Nader and Buchanan should demand a title shot

By A. C. Kleinheider
web posted October 2, 2000

With all due respect to Jonah Goldberg, I believe the youth vote is important. Those who feel disaffected from and disconnected with American politics need to be encouraged to embrace the franchise. They might not have studied the issues with the care of a neoconservative ideologue or with the intimacy of a Brookings Institution scholar but they are citizens nonetheless. Their needs, feelings and identities can and should be expressed politically. We should bring as many of these people into the process as possible. Additionally, we should make sure that those who have stopped voting, or those who have never voted, know the full range of choices available to them. In that spirit and to that end, Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader should immediately announce their acceptance of (even though they were not invited) the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) Presidential debate proposal, the Smackdown Challenge.

The WWF has registered over 100,000 new voters in its voter registration drive. This is significant considering the WWF's strongest demographic (males 18-34) is often a politician's weakest. The ten minutes WWF Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon has offered the two major party candidates on its UPN program Smackdown, would amount to nothing more than free advertising that Bush and Gore, with their millions in soft money, could more than afford to buy. For a program that prides itself on spontaneity and entertainment, ten minutes with the prepackaged Bush and Gore would be quite boring for fans who expect nothing less than "RAW IS WAR". Extending the invitation to the two "major-minor" party candidates, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, would not only be more befitting a WWF event, it would highlight the additional electoral choices that disaffected voters might not realize they have.

Pat BuchananGovernor Bush and Vice-President Gore most likely will not accept the Smackdown Challenge. If WWF Entertainment really wants to affect the electorate and provide a public service they would use the ten minutes they allotted for Bush and Gore something like this: Linda McMahon comes down to the ring and announces the latest tally in the WWF's registration drive. She then proceeds to renew the Smackdown Challenge, "On behalf of the WWF fans, I would like to reissue the Smackdown Challenge to Governor Bush and Vice-President Gore. Smackdown reaches millions of potential voters every week and they would like…" McMahon is interrupted by unfamiliar music (something patriotic) piped in full blast throughout the arena. WWF play-by-play announcer J.R. shouts, "What is this…whose music is that??" Two men emerge from the staging area. J. R. suddenly exclaims, "My goodness it's…it's Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and they are making their way to the ring! It looks like these two want to exchange some words with Linda McMahon about the Smackdown Challenge!"

Ralph NaderNader (now in the ring holding a microphone) proclaims, "Mrs. McMahon, Pat and I have been collecting signatures, getting on ballots and trying to raise money all over the country to compete with the two parties but they refuse to debate us." Buchanan (also with a microphone) says, "Yes, in what I am sure was an oversight by your staff, my friend Ralph and I did not receive our invitations to the Smackdown Challenge. We would like to take this opportunity to accept and call out George Bush and Al Gore publicly and challenge them to do the same." (At this point you could even have Libertarian candidate Harry Browne come out and threaten to hit someone with a chair until Nader assures him that he too can join the Buchanan/Nader tag team) Linda McMahon could then proceed to interview Buchanan and Nader (and Browne) using the remaining minutes for a third party debate of sorts.

This would be a stroke of promotional brilliance on the part of both the WWF and the Buchanan and Nader campaigns. This mini-debate and challenge to the major parties would make every newscast and be discussed on every Sunday talk show in addition to reaching millions of young voters. It would serve as a catalyst to ignite the struggling campaigns of Buchanan and Nader. Any moral objections that Buchanan might have to the content of the WWF product or Nader might have to the show's rampant commercialism would surely be outweighed by the outreach this kind of appearance would achieve. Young, angry working/middle-class white guys are Buchanan's bread-and-butter and those kinds of folks abound in wrestling audiences. Nader's more left-leaning working class radicalism would also play well to young people disaffected and not yet wedded to a party label.

The RockBuchanan and Nader should seriously consider giving the order to their respective communications directors to make the Smackdown Challenge a high priority. Bush and Gore will not accept the Smackdown Challenge just as Buchanan and Nader will not be allowed in the Commission sponsored debates. The WWF needs a debate and Buchanan and Nader need a "big" forum. Their interests coincide perfectly. Buchanan and Nader need 5 per cent in the general election to be recognized as "official" parties next election cycle giving them the much cherished ballot access and the much-needed federal funds they need to ensure their parties' survival. The Smackdown Challenge is the answer to their problems and they should, as The Rock says, "Just bring it."

A.C. Kleinheider is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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