Florida isn't Podunk. How we vote really affects all of America. So, it's atonement time for some of us.
If you voted for George W. Bush only in 2000, you may be partly forgiven. Six years ago, Der George claimed to be a "compassionate conservative," appeared no more dangerous than the loser first-born of a CEO who takes over the family business when daddy retires. Back then, no one really expected him to wind up in the White House or figured he'd be in charge if he did; Der Dick would pull the strings. Falling for W's carefully crafted fašade, na´ve voters couldn't imagine he'd ruin the country.
But if you're a Floridian who could see the damage Der W did during his first term and still voted for him and other R's in 2004, you knew what you were doing.
So, you are personally responsible for all the president's misdeeds: massaging intelligence to invade Iraq, the chaos post-Saddam, the death and maiming of our soldiers and Iraqi civilians, our crushing national debt, unauthorized wiretaps and domestic spying, trampling on our constitutional rights, flouting Congress and the courts, claiming "it's legal because we say it is," failing to respond to Hurricane Katrina, gutting our social infrastructure, pandering to the Radical Right, concocting an energy plan with Big Oil, failing our schools.
Floridians who voted Republican also fostered the culture of corruption in Congress that emboldened Tom DeLay, "Duke" Cunningham, Jack Abramoff and a long list of others who'll soon be indicted.
And, in one of the biggest boomerangs of all, Floridians whose native language is not English and who voted Republican are responsible for electing a president and Congress whose recent English-only initiative is designed to energize their radical right-wing base, while it shafts legal immigrants and citizens. (Cubans who haven't voted Democrat since the Bay of Pigs might wonder who their friends really are.)
In short, to have voted for the Gang of W in 2004 was to have been a knowing accomplice in implementing everything from misplaced, mean-spirited priorities to "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- what some people have already dubbed the worst American presidency ever. All of you are Karl Rove, and Karl Rove is you.
If it were possible to impeach the public, Floridians who voted Republican would already have been convicted, along with a president who probably should be and could be.
Typically, Americans think that all we have to do to fulfill our civic duty is show up at the polls. Not enough of us understand that voting in a representative government may be dangerous. With your ballot, you are sanctioning what elected officials do in your name, once in office. (The prez has tanked in the polls. But public disgust with him is also an indictment of everyone who elected him.)
Predictably, these days, it's harder and harder to find anyone who confesses to having voted for W. But, if you're honest enough to admit to it and did so only in 2000, you may be forgiven -- if you promise to look yourself in the mirror every day until Election Day 2008 and repeat, "I have sinned and promise never to do it again."
But if you voted for W in 2004, you've got to repent big-time, with no guarantee of absolution. For starters, put your life on the line in Iraq, or get your son or daughter to do so. Start a chapter of Republicans Anonymous to deal with your addiction to electing bad people who make bad policies. Publicly repudiate wedge-strategies that divide the nation over bogus social issues. And pledge to vote for Democrats -- to curb a renegade White House and rubber-stamp Congress.
Elections are games that focus on the players. But even if we aren't running for office, we're never just idle spectators. As voters, we are responsible for who's on our team and how they play the game -- for their perfect shots and their foul plays. When we're right, we're right. But when we're wrong, we know the only honorable thing to do -- or else.
Stephen L. Goldstein's commentaries appear on alternate Wednesdays. Email to: email@example.com.
© 2006 Sun-Sentinel Co. & South Florida Interactive Inc.