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Election eve fright stories 

Fear stalks the land, looming ominously like the crazed Gore Kong of "Debate III: Moron v. Machine" ("Careful! The lights are driving him crazy!") leering and menacing as His will is questioned, His veracity called into doubt. Before Him cowers a terrified populace, blinking furiously and gnashing its teeth. Bush the Lesser is in "cornered possum" mode, the customary smirk twisted into a snarl as it struggles to comprehend the bewildering boom and torrent of facts, beating it down like a Texas farmer's brogan descending to squash it into Eternity.

These are ugly times for The People, forced to face the horrible consequences of a government wrenched away and dragged into the lavishly appointed laboratories of the moneyed and powerful -- tortured, mangled and near-insane, a misshapen mockery of a once-vibrant democracy, reeking of the charnel house and expensive leather upholstery.

We contemplate Election Night with the trepidation of Herr Stoker's feckless burghers fearfully anticipating Walpurgis Night, when the Devil strides the Earth and the dead breach their tombs for a midnight perambulation.

In preparation for that fateful day, CL has called upon five of our Think Tank columnists -- a scary contingent on their own account -- to unburden themselves of Election Day fears. What horrors lie in wait? What spectral terrors will come to menacing life on the malevolent morn of Nov. 8?

Will it be the massive, ever-shifting juggernaut of Gorezilla, its stony visage proclaiming allegiance to The People even as its swollen gut absorbs ever-increasing torrents of wealth from the very corporate sponsors it professes to loathe? Without the bedazzling charm of its predecessor, the folksy, sax-playing satyr Clinton -- whose charisma provided a thickly padded, if shoddily made velvet glove for the iron fist -- The Gore must find another way to present itself as all things to all people.

Yes, it will protect the environment that non-cyborgs must rely upon for sustenance, but it also will cater to the air-choking power barons whom it counts among its benefactors. Yes, it will fight for the poor, the disabled, the dark-skinned and dismissed of society's cellars, even as it eagerly force-feeds the monstrous machinery of the prison-industrial complex, grinding the nation's "expendables" into blood-meal and mouthing platitudes about "the greater need."

Blessed by the pious maunderings of its neo-reactionary myrmidon, Joe the Morose, The Gore will ride across the countryside, earnestly bellowing about The People and deflecting all criticism toward "the richest 1 percent," even as it funnels more of the spoils of political war to deserving members of that rarified percentile.

And when The People demand their schools, their drugs, their tax credits and all the goodies promised? Why, it's the rich -- damn them! -- who're holding it up. Those bastards!

Or will it be the simpering, squinting goliath of Bush Inc.'s enormous inflated CEO, billowing along like a Macy's parade balloon, every inch of its $190-million ass plastered with more corporate logos than a Nascar Chevy, its well-worn cakehole pouring forth hot gales of meaningless rhetoric as the nation's resources are plundered and the dogs of industrial plutocracy are loosed upon a public by freshly minted Torquemadas dispatched to make the world safe for God and Business.

How much will the corpse of American democracy bring, dismembered, cubed and sold by the ounce? Don't ask Dubya; he doesn't have that many fingers. Check with the man behind the curtain, the soft-spoken defense-industry mega-millionaire who pulled similar levers when Daddy manned the checkout counter. But this Dick, unlike Shakespeare's Richard III, is no "horrid squash-backed toad" -- he's far smoother, a GQ Kissinger for the 21st Century, a sinister prime minister for a weak and corrupted Internet Age emperor.

"Ah," mutter the old men, "but there is hope elsewhere -- we must have faith."

Indeed we must, or give way to The Fear.

But what of those options? What frightful consequences might emerge ... if?

What of Ralph the Pure, the erstwhile reformer whose relative impotence in the face of the Big Two may be best evidenced by the fact that he's still alive. Nader's a scary character to a lot of carefully coiffed heads, though -- a genuine heretic in the Cathedral of Mammon. Universal health care? Livable wages? Publicly financed elections? Accountability for the executives of companies that peddle dangerous junk? Access to the courts?

Why, that's ... that's ... that's crazy talk!

And if all those wacky ideas weren't enough, all this stuff about the unacceptability of corporate power is just downright un-American. It's a slippery slope away from cadres of black-flag-waving Wobblies storming banks, whistling the "Internationale" and laying down a backbeat on the skulls of luckless plutocrats.

Scary stuff. So scary, in fact, that the corporate-sponsored Commission on Presidential Debates (Anheuser-Busch, U.S. Airways, 3Com, etc.) actually had hired goons on hand to "escort" Nader away from "their" debates. (Now that's scary).

A lot of folks who are scared of the Big Boys are scared of Nader's "socialist" leanings, too. Some of them have again placed their hopes on Libertarian Harry Browne, the economist whose somnolent stump speeches make the hardly scintillating Nader look like Robin Williams on crank.

The issues Browne hammers on publicly -- abolish the IRS, end foreign-aid spending, scrap gun-control laws -- play well to the frustrated, those who've spent blood and sweat laboring, only to see convoluted tax systems and unwieldy beauracracies suck the fruits of their labor dry.

But there's more to the Libertarian rubric than taxes and guns. The tenets left generally unspoken by most prominent near-Libs will likely give the squealing heebie-jeebies to the steering-wheel-pounding suburbanite who thinks the upstart party is just his cup of homemade beer.

Open borders? Yep, all those brown hordes you're screaming about coming in here and "stealing" hard-workin' American jobs'll be sashaying in like Pilgrims to Plymouth. Deep-six Social Security? Lord Gawd, Martha, bring me my pills! End the Drug Wars? In addition to doing away with the most effective tool the Overseers of Social Order have to ensure that the poor and dusky stay out of Our Way, you'd foment a whole new crime wave: Millions of snitches and their badge-toting pimps will find themselves out of work (fortunately, since gun laws would also be scrapped, the public would be able to mount a credible defense -- at least until the local constabulary managed to get its free "surplus" attack helicopters aloft).

And there'd be plenty of those, since all limits on political bribery ... er, campaign contributions ... would also go away. Rockwell, McDonnell-Douglas, Raytheon and Mr. Cheney's favorite tit, Haliburton, would be able to pump unlimited kickbacks into the pockets of our "public" officials, who would continue to ensure that arms money flows whether we need it or not.

But at least we wouldn't be burdened with all these harebrained environmental regulations, and in the unlikely event that some corporate citizen poisoned our water, made the air even less breathable, shredded the ozone layer or just blew up a county or two, we could always seek redress in court. Or our survivors could. If the courthouse was still standing.

But that's all just wild, scary speculation. And, besides, there's one more option: Buchanan the Buzzard, culture-troll, CNN booty-boy and former GOP nightrider, is on the ballot, although nobody's really seen him since he dragged the carcass of the Reform Party off to the cave he shares with his "sister" (as if these two were-weasels sprang the coupling of anything remotely human) to rifle the pockets and pry out the fillings of that pathetic husk. But they do have almost $15 million to play with and that's plenty scary, too.

And that's just the White House races. There's plenty more to set your teeth a-rattlin'. How 'bout a Democratic Congress and White House. How 'bout a GOP sweep? How 'bout Bob Barr as Speaker of the House, and Tony "Mad Dog" Scalia as chief justice? Owwoooo! I'm a'skeered. You a'skeered?

So have a Happy Halloween and a safe Election Day. And remember: Always save one bullet. Just in case.

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