Is the U.S. Reliving Past Mistakes?

Andrew F. Adams is a UC Berkeley student and regular op-ed contributor. Respond at [email protected]

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Thirty-three years ago, Roger Daltrey screamed, "We won't get fooled again!" Things were going to be different; change was in the air. Vietnam and the civil rights movement set the stage for a paradigm shift in the way Americans thought and voted.

Then 32 years ago, Richard Nixon, the most crooked, neurotic and sweaty president the U.S. has ever seen, won re-election by grabbing 49 out of 50 states with his so-called "secret plan" to end the war.

Is it happening again? The convention last week was great for Democrats, but it is going to take imagination and work to keep the buzz from turning into a hangover. The hopeful spirit that filled the Fleet Center last week may fade like the hysteria of a concert, leaving the participants wondering what got them so excited in the first place.

Keeping Kerry interesting will be a full-time job, especially when Bush has Saddam Hussein and 9/11 to run on. If you want to see why Bush is so popular, take a trip to where the respective territories of the Fresno Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle meet, the part of California that San Francisco tolerates like an unemployed brother-in-law.

This is Bush country, where everyone has a can of Kodiak instead of a water bottle. When Bush mispronounces "nuclear," he does it to sound like them, not the Yale-educated man he is. That kind of outreach is working, pushing Bush far ahead of Kerry in the "who would you like to have a beer with" race, boosted by Middle America's general agreement with his opinions on the three G's: God, gays and guns.

If a Republican super-majority seems hard to believe, remember that not so long ago, the U.S. re-elected Nixon and Reagan, each with 49 states.

For Kerry to come out on top, he needs to keep pushing those photos of him shooting ducks and tossing footballs. Or shooting footballs and tossing ducks, just something rugged that will please the heartland.

There is danger on the horizon. Republicans make up a good percentage of this country and are making it a great place to grow up ... as long as you don't mind fighting a few wars before you go to college. If George W. keeps knocking over governments like pillow forts, many of our generation will end up moving to Spain or France, drinking absinthe while reminiscing about when one could sing "Proud to be an American" without irony dripping from each syllable.

But the most unnerving aspect of this administration is not their martial-law governing style, but the level of popularity it entertains throughout much of the country. No matter how hard it is for Berkeleyites to believe, Bush is popular. Very popular.

Were these last four years just the darkness before the dawn? We may get fooled again, because really, you can't learn from mistakes if you don't realize they are mistakes. It took six years of Nixon to convince Americans that he was a liar. But this is the 21st Century, and things move a little faster here.


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