Kerrey-McCain in 2004: A Star-Spangled Ticket

Article excerpt

In 1988, a candidate for the US Senate spoke to a group of hearing-impaired teenagers at Boys Town, Nebraska. He told of how he lost part of his right leg during the Vietnam War.

"At the end of his speech," Ivy Harper wrote in her excellent biography of Bob Kerrey, "his hearing-impaired audience, with arms outstretched, repeatedly fluttered their hands from above their heads to their waists: silent thunderous applause."

In the 1960s, a generation of young Americans was drawn to politics by the leadership of John F. Kennedy. In the 1980s, another generation was inspired by the bold confidence of Ronald Reagan. These two presidents, miles apart on many issues, shared a romantic optimism about America and the self-confidence to truly lead.

Today, many young people are repelled by politics, while many senior citizens nostalgically remember the political giants who called us to greatness. Half our nation is so disillusioned with lesser-of-two-evils choices that they don't even bother to vote, while growing numbers regard the political process as corrupt or irrelevant.

I propose that Democrats, independents, and progressive Republicans initiate a draft movement to support former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey for president and urge him to invite Republican Sen. John McCain to be his running mate, in whatever political affiliation they believe would best unite the country.

America is ready for a campaign of integrity, honor, patriotism, reform, bipartisanship, and service that challenges us to "ask what we can do for our country."

Such a campaign could inspire record numbers of voters, and motivate the next generation of young leaders at all levels of political and community service. This ticket would have the potential to carry all 50 states and, in the meantime, would challenge George W. Bush to rise to the occasion to become an even better president.

Before Mr. Bush's inauguration, I wrote that both parties should reach out with bipartisan goodwill. Sadly, only weeks later our economy drifts downward, the permanent campaign continues, and politics sinks back into a morass of cynicism as special-interest lobbyists ask what their country can do for them.

In recent days there has been an attack on worker-safety protection, new anti-bankruptcy bills at a time of layoffs, a retreat from the president's promise to combat global warming, and efforts to destroy campaign-finance reform, as a great battle unfolds in Congress.

Serious discussion of a Bob Kerrey draft would add vigor and excitement to the loyal opposition. It would set a standard for debate, while promoting a powerful and inspiring candidate. …