While the Democrats sleep 

I don’t mean to upset you this fine May morning, but I do feel a nagging obligation to point out something a trifle curious. George W. Bush, our amiable first sawdust head, is, happily and successfully, zipping along on course to ruin this planet.

And virtually no one seems to give much of a damn. Not the man who nearly or really defeated him; not the Democratic Party, not a single national figure.

Why is this? What the hell is going on?

Before I answer, let me pause briefly from my frenzy to note that “ruin this planet” isn’t just my usual hysterical, alarmist rhetoric. Consider the following:

· Bush last week announced a new “energy policy” that might best be characterized as “when in doubt, drill.” What about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska? Hey, no problem. What about the animals? Here’s what the Shrub actually said:

“We can build roads of ice that literally melt away when the summer comes and the drilling stops to protect wildlife.” And if you don’t like that, “rigs can stand miles away from the oil field and tap a reservoir at an angle.” Sure they can, Prez. And if it doesn’t work out, hey. We got lots of file film footage of them polar bears.

· Try harder to stop germ warfare? Say, not so fast. The Bushies shocked the world last weekend when it leaked out that they were against enforcing the treaty banning biological warfare! The official reason: They don’t think it would be efficient enough in catching cheaters. (Or do they fear it would be too effective?)

· Bush consistently has pushed his “Star Wars” missile defense system. Everyone agrees it will be horrifically expensive. Everyone who does not have independently rolling eyeballs or is not on the payroll of a defense contractor knows it would be more likely to trigger nuclear disaster than stop it. It is very apt to start a new arms race among countries that can little afford it. Oh, and it is guaranteed not to work, but, hey.

· Then, of course, there is the enormous tax cut, which is likely to put us right back into deficit spending in a few years.

So ... where the hell are the Democrats?

And where is Ralph Nader, who allegedly got into last year’s election largely to save the environment? Most of all, where is the man more of us voted for, a man whose early reputation was founded on sane nuclear and environmental policies, one Al Gore?

Politically, what is going on is incredibly baffling. During the campaign, Nader and Gore campaigned as though issues, not personalities, were what mattered. In the last two weeks the voters started paying attention, and as a result the vice president probably won. He clearly won the national popular vote, and also the electoral vote outside Florida. In that state, about all we can say for sure is that more people meant to vote for him than for Pudd’nhead. Democrats surged to a tie in the U.S. Senate.

Polls show that most people are more on the Democrats’ side of the issues than that of the shrubbery. Yet the Democrats are, in most cases, barely putting up token opposition to most of what the oilmen want to do to us.

Democrats go along to get along, as Ralph Nader charged all last year. But then, where is Ralph? Much of the time, he and the Dems snipe at each other over who is to blame for Bush. Otherwise, Nader fritters away his puny capital on sideshows; last month he was in Toledo, nattering I-told-you-sos about how the mayor had been fooled into thinking DaimlerChrysler was going to eliminate fewer jobs than it did.

Big deal, Ralph. How about trying to rise above your wacky ego — and show for once that you really can be a leader after all? Most of the voters chose you or Al Gore. Why not offer an olive branch; invite Gore to leave his crypt at Columbia and join you in denouncing the rape of the environment and the military nonsense going on now?

Together, you two could draw considerable attention and draw on considerable political capital. You might even shame what remains of a conscience in Congress to challenge some of our elected oil lobbyists’ grosser excesses. You could make a difference that way, Ralph, and maybe someday you might actually be part of a progressive government, which would make more sense than being remembered as an increasingly irrelevant common scold.

Well, don’t hold your breath. But someone better step forward and rally the troops. Clearly, there isn’t anyone among the mental midgets in Congress who can; any time there has been a critical vote, from tax cuts for the rich to confirming the odious John Ashcroft, there always have been enough Democrats ready to bend over with a smile.

“It’s time for me to go,” Al Gore said, graciously and with class, the day after the Supreme Court decided the election. That was, indeed, the right thing to do last winter. But now we know without a doubt where the ship of fools is headed, and pretty much everything Gore ever stood for is being dismantled or destroyed.

If the environment truly means anything to Gore, if he is to have any kind of political future, it is time for him to come forward, rally the dispirited and leaderless opposition, and kick some butt, now and in the congressional elections next year.

Richard Nixon, with less personality and less credibility, did this in 1966, and ended up becoming president. Gore ought to do this even if he doesn’t mean to run again. Fifty-one million Americans who voted for him deserve as much. So does the nation.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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