Dangerous Dance

Ominous storm clouds threaten to trample the Constitution and turn our republic into a theocracy.

Even Republicans widely admitted that Kerry destroyed Bush in the debates. But the president's IQ means nothing to voters steeped in fear and whipped into an intolerant religious fervor where guns are great, gays are evil, and family values -- whatever the hell that actually means today -- rule.

Bush was seen by enough Americans as a more moral leader than Kerry, and that's what mattered.

Such obsessive dedication to a relative concept like morality in making secular political decisions is a chilling indication that America is engulfed in its own fundamentalist religious revolution that threatens the foundation of the republic.

Fundamentalism is a powerful force, regardless of which religion is at its epicenter. It turns whatever good there is about religion into a fanatical political force that tramples civil liberties.

What power did Kerry have citing facts detrimental to the president uncovered by the likes of the New York Times, when the president claimed to be getting his moral direction from God?

Shouldn't America take a lesson from the Ayatollah Khomeini, who swept the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran out of power in 1979 with a mere wave of his hand? Khomeini unleashed a politicized Islamic fundamentalism that continues to sweep through the Middle East, fueling irrational hatred for the West.

But rather than attempting to understand and defuse Islamic fundamentalism, America is responding with its own religious Crusade to stamp out perceived evildoers, not only abroad but here at home.

With a sword in one hand, and cash in the other, Bush has masterfully exploited the fanatic Holy Rollers in this country with his "faith-based initiatives" -- which pour tax dollars into select churches in violation of our constitutional separation of church and state.

Terrifying as the steady drift to the religious right is, the game is far from over. Bush may have gotten more votes than his Democratic opponent this time, but his win is still marginal. The Democratic party as well as tens of millions of independents remain a powerful force in this country. Democrats and their independent supporters must immediately make it clear they have no intention of rolling over to the Republicans.

Any calls to "just get along" so that we can "heal" the nation are ridiculous. Where are the leaders who are willing to trumpet: "The hell with extending a hand to the other side!"?

Do you think Republicans would be taking the same stance if the tables were reversed?

No way! They would still be operating from the playbook of chief Bush political strategist Karl Rove. Attack, attack, attack!

Bush is headed for another term because of Rove's go-for-the-throat approach -- along with his striving to make Dubya appeal to dimwitted heartland values.

What Rove did was based on strategy, and a willingness to hit below the belt. To stand up and fight. To figure out a way to win.

Kerry and the Democrats preached to those converted to the causes the party holds dear -- people like myself who seldom, if ever, vote Republican.

Rove and the Republicans spoke not only to the GOP's political base but to those on the fence who could be moved more by their hatred of legal abortion and the concept of gay marriage than by the fact that the Bush administration has failed at home economically and abroad with its idiotic, unwinnable war.

One thing the Democrats could have done was hammer on Dubya's cowardly avoidance of the Vietnam War. Instead, they let Rove & Company get away with its spin that war hero Kerry was somehow a disgrace because he returned home and courageously renounced our country's misguided war in Southeast Asia.

Rove told brilliant lies, and the Democrats must stop short of that. But, please, no more "Kumbaya" candidates! Change the party's theme song to "Street Fighting Man" -- because politics is the same blood sport it was when the protest movement was in its heyday. When cities were on fire.

Democrats have been extremely slow learners. They must take a cue from the balls-out Rove before the midterm elections in 2006 -- or the religious right will be ruling our lives in the Theocratic States of America.


Yet another scandal is quietly sweeping the Maricopa County Elections Department, this time involving none other than Outlaw Joe Arpaio.

The cash-strapped elections office under director Karen Osborne has relied on the sheriff to supply inmate slave labor to handle more than a million early ballots that have been requested by voters since 1998. More than 500,000 were mailed out for the November 2 general election.

Inmates are used to stuff ballots and instructions into envelopes that are mailed to voters. Osborne says the program, called STRIPES, worked without a hitch -- until late last month.

That's when reports of tampering with early ballots began to surface. Osborne says only one ballot was "marked up" by an inmate prior to stuffing it an envelope. But STRIPES inmates tell me multiple ballots were fouled.

The sheriff's office has begun "major investigations" into ballot tampering, according to an October 28 e-mail from an MCSO employee to the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department. Probation department records state that inmates Ryan C. Carter and Nicholas Frappier have admitted to ballot tampering.

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