Thursday, November 04, 2004

Reflecting on America's Choices

There was a lot of doom and gloom yesterday on many of the blogs I read regularly. While I am more pessimistic about the short-term future of the country, I hope Kerry's loss will energize progressives to organize. We've done a lot over the last two years, but clearly we need to do more.

There's also beyond sour grapes about Kerry's loss on the part by some. Yes, clearly elections are still somewhat screwed up in parts of the country. This is unfortunate and needs to be fixed. But I do not believe the extent of dirty tricks in this election erased enough Kerry votes to prevent Bush's popular and electoral victory.

Here's the problem - four years ago, Bush absolutely did not get the popular vote. Florida was kind of dicey. So we had every right to be pissed off, not just at Bush but at the process.

This time, in addition to the minority and majority election judge every poll gets, there were all kinds of independent observers, from groups like MoveOn, Election Protection and from foreign countries. So while there was probably some vote fraud, and some voter intimidation, the evidence that it was pervasive just isn't there. Sorry. I'd like to say it was there. I'd like to blame it on Diebold. But I need evidence, and it just isn't there. If Diebold was doing some sort of massive fraud, someone would have noticed.

We lost, plain and simple. It's painful, but it's true. And, speaking as a person who worked hard for Kerry on this campaign, I'm disappointed. But his concession speech was because he is a realist. When I got up at 4am on November 3 and did the math, it was clear Kerry's election wasn't going to happen.

I am offended by people on the left calling Kerry a coward for conceding. He is not a coward, but he is a realist. Waiting until all the provisional ballots were counted isn't going to matter.

It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be pissed off about the election results, but it means we need to avoid too much hang-wringing and assuming Bush only won the election because it was rigged.

But here's what we've got to watch for.

For one thing, the politics of fear clearly beat out the politics of reality. That's frightening, because history shows that countries often go down the authoritarian path when the government knows that works. As clear-thinkers, we need to deal with the facts.

An oddity of our electoral map that sort of plays into the fear thing - did you notice that the states that had the highest number of 9/11 deaths (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and DC (and those blue-leaning northern counties of Virginia)) all went Democratic? As many people (including Jon Stewart) have observed, the folks with more direct experience with foreign terrorism on our soil did not vote for Bush!

For another thing, the social/culture war is doing more damage to this country than the Islamist terrorists have done so far. I don't accept that I am less moral than Dick Cheney because I approve of gay marriage and birth control - I haven't used a multinational corporation to rape and pillage my government. I will never accept that my beliefs that people must be true to themselves and responsible for themselves makes me less moral.

This event has the chance to energize progessives, and if Bush and buddies behave as badly as I expect they will, it'll piss off the right-leaning moderates, too.

We need to have our eye on the 2006 elections. There are now a couple of Senators actually to the right of Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's awful (as opposed to kinda bad) senator. We need to help Americans understand that regressive politics are very dangerous for our country (as if the war in Iraq shouldn't be enough evidence of this fact).

I'm not optimistic over the near term, but I'm not heading for Canada. Yet, anyway.

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