Friday, November 05, 2004


Assuming the election wasn't fixed...

Tuesday night was not pretty. In a referendum on a president who had seemingly gotten away with so much - the lying about things big and small, the appointing of John Ashcroft immediately after promising to be a uniter, the refusal to understand where on earth our erstwhile closest allies were coming from, the inability to take or appoint responsibility for Abu Graib, al-Qaqaa, and Tora Bora on anyone but our TROOPS - we had hoped for better. Alas, it was not to be. Not only did we lose the popular vote and the electoral vote, but we lost 4 seats in the U.S. Senate and a couple in the House as well. Over the past four years, my outrage against the president and his supporters had reached a fever pitch, then morphed into fatigue, and finally into blind hope that I wouldn't have to face the prospect of any kind of happiness for Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or Dick Cheney.

And then my hope was washed away in a sea of red.

Two days later, I still have a lot of sadness and bitterness. But I also have an odd sense of optimism. Here's some of what I've been thinking, consolidated:

1) First, regarding the gays. Sorry everyone!! We really really didn't mean to cost the Democrats the election. Our bad. We did so in two ways. One, individual gay and lesbian couples decided that 30+ years was long enough to wait for equality, and knowing that even a lot of gay-friendly politicians find it hard to actually carry water for us, decided to pursue a course that is not only allowed but perfectly acceptable under our constitutional democratic system: asking for rights through the courts. It had a precedent - most recently, in the sodomy decision Lawrence v. Texas, decided WAY back in 2003. (Remember the backlash after that one? Funny how NOBODY has mentioned it since, even though "unelected, activist judges" were the ones to change those antiquated laws.) We got a victory in Massachusetts, and the GOP got a wedge issue. I guess the gay leadership could have intervened, and "demanded" that these couples not sue for their rights, or submitted amicus briefs arguing that equal marriage rights shouldn't be granted. But I'm actually kind of glad that we stood up and said "well, here's what we believe. We understand if you don't, and won't hold it against you." President Bush, however, decided that a better idea would be to advocate for a CHANGE IN THE CONSTITUTION to prevent any possible future such action by any possible future state court or state legislature or state electorate. And state- and county-level Republican organizations (along with national far-right religious groups) decided that demonizing the gays was the way to go. THEY were the ones talking about gay marriage. Not us. Anyway, bully for them. Again, sorry.

The other way gays helped lose this election was by including in our number Mary Cheney. She's really the only gay I'm upset with. Even the 1,000,000+ who voted for Bush didn't sway this election (I doubt enough of them were in the truly close swing states, but I could be wrong) although I'm not thrilled with them. But her refusal to speak out, even as she directed her father's campaign, about what she thought about being alluded to in the debates, about the Federal Marriage Amendment, about the anti-gay mailers that were distributed, hell even about whether she chose to be a lesbian... all that stuff makes me very angry. I'm not sure how she can sleep at night, but I have a sense it involves extremely comfortable, extremely expensive bedding.

2) On Bush's new "mandate". Please keep in mind that a switch of votes of a few thousand voters in one state would have us singing a much different tune right now.

3) Bush is a war(time) president. The fact is, when presidents run for re-election during wartime, they win. They just do! The last time a wartime president was up for reelection was 1972, the war was Vietnam, and the dude was Richard Nixon. He won 49 states. Moreover, the "bounce" he got from September 11, 2001 (which he easily parlayed into congressional victories in November 2002) was freaking huge. Honestly, between the war, the attack, the bad but COULD BE WORSE economy, and the gays, we faced an uphill climb. And regardless of how upsetting the march to war was for many of us, and how much of a clusterfuck Iraq is now, the deposing and capturing of Saddam Hussein was, as a campaign issue, a tough nut to crack, regardless of how many weapons of mass distruction have been found. Even I fucking hated Saddam Hussein, and I'm an America-hating, terrorist-loving, gay leftist traitor! Who vacationed in France this year!

So don't feel (too) bad about the presidential election. It was a hugely uphill climb. Bush will either sink under the weight of the lies and incompetence, or he'll figure out a way to stay afloat and perhaps even correct his mistakes and emerge as a Great President. Either way, we'll know the truth, what really happened over the past four years. And I personally would rather be on the losing side of history than connected with this group of folks.

Oh, and for an interesting take on the war and why the hell we went, check out this piece about the Bush family's biographer (note: not Kitty Kelley). Spooky!

4) Purple. Okay, time to start feeling better.

First, check out THIS map. See, we're really not so different after all! The print edition of the New York Times today also had some great maps showing different ways of looking at the popular vote. Yes, blue folks are based more in urban areas and along the coasts. What, you were expecting something else?

More importantly, however, is the fact that there is a natural geographic realignment going on, and Tuesday provided further proof of it. The fact is, the South and western plains states are conservative areas. Anti-gay, anti-abortion, and race baiting (in the south) rhetoric works there! Even when we have had Democrats in high-level positions, they have often been of the Sam Nunn (leader of the fight against gays in the military) and Zell Miller. It's been awhile coming but like Lyndon Johnson said, we lost the South with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I do think we can get it back. There are politicians like Edwards, Landrieu, Clinton, and a few others who can and have been successful at riding relatively progressive coalitions to victory in some of these states. Economic issues in particular play well in such situations. But nationally, it's VERY VERY HARD for a Democrat to win in the South and in the western plains. Still, we came within a few electoral votes of winning without it.

However, even the reddest of the red states often have highly visible Democrats in office. North Dakota has two Democratic U.S. Senators, Wyoming has a Democratic governor, as does Montana. (Alternatively, California, New York, and Massachusetts have Republican governors.) South Dakota's only Congressperson is a Democrat. And no single state voted anywhere near as heavily for Bush as cities such as Chicago did for Kerry.

Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, in an election in which a Republican won the presidential election, and the GOP consolidated leads in the US House and Senate, state legislatures found themselves becoming more and more democratic. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

"NCSL's initial analysis of the 2004 elections give Democrats a slight edge in gaining political ground, picking up a few more legislative chambers than their GOP counterparts. They also overtook the Republicans in total state legislators. Before the election, Republicans had 64 more legislators. Now, the Democrats lead by 12."

That's 84 seats nationally! Sure, given that there are 7,382 state legislative seats total, it's a small swing. But more importantly, we did very well in:

CO +6 and we flipped both houses
NH +31!! (out of 424)
WA +4 or +5, wrested control of Senate to go along with existing control of House
Iowa +6, now a tie in the Senate
OR +5 , now controlling the Senate and gaining in the House
VT +14, control of the House
NV +4
HI +5
MN +14 ... all in the House, which is nearly tied now
MI +5

We need to work at consolidating these states (and demanding good governance) - in order to offset the immense and growing appeal of the GOP in the South. And Indiana. State legislatures are important.

So is Congress. Perhaps ask yourself: what can I do NOW to start the progressive revolution in Congress in two years? And then do it.

5) Who is really to blame? The Republicans. Fact is, more Democrats voted for Bush than Republicans voted for Kerry. I was honestly under the impression that there were enough GOP folks who were simply disgusted by what they'd seen over the past four years to try to rescue their party. WOW was I wrong. Boo, Republicans.

6) Oh, also, I blame the Catholic Church, specifically the bishops who said you would go to hell if you voted for Kerry and then didn't confess it afterward. That's fucking bullshit, man. That could easily have swing Ohio, or perhaps Colorado, or New Mexico (which is still aparently up in the air).

7) I think I'm willing to give this "democracy" thing one more try. I would like to use my friend Bill's Progressive Coalition model, with a significant emphasis on the issues of import to African Americans, youth, and Latinos. I also am very VERY interested in (like I hoped for 4 years ago) a continuing infrastructure where progressives grow their ideas. Think tanks, if you will. Not just anti-Republicanism or anti-conservativism. Or even "pro-justice." But rather PROGRESSIVE CHANGE in both domestic and foreign policy, to help this country and those of us who might be able to use a hand.

8) Thanks to everyone who did their part, no matter how small, even if just speaking up once in awhile and then voting. Keep that up. Yay you!

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