Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Hooray for Imaginary Shaun! He's our political correspondent for "Election 2004" and we're extremely pleased that he'll be checking in every week or so to reflect on recent events in the political campaigns.

Three ImaginaryGirls.com wholeheartedly supports this report but opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect opinions or policies of the girls {although, as igLiz says, "It doesn't necessarily not reflect our opinions…}" 

I know, I know…it's a lot of work being an indie-rock scenester. What with all those nights spent shuffling from club to club to take in all three of the hot new British pop bands that hit town at the same time; the days spent poring through rack after rack of thrift store clothes to put together 'the look'; and then racing back to your apartment or the nearest internet café before the ebay auction ends on that beautifully hideous '70s-vintage couch that would perfectly complement the velvet clown paintings you found out by that dumpster. How can you be expected to keep up with the minutiae of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination? After all, there have at one point or another been up to ten candidates — keeping them straight would be like trying to memorize the names of everyone in The Polyphonic Spree. And almost as creepy.

But now, suddenly, you're mere days away from the Washington Democratic caucuses {go CAUCUS} and you need to pick a candidate. Not voting isn't a choice, but neither is 'Anybody But Bush'! Most of your friends are going door-to-door for Dean, but you're not sure what that pulsing vein in his forehead might portend. John Kerry's been all over the headlines lately, but he reminds you a little too much of that junior high principal you always hated. John Edwards is cute, but that drawl… a little too country, not enough rock and roll. Dennis Kucinich looks like the creature in the 'Leprechaun' movies, and Al Sharpton, well, Al Sharpton is Al Sharpton.

So as a public service, we here at TIG Election '04 HQ have put together a guide specifically designed with you in mind. So that you can keep them straight, using the same cerebral filing cabinet where you store the names of all the B-Sides from the British import Smiths singles that you taped off your older brother while he was away at college, we've reviewed the candidates' bios and equated each of them to a famous rock star. Let's face it, the Dems are all pretty similar on the issues (especially since Lieberman's campaign is Joe-fficially dead), and the deciding factor at this point is who can beat Bush, so instead of studying the details of this or that tax code or health care plan, just put together the arena rock tour that you think can pull in the biggest crowds. Happy voting!

John Kerry — The current frontrunner, Kerry has won seven of the nine states which have so far held primaries or caucuses. Like President Bush, he is a graduate of Yale University and also like President Bush is, unfortunately, a member of the either silly or sinister, depending on who you ask, Skull and Bones Society. He was wounded while serving in the navy during Vietnam, ultimately receiving a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. Upon returning home he became spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, famously throwing away the ribbons from his medals (though not the medals themselves) during a protest. In Massachusetts Kerry worked as a prosecutor, was elected lieutenant governor, and he has served in the US Senate since 1984.

John Kerry is Bruce Springsteen. Being both a veteran and a war protester, Kerry can be seen both as anti-establishment and all-American, just like Mr. Born In The USA himself. Both men are multi-millionaires who make a career of championing the common man. Having made the transition from grass-roots organizer to long-time senator, Kerry, like Bruce, made a perceived move from the counter-culture to the establishment; and like the Boss, who was on a major label from day one, Kerry, born wealthy and a Yalie, was never really all that counter-culture to begin with. Both men have long toiled in the shadows of a more influential idol: Springsteen with Bob Dylan and Kerry with John F. Kennedy, whose home state and initials he shares.

John Edwards — North Carolina Senator John Edwards surprised everyone by his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, winning second place and handily defeating former favorite Howard Dean. He built on his momentum this week by winning the primary in South Carolina, his birthplace, proving his viability in the south. As he likes to constantly remind supporters, he is the son of a mill worker and was the first person in his family to attend college. He was a lawyer in private practice for twenty years after earning his degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Edwards cites the 1996 death of his 16-year-old son with providing the inspiration for him to enter politics. He is currently in his first term in the Senate.

John Edwards is constantly being compared to former president Bill Clinton. He is young (in presidential terms — he's 50), attractive, and has the same one-two punch of the slow southern drawl and the empathetic eyes. He can work a crowd much like Clinton, having honed his skills in twenty years' worth of jury boxes. He is Clinton Lite, with many of the same credentials but none of the drawbacks (the sex scandals, the, ahem, 'half-truths'), but also not quite the same Superstar quality. Unfortunately for this comparison, Bill Clinton is not quite a rock star, though he is often compared to one. So if Bill Clinton is Elvis Presley, then John Edwards is Tom Jones.

Wesley Clark — Clark is a career military man now running for his first elective office. He graduated first in his class at West Point, earning a Rhodes scholarship which allowed him to study at Oxford University for two years. He joined the Army in 1968 and served in Vietnam as a Captain. He eventually was promoted all the way to four-star General and in 1994 became director for strategic plans and policy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997 he was named Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, a post he held during the war in Kosovo. He retired from the military in 2000.

On paper, Wesley Clark looks great: he's a decorated four-star General, led the troops in Kosovo which eventually led to the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic, he's another charming southerner. The problem is that it all falls apart once he opens his mouth. Clark has only a superficial grasp of domestic issues — he can't answer questions beyond his basic policy statements (although the same could be said for a certain current occupant of the White House). Being the Anti-War General is a great gimmick but he has flip-flopped his stance on the Iraq war multiple times. He's a Democratic candidate that has a history of voting for Republicans. And not just any Republicans, but Nixon and Reagan! General Clark is like a supergroup formed from the ashes of bands you love but that ends up being just another mediocrity. Wesley Clark is Audioslave.

Dennis Kucinich — Kucinich is the vegan chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He started out in
local Cleveland politics, finally being elected mayor in 1977, serving for one term. After fifteen years out of elective office he became an Ohio state senator in 1995 and moved up to the US House of Representatives in 1997, where he still serves.

Dennis Kucinich sounds great when you listen to him with the rest of the world tuned out. He is by far the most progressive candidate, which should especially appeal to Seattleites. But Kucinich lives in an idealistic fantasy world, with policies that don't take into account consequences (ie, immediately withdrawing US troops from Iraq) or the political realities of passing legislature in Washington. At times he seems to be running in order to further his progressive message, a valid tactic; at other times he seems to be suffering under the delusion that he could actually win; and then, there are the times when he seems to be running just because he's lonely. Weird. Dennis Kucinich is Michael Jackson.

Al Sharpton — The Rev. Al Sharpton has made quite a career of being Al Sharpton. Ordained minister, boxing promoter, activist, rabble-rouser. Sharpton is the founder of the National Action Network, a Harlem-based advocacy group. He has long been a controversial voice in New York politics and race relations.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this campaign has been Al Sharpton's (quite conscious) attempt to convert his image from racially divisive activist to Jesse Jackson-like voice of the African-American wing of the Democratic Party. The conversion, from his witty interjections in the debates to his self-parodying turn as host on SNL, has been largely successful, though his disappointing showing in South Carolina (only 1 in 5 African-American votes) means that he hasn't yet achieved Jackson's stature. Al Sharpton is P. Diddy. The Sean Jean tycoon. Al Sharpton circa 1987 is Puff Daddy. And just like Puffy, everyone seems happiest just ignoring both versions. And I guess this all means that Jesse Jackson is Notorious B.I.G.

Howard Dean — Howard Dean surged to frontrunner status early in the campaign on the strength of his visceral anti-war stance and his innovative appeal to internet voters. Unfortunately he may have peaked too early, coming up short in Iowa and New Hampshire and not managing to eke out either of the top two spots in any of last Tuesday's primaries and caucuses. Yet another Yale graduate, Dean was a physician from graduation until he became governor of Vermont in 1991 upon the death of the former governor. He remained in that office for eleven years, serving successfully as a moderate Democrat, a fact largely obscured by his reinvention as a rabid liberal during this campaign.

Okay, okay. I'm writing this from Philadelphia, but I spent a couple of years in Seattle and I can assume that the place is just crawling with Deaniacs. Initially I was going to write that Howard Dean is Jack White. Which would have been true two weeks ago, and up until Iowa. They were both the hottest thing around, one collecting album of the year awards, the other campaign endorsements; both got noticed recycling concepts from their youth — anti-war sentiment for Dean, guitar-based blues-rock for White; both riffed on ideas expressed more passionately by lesser-known compatriots: Dean got the liberal and progressive following that should, on ideological terms, have gone to Dennis Kucinich, while White's revisionist, stripped-down white-boy blues was handled in far more innovative fashion by John Spencer and Billy Childish over a decade earlier. And both are hot-tempered control freaks, liable to lash out at a moment's notice.

But then came Iowa. Dean came out on stage shrieking and rambling. He dumped the sideman that had helped bring him to prominence and hired a seasoned pro, no matter how contradictory to his image. He virtually disappeared, vowing to regroup and come out fighting again in the next round. And his organization, once the biggest game in town, is now in shambles. I hate to break it to you, kids, but Howard Dean is now Axl Rose. At least he's assured the Chinese Democratic nomination.

So put together your dream tour from that batch, but remember: at this stage, it's not really you that matters. That's not to say your vote doesn't count; it certainly does. But I'm assuming that most of you regular TIG readers are anti-Bush Dems, or Greens. (Correct me if I'm wrong — we'd love to hear from some indie-rock Republicans; drop a line at [email protected].) Your votes are locked up. The ultimate nominee needs to attract middle-of-the-road, undecided voters. So strategize a ticket that your mother or your grandmother could go for. Me, I like the looks of Springsteen/Jones in '04.

{For the record, at this point the game, igDana is hoping for a Clark-Dean ticket igLiz says, "I really haven't gotten attached to any one candidate. At this point, I just want the person who is most likely to beat Bush!"

But all TIGs agree that Bush has got go… so vote vote vote!!!!}