Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Reflections on Elections

Here's just a few thoughts:

Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed in the results of this election. I don't think I'm angry about anything. I don't think that's the way to react to an election where the people spoke their peace. But I am very disappointed and, well, frightened.

The thing about the fright, however, is that it works both ways. The rather remarkable Bush victory was bolstered most by moral values. It was the #1 issue among Bush voters and, in some of the gay marriage referendum states, the only reason they went to the polls. I voted for Kerry because the Christian right is scaring the shit out of me in its views on what have been termed "moral values." The middle of the country voted for Bush because my liberal proclivities scare the shit out of them. It's fair on both sides.

I'm just not sure how to reach for the middle on this one. Everyone is saying that they're ready to move on and put their differences behind them and unite the country. I can honestly say that I don't feel that way.

I think that the evolution of order in human society is the by-product of an expanding tolerance for others or the enfranchisement of that other. From the first laws that outlawed the killing of another man to the freedom from social bondage to the abolition of slavery to the Civil Rights of the 60s, I think that tolerance is trending up while fear of the unknown is trending downward. I also think that, every so often, there's a test period, where people fear the unknown so much that they cling hard and fast to what is known. These people tend to be more isolated, less familiar with that unknown and thus foreseeability is an issue: How do I know what hell will come of letting gays marry if I know no gay people? I think it's understandable. And I also think that will change. It's part of our social progression.

I'm pretty sure that the religious basis for arguments are a hinderance to the progression, but not a definitive roadblock. Religion has held very powerful sway forever, with precepts of religion used to justify any of humanity's abhorrid social creations. I think that, here too, the great force of social progression will eventually overcome the fear of the unknown that leads people to hold on to religion. (I don't want to sound callous on this. I think one's religious beliefs are their's alone. I cannot question that. But what I can do is make a prediction on evidence of a larger trend. Let me be clear, I do not think religion is the enemy.)

So how do we help the trend along to expand the tolerance? I'm really not sure. I do know that only 18% of people who cited moral values as their key issue in this election actually voted for Kerry. I think the Dems need to increase that number a lot and make people realize that A) there is nothing to fear and B) Democrats have moral compunction too.

Couple more points:

--I think it's obvious that a huge mistake was made in appointing John Edwards as the VP candidate and not Dick Gephardt. In retrospect, I can't see how this was even an issue. Here's a guy who has been a champion of the working class in the traditional sense, not as a flashy trial attorney. I think Gephardt would have anchored the ticket, allowed more of a connection with the union worker who's freaked out about terrorist attacks and nipples during halftime and, instead, focused his attention on jobs and the economy. That was a huge mistake.

--Going the other way, would Dean have been a better choice than Kerry? Hmm...I'm not sure about this. I'd like to view Kerry as the Democratic version of Bob Dole in 1996: part of the establishment, perceived as "out of touch", and somewhat unresponsive to the burgeoning grassroots movvement in the party. Make no mistake, the GOP won in 2000 and 2004 because it has a far better mobilized base that, I'm pretty sure, does not really identify with Bob Dole. Well, I think the same thing could happen here. Dean's ability to motivate and mobilize the Democratic base is essential for 2008 and I don't think that base had a whole lot in common with John Kerry. Just as Republicans use religion as a rallying point, so too must Dems find their unity in something: Internet, education, Civil Rights. I don't think Dean was a better candidate in terms of electibility. But in terms of charging the Dems, I think he would have made the party more streamlined and energized. Of course, the risk there is that Dean only hardens the Republican resolve because, like I wrote above, Dean's agenda scares the ever-loving shit out of religious, rural, conservative Americans. Any thoughts on this?

I obviously have a lot more to say on this but, you know, I got shits to do.

20 Comments:

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Wait, Gephardt? But then Kerry would have lost all the states that Edwrads helped him win, like, um, well, they almost took Alabama or something. Bahhh.

My jury is still out on the Dean hypothetical. I wrote the other day that I thought he'd win in a landslide, but seeing how they red states came out and voted yesterday, now I'm not so sure. Either way, I woulda been psyched to actually root for a candidate instead of aganist the incumbent.

 
At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number one/two issue in this election was fear of terrorism and war in Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark would have won for the democrats, Bush has nothing on him in terms of role as commander in chief. I really don't think Dean would have done any better than Kerry.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger hoobs said...

i agree with you, donnie, that reaching across to both sides is not such an easy think to do. but perhaps i'm not so optimistic about the future as you are; i think that eventually people will have to become more tolerant, but it scares me that people have such a different notion of what "moral values" are. to one person anti-abortion, denying gay rights, and christian tenents are the definition of having high morals, yet morality does not enter the equation when discussing war. to another person, equal rights and fairness to all define morality, yet religious piety is scoffed upon. i just have trouble seeing how the two points will ever meet.

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger Gypsy Rose said...

"If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." - Hannah & Her Sisters.....

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger Gypsy Rose said...

"If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." -- Hannah & Her Sisters

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Who's Wesley Clark? Seriously, I haven't heard that name in six months...

I think Wesley Snipes, Wesley Willis, Wesley from mr. Belvedere or even Wesley Pipes would have still lost. You really have to hand it to the GOP for their incredible turnout...As I see it, I think any Democrat loses to this guy last night, which is a SAD SAD SAD state of affairs...

I'm reminded of the "Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" chants (I mean, I don't remember them, that was before I was born obviously). How much more can you fock up before people rise up and vote your black ass out of office?

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger ethan said...

good commentary going on over on ahren's site (http://www.ahrenlw.blogspot.com). thought you might be interested.

(also, the archives look great)

 
At 5:21 PM, Blogger josh said...

personally, i've been a dean supporter from the beginning, but i'm not so sure that he'd win either. i just think that the next 4 years are going to be extremely scary and that all of the boasting republicans that i know need to get their facts straight when boasting that "bush won more popular votes than any other president in US history" because if you look at it kerry received more votes than any other president in US history too.. plus, if you look at the next greatest popular vote it was reagan who received 54.5 million votes approximately; however, this was a landslide win for reagan. this year had a greater voter turnout than any other year in the past 3 decades, in addition to population growth. i admit it was impressive that bush actually pulled through and one it but if the republicans are going to boast at least they should do so without bias.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Don Fiedler said...

This is more or less what i posted on ahren's blog:

I think the big frustration on the part of Democrats is that we feel that there is just no way to get access via reasoned argument to the fundamentalist Christian establishment that has now won 2 straight presidential elections. If moral values are the rallying cry for these people (and they are), then what are we supposed to do? They base these values on religion and there is nothing an atheist/philosopher/economist can do to sway them. Christian conservatives will not be proven wrong on abortion or gay marriage or stem cells until they die. That is just plain scary.

So how do you "come together" on this? That's why I think the unity sentiment is hogwash. It reeks of sameness: I want to attract voters away from you by appealing to the middle and near right. Bullshit.

Plus, think about what the word "evangelical" means: ardent or crusading. These people aren't trying to appeal to anyone, they're not moving God to the center (which, by the way, definately needs to happen somehow). They're trying to convert you using their rationale: that you will go to hell if you believe otherwise. We have to create a culture of people who reject that argument based on tolerance and acceptance. I just don't see that person out there with the appeal to make that happen.

But if it's anyone, right now, it's some combination of Dean and Clark: Dean's enthusiasm and grassroots and "come on the bus" and Clark's cool, calculated rationalism. We need to blend these two together.

 
At 6:21 PM, Blogger Spanish Miguel said...

Hey, I've got a way to push all those "religious" folk to the side. How about if things get worse before they get better?

Those people who think that Bush just "gets" the war on terror and support him, haven't quite fully grasped what is actually happening in the world. First, they don't realize that growing anti-western anti-american islamic movement doesn't hinge on Iraq or any country (except Israel) and cannot be dispatched in a few years. It's something that is here to stay for upwards of 40, 50 years, like the cold war. Secondly, we, as Americans, do not realize how goddamn bad war is. We never have to fight them on our own land. Hence, no game show AND our government and public jumps to start wars overseas. We don't "get" that war is a lose-lose situation.

So to answer the question: how can we change the minds of people who believe God supports 80,000 dead Iraqis and 1100 dead Americans, yet bites his thumb at stem cell research? Well, how about the possibility of their kids getting DRAFTED or killed to make them forget about the gay guy inheriting his deceased boyfriend's rent-controlled apartment?

 
At 6:41 PM, Blogger Don Fiedler said...

But that's part of the problem, esse. The poor white Christian rural/suburban vote is overwhelmingly for Bush; yet I'm assuming that these people contribute just as many people to the military as inner city poor. These people are getting killed and they don't care. Bin Laden is pretty accurate when he calls Americans crusaders. Only zealots would continue to support a President that sends his own base off to war.

Sending these people to fight and die doesn't work. It won't change their minds...only strengthen their resolve.

 
At 7:00 PM, Blogger Tortfeasor said...

If there is a silver lining in this whole mess, it's this: When we enter our impending recession, which will be far worse than the quasi-recession we went through 3 years ago, people, including the bible-thumping right, will start voting with their wallets and not their bibles. Things are pretty much guaranteed to get much worse (economically speaking) before they get better, and that's liable to put conservative republicans out of power for a while.

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Spanish Miguel said...

Donnie, I disagree. People are patriotic and not scared because they haven't really been affected by what's going on. There are, i don't know, 100 million of these people in the middle of the country. 1,100 americans have died in Iraq. Vietnam had 50 times that. Iraqi casualties are already 80 to 100 times that. 200,000 soldiers seems like a lot of people over there, but they're mostly poor minorities or lower-middle class whites from proud army families.

9/11 and the war in Iraq have touched the lives of very, very few Americans. When Joe Kansas sees his countrymen beheaded on TV, he gets patriotic. When his son gets drafted, he'll get herpes blisters all over his body.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Gypsy Rose said...

I sort of agree with you Spanish. The worst is yet to come. And I did worry about a democrat taking over during what is sure to be a trying (understatement) 4 years. And the results of Bush's policies won't be completely evident to these people who voted on "values" for some time to come. Let him be the sitting prez when the sh*t really hits the fan. Inflation without wage increases, decreasing home values, the inevitable follow-up terrorist attack and a vietnam style quagmire in Iraq. But hey, at least they've got "god" on their side.

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

See, to me, it sounds like people WANT the economy to tank, want recession, want more things to fuck up because it's Bush. I dislike the president as much as any person on this site, but why are we rooting against ourselves? And don't say "No, I'm not," because some people on here and elsewhere really are looking for us to fail. This is why I tried to be so optimistic yesterday -- it's one thing to root against Bush for six months til the election, it's surely another to be doom and gloom for the next four years. That cannot happen. It just can't. Let's all pray to the Good Lord that helped Bush get elected that shit will be okay for us, that maybe he'll learn from his mistakes, that maybe we're gonna be prosperous and better prepared to deal with global events. Just maybe.

Spanish, I agree with you on many fronts about war in general...well said. But I think Donnie's right, a lot of these people do have sons and daughters in the military, more so probably than families who lost people on 9/11. So I think they have been touched by war, but not terrorism. And for some strange reason, these people look at the guy who helped kill their sons and daughters and they LOVE him for it. I just don't get it.

Either way, I keep repeating this mantra -- this is real, this happened, now we need to just go with it...I'm not saying don't criticize, don't protest, don't do whatever, but at least let's not root for our country to fail under Bush's watch. Because that's a failure for all of us...

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Ace, I see myself doing it. I was actually happy when I read the headlines that there were hundreds of tons of missing explosives in Iraq because I thought this would hurt Bush. But that's not so cool. So what to do? Who knows?

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Gypsy Rose said...

"No I'm Not." No really, I'm not routing for us to fail. I would be worried about the fallout of Bush's decisions regardless of who is in there. I do believe that we have charted a course that is not easily reversed. Bush could have spread those tax breaks across the board and stimulated the economy more, but he didn't. I don't want us to fail, but it frustrates me to no end that the same people who are getting screwed by Bush's fiscal policies embrace him because he cloaks himself in religion. But you're right. I don't want to see people without jobs, etc. just to prove a point. UGHHH.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger hoobs said...

i don't know if people really WANT the economy and the country as whole to fail. i personally would love the economy to be doing better and to know that i will have a job when i get out of school in 3 years. the thing is, i voted for kerry because i believe that bush has done a horrendous job in almost every policy: economy, iraq, terrorism, health care, etc. bush does not have a very high approval rating, even among those who voted for him. now that he has 4 more years and a very conservative congress, i don't see him changing policy but rather getting worse. he is the most bullheaded president ever, and he just won't waver on these positions (in fact it was a big selling point in this election). i think the comments on this site reflect the feeling of where do we go from here. being optimistic about the economy is one thing, but hoping for a terrible narrow minded person to reach across to the left just ain't gonna happen. i think the comments on this site just reflect the feeling amongst democrats, "what do we do now?" and i have no idea. maybe i am bitter, but i have never been more disgusted at this country and embarrassed than i am now.

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Hoobs, Gypsy, you guys make great points...and sadly, I don;t disagree on any of them. Yes, I'm shocked at the outcome of this election. Yes, I'm pretty embarassed when like four of my friends from Canada e-mail me "What the fuck?" I can't fathom this country really wants this guy in office -- two of the worst decisions in this country's history were made in his term...His decision to go to war and our decision to re-elect him (well, not our decision but rather our country's decision). I just don't think anything comes of harping on something that will not change, no matter how much you want it to. This is our fate for the next four years, like it or not, and I know 99 percent of Slackers on here don't like it. To me, it's just more productive to bitch about what may lie ahead than bitch about what lies behind us! And I might bitch about that movie What Lies Beneath, awful stuff. Well, actually I never saw it. But it looked like a scary chick flick. Do they make those? Is that a genre? Scary chick flicks...they don't hold a candle to futuristic action, the genre of Ah-nold.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger Hank Handstand said...

If there is seemingly no way to overcome the God-loving, gun-toting, we are family red states, then how did Bill Clinton beat Bush 1 and then get re-elected to a second term?

Is W that much better of a Candidate/President than his father or Bob Dole?

 

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