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What ABB Means to Me

The first time I saw an ABB bumper sticker, I thought it stood for “Allman Brothers Band.” I had not yet heard the term “Anybody But Bush,” but I was already a part of it. In the fall of 2000 I cast a vote for Ralph Nader. This had absolutely nothing to do with Nader’s history of consumer advocacy or any of his policies, with which I remain totally unfamiliar. His party was named Green and had a peace sign as its symbol. This was certainly better than Bush, and a rather large improvement over Gore/Lieberman, too. I thought it then, and I think it now. Nader voters have taken a lot of flak these last few years, but I stand by my decision. Had I been old enough to vote in the 1996 election, I would’ve gone for Clinton wholeheartedly. By 2000 I was sick of both major political parties. The Republicans certainly didn’t represent any America I knew, but neither did the Democrats. So I voted third party, in the hopes of making it known that some of us were interested in a liberal president. Some others in my position (left-leaning and in the key 18-24 age group) did the same. Some voted Democrat anyway, on the lesser of two evils principle. And, according to one statistic I’ve heard, 70% just plain didn’t vote. Essentially, not much has changed this time around, though Edwards is a decided improvement over Lieberman. But I hear that, having evidently tired of calling him a flip-flopper, the Bush campaign has started calling Kerry a liberal. And, like his predecessor, I expect Kerry will try to refute the label. Somewhere along the line, being a liberal apparently became a bad thing in politics, and the Dems have headed for the center, while the Republicans have gone further and further to the right. George W. Bush has said and done things such that I become physically ill when I see his picture or hear his voice. But to half the country (according to polls as of mid-October), these same things have made him a hero. Which brings us to Anybody But Bush. George W. Bush has stood up and said what he believes in, and he has tried to take the rest of the country with him. Whether or not this is what a president should do — whether or not it is even constitutional, given Bush’s frequently invoked faith and the separation of Church and State — is beside the point. The point is, on cultural issues at least, Bush says what he believes and follows through. This has made him an object of both absolute adoration and intense hatred. It is said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, and it’s true. Bush has an absolutely morbid fascination to me, and, I’m sure, to many others. Can you imagine this level of indignation being leveled at Bob Dole? Bumper stickers alone tell the tale. The most vitriolic anyone got in 1996 was “Dole For Pineapple.” Compare that to the collage of biting slogans on the opposition’s cars. They easily outnumber the Kerry/Edwards stickers, because we hate Bush, but we do not love John Kerry. We love that he is Not Bush. The liberal George W. Bush — a Democratic hothead who will stand at a podium and declare him or herself in favor of gay marriage, realistic sex education, cutting the heart out of the defense budget and giving it to the schools, or any other left wing cause — has not appeared. We have no one. We have a human stop-gap measure. Someone wrote in to the Shepherd Express and said that the Anybody But Bush vote was “a mile wide, but an inch deep,” and they are absolutely right. What ABB means to me is that we are desperate. ABB means that we do not have politics that talk of what’s good for America, we have a cultural divide that has widened into a chasm. ABB means that half the country has banded together, not out of shared ideals, but out of fear and hate. There is an overriding imperative to get Bush out of the office at any cost. Mobile voter registration people are out on the streets, trying to raise an army of 18 to 24 year olds, trying to stir power out of apathy. I hope they succeed, because I cannot imagine four more years of George W. Bush. But I can sympathize with those who cannot imagine anything else. Both of us are after the America we dream of. To one segment of the population, Bush is the closest they have gotten to the realization of that dream in quite a while. To another, he is the farthest from it. It is a sad thing that we live in a country so divided. It is a sad thing that I despise the leader of my country, and that my vote will be one of spite and desperation, not hope and excitement. But when the time comes, I will cast it that way, because I cannot accept an alternative. And that is what ABB means to me.