Viva Sandinista!

Meet the new Nicaraguan president. Same as the old one.

Published November 6, 2006 11:41PM (EST)

The Soviet Union is gone. So is Ronald Reagan. Ollie North is a talk show host and we are unlikely to be selling arms secretly to Iran an time soon (though with the current jokers in charge, who really knows).

But Daniel Ortega, Sandinista revolutionary, Hugo Chavez before Hugo Chavez was a twinkle in Venezuela's eye, is back! News reports from Nicaragua are declaring Ortega the outright winner of the Nicaraguan presidential election. Mr. North must be apoplectic -- just a few weeks ago he was in Managua, comparing Ortega to Mussolini and Hitler. Better get back to Virginia, Ollie, the electorate needs you to work your magic there, too!

It is beyond tempting to seek an omen from Ortega's victory for the midterm elections now just a few hours away in the United States. If a former Marxist who toppled a U.S.-backed dictator but now claims to be pro-free trade and troops around the country to the tune of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" gets a second turn at president, then anything is possible. Democrats can dream of not just the House, but the Senate. And 2008 and beyond!

Whoa! I guess that's what happens when news of Nicaraguan election results trigger flashbacks to 25-year-old memories of listening to the Clash through a haze of smoke. Those were the days!

Ortega may have mellowed, but Democrats looking for a last-minute boost to their chances could do worse than steal some of his campaign rhetoric. Ortega, reports Newsweek, "never misses an opportunity to highlight the country's profound social inequities. 'There is economic growth, but in whose hands is the wealth?' he asks the faithful in Lesn. 'This is the savage capitalism that concentrates wealth among the few and spreads poverty among the vast majority of the people.'"

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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