O Oracle, Tell This, I Pray: Will Our Fate Be Sauerbrey?

October 27, 1994|By PETER A. JAY

HAVRE DE GRACE — Havre de Grace.--The media feel it in their guts. Those Sauerbrey voters must be nuts.

Their crazy causes, doomed to fail, are really quite beyond the pale. They don't respect the state's largess. It should, they say, do more with less. Less government, for heaven's sake! It makes a pundit's temples ache.

Who are these people, anyway, whose attitudes are so outre? They're in a nasty, bitter mood. To politicians, often rude. Incendiary though their rage is, they ignore the op-ed pages. The fax machine's their tool of choice. On radio, Ron Smith's their voice.

They're not ''mainstream,'' the papers charge, although their numbers sure are large. But OK, maybe they're just fringe -- neurotics on a right-wing binge, in which case they're best ignored until the status quo's restored. Or else it might be fun-and-games to condescend and call them names: Bible-thumpers, Kluxers, farmers, Clinton-bashers, tax-alarmers, term-limit zanies, rednecks -- oh, and those who voted for Perot. That makes a fairly piquant mix of (anti-mainstream?) politics.

Then add angry rural proles who see no need for gun controls, plus pro-life folks who, mad as hatters, can't understand it's ''choice'' that matters; those who think our schools are wrecks and ought to teach more math, less sex; and those who say it's now high time to crack down hard on violent crime.

You get: A clear majority in every county except three.

The mountain farms, the Eastern Shore, Glen Burnie, Dundalk, and much more -- here most people seem to say they'll vote for Ellen Sauerbrey, and what's more, they have no doubt, they're going to toss incumbents out. Pretty soon, they say with glee, Don Schaefer, you'll be history.

To Democrats, those polls embarrass. And yet, they're stuck with poor old Parris, who's got cash and lots and lots of anti-Sauerbrey TV spots. He knows just how to cut a deal -- but still, he's short on broad appeal. Can Glendening party bosses really offset statewide losses? A stiffer test has not been seen by P.G. County's vote machine. (It may of course prevail the way Cook County's did for JFK.)

In the press and academe, this year now seems a dreadful dream. As opposition gathers mass, who knows what soon will come to pass? If the winners are the rubes, will some careers go down the tubes? My egghead friends are apoplectic, flabbergasted, anorexic. If ''that woman'' wins, they fuss, think what might become of -- us.

By the trembling of my chums, I know that something scary comes. They sense its presence after dark; they hear its footsteps in the park, and almost think they feel its breath. Something somewhere smells of death. The tension's getting hard to bear. Paranoia's in the air. Leaves blow past in rustly squalls. Macabre shadows dance on walls.

Reagan-visaged candidates are rattling liberals' garden gates; though their masks are all ersatz, they terrify young Democrats. (The kids were taught to view the Gipper as a sort of Jack the Ripper, and naturally turn white as chalk to see him coming up the walk.)

In Ruxton (it was told to me) a member of the GOP donned a rubber Bob Dole mask and went two houses down to ask his neighbor for a trick-or-treat. But screams and cries soon filled the street. The neighbor's wife, whose name was May, saw Dole and fainted dead away. The neighbor dialed 911. The Dole-head wisely thought he'd run.

Later on, he laughed and laughed, and toasted William Howard Taft. Republicans, he said, aren't mean. We're just enjoying Halloween -- and, frankly, taking mild delight to see the our party cause such fright.

Peter A. Jay is a writer and farmer.

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