks, only a crisis can grab the attention of a presidential debate. It was interesting that neither candidate could muster a credible and concise argument as to why Blacks should vote for them. What could it possibly hurt?

Maybe as we approach the Million Family March on October 16th some of this will change.

And has anyone noticed how little money either party has spent on Black media outlets this election season?

In 1996, even with Jack Kemp (who is popular among many Blacks) on the ticket, the Republican Party couldn't muster a dime out of the millions in their coffers to advertise on Black radio and television.

Now it is already October and not a peep from the "party of Lincoln" on Black talk-radio, R&B or Gospel stations.

Under those circumstances neither party has to compete for the Black vote. Especially when Blacks donate it to the Democrats without a second thought.

The challenge for Al Gore is can he get close to 90% of the Black vote instead of 75% to 80%, which would doom his campaign. The same type of question is before Hillary Clinton in her Senate race in New York with Rep. Rick Lazio who happens to be another candidate who appears to be blowing his opportunity to win votes from a Black community that is open to his advances, if only he would make them.

But then you can easily argue why should he or Hillary, Bush or Gore do so when Blacks accept such things like a presidential debate that hardly mentions them and ignores their key issues one month before an election?

If it wasn't so sad, it could have been considered hilarious to see how Black Entertainment Television (BET), in post-debate coverage, worked to make the debate relevant to their viewers.

If you feel like things are fine as they are, last night's debate was for you, but if you were looking for bold leadership and the appearance of issues like political reform, supply-side tax cuts, corporate welfare, the lack of health insurance, the death penalty, the reconstruction of the family, environmental racism, criminal justice, Native American concerns, reparations, globalism, trade agreements, monetary policy and immigration; then this debate was a non-event.

A debate? No, just call it what it is - the two-party issues monopoly or simply the boredom hour.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, October 4, 2000

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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