After screening the somber documentary Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire this past Sunday, I was privileged to sit back for a Q&A session that stands as one of my most entertaining enterprises of the year. Yes, the crowd was packed with leftists, which is usually a good thing, but in this case was a cause for angst rather than celebration. As the conversation turned from the movie to politics in general, a particularly obnoxious member of the audience decided that it was time to say that because there is no difference whatsoever between John Kerry and George W. Bush, it was best to either refrain from voting or waste one’s vote on some obscure nitwit from the Independent Worker’s Party of America. While Kerry is far from the perfect candidate, let alone the perfect Democrat, we are left with him as the only significant nominee opposing President Bush in the fall. I’d be much more supportive of a man like Dennis Kucinich, but even if he managed to escape the primaries (or convention, which almost always rewards the safe, moderate choice), he’d be massacred in the general election. America as a whole is simply unwilling to embrace a genuine left-wing candidate, so what purpose would be served by serving up a sacrificial lamb for the Republicans? Yes, Kerry is dull, and uninspiring, and in many ways as beholden to business interests as Bush, but there is enough of a difference to present a genuine choice.

More than that, though, what riled me up about the discussion was the belief that the starry-eyed idealism of the college classroom translates to the real world. I will always be sympathetic to the progressive cause, but in no one’s lifetime will it be possible to elect as president (or even Senator) an atheist, a homosexual, a Marxist, or even a relatively sane Socialist [Ed Note: In any real numbers. Yes, there are (Barney Frank) exceptions]. No fucking way. And even if a stealth candidate of radical ideals found himself in the White House, he would have to deal with a Congress that would, at best, be hostile to his intentions. But rather than face this stark real world picture, these overly pierced dreamers would rather openly advocate a suicidal mission than accept pragmatic goals. Kerry may not end the occupation in Iraq, and he will almost certainly maintain the status quo regarding trade and defense, but he is just as likely to be more (much more) reasonable regarding Supreme Court appointments. And if left unchecked by having no threat of a re-election campaign, Bush’s second term will certainly be more radical in terms of environmental rollbacks and budget-breaking tax cuts. And does anyone really believe that a Kerry White House will be as obsessive about secrecy? And only the brain-dead could argue that Kerry’s Attorney General would be as fascistic, superstitious and anti-constitution. Dull and establishment, perhaps, but decidedly not Goebbels-like.

Instead, I had to argue with fellow liberals that yes, it is preferable that we elect Ken Salazar to the Senate rather than grandson-of-a-Nazi Pete Coors, even though Mr. Salazar might not be a lackey of Lenin. But as the Colorado Democratic primary fight ensues, these numbskulls would rather support Mike Miles, a pleasant, genial man who would no doubt be better, but has proven to be a dud in the polls. Against both Republican possibilities, Miles is trounced, yet Salazar wins handily. It’s not ideal, but as the Senate is nearly deadlocked, every “D” helps. At least it should. But these people seem to think that running “Crazy Larry,” the eccentric homeless guy from Boulder, is a noble demonstration of principle, rather than a recipe for certain defeat. And when I suggested that Washington ignores the poor and minorities because they don’t vote, I was nearly escorted from the theater. It always amazes me that those who scream the loudest about injustice are usually the ones who do nothing about it.

So these college students may think it’s, like, hip to vote for Nader, or say that Democrats are just as, like, evil man, as Republicans. Without distinctions however, nothing of value will ever get done. Just as a college dean cracking down on heroin use in dorms is not an infringement on free speech, John Kerry is not as frightening as George Bush, at least if political labels are to mean anything. And fine, Kerry’s revolting pandering to religious fuckheads, or wearing his military valor on his sleeve are not things I admire in a candidate, but I recognize what is required to get elected in this country. If these bums really wanted to alter our political landscape, they could start with “the people” they so romanticize — these ignorant, subliterate goons who prefer junk food inhalation and obsessive TV viewing to rational thought — and encourage them to get their opinions from more than some loony website with links to the “truth” about Ron Brown’s “assassination.” If our democracy is broken and battered and the candidates less than inspiring, I blame the citizens who always, to a fault, accept the bare minimum as acceptable.

As for the film, well, it was predictably depressing and sickening, but nothing I haven’t heard before. It’s a less jazzy version of Fahrenheit 9/11, which is fine, although at this point I’d like some new information. Still, it warrants a viewing, if only to watch Dick Cheney once again say with a straight face that Saddam was mere minutes from sending a nuclear holocaust in our general direction. Such bald-faced lying always makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.