Saturday, February 28, 2004

An open invitation to the presidential candidates

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Sometimes I wish I lived in New Hampshire. Buying beer on Sundays there is a plus — tax free, my friends, tax free. But more to my point, the people of New Hampshire (let’s call them “New Hampshirts”) can meet the presidential candidates.

I’m very jealous.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, according to his campaign managers, doesn’t have plans to visit Massachusetts in advance of Tuesday’s primary here. Neither does North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. They’ll be too busy glad-handing in Super Tuesday’s big states, like California and New York. That’s where the most votes are, apparently. Those are the states, they say, that matter.

I heard Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich visited Cambridge and Northampton and some other white-bread towns with huge median incomes you can buy African nations with.

That’s what we get. Fucking Kucinich. The nerdy-looking one with the unpronounceable last name.

This is the thanks we get for keeping you employed, Mr. Kerry? And what’s your story, Edwards? We not Southern enough? Last time I checked, the commonwealth of Massachusetts was not constructed entirely of chopped liver. Maybe I should check again.

No. Not chopped liver.

It’s just not fair. Iowans and New Hampshirts during primary time couldn’t throw a stick in any direction without hitting a candidate for president. The politicians hung out at diners and flip pancakes. They dredged the streets looking for babies that needed dandling and photographers to record the scene. I heard that even Kerry, that blueblood, went door to door in Iowa and invited himself into people’s houses for coffee.

The upside to having candidates at your beck and call is obvious: you can talk to them. They have to listen — or at least pretend to listen, which is probably the best you’re ever going to get.

Do the people in the early primary states realize how great that is, how true to the spirit of democracy that is? Do they understand how wonderful it is that in a country this size they can still invite the future leader of the free world in for tea and lemon squares, and put a bug in his or her ear about the economy?

It’s an amazing thing, being able to speak your mind to a candidate, to let him or her know your needs and interests. It’s a rare thing in a place like Fall River, where the voice of the people is so often drowned out by municipal leaders farting around doing nothing.

No politician of national reach visits Fall River except under duress. President Clinton did it while he was in office, but he didn’t flip pancakes at Al Mac’s. Nor did he knock on some doors in the Flint and ask people how he could do a better job. Nor did Clinton stroll unannounced into Quaker Fabric during the lunch break to make sure everybody was happily employed.

President Bush won’t come anywhere near this city, ever — especially during the election season. Judging from the quantity of scratch tickets in the gutters, his tax cut for the rich is having little effect here. And it’s his aggressive energy policy, by the way, that gives companies like Weaver’s Cove the confidence to muscle their way into Fall River, plant liquefied natural gas terminals, exploit our resources, lower our property values and underpay our workers.

I’m not even talking about just Fall River. The closest most people anywhere in the United States get to the candidates — particularly middle-class people who don’t live in major cities — is screaming at them through the TV, which is not effective, no matter how loudly you do it. Trust me.

Is it any wonder that people feel apathetic about voting, disconnected from the electoral process? Is it any wonder that people feel frustrated — take me for example. Bush keeps driving up the federal deficit even though I specifically ordered him not to when he was on “Meet the Press.”

I want these Democrats to listen and listen good. If anybody knows anybody who knows them, pass this column along — this is an open challenge.

Just once before I vote on Tuesday, I want to be heard. Personally. I may not be an Iowan or a New Hampshirt, but I have some valid suggestions.

I want Kerry or Edwards to visit my apartment. Al Sharpton’s more than welcome, too. I guess if Kucinich came to the door, I’d feed him. Whoever takes me up on my offer can have my vote Tuesday.

If by some stroke of bad luck Bush comes knocking on my door, he’d better bring a chocolate cake.

I’m tired of asking Edwards through the TV if his inexperience will matter — I want to ask Edwards, period. My wife and I want Kerry to know, mano a mano, while he’s sitting down at our kitchen table, that he’d better repair the U.S. reputation.

I don’t have a baby to kiss, but my dog’s cute and doesn’t slobber. I know some photographers who can take the picture — here’s a hint: I have some pull at a certain local newspaper. Wink wink!

I’m completely serious. Whoever wants my vote can visit and convince me. I don’t want a representative, either — I want the real deal. There are plenty of airports nearby. Contact me through this newspaper to set up the appointment, and I’ll start buying the Marcucci’s grinders and brewing the coffee.

I just have a few questions. It’ll take 20 minutes, a half-hour at the longest, and I swear my wife and I will make it fun. Then you can be off to shake hands at another, more important state.

Just don’t make the appointment for Tuesday. Marcucci’s is closed.

Kerry, Edwards, Sharpton, Kucinich or Bush may call The Herald News at 508-676-2559.

[Note: For the record, nobody called. Duh! —Dan]

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