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I had a brilliant idea on Saturday. I was listening to Michael Moore (director of Roger and Me and aurthor of Downsize This), speaking at the Democracy Rising event at the USF Sundome. The Green Party should run Moore for President in 2004. I know he won’t win. I know a lot of people won’t think he’s qualified. That’s really beside the point. Moore is an incisive political satirist with the uncanny ability to make tough political points and make you laugh at the same time. While a Michael Moore candidacy wouldn’t be taken more seriously than a Ralph Nader run, it would probably get more press simply because Moore is more fun to watch. Without knowing what’s happening, serious issues would find their way into the national debate.

Moore’s segment of Democracy Rising is a perfect illustration of why he’d make a good 3rd Party candidate. Moore told us about how his publisher nearly “pulped” his latest book, Stupid White Men because it was “out of touch” with post-9/11 America. The book is highly critical of the Bush family and their close ties with big business (and especially Enron) and was originally slated to come out September 18th. The publisher looked at the huge approval rating that President Bush was racking up and was convinced the thing would never sell. They asked Moore to take out the parts of the book that were critical of the Bush administration. When he refused, they said they would send the already printed copies to be recycled.

What happened next even took Moore by surprise. He did a reading from Stupid White Men somewhere in New Jersey. He told his audience that the book was going to be pulped, and then read a few chapters. A librarian was in the audience. She went home and sent out e-mails on librarian listservs and librarian chat rooms urging people to write Harper Collins and demand that Moore’s book be published. The publisher relented, but told Moore his book would die a horrible death because it was so out of touch with the American people.[[stupidwhitemen]]

Stupid White Men has been hovering at the top of the best seller list since it hit bookstores. It is currently #1 on the New York Times Bestseller’s list for the fourth week in a row.

Moore told a nice story, but more importantly, he hit most of the same points that Nader and Jello Biafra make in a way that wouldn’t scare off all but the true believers. Moore made his point about the power of individuals to alter policy, about the way corporations and politicians are in each other’s pockets and how power (and money) is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. We laughed at the way Moore made his points, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t pack a punch. If anything, it was more powerful because the absurdity of his story let the political message sneak in under the door. If Moore were to run for President, he’d get airtime because he’s a good story. The message would spread as a by-product.

By contrast, Ralph Nader came across like a really irritated junior

high guidance counselor hectoring an auditorium of backsliding 8th graders. Nader ticked off a laundry list of woes that sounded in form, if not content, like Al Gore or George Bush on the stump. It doesn’t matter that I agree with most of what Nader had to say, his presentation really turned me off. I have low enough self-esteem without some guy in a rumpled suit trying to make me feel guilty about life, the universe and everything else. Ralph Nader comes across as an old nag.

Jello Biafra came across as a smug know-it-all. His style has always been snide, but listening to him rail against big business is really galling. Biafra lost the rights to the Dead Kennedy’s catalogue because he violated his contract with his former bandmates and systematically underpaid royalties. How’s that for a role model?

Another problem with the Democracy Rising event was the element of bait and switch. Patti Smith’s first Tampa apperacnce in 20 years got as much, if not more, press attention than Nader and company. I knew we weren’t going to get a full 90-minute concert. The four songs leading into Ralph Nader’s address were powerful and frustrating. They promised us a rock epiphany and delivered Ralph Nader. I can only hope that she will return to Tampa for a real concert in the near future.

I say, let’s put some fun into politics. Someone nominate Michael Moore for President in 2004! And someone, please, please, please bring Patti Smith back for a real concert!

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