Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The morning after
Kerry has conceded, against Edwards' advice, apparently. All hope is now extinguished.

This one really hurts, folks. It hurts for me personally because this is the first presidential election in which I have personally invested my time, energy, money, and hope. I spent countless hours working the phones and knocking on doors, not to mention knock-down, drag-out arguments with recalcitrant voters who were considering Bush, Nader, Badnarik, or a write-in. I guess it only really stings if you really care. I cared in 2000 too, but I didn't do a damn thing for Gore, not a phone call, not a rally, not a dime, not a moment. I gave this year, and I gave 'til it hurt. And I believed. Last night would not have felt like a slow-motion root canal if we had known all along that Kerry was going to lose, if this had been 1984 instead of 2004. Today I would rather that I had never loved at all, rather than loved and believed, and lost in the most cruel fashion possible. I feel like I have been unplugged. I feel the terrrible and lonely solitude of self, alienated from this strange and indecent society that has so thoroughly rejected what I believe are fundamental principles of tolerance and fairness.

It hurts because John Kerry is a decent man with a decent set of policy proposals that would have helped the least advantaged in this society and gone at least a short way toward repairing some of the socio-economic disparities that are slowly transforming our republic into a quasi-aristocracy. Kerry, a man who knew the horrors of war, unlike the 2nd Armored Warbloggers Division (to paraphrase Atrios) and the armchair hawks, would have restored some sanity to our foreign policy, though truth be told, he would not have fixed its primary, long-term pathologies. Kerry would have been the first Vietnam Veteran elected president, and the first anti-war activist to boot. He deserved to be president, if for no other reason than the brave and compelling speech that he delivered to congress 33 years ago. But the wounds of Vietnam have not healed. Senator Kerry's candidacy, thanks to the Swift Boat smears, seems to have been the final casualty of that catastrophic mistake.

The recriminations are already on their way. We ran too far to the left, we didn't run far enough to the left. We should have picked Edwards or Lieberman or Gore, or Kerry should have picked Gephardt for Missouri or Vilsack for the Midwest. That's all well and good, but some fundamental realizations are in order. First of all, the Republicans are the more popular party in the United States right now. They are more popular because they appeal to the naked self-interest of each and every American, and because they have effectively appealed to fears of terrorists, of the Other, of gays, elitists, left-coasters. They have taken those fears and dressed them up as "values." They are more popular because they are better self-promoters, because they control the talk-radio airwaves, because they dominate the military, and because the Democratic party has completely abandoned vast swaths of this country to their control with nary a fight. We are outnumbered. If 3.6 million is the number, than so be it.

It hurts because the Bush administration's second-term agenda is genuinely radical. The forty-year movement to eviscerate the New Deal, which began with Goldwater's kamikaze run in 1964, has culminated in the re-election of this aggressivey ignorant millenarian simpleton, a man whose genius appears to lie in how completely he has abandoned himself to the "us-versus-them" worldview. William Saletan's answer to why we "keep losing to this idiot" is precisely that -- he is a simple man. He is wrong about everything, but somehow that is appealing for people. People like simplicity. Simple meals, simple movies, simple morals.

Bush intends to privatize social security, and he will surely resurrect the FMA after enlarging his majorities in congress. Depending on who wins the internal struggle for Secretary of State, the aggressive policies of the so-called neo-conservatives may be given new credence and legitimacy. Americans and Iraqis will continue to perish in the increasingly ugly Algeria-style nightmare in the Middle East, and his tragic indifference to Ariel Sharon's consolidation of Israeli power in the West Bank will just make everyone in the region hate us more, if that's even possible. America couldn't win a popularity contest with Stalin in the Middle East right now. It wouldn't even be close. Not that any election with Stalin ever was. Say goodbye to dialogue with Iran, and say hello to confrontation, possibly violent, with Syria. A nuclearized, polarized Middle East with an Islamized, anti-American, and completely unstable Iraq at its center is a distinct possibility.

Back at home, Bush will lower taxes for the wealthy again, bringing us closer and closer to the intellectual climate conducive to a flat tax, the end of progressive taxation, the erosion of any remaining barrier to the intergenerational accumulation of unearned wealth. Stevens can't hold out much longer in the Supreme Court, and Rehnquist -- if he lives long enough -- will step down, as will O'Connor. The right has won the moral battle over abortion, so overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't be half as controversial as it would have been even ten years ago. Civil liberties which are the foundation of a free society will be further endangered. More extremist anti-labor lawyers will be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board, card-check recognition will be scrapped, and the Employee Free Choice Act is a dead fucking letter. Any pro-labor reform is dead. In fact, labor could be dead altogether as a real force in American politics. Bush and the conservatives have managed to make "union" a dirty word.

I could go on, but what's the point? Those 58 million people had a pretty good idea of what they were voting for, of the kind of policies they were supporting and validating. Our people just didn't vote. Young people didn't vote, too many women and Hispanics defected to Bush, and Kerry lost too many party members to the other side. Whether our people really exist in sufficient numbers to win a national election right now is an open question. America has received the government that it asked for and deserves.

But for the other 55 million people, those of us who voted for John Kerry, this is a dark day indeed. I have no idea how to move on. It is tempting to suggest, as a wise and trusted friend recommends, a move to Canada or New Zealand. I cannot say that I am not considering it at some point. But I was sitting in my office this afternoon, after running two thoroughly depressing discussion sections for my dispirited students, and I glanced up at the map we have on the wall, the map of the United States of America. I hadn't looked at it like that in quite some time, just the states, not red and blue, but all of them together in their peculiar shapes and sizes. And I thought, this is my fucking country too, and I'm not giving up on that easily, not after one election, even one incredibly important election that has set progressivism back by a generation.

We must continue to fight. Mourn for an appropriate period, cope by whatever means necessary. Then mobilize. Fight back. Learn. Inform. Believe. And love again. For what could be more cruel than to lose not just an election, but hope itself?


At 2:12 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

I am personally contemplating moving to NZ, Ireland, or Iceland. In that order.


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