Confessions of a primary hijacker

My wife Amy and I sat down last week at the dinner table and tried to hijack the Republican primary.

"It's fun to vote Republican," Amy said as we signed the oath promising Republican fealty during the Washington primary process. We voted for John McCain, of course - we're the hijackers George W. Bush fears. My personal politics lean a bit to the left - my presidential voting record has included one Socialist vote and two Democrats. Yet thanks to Washington's marvelous open primary system, my primary votes have been for one Democrat (Paul Tsongas) and two Republicans (Pat Robertson and Bob Dole).

As you might guess, past votes for Republican candidates have been motivated by mischief and strategy. For example, in the last Washington gubernatorial race, I proudly cast my primary vote for Ellen Craswell, knowing that she was too far to the right to ever get elected in the Evergreen State.

So why vote for Mr. McCain? Polls show that if he were running against Al Gore, he'd win handily. Not good news for a liberal hijacker like me.

No, this time around it was a different sort of strategy. Instead of hijacking, let's call it hedging my bet. I'll probably vote for Mr. Gore in the fall, hoping he'll wake up in January, suddenly remember the book he wrote a few years ago and start talking about environmental leadership again. Maybe when Bill Clinton's gone, Gore will go back to being his old self. Here's hoping.

Yet, if some late-breaking scandal besets Gore in a two-way race, I don't want Bush in the game to win by default. Looking at this guy's rsum, I just can't imagine putting him in charge of our nuclear weapons. I'm not even sure I'd let him drive my truck.

The truth is, I like McCain, even if I don't always agree with his stand on all the issues. I like the fact he appears to be an independent thinker. I like that our Republican Sen. Slade Gorton hates him. I like that Republicans and tobacco companies fear him. I like that he's at least open to dam breaching, and opposed to Columbia River channel deepening - which would hurt salmon. I like the fact that he doesn't take the easy road.

Most important, I'm a fan of his efforts for campaign-finance reform. This issue is probably the most important in McCain's ability to energize voters from outside the party. He realizes that the American public doesn't participate in politics because we know it's a corrupt game. If you aren't wealthy, or don't own a major corporation, the federal government doesn't work for you.

That's why corporations are paying less in taxes each year, while tax revenue from individuals is going up. That's why even in the best of times, the gap between rich and poor is expanding. That's why the stock market is through the roof, and the salary of the average - ever more productive - worker is stagnating. Poverty, inequity, environmental issues, and justice will never be addressed as long as money is the only voice heard in Washington, D.C. It's that simple.

Moreover, this corruption pervades both parties. Other than on a few issues, such as abortion and the separation of church and state, both parties are controlled by a money addiction.

Democratic and independent voters understand this, and that's why they're voting for McCain.

So if McCain got elected in the fall, it wouldn't break my liberal heart. In fact, he's the only Republican presidential candidate in my lifetime I've even considered voting for in the general election.

If McCain doesn't get elected - and I know it's not looking good for him in tomorrow's Super Tuesday primaries - his strong showing should be seen as a major sign from the American people that it's time to take campaign-finance reform seriously.

In that respect, my vote for McCain was an honest one.

*Ed Hunt is a natural-resources writer and editor of the Tidepool.org news service.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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