What's at stake in the 2000 elections?

Rosa Parks, David Duke, Steve Wozniak, Camille Paglia, Al Franken -- and dozens more -- talk about what inspires and frightens them about the political year ahead.

Topics: Al Franken, D-Minn., Camille Paglia, Barney Frank, D-Mass., Steve Jobs

Stephen Wozniak, founder of Apple Computer

I don’t think anything is at stake. I made a promise to myself a long time ago — back during Vietnam — not to be political. People act as if their candidate winning is a life and death matter. It’s not. They think things will get better if their guy wins. It doesn’t. I don’t like stepping on people, don’t like to be associated with that kind of distraught energy. I have broken my vow not to vote a few times — McGovern, Carter, Hart. And though I’ve given money to Bradley I dont intend to vote this election. We’re going to be so well off in the coming century, and it has nothing to do with politicians. The computer economy is what’s driving the prosperity. It’s the Yahoos, Apples and Microsofts that are creating a better life, not politicians.

The greatest problem we have in society is the widening gap between the rich and poor. If there’s one thing the next president should try to do is to redistribute wealth a little more equitably. I don’t have the vaguest idea how to do that. All I know is that here in Silicon Valley, the richest place on earth, there are people with families working seven days a week and they dont have enough to live on. That isn’t right.

This problem is going to be exacerbated by another huge problem looming in the next decade — the lack of high Internet bandwidth for everyone. Cable and phone companies are bypassing a lot of homes for their high-speed modems and DSL lines. Those who get bypassed will be marginalized more and more, left behind in the wake of the computer-driven economic boom.

The model for the next president should be Steve Jobs. He has the sharpest mind of anyone I know. He can see what’s good for people and give it to them before they even know they want it. And he does it without resorting to selling junk.

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Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine

We’ll know what’s at stake if the economy goes south. Americans vote their pocketbooks, but none of the candidates are talking about the economy. Go figure.

The biggest problem we face is the assault on privacy and the violation of our civil liberties. We thought we had a defender in Clinton, but he sold us out with the Communications Decency Act.

Privacy and individual rights are more important to this country than foreign policy, which will be run by the same lame bureaucrats that have always run it. We need a president who’ll champion civil liberties and not do something stupid like Clinton did when he signed a law [the CDA] he knew was unconstitutional so that the Supreme Court’s rejection would give him political cover. The next president needs to have a strong set of principles he won’t sacrifice on the altar of expediency.

The election result that would make me the angriest is anyone other than McCain winning. This is the first time in my life I’ll ever vote Republican. Gore and Bradley are dumb and dumber, Steve Forbes looks like he’s embalmed and Bush is nothing but a crack-boy wimp.

We’ve got an eight-month ongoing investigation on [a mainstream presidential candidate]. It won’t be released until we have all the signed affidavits. When politicians advocate public policies contradicted by their private behavior they open themselves up to investigations like ours.

The model for the next president should be JFK. He had the ability to inspire. Nobody running today inspires. There’s no class, no eloquence, just a bunch of idiots on stage. Both Democrats and Republicans are frightened of McCain and they should be. It’s ironic that a POW has a “take no prisoners” attitude. But we need that and haven’t had it since Harry Truman.

Rosa Parks, civil rights heroine

The most important issue in the next election is providing a good education for all youth. I want to see that young people have a good and clean environment to learn in, and I’m most worried about their education and technical literacy.

The election result that would make me angriest is if people don’t bother to vote. What would make me happiest is if we had the largest turnout in history.

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David Duke, former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People

The one thing the next president could do to make things better is defect to Israel, taking Jonathan Pollard with him. At least people would know who the president works for. The most pressing problem looming in the next decade is Jewish supremacism and third world fecundity.

I’d rather see Chris Rock get elected than George Bush, John McCain, Bradley or Gore. At least he’s funny. Once each party elects a nominee it won’t look like a wrestling match or a roller derby. It’ll look like a bar mitzvah.

If I had George Bush, John McCain, Bill Bradley and Al Gore over for dinner I’d ask them why they have all sold out their heritage for 30 million pieces of Zionist money and media approval, and then I’d let them all wash the dishes and hope the garbage disposal sucks like a black hole.

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Camille Paglia, author and Salon columnist

The overwhelming political issue for the next quarter century is the restoration of credibility and competence to our foreign policy team, which the inept Clinton administration has turned into the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The U.S. military, which saved the world from Hitler, has been abused and misused to bomb civilian targets and now languishes as a police force in minor outposts, wasting our financial resources and compromising our national security.

The next president must be someone who respects the military and who will restore it to full readiness. The military should not be a laboratory for p.c. social engineering. My own Democratic Party could lose the White House to the Republicans because of this one issue alone. The Northeastern major media have woefully misjudged the depth and breadth of unease about military matters among the electorate.

As for the leading presidential contenders, George W. Bush seems like a nice fellow with lots of testosterone to spare, but he’s intellectually underprepared and marginally talented for geopolitics and can’t seem to get a coherent sentence out under stress. John McCain, the pampered pet Republican of myopic liberal journalists, is a dried-up twisted sister who’s quick with a quip but who has no perceivable talent whatever for national leadership.

Al Gore has squandered his once solid vice-presidential dignity in desperate, yammering stridency. People are just plain sick of him, and even many Democrats are dreaming of a Clinton-free millennium. Bill Bradley seems far more centered and trustworthy, but I have nagging reservations about his management style. We don’t need another imperial presidency like that of the moody, reclusive Richard Nixon.

Finally, both political parties had better move their asses to nominate a woman for vice president, or there will be hell to pay.

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Stanley Crouch, author and Salon’s newest columnist

What we have in front of us is the possibility of putting together a program cultivating our most important natural resource — the population. Society can’t progress properly with the high drop-out rates and illiteracy. People either become a burden or a menace to society. We’re heading toward international warfare, but instead of land, it’s markets the world will fight for. You take those markets by a well-trained work force.

The next president can help by identifying people across the country who have a high success with the uneducable population, like the Kipp Academy in the Bronx, and use them as models for the public school system. We need a task force formed with people who have met the dragon and taken his head.

We also need to legalize drugs to break the back of the drug industry. Twelve-year-olds are making $50,000 untaxed. We have to make that impossible. Whole families in the inner city are getting corrupted by the easy money.

None of the candidates have shown me enough to decide. I like what McCain and Bradley are saying, though. McCain is an extraordinary breath of fresh air for the Republican Party. Forbes too, he’s got blacks as senior campaign managers. I’d like to see the Republican Party liberate itself from being a white party.

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Al Franken, former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and author of “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot”

The 2000 election will determine whether we continue going in the direction Clinton started — a sort of common-sense, doable liberalism — versus going back to the tax-cut, anti-environment conservative agenda. The best thing the next president can do is to find a way to keep the economy going so we don’t have to make the awful cuts we did in the 1980s, like closing psychiatric institutions and making the mentally ill homeless.

The biggest problem we’ll face depends on which neighborhood you live in. If you’re in a bad neighborhood, it’s crime and violence. If you’re an international businessman, it’s terrorism. My biggest fear about the election is that Americans will decide George W. Bush is a lightweight and vote for him anyway. I’d love to have Bush, McCain, Bradley and Gore over for dinner. I’d serve lots of wine and get them looped. I’d ask Bush about the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act). Just to see if he knows what it is. I’d also ask him what part of Jesus’ philosophy he draws on. He said Jesus was the biggest influence on him, but he seemed to have trouble explaining why. He didn’t seem terribly familiar with Christ’s teachings.

I doubt I could cross the line and vote Republican. I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war.

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U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla.

The next president and the next majority party in Congress will decide the direction our nation will go at the dawn of this new millennium: toward policies of further economic growth, greater freedom from big government’s constraints and more opportunity for our children and grandchildren; or toward the old models of more regulation, litigation and taxation.

While I believe that neither Democrats nor Republicans can solely take credit for economic upswings, Washington can create a fertile environment for it to occur. How? In most cases, by getting out of the way, removing the barriers to opportunities through lower taxes and less governmental regulation and dependency.

The most pressing problem we have is helping those left behind in these good economic times. Over the last 40 years, we’ve spent over $5 trillion on social programs and we have even deeper poverty today than we had in 1969. Until we move toward more incentive-based approaches through targeted pro-growth tax benefits, increasing home ownership opportunities and involving faith-based organizations in the solutions, we may never be able to eradicate poverty.

I have never been angry about any election result. Certainly, I am pleased to have more Republicans elected who are willing to fight for greater freedom, less government intervention into our lives and more opportunities for all Americans.

President Lincoln, regardless of his political views, had the courage to do the right thing regardless of the consequences. He was a man of principle and conviction. These are the qualities that we must return to the White House and demand of our president.

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Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings, named one of the 50 most powerful women in American business by Fortune Magazine

What’s at stake? Not a whole lot, and that’s the problem. The mood is that we need a president to preside rather than lead. Certainly our continued prosperity and world leadership is at stake but the stakes don’t seem to be visible to the public.

In some countries people don’t vote because they don’t think it will make a difference. In the U.S. people don’t vote because they don’t want to make a difference. We’re coasting; life will get tougher and we may not be prepared. We’re completely ignorant of foreign affairs and we’re taking our economic prosperity for granted. Kids used to take history to learn America’s role in the world; now they only learn that the world wants to copy us. It’s harder to make the distinction between advertising and editorial. We’re cynical but not very sophisticated. As Oscar Wilde said, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We need a Roosevelt to shake us out of our complacency. Things are going so well we no longer honor courage. Roosevelt himself was courageous and he brought it out in other people. He wasn’t afraid to tell us life isn’t supposed to be easy, that we have to band together. We don’t have anybody doing that right now. I’m a big believer in free markets, in knowing your customers and giving them what they want, but not in politics. Politicians shouldn’t be looking at polls to find out what we want, they should be persuading us of what we want.

We need someone with a Steve Jobs level of vision. Jobs didn’t give customers what they wanted, he gave them what they didn’t know they wanted. Politicians should persuade us, not ask us what we want. They should try to change our minds rather than pander to our prejudices.

Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, author of “Locked in the Cabinet”

Whats at stake? Whether the nation is going to take its extraordinary prosperity and reinvest it in people who haven’t been on the rising escalator. Whether we’ll put it into their education and their health, and thereby let them on board.

The biggest problem we have is the lack of universal health care — the single largest missing item on America’s unfinished social agenda. We haven’t repealed the business cycle. When the economy softens, as it inevitably will, and unemployment rises once again, well be totally unprepared. We’ve ripped out the safety nets — welfare, low-income housing, unemployment insurance (now available to only about a third of people who lose their jobs) — and put almost nothing in their place. This will be the first large domestic challenge faced by the new president.

I’ll be very angry if George W. Bush is elected president with only a small portion of the adult population of the United States voting, and Bush’s huge wad of campaign cash having blanketed the airwaves with mindless advertising. I’ll be happiest if Bill Bradley is elected president, in part by a significant number of people who never bothered to vote before or haven’t bothered for years, and a clear mandate for universal health care, better education for poor kids and an end to the scandal of campaign finance.

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Kevin Phillips, author of “The Cousins’ Wars”

What’s at stake is how the U.S. will deal with economic globalization, fairness and even the threat to some aspects of U.S. democracy. The next president needs to combine smarts, toughness and integrity. We haven’t had all three in one package for decades. And it’s hard to see how we will in 2001, either.

The biggest problem we’ll face in the new millennium is the corruption of U.S. politics, policy making and economic allegiances. I’d be angriest over a landslide win for George W. Bush or Al Gore. Either mix of hubris and mediocrity would be dangerous. What I’d like to see is the various third parties — Reform, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law — get a combined 15 to 20 percent of the vote to keep the pressure on the Republicans and Democrats. I agree with McCain, the model for the next president should be Teddy Roosevelt.

Among the top candidates, the best composite would mix John McCain’s outrage over corruption, Bill Bradley’s I.Q., Al Gore’s wife (for first lady), George W.’s people skills, Donald Trump’s wealth-tax amenability and Pat Buchanan’s candor and guts on globalization, bankers and bail-outs.

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Ishmael Reed, author and publisher of Konch

What’s at stake is whether the nation continues on this selfish, profit-happy, assets-driven course set by Ronald Reagan and continued by Bush and Clinton. If shareholders and their managers continue in this mad drive toward more excess it could lead to class warfare, which up to now the establishment has deflected by feeding the white masses the cheap moonshine of racism — blaming everything on blacks.

The next president needs to blow the whistle on how the modern president has become a sort of game show host and clownish tabloid entertainer, while the corporations dictate policy through their “coin-operated” Congress, flouting the wishes of the majority of Americans on such issues as gun control, Social Security, health care, the environment and homelessness.

The most pressing problem is global warming, which may do to man what the asteroid did to the dinosaurs. Some are saying that the point of no return has been reached. We can blame this on the conscienceless notion of “progress,” which was inherited from the French Enlightenment, designed by a handful of off-campus racists and anti-Semites who influenced racists and Indian haters like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The election of George W. Bush would be a disaster because he’d merely be a hireling for the money behind him. At least Clinton reared up against them from time to time. Bush’s comments on out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates shows he is as uninformed on social issues as he is on foreign ones. I find his constantly being photographed with black children sickening, given the number of blacks in Texas jailed for engaging in activities that are considered pranks when practiced by white fraternity brothers at Texas colleges — nonviolent drug crimes.

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Barbara Ehrenreich, social activist, national columnist and author of “Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War”

What’s at stake? The fate of our species, as usual. The one thing the next president could do to improve the world is shrink the military-industrial complex to about a fourth of its present size. It would still leave us better prepared to kill large numbers of people than any other nation on earth. The money thus freed can be used to defeat the real threats to America — like poverty, illiteracy and environmental degradation.

Among the many contenders for most-pressing problem, I would choose the ever-growing economic inequality, which condemns about a fifth of the nation to trailer homes and slums while the lucky few at the top huddle in their gated communities.

The worst election result would be for Americans to go to the polls in large numbers — say, more than half the eligible voters — to elect the smirking frat boy from Texas. (There is no danger, though, of Americans going to the polls in large numbers.) The result that would make me happiest would be for large numbers of people to boycott the election — or better yet, picket and demonstrate at the polling places — to protest the meagerness of the options before us and their uniform commitment to the status quo. Outside of that unlikely eventuality, I see no possible sources of personal happiness in the sordid campaign that lies ahead.

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Andrew Sullivan, author of “Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex and Survival”

Most people don’t think the Senate will change hands, but the House is clearly at stake in the next election. On domestic policy, the differences between the two parties are still small. My main worry is that the surpluses will be funneled into more entitlement programs if the Democrats take back the House and White House. My secondary worry is that a Republican in the White House will add hardcore reactionaries to the Supreme Court. Avoiding either of those things is more important than any positive contribution anyone is now proposing to make.

The next president needs to propose a flat tax on all income and capital gains, eliminate all deductions and direct all the surpluses to reducing the national debt. In addition, we need to means test Social Security, build a viable strategic missile defense and end all federal affirmative action.

Our biggest problems? The widening black-white economic and social gap — intensified by the digital revolution — and the continuing failure of African-American kids in high school. Abroad, it’s the management of a resurgent Russia and unstable China.

If George W. Bush were elected with Richard Gephardt as speaker, we would have the worst of all possible worlds. My ideal outcome would be McCain as president and an even narrower Republican majority in the house than the current one, empowering moderate Democrats and liberal Republicans in a reformist administration that would be fiscally conservative at home and competently vigilant abroad.

A model for the next presidency? Calvin Coolidge. Less is more.

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Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Her latest book is “The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton: A Novel”

I don’t know what’s at stake in the elections mostly because I don’t care. The easy answer is a return to governmental responsibility, but I don’t know what’s underneath that. Our political situation reminds me of a wonderful medieval story called The Lord of Misrule. The governmental system in the story gets ossified and the Lord of Misrule breaks it up in unexpected ways. When the lord gets deposed the next leader puts the system back in a way that works. “Misrule” in the story didn’t mean the lord was incompetent but that he accomplished by chaos. Clinton is our Lord of Misrule. He brought chaos in his wake and in the process changed the paradigm of what government was supposed to be. It’s up to the next leader to figure out how to put the pieces back together.

One of the things Clinton’s chaos shattered is the paradigm of the fearless leader, of the “need” we have for a war hero or a sexually upright, morally inspiring leader to look up to. Nobody looks up to Clinton, and yet as a country we’re fat, happy and rich. If that paradigm is gone, what do we need? Probably a reasonable person who wants a government in working order. In that way, Gore is probably our best bet. His “Reinventing Government” rationalized the federal bureaucracy.

Eleanor Roosevelt is my model for the next president. She was effective and compassionate. She knew what was public, what was private and when to put public importance on the line. Bush’s election is the only thing that would really anger me. My mom, a lifelong Republican, expects a kind of vacancy in the party leadership, but I don’t.

John Judis, journalist and author of “The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of the Public Trust”

What’s at stake is American prosperity, but I’m not sure whether the candidates themselves will do the alternatives justice, since all of them are enraptured with the idea that the surplus must be preserved at all cost. It’s the latest bout of fiscal mysticism to cripple our politicians.

The next president might be faced with an unforeseen challenge — for instance, a new international monetary crisis — that calls for a major restructuring of the international system. But given our current lack of crises, I would opt for a major rehauling of the campaign finance system that would include banning soft money, public financing of House and Senate elections and strict regulation of independent contributions to require full disclosure of contributors. I would also close the loophole against billionaire candidates, if necessary through a Constitutional amendment.

We have to come to terms with the new global trading (and monetary/labor/environmental system) to prevent breakdowns (such as occurred in Asia the last decade), to encourage the spread of worker rights and environmental protection (including a global warming treaty that has some effect) and to devise an approach domestically that allows all Americans to benefit from this new global, information economy.

Electing George W. Bush (a mediocrity, though probably a benign one) and a Republican House and Senate would make me very sad, if not angry. Electing a Democratic president and Congress would make me the happiest. Over the last decade, the Democrats have edged toward becoming the national party that they were from 1932 to 1968. Let the trend continue.

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Dan Savage, nationally syndicated sex advice columnist and author of “The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant”

Instead of a Republican revolution I’m hoping for a Republican evolution. Can the Republican Party in the 21st century still be known for what they’re against? How long can they survive as the anti-fag party?

Republicans are losing the culture wars and they know it. When you lose a war you either lay down your arms or go on a spectacular suicide run. It remains to be seen what they’ll choose.

The best thing the next president can do is legalize marijuana and end the war on drugs. The abuses of this so-called war are a threat to our civil liberties. How can we say we’re a free people but you can’t grow that weed in your back yard? Every time legalizing marijuana gets put to a vote it succeeds overwhelmingly. Politicians carp about listening to people, but they’re stone deaf on this issue.

The headline I don’t want to read the day after the elections is “Bauer Defeats Bradley!” Though I wouldn’t mind seeing “Ventura Defeats Bush!” My model for the next presidency is Gore Vidal because he’s brilliant. Just once in my life I’d like a president who’s smarter than the average third grade teacher. We thought we had one in Clinton because, unlike his two predecessors, he spoke in full sentences.

Will America’s sexual practices change when the president who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants leaves? I doubt it. Clinton got America talking about oral sex but so will Bush if he gets elected. His “Jesus is my political philosopher, my wife is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me” shtick will drive people straight into their bedrooms and out of their trousers.

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Lucianne Goldberg, literary agent and founder of Lucianne.com

What’s at stake is whether we continue eight years of corruption. The best thing the next president can do is get rid of everyone that had anything to do with the Clinton administration.

All the bad things trickle down from the health of the economy. As long as somebody doesn’t ask Amazon.com for cash the economy will be fine. The richest company in the world doesn’t have any cash. How did that happen? The next president’s biggest challenge will be to keep the market going so everyone can be rich. Though if that happens, there’ll be nothing left to complain about.

We need Ronald Reagan back, his patriotism, his honesty, his iron will, his uncompromising belief in what’s right. The good news is that there isn’t a Clinton in any of the top four candidates. Gore’s getting the splatter effect but he’s a decent guy. Of the four, I’d vote for Margaret Thatcher. She’s the only one in the group who isn’t a sissy. Bush is twinkling and fun, but I’m sorry he stopped drinking. I like a president who takes a belt now and then. McCain I like because he gets mad at the things that matter.

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Bill Press, co-host of CNN’s Crossfire

More so than ever in our lifetime, whats at stake in this election is the future of the American republic. Our economic strength, our leadership position in the world, our goal of equal rights and opportunity for all Americans: It all hinges on what new direction we take on Nov. 7.

There is no one pressing problem looming in the next decade. There are many: reforming America’s public schools, protecting the environment, protecting our right of privacy in the information age, campaign finance reform, shaping a post-Cold War foreign policy, reshaping and downsizing the military to fit the 21st century, maintaining America’s leadership in global trade, providing economic and educational opportunity, equal rights and basic health care to all Americans.

The most important thing a president must do is to maintain our economic strength, because that is the key to accomplishing every one of the above goals. It means a steady hand, paying off the national debt, no deficit spending and no massive, inflationary tax cuts.

No doubt, what would make me most angry in November 2000 would be the election of Donald Trump. Not that Pat Buchanan would be much better. But Trump’s trump would mean the ultimate disgrace of the presidency, the ruination of the republic and the best reason for cashing it all in and fleeing to Canada.

There are two men the next president should adopt as models and mentors: Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. Teddy, for having the courage to challenge the special interests, defend the environment and defy his party leaders. FDR, for ignoring the naysayers, inspiring the American people and building the strong foundation that still shapes this nation.

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Mike McCurry, former Clinton press secretary

The first election of the 21st century holds the presidency, the control of Congress and the future direction of the Supreme Court at stake. It’s hard to remember a recent election when all three branches of government were up for grabs. Whoever sets the most dynamic and energetic goals in the center of the political spectrum will have a huge advantage leading into the next century. Hopefully, one of the candidates will define a new dynamic centrism in this election that will be appealing and will capture the imagination of the American people. What’s at stake is, quite literally, plotting our course as we enter the new century.

The biggest problem we face is adapting to the supernova changes to information technology. Every way in which we access people, institutions and information is undergoing fundamental change. A communications policy will be as important as a foreign policy. Technology will bring profound changes in taxation, privacy and the relationship of the world around us. The next president has to help the country adjust to the coming changes, especially the way government interacts electronically with people.

The election result that would upset me the most is an independent candidate like Pat Buchanan getting enough of a showing to distort the true victor between the two main parties, thus denying a true mandate.

What would make me happiest is to see the next president and Congress on the same wavelength so we can get something done. We haven’t had that scenario since LBJ.

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Ward Connerly, chairman of the anti-affirmative action California Civil Rights Initiative, which campaigned for the passage of Proposition 209

The next administration needs to unify people more. We’re dividing ourselves by race and identity too much. We’re drifting apart from each other, polarizing ourselves. The next president has to do a better job of being a president to all the people. Toni Morrison said Clinton was the first black president, but he needed to be everyone’s president, to represent all the people, so we all feel we have a stake in the presidency.

The biggest problem we have is the growing racial divide, which is second only to the rights of gay people. We’ll solve the race problem long before we solve the gay rights problem, because at least we’ll talk about race. We won’t talk about gays. Any group of people whose rights are diminished by the majority is a concern. There are no asterisks in the Constitution that say “gay people exempted.”

The only result that would really make me mad is the election of Al Gore. He’s a mean-spirited man who doesn’t lay out his cards honestly. My greatest electoral wish is for Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s to be cured so he could take over again. In many ways he was a simple man, but he made you feel good and made you want to do more for the country. I saw a lot of JFK in Reagan.

Maggie Gallagher, director of the Marriage Program at the Institute for American Values and a nationally syndicated columnist with Universal Press.

What’s at stake in the 2000 election? Three big things: the future of Social Security, the future of education reform and (perhaps) the future of marriage. The window of opportunity to strengthen and rebuild a marriage culture is fairly small. Already sophisticated intellectual, judicial and political coalitions are attempting to reduce marriage from a basic social institution to an individual consumer good. No society can survive if what children need (such as fathers who live with them) becomes merely one of a list of adult lifestyle options.

The next president can reaffirm the key role of marriage in this culture, creating a marriage-friendly tax code and welfare system, and reconfiguring federally funded teen pregnancy and contraceptive programs so they emphasize to young people the importance of postponing babies until marriage.

First, the decline of marriage as the normal, usual and generally reliable way to raise children. Second, the unfunded Social Security obligations that threaten the well-being of seniors and the future ability of government to meet its other obligations.

I would be most saddened by the election of Hillary Clinton, which would reward some of the sleaziest political and personal behavior of the last hundred years; plus we’d have six more years of watching the dysfunctional duo and personally, I’ve had enough, haven’t you?. The happiest? Elections don’t make me that happy.

My model for the next president is Ronald Reagan. He didn’t just want to be president; he knew why, and he accepted compromises that moved him toward his goals. The best of the top contenders would mix George W. Bush’s joie de vivre, Bill Bradley’s gravitas, Gary Bauer’s new abortion rhetoric and Alan Keyes’ charisma.

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U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.

The 2000 election will be extraordinarily decisive. The very character of our institutions of government is at stake. Control of the White House and Congress are both in play. Furthermore, the next occupant of the White House will determine the character of the Supreme Court for at least the next decade.

The most important thing the next president can do is restore the dignity and proper role of his office, and by doing so, renew the American people’s trust in them.

The greatest policy challenge America will face in the next decade is making certain increasingly rapid technological changes and increases in government power do not threaten Constitutional rights and public safety. For example, Constitutional rights must not be threatened by privacy-eroding technologies, the spread of weapons of mass destruction must be checked and we must not allow advances in genetic engineering or evolving diseases to threaten public health.

I would be most thrilled to see Steve Forbes in the White House and a solid Republican majority in the House of Representatives. I would be most distressed to see Al Gore in the White House and a Democrat majority in the House. However, the worst result of all would be disappointingly low voter turnout and interest.

My model for the next president is George Washington. A man of unquestioned integrity, vision, bold leadership and deepest respect for public service.

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Matthew Hale, founder of the white supremacist World Church of the Creator

One thing the next president can do to make the most difference is to publicly repudiate American support for the state of Israel. This would end the hatred many around the world have for the United States — hatred which often manifests itself in terrorism against American citizens. It is time that the United States reclaim the friendship of the Arab world by ending its economic and military support for Israel.

The most pressing problem looming in the next decade is the racial problem. The simple fact of the matter is that the much lauded “diversity” people talk about is actually a severe weakness — the more diversity there is in America, the more disunity there is, and the more disunity there is, the more likely there will be instability and violence in the country. Unless we wish to go the route of Yugoslavia or the old Soviet Union, the politicians in Washington had best enact laws designed to preserve white majority status in America. Otherwise, this century will witness the country breaking apart into ethnic enclaves.

I want the candidates to talk about why they are selling out the future of white Americans. My hero is President Andrew Jackson, who told the bankers they could go right straight to hell when they tried to tell him “how things were done” in Washington. As a consequence, he is the only president who ever reduced the national debt to zero.

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Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and author of “The Advocate’s Devil”

The separation of church and state is at stake in the 2000 elections. This is the first election that could endanger the Jeffersonian principle we’re founded on and turn us into a European-style country where religion is part of the government. The main candidates act as if they’re running for bishop rather than president.

The president is not the defender of the faith, he’s the defender of the Constitution. The one thing the next president should do is make it clear that religion is a private matter. People are terrified of expressing religious skepticism. People who don’t belong to mainline Christianity are in danger of being converted into second class citizens.

This is becoming a Protestant election, where the candidates seem to be debating who’s the better Protestant. Implicit in that conversation is a kind of racism. To proclaim you’re Protestant is to proclaim you’re not Italian or Catholic or anything not Protestant. If the only people talking about government are mainstream Protestants, then anybody not Protestant can participate in the discussion. This is divisive.

Only Buchanan’s election would make me angry. He’s a throwback to European fascism. Bush isn’t qualified to be our accountant let alone president. The model for me is FDR. He brought people together. He kept us from going too far to the left or the right.

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Linda Chavez, director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1983-’85)

What’s at stake domestically is whether we let individuals manage the wealth of this country or have the government manage it for them. Will we cut taxes or let the government keep spending? This is important to the continued growth of the country. Do we go forward or back to a welfare state?

What’s at stake internationally is America’s role in the world. Clinton squandered our power by using it promiscuously and not having a clearly defined set of guidelines. Our military is degraded while our commitments have increased. The looming question is how do we use our power and what are the parameters of involvement?

Our biggest problem doesn’t lend itself easily to a political solution — the assault on the family brought on by the high divorce rate and out-of-wedlock births. We have to work that out culturally, not politically.

I’d be angriest at the election of Hillary Clinton because I just want both of them to go home to Arkansas. They’re two of the most annoying people in my political memory. The model for the next president should be Ronald Reagan because he wisely spent his political capital on just a few things — a return of our military power to its previous might, a cut in taxes and a reduction of the size of government.

If I could mold the next president from the current crop of candidates I’d take Bush’s policies and sensibilities, Bradley’s wit, McCain’s courage and nothing, not a damn thing, from Gore.

Rev. Floyd Flake, former U.S. representative from New York

The control of Congress is the predominant political stake. How will the House set the agenda for the next few years? Will we continue to have egregious laws that hurt minorities? Will we continue to sentence recreational drug users to 25 years in jail? We need to get out of this conservative mode that’s so damaging to so many. Our great economy needs to be balanced with opportunities for poor people.

The greatest crisis facing this country is the inability to educate all children equally. Urban schools will need the leadership of a president willing to step out of a straitjacket that limits our ability to share resources so that all students have an equal chance of getting a quality education. You can’t be the “education president” in words alone. The economy can’t sustain itself unless we lessen the gap between the haves and have nots.

The one thing the next president can do is consider school choice as an alternative when a school system, like New York’s, says they can’t educate children yet they don’t want to let go of the children because they represent a dollar value in terms of state reimbursement.

Nothing about the election would make me angry because I think both parties are about the same. Well, no, the election of Pat Buchanan would make me angry. The model for the next presidency should be the LBJ/JFK duality. They knew the blend between vision and the process for achieving that vision.

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Ariel Dorfman, Duke University professor of humanities and author of “Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey”

What’s at stake? Nothing. And everything. The 2000 elections generate a zigzag, seesaw, schizophrenic attitude in me. No sooner does the skeptic inside observe that nothing will change much because none of the candidates are really willing to question the system itself, when I’m reminded that the Supreme Court matters, that universal health care could soothe so much suffering, that nuclear weapons could still blow up this planet, that a president who is not afraid does in fact make a difference. That’s when I think this election is of enormous significance.

The one thing the next president could do? Take money out of politics. No advertising on television. Ever. But that would be like asking the next president to slit his throat. Only an enraged populace (Where is it?) could force that sort of reform without which democracy is a travesty.

As a Chilean citizen with a green card I watch the consequences around the globe of what voters here decide. We have the power to abolish world hunger, particularly the hunger of children. It can be done.

In “Liar, Liar,” Jim Carrey portrays a lawyer who for 24 hours is forced to speak the truth, no matter what the consequences. I’d like to see a president follow that model for four years. Or even four days. But we can’t ask anybody in power to do something like that unless and until we are ready to demand the same conduct from ourselves.

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U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

The most important task for the next president is to emulate Franklin Roosevelt by devising a strategy to support continued wealth creation through the free market system while implementing public policies which diminish the excessive unfairness, environmental damage and unnecessary instability that result from a wholly unregulated capitalist system. For FDR, these included the Fair Labor Standards Act, Social Security, the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The unaltered effect of technological change and globalization will continue to increase wealth in the world, but in a way that exacerbates inequality, jeopardizes some aspects of the quality of life, and leads to periodic financial crisis. The job of the next president is to offset these tendencies without damaging the ability of the capitalist system to increase wealth. It will be harder because of the international dimension than it was for FDR, but it is equally important.

The perfect president would have Bill Bradley’s deep commitment to resolving our racial problem; Al Gore’s talent for mobilizing public-sector resources to deal with social problems; Steve Forbes’ willingness to defy the establishment taboo; John McCain’s ability to charm the media into overlooking his extremely conservative record; and George Bush’s mother.

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California State Rep. Antonio Villaraigosa, D-L.A.

The next president will have both the opportunity and the obligation to address some of the problems that remain where the economy meets the nation’s social needs: access to affordable health care, education, the long-term health of Social Security and Medicare, welfare-to-work issues, sustaining the winning combination of environmental protection and economic growth, and helping our work force cope with an evolving economy.

In Los Angeles, I and others have been talking about “the tale of two cities,” the phenomenon where we have one of the widest disparities between wealth and poverty anywhere in the U.S. I believe this disparity plays out at the national level too. We talk about having the best health care in the world but we ignore the fact that it doesn’t do much good if people who need it can’t afford to get it. So, I think the biggest problem is finding a way to make sure everyone shares in America’s prosperity and that it benefits them in ways that are useful and meaningful in their daily lives.

I would be extremely disappointed if we end up with a conservative takeover of the federal government just because some voters are plagued with so-called Clinton fatigue while others are too alienated or apathetic to participate.

My conception of leadership involves envisioning what kind of result we aspire to and then employing our related ideals in the process of achieving the result. It’s not an end-justifies-the-means approach, it is collaborative consensus-building. That means bringing people together to seek common ground, creating solutions and accepting the outcome of the process. I see Martin Luther King Jr. as a model for this. He took on some of our society’s most intractable problems and did it in a way that attempted to involve and empower the most disenfranchised among us.

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Spalding Gray, actor and author of “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Morning, Noon, and Night”

The opportunity is clear-cut: Redirect defense spending to education and to people. We’re spending so many dollars on defense but defense against what? I once tried to do a monologue about redirecting dollars away from the defense department but I gave up — too complicated. It’s a deeply ingrained business that’s difficult to shift. The B-52 bomber is made in 32 states. How do you redirect that? But we have to because the money is needed so badly in other areas, especially the environment. In New York there is no environment, just buildings.

But in Long Island, where I live, we’re assaulted with environmental dangers. As one father whose son died of cancer from a toxic waste dump said, “Is this the sacrifice for progress?” The choice isn’t to stay and fight or leave, because if you leave, where do you go? It’s happening everywhere. The greatest problem we face — the degradation of the environment — isn’t “looming” ahead of us. It’s here.

I’m reminded of Norman O. Brown’s “Life Against Death” where he mused over humankind’s neurotic self-destructive death wish. I hate to see another wealthy Republican get in. I fear for the environment when Republicans are in charge.

My model for the next presidency is Thomas Merton. He blended the spiritual and political. Though even if we got somebody like him I’m not sure what good he’d do. I’m still under the paranoid suspicion that the Fortune 500 runs the government.

What’s missing from the political process in 2000 is a kind of charisma that grew out of a primal, mythological base. The Lewinsky scandal is a sign of the banality of the times. The Kennedys wouldn’t have been brought down that low even though worse was going on because we gave them the distance and reverence we don’t give politicians today. We don’t allow for a charismatic, mythological leadership. Kennedy would have said, “Get off my fucking lawn,” to questions the current candidates are only too eager to answer.

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Ben Cohen, founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream

The next president has to straighten out our nation’s mixed-up priorities. America’s schools are literally crumbling, and 11 million of our kids don’t have health care. Yet, the Pentagon gets about 50 cents of every dollar allocated by Congress, while education gets 8 cents and health care gets 6 cents. Meanwhile, America spends twice as much on defense as the China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and all other potential adversaries combined. This is nuts.

The next president should trim 15 percent of the Pentagon budget and invest the savings in America’s schools, health care and other state and local priorities.

The most pressing problem in the next century is defense contractors. They give politicians three times as much money as even the tobacco industry. The next president must fight off defense contractors — and pressure from other politicians addicted to contributions from the weapons makers — and transfer wasteful Pentagon spending to building strong communities.

We’re angry and will remain angry until politicians actually fund all the wonderful programs they talk about. “I’m for education,” they all say. Well, where’s the money going to come from? And once the candidates tell us how they will fund their proposals to improve, for example, health care and schools, what will they actually do once they are in office?

The model for the next presidency should be President Dwight D. Eisenhower, America’s last five-star general, who said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists and the hopes of its children.”

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U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.

The make-up of the Supreme Court is at stake. The next president will appoint two or three justices. The other thing we have at stake is how politicians treat each other. If Democrats take over the house they’ll restore dignity to the proceedings.

The biggest problem we face is health care, particularly the uninsured. It’s hard to believe we can’t provide the minimal basic service that all human beings in this country should have — health insurance. The lack of it puts uncertainty in people and wears away confidence in other areas of their lives.

Assimilation and integration is another huge problem. How do we continue in this country to integrate immigrants without stripping away the culture they bring with them? How do we respect and honor our differences but at the same time work towards shared national goals like prosperity and security? There has to be a way of doing that without annihilating immigrants’ language and culture.

What would make me angriest is Giuliani winning the New York Senate seat. Giuliani is a bully, and maybe New York needs that, but the Senate doesn’t. His method of processing and being will be ineffective there. Besides, there’s only nine women in the Senate — we need more.

The model for the next president should be Cesar Chavez, who understood the humanity of people and fought to restore the dignity of people who have less. The best of the rest would include McCain’s outrage, Gore’s intelligence, Bradley’s vision and, of course, Bush’s money.

Michael Alvear is the author of "Men Are Pigs But We Love Bacon," a collection of his sex advice columns, to be published by Kensington Press in May. He lives in Atlanta.

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