Buffaloed in Springfield

There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear. This isn't going to be your ordinary presidential election. It hasn't been so far, and it's just barely started. Something is i

There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear.

This isn't going to be your ordinary presidential election. It hasn't been so far, and it's just barely started.

Something is in the air this summer. You feel it here, and you read and hear about it happening across the country.

Liberals, progressives, independents and even moderate Republicans — together and individually — are figuring out that President Bush cannot and must not win another term. And they're actually getting off their asses to organize themselves.

The nature of American partisan politics is that a core group on the left and a core group on the right stake out solid support for their candidates, while the great unwashed in the middle choose the winner based on achievement, lineage, looks and/or TV commercials. Or they shirk their duties and don't vote, then complain about the results later. Or, worst of all, they don't vote, don't complain, don't say a peep.

Young people speaking their minds, Getting so much resistance from behind.

This year seems different than the other recent opportunities for change at the top. When Reagan ousted Carter, when Bush I picked up for Reagan, when Clinton ousted Bush and when Bush II and Gore struggled to their historic tie after Clinton's terms — none of those had the fervor and the emotions apparent today.

Some pundits have called this the most important election in a lifetime, and for once the pundits have it right. There hasn't been a presidential election so crucial to tipping the country in one direction or the other since 1968, when Richard Nixon infested the White House with the most morally bankrupt and corrupt administration in modern times.

I'm no Camelot star-gazer, but I can't imagine that the country under Bobby Kennedy as president wouldn't have solidified the social gains of the '60s and quickly ended the war in Vietnam. Watergate wouldn't have happened, and many people who came of age in the 1970s — including me — wouldn't have become inconsolable cynics.

Paranoia strikes deep, Into your life it will creep.

It's difficult to contemplate the damage that could be caused by another four years of George Bush. His doctrine of preemptive military action based on flimsy and/or false intelligence will make our world more dangerous, not safer. His economic plan based on helping the rich and screwing everyone else will drag our country down, not lift it up. And his reliance on fear as our society's main motivation will come back to haunt us all.

From African Americans to women, from the poor to environmentalists, from those who support separation of church and state to those who support equal rights for gays and lesbians, a lot of Americans are being scammed and schemed, reamed and robbed, jobbed and jabbed, wrung out and spun to believe it's all in their best interest.

Yet Americans seem to be waking up to their predicament and understanding that they really do have the power to redirect the course of their country. Maybe Fahrenheit 9/11 has provided some talking points, and maybe The Daily Show has hipped folks to the fact that the emperor has no clothes. Whatever's in the air, it's spreading like hay fever. I met a guy at a recent Kerry fund-raiser who said this was the first Democratic campaign he's been involved with since McGovern in '72.

Others at the fund-raiser looked like they'd just awakened from a political nap and were shaking off the cobwebs. Usually reticent to buy into any kind of political group think, they're tentatively reaching out to each other and beginning to coalesce around Kerry's candidacy.

I think that's going on in a lot of places — from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Louisville and all the Springfields and Daytons in between. People are waking up to realize they've been buffaloed and bamboozled.

Stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down.

You can't ignore what's going down. Not this year.