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Archive for November 18th, 2004

Election

Posted by Brian on November 18, 2004

(I’ve been working on this post for a while now… part of the delay in actually getting it online was because of problems with Blog City)

The e-mails have already started coming from my foreign friends around the world, all with the same question: “What’s wrong with America, Brian?” How do I answer them? Considering what was at stake here, simply saying, “Sorry, we did our best,” hardly seems sufficient. I just hope my friends can find the time to read their own local sources that I’m sure will explain exactly what went wrong and how.

Regarding Kerry the candidate, I don’t fault him too much. Looking back, I think he ran a pretty good campaign… consistent, disciplined, and relatively clean (compared to the bottom-dwelling Bush campaign; the way they denigrated the war-time actions of a decorated war hero leads me to conclude that every single Republican supporter ought to be ashamed of themselves). I had my doubts from time to time, but it all came together at the end. I do regret, however, not being fully confident from start to finish… I really do.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, The Big Ho comes along and tells me I was blinded. In his words:

So now I’m gloating. Not because I take pleasure in a Bush win: this blog has documented plenty of complaints about Bush. I’m gloating because I’m witness to what blind hope does to people who really should have been more practical. There was no way Kerry was going to win this. The overall mood of the country was too obvious to ignore, but many Kerryites chose to ignore it, anyway, in making their confident predictions.

Hardly. Considering the various so-called incumbent rules, and given the various polls we were seeing prior to the big day, and given everything else (biggest debt in history, most jobs loss since Hoover, just to name two Bush negatives) there was no way this was a lock for Bush. Heck, as I mentioned during my live-blogging, the freepers were panicking early on when the the first returns were looking good for Kerry. So even his supporters must have had some doubts, no?
Sure, maybe the echo chamber effect might have boosted our hopes a tad higher than they should have been, as Salon’s Andrew Leonard discussed. And Leonard is right to suggest that next time, people on the left spend less time high-fiving each other at Daily Kos day after day and more time on the streets actually talking to people and getting their read on things. But damnit… the win was within our reach… so we went for it.

And even if we did somehow know that Kerry’s chances were bleak… what does Kevin propose we do? Stay home? Don’t bother? God help the Middle-Earth if the Big Hominid was on hand to council Frodo, “You know, Frodo, the odds really are stacked against you. Don’t get your hopes up.” We put on our best game face and struggled onward because, as any high-school football coach will tell you, confidence is half the battle. And if, along the way, our confidence ended up obscuring the huge challenge we faced, then so be it; I’d rather be overconfident and lose than be pessimistic and hand over a victory without a fight.

But that’s not the only line from Kevin that I take issue with:

And by the way: the absolute worst thing you can do for your own cause is to claim that most of your countrymen are stupid. You simply confirm the stereotype that liberals are arrogant and elitist. You can be better than that. Fight smart next time around. Don’t proceed on the basis of delusions.

This reminds me of the new breed of feel-good education, where students are never wrong or stupid, they simply have different answers or ways of thinking. Remember this poll:

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

Now I have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of Bush suporters when they pulled the lever/pressed the button/check the box for Bush (“Jesus saves,” perhaps)… maybe they thought Bush was the man most likely to make homosexuality a capital offense so he won their vote on that. I’m not gonna criticize these people for having opinions (not matter how outlandish) and voting on them. But really… looking at the results of the survey above, a large number of them probably had all sorts of misconceptions about Iraq, misconceptions that could have been easily proven false with a simple trip to a library or an hour of websurfing. So, despite calls from both the right and the left to avoid making such a judgement, I have no choice… I can only conclude that a large number of Bush supporters are stupid for the simple fact of believing things that are simply untrue (WMD in Iraq, for example) and using them as justifications for supporting their guy. And, even worse, by being stupid, they were abrogating their reponsibility to be a well-informed electorate, for which they should be criticized as well.

They’re the ones who need to smarten up, Kevin, not me… not us. These red-state yahoos are the ones who use delusions to buttress their support for a clueless and incompetent idiot like Bush. Bush the “regular guy,” Bush the “good Christian,” please… Bush, son of a President, grandson of a Senator, is the epitome of “elite” in our society. Meanwhile, his religious faith is about an inch deep and a mile wide, used to to attract the fundy vote but tossed aside as expendable whenever it might damage his political career. It’s a prop… a ruse… and people fall for it (hey, how about that time he mocked a killer on death row, begging for her life; how Christian is that?). The Bush they believe in is not the real thing… a studied look at the man will tell anyone as much. They’ve been had, and now the rest of the country has to be dragged down even further because of their rank ignorance.

But enough of that, I have other comments I want to go to. Next, Eric Alterman on the results:

The problem is just this: Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the “reality-based community” say or believe about anything.

They don’t care that Iraq is turning into murderous quicksand and a killing field for our children. They don’t care that the Bush presidency has made us less safe by creating more terrorists, inspiring more anti-American hatred and refusing to engage in the hard work that would be necessary to make a meaningful dent in our myriad vulnerabilities at home. They don’t care that he has mortgaged our children’s future to give trillions to the wealthiest among us. They don’t care that the economy continues to hemorrhage well-paying jobs and replace them with Wal-Mart; that the number without health insurance is over forty million and rising. They don’t care that Medicare premiums are rising to fund the coffers of pharmaceutical companies. They don’t care that the air they breathe and the water they drink is being slowly poisoned and though they call themselves conservatives, they even don’t care that the size of the government and its share of our national income has increased by roughly a quarter in just four years. This is not a world of rational debate and issue preference.

It’s one of “them” and “us.” He’s one of “them” and not one of “us” and that’s all they care about. True it’s an illusion. After all, Bush is a millionaire’s son who went to Yale and Harvard and sat out Vietnam, not even bothering to show up for his cushy National Guard duty, and succeeded only in trading on his father’s name and connections in adult life. But somehow, they feel he understands them. He speaks their language. Our guys don’t. And unless they learn it, we will continue to condemn this country and those parts of the world it affects to a regime of malign neglect at best—malignant and malicious assault at worse.

Bush supporters do not think, they merely respond to Karl Rove’s Pavlovian experiments on just how easily the American electorate can be manipulated. They see Bush parading around his multi-million dollar ranch in his $500 cowboy boots and think he’s one of “us.” They see Kerry windsurfing and think “them” (because really, how many Bubbas in America actually windsurf?). The issues themselves are a sideshow for the pundits to blabber on about… the “real Americans” vote on “character” and “family values,” not the issues. Ignorance reigns. America, and the world, loses.

And I’ll tell you what really burns me up, what really scares me… when one of these crazy Muslim terrorists decides to set off a dirty-nuke in America, he’s not gonna target East Bumfuck, Alabama, population 547… he’s gonna drop it in New York City, or Los Angeles, or Seattle… all so-called enclaves of leftism, all cities that I take pride in for their vibrant and diverse cultures, all cities that are a part of what makes America great (and just watch, the religous zealots will see a nuked American city as evidence of God’s displeasure in American “decadence”).

And when that happens… or when the Bush deficit cripples the American economy for good… or when the Bush Social Security privitization plan leaves our American seniors without the food and medicine they need, I’m gonna be ready to stick a fat finger in the face of each and every Bush supporter and let loose with a steady stream of “I told you so” (along with a few other choice words). Our current course is simply untenable… we are creating more terrorists far faster than we can kill them, and even the American economy with it’s millions of hard-working Americans can only hold up so much weight. The red-staters have set us on a path to doom, I’m sorry to say, and I will never, ever let them forget that they are the ones responsible.

To the millions of Americans around the country who worked hard for the Kerry campaign, you have my eternal gratitude. Some called you mercenaries, I call you patriots. My own Mom, I’m proud to say, actually volunteered for the Kerry campaign in Washington State. I only wish I was able to join all of you on the ground there as part of your noble cause to ensure that everyone gets a chance to vote (as opposed to the Republican tradition of standing in the way of people voting).

For my American friends and co-workers who were too busy or lazy to vote… I don’t want to hear a peep from any of you about the direction Bush takes our country. You had your chance to speak your mind a few days ago but chose not to. Just sit in the back of the bus and shut up.

Now, on to something positive: What did I learn from this disaster:

First, I am a Democrat. I didn’t really have a political affiliation either way prior to the election as I had my own little differences with the Dems over the way they operate, but the reign of Howdy Doody as made it clear to me that we all have to choose sides in this battle for the heart and soul of America. While I admire and respect the efforts of people around the country to help raise a third party to nationwide prominence, the American electoral system, for good or for bad, just doesn’t have room for them. Of course, they’re free to organize how they like – this is America after all – but I feel a moral obligation to choose a side, the Democratic side, even though the fit isn’t perfect.

Second, paying attention to this election more than any other in the past has revealed to me just how corrupt and dishonest the Republican Party really is. They have no interest in responsible governing or leadership… their eyes are on one thing and one thing only: power. Last-minute turncoat Rodney Alexander was welcomed with open arms to the Republican Party, never mind the odious manner in which he did so (waiting until the final moments before the registration deadline so that the Dems couldn’t find a suitable replacement); while crooked-as-fuck Tom Delay is admired in his party for his “strong” leadership (for example, leading the way in money laundering, sleazy off-year gerrymandering, illegal fundraising, strong-arm tactics, among other things). There’s no tactic too low, no candidate too corrupt for the Republicans to take a step back and think for a minute, “hey… is this what we’re really about?”

Now, with the post finally winding down, it was at this point that I was originally planning on saying my goodbyes to politics for a while. My outrage meter has been set at 11 for the past 2 years or so, and I felt that I just didn’t have it in me to continue putting up much of a fight. I though that for my own mental health, it would be better for me to stand down for a bit… take a breather. But as I bounced around the left-wing blogoshpere looking for advice, looking for help in handling my rage and utter disappointment, I found certain comments that inspired me to stick to it. For example this one, from Steve Gilliard’s blog:

I was in Los Alamos, NM, before and after the terrible fires a few years back. I was doing a collaborative research project there at the National Laboratory. The fires were unbelievable. You would have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate what it looked like. The fire was consumming everything. They couldn’t stop it, it was running over everything. It was racing for the National lab and nothing, I mean nothing could stop it. I was told the firemen, ” fire warriors” really, kept falling back, and falling back, trying to get a grip on this unforgiving blaze. However, as this “monster” reached one particular road, the road that separated it from the laboratory, they built a line. These very brave men and women said that nothing, nothing, was going to get thru that line and to the laboratory. This monster, (this monster!), that destroyed 100s of homes, so much wildlife, too many trees to count, drove all the residents from their homes, and burned so many acres of land your eyes couldn’t see where it stopped, came to that line and used all the force it had to cross it. And it tried, sparks would jump across. Evergreens caught, the winds of the fire blow towards the lab. They say the sound of the fire was so loud you could hear it in Santa Fe. The smoke could be seen in Albuquerque. Just the heat of the blaze caused the blistering of skin. But, those warriors held the line. They held the line. The energy of that monster blaze eventually ate itself. And that fire did not cross the line and destroy the laboratory.

I don’t know why I wanted to tell you this story that was told to me except that your writings evoked the vision of the fire line. Our 49% community has to draw the line. And here the 51% will not pass. Kerry tried. And man he is good, really good. That’s why they smeared him so hard. Didn’t Rove say something like by the time all this was done Kerry wouldn’t know what war he had been in. I really wanted John as my President. I still do. I’ve read all this whining on the blogs. All this “we worked so hard”, “we gave all our money”, “its the gays”, “the young didn’t vote”, “we have to appeal to the religious right wing”, yada, yada, yada. And our own 49% bashing Kerry. I think he is extraordinary. I couldn’t have stood the shit they threw at him. The damn catholic bishops going after him. People saying he should have yelled at the SB liars. Where the hell was the dem party? The dem party and the dems need a spine. And this going on about our needing to only put Southern candidates up for election as having any hope of our ever getting a dem president elected. PLEASE!!! Where the hell was the Boston tea party held? Where did Paul Revere ride? Those Twin Towers were in NYC not the South damnit! And New Yorkers went to work the day the Towers fell and everyday after it. What are we now ashamed of our heritage and who the hell we are? I don’t dance to the GOP tune. They are playing us for fools. And we are buying it. Do the 49% think the GOP didn’t sweat in the last couple of weeks? They were terrified after that first debate. This past week’s info on the missing explosives in Iraq was driving them around the bend.

This election either makes us grow a real spine or we die and this country goes to hell. We only really just started to get a spine this past year. A year ago we said there was no hope but man we came really close this time didn’t we? Really close with a wonderful man that most of the country never heard of before this year. I was never political before but damn I am now. I feel like qouting Cher in “Moonstruck” and slapping the whiners and saying “snap out of it.” Yeah we lost. But, not by much. JFK the first has a quote “…pay any price, bear any burden…”. This is where we begin to pay the price and bear the burden. Its grassroots. We draw the line. What truths do we hold dear and self evident. The only thing the GOP does well is stick together, you don’t catch them bashing each other. Bush is an idiot in the debates and they say he is manly, commanding and amazing. I’ll say he was amazing. I’d never seen anything like Bush before in a debate.

I am so proud of Kerry and Edwards. I had hoped they could serve as our fire line. They tried. Man they really did. But, obviously it isn’t going to be easy. We like quick fixes so we can go back to our lives and let someone else do the lifting. Nope. Nada. It is up to us. We can’t leave it to only two guys. We’re the line.

If we want to be.

Then there’s this letter, in response to a touching Salon article on Ms. Anderson, a 96-year old African-American voter:

Yet with this election, I thought not only was the fight lost, but also that I didn’t have the strength of will to continue fighting. Your article has changed all that..

I will remain in this country. I will strengthen my resolve to stand and to die if I have to, in order to secure the civil liberties of every human being on this planet, not just Americans. I will do this for Ms. Anderson, and for those others who were not born a white, American, heterosexual, Christian male and therefore are not afforded every advantage that this country can provide, and yet have fought against great odds to secure those rights and advantages.

I may get tired, I may get frustrated, and honestly, a part of me wants to just give up and let the Bush team run the country into the ground. But I find myself unable to throw my hands in the air in despair and just walk away. I just can’t do it. While I can respect those who are leaving the country in response to Bush 2: The Nightmare Continues, I will continue the fight as best as I can from my own little corner of the world. I will continue to butt heads with my opponents on the right, I will continue to hold America to a very high standard, and I will continue to hold Bush accountable for dragging our great nation’s name through the mud. It’s the least I can do as an American citizen.

So for all you Bush supporters out there… enjoy the next four years. Go ahead and mock us, laugh at us, threaten us, accuse us of being traitors, unpatriotic, or friends to terrorism. Go ahead and try to stack the Supreme Court with other like-minded right-wingers… try to deface the Constitution with amendments banning gay marriage and flag-burning. But never forget this… there are 55 million Americans like myself who don’t share your vision and we will fight you every single fucking inch of the way. We will not cede you a single thing…

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