And so it goes…

I’ve been having a difficult time all morning trying to make sense of all the emotions I’m feeling and all the data I’m trying to absorb and process. Obviously, it’s one of the darkest days I’ve had in some years. The mood in left-leaning blogistan is utterly surreal, a gloomy silence descending on even the busiest blogs like Atrios, Kos, TPM, etc. This one, too.

So why did bush win? Why did 51 percent of Americans elect a president who oversaw an unnecessary and bloody war, a deteriorating economy, a loss of international respect, policies that harmed the environment, etc., etc.? Most of those polled said they voted for bush because of “moral values” — wedge issues like gay marriage were more important than the war in Iraq or the state of our economy. As Joseph Bosco notes, America is a conservative country, and Rove understood just how to play his conservative base.

Was this a cataclysmic defeat for the Democrats? It sure looks that way. But Josh Marshall, in an obviously anguished post, helps put the whole thing into perspective.

[W]hen I look at the results from last night what I see is that they are virtually identical to four years ago. Pretty much the same states going each way and a very close to even race — though of course the president’s 51% makes all the difference in the world.

As I said, if the Dems had been crushed, that would be one thing. If the American people were coalescing away from them, etc. But that’s not what has happened here.

I’m not sure I can agree, when I see all the red that’s been added to the map across the country, but he’s got a point — nearly 50 percent voted my way.

Amid the general misery of this morning, there’s another bright spot, namely the fact that bush will have to account for the results of that which he has wrought. Iraq and the economy won’t be on Kerry’s shoulders. No one can assign blame to the Dems for these things. Small consolation, I admit, but it’s good to know they now must be accountable; if things fail or succeed, we know who to blame (or congratulate). As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the newly elected president, considering the shambles bush has made of the world.

And what to say about creeping conservatism? Watching the country shift over to the right scares the hell out of me, but I’m going to keep my faith that Americans will resist the temptation to force evangelical Christian values on the rest of us. The vote against the FMA was a positive sign, but now that the can claim a mandate, who knows what’s next from the Christian right? Like me, Andrew Sullivan finds this cause for serious concern.

What we’re seeing, I think, is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well. It is unsurprising, of course, given the uncertainty of today’s world, the devastating attacks on our country, and the emergence of so many more liberal cultures in urban America. And it is completely legitimate in this country for such views to be represented in public policy, however much I disagree with them. But the intensity of the passion, and the inherently totalist nature of religiously motivated politics means deep social conflict if we are not careful. Our safety valve must be federalism. We have to live and let live. As blue states become more secular, and red states become less so, the only alternative to a national religious war is to allow different states to pursue different options. That goes for things like decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, stem cell research and marriage rights. Forcing California and Mississippi into one model is a recipe for disaster. Federalism is now more important than ever. I just hope that Republican federalists understand this. I fear they don’t.

And I live in a deeply conservative state; maybe it’s time for me to think about moving. Then again, if Sullivan’s right, it won’t matter — the evangelicals will try to nationalize their agenda, and there might not be a place to hide. That’s truly scary, but I won’t worry about it in advance. I’m depressed enough today.

Okay, I apologize for the disjointed and obviously depressed nature of this post. It totally reflects my present mood. For all the harsh words, the comment wars, the spats and quarrels, I know that each of us wants what is best for America, although we disagree with one another on what that should be. So thanks to all those who joined in these discussions, no matter what side you were on (and to the two commenters I banned from the comments for making personal cuts, send me an email if you want to be re-instated; this is a good time to call a general amnesty).

Now we have to move ahead and make the most of what we’ve got. I’m disappointed as hell, and I believe the American people voted foolishly against their better interests. But that’s democracy for you, and I accept it. And now, I’m going to hibernate for a while and think about what this blog should be moving forward. Or if it should be at all. At this moment, I just don’t know.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

Does crow taste like chicken?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Kerry ran a bad campaign, and got outmaneuvered.

I don’t think this race is a victory for the religious right – granted, the gay marriage iniatives failing aren’t a good sign, but then again, it wasn’t the right time – but more of vote for the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

Kerry was always chasing the message. He never had a chance to set the message, but was always responding to Bush and Rove. Shrum’s move to position Kerry as a populist was a joke – and, basically, the country doesn’t want a populist, but a leader. What is it with the Democrats, though. We found messaging that worked with Clinton – how hard would it have been for Kerry to replicate that? Well, besides having no personality.

There’s only one person to blame for this: Kerry. He was too late in messaging for Swift Vets, ignoring it until it became too big to ignore. He never set an agenda, just babbled about Vietnam (don’t care, never cared) – he brought it up, so the Bush camp was able to attack him on it.

According to exit polls, people voted with their pocket books and once again, it’s the economy, stupid. Bush never went there. Kerry should have.

November 3, 2004 @ 1:29 pm | Comment

Kerry ran against a president at a time of war and almost won. Kerry did an amazing job, and I have nothing but admiration for him. The incumbent holds all the advantages, and I don’t know of anyone in the Democratic Party who could have done better than Kerry. Did he do things perfectly? No, and I think he would have done well to simplify his message. More than anything, Kerry was done in by the gay marriage issue, and I’ll try to post more about that later today. Remember, moral values was the No. 1 concern for those pushing the button for shrub.

November 3, 2004 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

Richard, Kerry would have been better off watching Oz on HBO – he was Bush’s prison bitch every step of the way.

As for moral issues being a deciding factor, this blog is where I read that first. KTAR last night had mentioned the pocketbook issue, and at the end of the day, I think that’s more important.

Kerry hurt Kerry. Teresa’s off the wall comments hurt Kerry.

And, the DNC apparently learned nothing from the Gore election, and how Rove works. It’s the economy, but I guess Kerry is comfortable with his Heinz cash to think about that.

November 3, 2004 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

Jeremy, if you have been following the election closely you would know this; it’s all over the press. Like this:

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — U.S. President George W. Bush was carried to victory yesterday by an electorate swayed more by his “moral values” on marriage and abortion than his record on terrorism and the economy.

And this:

Nationwide, exit polls show that 22 percent of voters cited “moral values” as the one issue that mattered most when considering how to vote for President. In what will surely come as a shock to mainstream media, more voters cited moral values than either the economy/jobs (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent), or Iraq (17 percent). Across the nation, and particularly in key battleground states, Bush’s stance on moral values stanched his staggering losses among voters who cared primarily about Iraq and the economy/jobs. Among those who cited moral values as their top priority, Bush defeated Kerry 79-18. The numbers were dramatic in Ohio, the state that ensured Bush’s victory. Self-described white evangelical/born-again voters composed 25 percent of the Ohio electorate and supported Bush by a 76-24 margin. Jobs were the key concern for Ohio voters (24 percent), but moral issues was right behind (23 percent). Much like the rest of the country, these morally minded voters supported Bush 85-14.

And this:

Beyond his aura of strength, he appealed to the country as an anchor of traditional moral and family values. His deep religious faith appealed to churchgoers and his vow to defend the sanctity of heterosexual marriage was one of his biggest campaign applause lines.

Voters who called moral values their top concern went for Bush by 4-1. Those who called terrorism their top concern voted for him by nearly 5-1. Among Protestants who attend religious services at least once a week, Bush won by 3-2, and by 2-1 for those who attend more than once weekly.

You know, Jeremy, I don’t mind sparring about politics, but I do suggest you do your homework and read up on the issues before making your blanket pronouncements. After you do some catching up with what actually happened in this election and what the emotional triggers were, I think you’ll realize that Rove played the anti-gay marriage card to extraordinary effect, and we had no idea because it all took place in rural America, far from our urban, urbane eyes.

November 3, 2004 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

Don’t fret. It’s an evolutionary thing. In a democracy, right wing conservative, evangelical, throat-stuffers can only extend as far as reaction creates a necessity for a mutated governance. Instead of bitchin’ about no healthcare, eroding jobs, etc. allow the system to try to absorb those affected by it and in the process the system will lose its capacity to maintain its arrogant and steadfast stance. Go ahead and let them re-criminalize abortion. The gals will go back to the back alley chop shops. I remember it well in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The cost to society’s psyche and health forced change. And so it will go to every other social concern that the compassionate conservatives try to finagle way out to right field. The problem is when you look at all that red between the country’s ears, you wonder whether our primary resource is sheep??

November 3, 2004 @ 2:39 pm | Comment

Lonz, thanks for that wonderful comment. Don’t know who you are, but you seem to be quite wise.

November 3, 2004 @ 2:46 pm | Comment

And more words of wisdom:

It wasn’t the war or the economy that killed us. It was the notion of “values”.
Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the nation, yet Kerry was bad because he had “Massachusetts values” or other such nonesense.

We need to retake the language. We need to reframe the notion of “value”.

That’s why Obama’s speech below is so brilliant. He speaks of God in a way that not just fails to offend this atheist, but inspires me. It’s faith used for the purpose of living a good life, rather than faith wielded as a weapon against a whole class of people.

The wedges: gays, abortion, and guns.

Democrats have abandoned guns as an issue, and over the next three or four cycles it will prove an increasingly ineffective wedge. The NRA won. Good for them.

That leaves the two “faith based” wedges — gays and abortion. And with great skill, the Republicans have equated those two issues with the word “value”.

That’s going to have to change.

November 3, 2004 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html

Richard, Why did gays vote for Bush???
According to CNN above, 23% gays voted for Bush; On the contrary, Bush only received 25% Jewish votes.

November 3, 2004 @ 3:10 pm | Comment

Well, all I’ll say is that Americans have chosen Bush by a majority despite everything. I’ll no longer accept the argument that the American people can be morally separated from its government’s policies. I grew up in Canada respecting America as a kind of ‘big brother’. Now I have nothing but contempt and resentment for a people so caught up in its self- victimhood that it permits the cavalier snuffing out of of tens (hundreds? Americans don’t care) of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis. I’ll leave the ‘whys’ of this election result to others to fret about.

November 3, 2004 @ 3:36 pm | Comment

Langee, I’m dumbstruck as to why 23 percent of gays would have voted for bush. They are either rich and greedy, or unbelievably stupid — you do not vote for the people who want to discriminate against you. Or at least you shouldn’t.

Keir, just remember that nearly 50 percent voted for the other guy. Unfortunately, there is a large body of bedrock conservative voters who can easily be manipulated by the “values” argument. These are Rove’s targets. They didn’t give much thought to Iraq or tax cuts or Osama. Rather, they thought only of their sacred cows — abortion is murder; the more guns the better; and gays are evil recruiters out to destroy the fabric of society.

November 3, 2004 @ 3:41 pm | Comment

Thanks for the link. It is a good point.

But, 22 percent for moral issues versus 20 percent for economic issues. That, to me, is not an overwhelming groundswell of support for moral issues.

And, Richard, at the end of the day those “moral issues” voters were not going to vote Kerry anyway. Those are deeply Red people that vote the way their church tells them – for the conservative Republican. It is about abortion, stem-cells and homosexuality for them. It’s about doing Jesus’ work, and Bush is doing it. He’s good to Israel, so Jesus can come back. He’s saving unborn children. He’s protecting their guns. He’s saving their children from liberal gays that go out and convert their children to their evil, unnatural ways.

If Kerry had hit harder (or hit at all) on the economy, I think he would have been able to take the wind out of the sails on some of these issues, and swayed more of the independent vote.

I believe that at the end of the day, Billy Bob Six Pack wants to make sure he has a job. If he’s working, he’s not as concerned with ‘them gays getting married.’

And, once again, Kerry ran a bad campaign. He came out too supportive for gay marriage – sorry, but the country isn’t ready for that – and should have gone to the State’s rights issue. Do I care if gays get married? Not at all – it’s good for the economy.

November 3, 2004 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

Jeremy, healthcare and jobs were Kerry’s biggest issues. And he did very well with them, especially at the debates and afterward. We can argue until the end of time why Kerry lost. I think at the heart of it is the myth of George W. Bush, the man who stood up to terrorists, who believes in traditional values and who did great and brave things in his first term. Never mind that none of that is true. bush’s simple messages were more effective than Kerry’s, which often demanded less faith and more thought. And there’s a lesson there.

I don’t think Kerry ran a bad campaign at all, and I am highly critical. But let’s not argue about that as we won’t come to agreement. We know where we stand.

November 3, 2004 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

You’ll keep blogging, though. It’s your heroin. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was just disappointed in the campaign. There were too many missteps.

November 3, 2004 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

Well as Kaiser Kuo pointed out in his blog, there is one small positive outcome from the election: it’s now a lot harder to claim that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Today I feel as bad as I did in 1984. What is happening to my country? I feel we are no longer the “good guys” in the world. I can no longer hope that Dubya was just some sort of aberration. 51% of Americans said “Yes, we want more of the same.” It’s a dark day, and I fear a harbinger of worse to come.

Keep the candle lit, Richard. Remember, nearly half the nation said “no”.

November 3, 2004 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Thanks, Shanghai. I think I’ll stay at it, traumatizing as this day has been. I agree, things will probably get a lot worse now that bush can claim a mandate (though by previous standards it’s hardly a mandate at all). I just fear that Iraq will become even more of a bloodbath, and that by the time the bush madness is over, America will be unrecognizable from the great country we were four short years ago.

November 3, 2004 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

Hint for next time: blaming the voters for liking the other guy more is a sure-fire path to electoral defeat. Look what happened in Florida … the state went squarely with Bush this time around. No one likes having the finger pointed at them, and no one likes being called stupid.

So … instead of blaming the other side for dirty tricks, and the voters for being dumb … consider instead that the voters simply didn’t like your guy. You both fought the same election and had the same opportunities. So stop preaching to the converted … there were plenty of people who loved Kerry and who voted for him … but you don’t have to persaude them. On the other hand, if you can persaude people like me that you have something worthwhile, then, come the next election, your man will be sitting in the White House. If I got a vote in USA, I’d probably still vote Republican, but if you can get respect (even grudging respect) out of people like me, then people on the fence will fall in your direction for sure. As it was, I just thought Kerry was an opportunist twerp with nothing on his mind other than winning an election … and no, it wasn’t because I was duped by GOP propaganda … I was just as able to listen to Dem. propaganda, and everything else in between.

Plenty of people think Iraq is a bit of a mess now … and plenty of people are unhappy with other aspects of the Bush administration. Yet they STILL liked him more than they liked Kerry. For the last four years the Democrats have been all about whining and complaining about how they were robbed in the last election, and they’d win if only they were given a fair go. Well, now that one’s got to go out the window, instead of trying to come up with other excuses, and instead of finding others to blame … how about turning inwards and doing some soul searching about what was wrong with your camp. Not “what was wrong with our campaign” … that’s just another excuse … pretending that if only you’d have a different kind of TV ad, or been more (or less) aggressive, then you’d surely have won … those are just more excuses. It’s a mirror you need now.

November 3, 2004 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

We do need to turn inward, and there has to be a lot of focus on messaging and outreach. As I PR man, I winced with pain at times over the opportunities the Dems lost, and the incredible use of messaging employed every day by the GOP.

That said, shrub did steal the last election. But we have to forget about that — he won this one fairly, and no one’s making accusations now.

As far as the Dems being given “a fair go,” I can’t agree, not when the news media were transfixed week after week with the most appalling and disgusting smear we have ever witnessed in US political history, a uniquely Rovian creation that paralleled to a bizarre degree when he did to McCain in 2000, includoing the same players, like Merrie Spaeth, who managed the PR in both cases. Incredible. But I’m not whining, I’m not giving excuses. Time to learn, move on and do better next time. But let’s not delude ourselves into believing this was a fair and noble campaign. In terms of viciousness and obscene distractions, it was wholly unprecedented.

November 3, 2004 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

Richard,

As someone who went for Bush after a long period of indecision, I’d make a couple of points.

First, you have the good fortune to live under a political system that’s very good at preventing the government from doing things. None of these mechanisms are going away, there’s no FMA, there’ll be another bland centrist on the Supreme Court, the Senate isn’t going to sit up and beg when Bush tells them.

Second, I think you’ve allowed yourself to indulge in too much group-inspired thinking about Bush and the GOP. You’d be one of the first people I’d come to for information on China, but you need a little more open-mindedness towards your fellow citizens.

November 4, 2004 @ 5:27 am | Comment

The Bush victory was indeed the darkest event in the opening years of the 21st century and it reminds me of the communist victory in China in 1949 as well as the ascension of Hitler as Chancellor in 1933.

Why is Bush being re-elected? Well, a country where a majority of the people have problem in reading maps would naturally choose a leader of similar calibre.
So they voted for Bush because the world is safer in his hands? First, for three years, he failed to capture or kill Osama, the titular head of the global Islamic terrorist network. In fact attacks around the world intensified even after the Iraqi war, with Southern Thailand, Beslan, Madrid etc occuring over and over again. Instead of being defeated, terrorism based on anti-Western sentiments gain a new lease of life.

Then, Bush tells us that the war in Iraq is part of war on terror, that Saddam is linked with Al-Qaeda and he would use or give them WMDs. First, we know that there is no such a link, its as ridiculous as marrying Karl Marx to Adam Smith. Saddam was always regarded by Osama as an โ€œapostateโ€ and the Baathist regime โ€œgodlessโ€. Even Rumsfeld admitted it. Then no WMDs were found, not at the start, not now nor the future. Then when Bush expected the Iraqis to be grateful to their liberation, it did not happened, it tied down the US as Iraqi nationalist insurgents battled US troops in Fallujah, the Sunni triangle and Najaf, even Baghdad was not safe with strings of non-stop bombings and kinaps, over 100000 US troops had to stay indefinitely to stabilise Iraq instead of deploying them to hunt down Osama and his global network of terror. Many Iraqis saw the US as occupiers and wanted them out asap. Allawi is unable to gain legitimacy because he had no control over US troops and this could not be only when Iraq is stable. So the US is bogged down in Iraq, even if China invades Taiwan, she would have problem in reacting, Osama proved to be more of an elusive enemy. Strategically, Iraq not only has no link in hunting down Al-Qaeda, it was a plain disaster.

In this particularly dangerous times, the US need to forge a world coalition united behind it more than ever. But Bush, with his Iraqi war, not only alienated most of the allies but crudely brushed them aside arrogantly. A Bush re-election would serve to disable the USโ€™s ability to forge meaningful and comprehensive alliance in fighting Osama. The US won WWII because of the Grand alliance, the Cold War was won because of the Trans-atlantic alliance, the war on terror cannot be won by only the US and a little entente that lacks international character. George Bush squandered the goodwill after 911 and burnt USโ€™s bridges too readily.

And the econmics was an equally terrible Armaggedon. The Bush tax cuts did not do wonders, in fact Bush, despite huge tax cuts, lost 1.9 million jobs, another classical economics failure for the figure clearly shows that it is not stimulative economically. And the federal deficit was astronomical that it is waiting to rear its ugly head. The deficit was not exploding because Asian central banks have been buying Treasury bonds to sustain it in the short term. Once confidence in sinks and Asian central banks stop its support which cannot last forever, we will find ourself back in the fateful date of 24 Oct 1929.

November 4, 2004 @ 6:22 am | Comment

Peter, I agree about the group think; there was definitely an echo chamber where we “knew” Kerry was going to win, Second, I’m very open-minded about Americans. As I feared, they got swayed by the “values” bullshit, and lived up to my very deepest fear that they’d be voting not with reason and logic but a gut emotion, swayed by a near-religious sense that bush is noble and moral when he is the very opposite.

November 4, 2004 @ 6:27 am | Comment

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