Friday, September 4, 2009

Senator Dukakis?

I have always felt that Michael Dukakis received an undeserved reputation during his 1988 presidential campaign. Starting out with a 17-point-lead over his opponent, Vice President George Bush, Dukakis eventually watched it slip away as he became the target of one of the most vicious smear campaigns in recent political history - charges of ideological extremism, softness on crime (with an unmistakable racist subtext), and general goofiness (such as the infamous "Dukakis in the tank" ad, which in my opinion was cruelly misconstrued by the press) were all used against him by Bush and his chief political hatchet man, Lee Atwater. Dukakis chose not to react to any of the mud being slung at him, viewing it as beneath the dignity of the office he sought. Instead, he ran a campaign that diligently focused on having an intelligent discussion of the issues with the American public, even as he allowed his opponent to mouth shallow right-wing platitudes while wallowing in the political gutter. The end result? George Bush beat Michael Dukakis by 9-points, marking a 26-point drop from where the Massachusetts Governor had stood less than half a year earlier.

All of this has left for the American people a very sour taste about Michael Dukakis - with conservatives because they bought into the right-wing propaganda about the dangers of Dukakis' unapologetic liberalism, and with liberals because they could never forgive a man who seemed destined to end the eight-year reign of Reaganism for horribly botching his campaign. Neither side has given him the credit he deserved for his intellectual honesty and for the fact that it is a rare politician indeed who loses because he is unwilling (rather than all too eager) to stoop for office. That is why I feel it is very appropriate that Dukakis is being considered as a temporary replacement for Ted Kennedy in the United States Senate. Not only would such an appointment serve as an appropriate honor for a man with a distinguished career, but it would also perfectly fill the bill for Governor Deval Patrick's needs: A Senator who is well-respected enough that his qualifications for office will not be questioned, whose personal character is beyond dispute, and whose lack of interest in seeking a long-term career in the Senate will enable him to graciously step aside when it comes time for the special election next January. I could elaborate on this point even further, but will leave the remainder of this argument to the following article. Suffice to say that it is my strong hope that September 2009 will see the instatement of Senator Michael Stanley Dukakis.

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