T Nation

The Fight Is Over And The Day Is Dark

While the following could be shaped into a well-written piece, it is more of a rambling monologue with the sole purpose of venting in hopes of easing the anxious feeling I have while imagining four more years of GWB:

The day has come – political armageddon.

I’m left with an aching stomach as it is announced that John Kerry will call George Bush to concede his bid for the presidency. Four more years presumably like the previous four years? Where will it leave us? How did it happen? Where did the Kerry camp go wrong? Where did Bush go right?

Did Kerry ever really have a shot? I don’t think so. Kerry was presidential in appearance and demonstrated that he actually absorbed some of his Yale education – most notably during the 3 debates – but that didn’t matter. I suspect many of Kerry’s supporters – including myself – only convinced themselves that they liked Kerry, while in actuality they merely dispised Bush.

Looking back, though, who of the dozen or so Democratic nominees could have taken it to Bush? I contend none of them.

Dean was thought to have a shot, but he would have taken a stronger liberal stance on many issues and would have come down harder on the critics’ side of the Iraq war. Though the democratic/liberal base would have been stronger, he would have alienated more of middle-America.

Edwards? He was all face, and that didn’t carry him very far. I thought he was a great choice for VP, but the truth is he’s been playing the political game for too short a time. He sounds and looks cute, but I think people have a hard time believing that he knows what he’s talking about. As the campaign was coming to a close, I found myself more annoyed by Edwards than I was confident in his ability to turn states blue. As it happens, he’s out a VP job, he couldn’t bring his home state over to Kerry, and he lost his Democratic Senate seat – that’s a solid strike out.

Lieberman? He was considered more hawkish (re: Iraq) and more moderate than some of the others, but I think one is fooling themselves if they think Lieberman would ever have a shot in hell in becoming the president. He’s such a sap – a shakey, feeble, old man who exudes nothing remotely resembling presidential leadership.

These criticisms, however, bear a striking resemblance to Bush’s own political shortcomings. Working backwards…he’s a man of weak stature and an unconvincing natural leader; he shows no signs of being able to even pretend like he understands the issues; he’s short on political experience (at least he was in 2000), and as Dean (and Kucinich, Sharpton, etc.) were too far left for middle-America, he’s further to the right than many Republicans. In the face of these and many, many other observations of why Bush doesn’t make a strong political candidate, he wins. Well, he won this year anyway.

The truth is that Rove and company are far too crafty. They manipulated the country and played mainstream Americans like an instrument – pushing and pulling how they deemed necessary. They dragged out our lurching VP to inject fear periodically and they have twisted Bush’s weaknesses into his strengths. A great question might be: Will anyone other than Karl Rove run a Republican election again?

Further, America is, quite simply, still very conservative. Either that, or they’re stupid. I think arguments can be made for both suppositions. Regarding the former, it is clear that people like religion and find solace, apparently, in a president who calls upon god for guidance in his decision making. People are still afraid of homosexuality. They think progressive science is a step toward self-destruction. Regarding the latter, they think the president tells us the truth. They think his motives are in the name of the good of the many. They still think, the latest polls show, I believe, that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. They view the videotape of a healthy OBL as a reminder of 9/11 rather than a reminder that GWB has failed to properly approach the perpetrators of 9/11.

So where will we be in 4 years? I imagine we’ll be in a position much like we are today, if not a bit worse off.

Politically, the country will be even more divided. Bush is sure to further alienate his detractors, but who knows if they’ll have the energy to rebel as they have the past couple of years. Who will run for president in '08? Talk is that Hilary will get the nod from the Dems, but I’m unsure how that will pan out. The country will either be ready for the shift back to the left after 8 brutal years of right wing nonsense, or they still won’t be ready to allow a woman to possess such power. If Edwards runs, I’m sure it will result in a landslide for the GOP. From the right, Jeb won’t give it a go until 2012 or later (how old is he?), but perhaps McCain will step back in. If not, Guiliani might still be the ‘prom king’ he currently is. I hope that freak Frist doesn’t get the nod.

Domestically, the economy will go through its seemingly natural cycle of ups and downs and will probably end on a good note in the eyes of the media in '08. Jobs will continue to be outsourced and tax breaks to corporations will be sustained in the name of optimal capitalism. The proverbial gap between the wealthy and the poor will widen, evaporating the middle class. Oh, and the deficit? Deeper and deeper we go.

Socially, stem cell research will continue to creep along while other nations do what they can to explore its fascinating possibilities. Gays will continue to fight for their right to live like any other group. Abortions will still be seen as an act of murder.

In the Middle East, the US will still be trying to get Iraq on its feet and will still be battling insurgents. Iran will be a growing threat and will not be addressed because we won’t have the military resources to appropriately do so. Arab resentment of the US will continue to grow. al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations will proliferate and, while I will not be surprised if there is another attack on US soil, I think there will certainly be attacks on Americans abroad.

Just a few days ago the chances seemed good. It seemed like we had a shot. The polls had Bush up by a point or two, but come election day, he propelled above the 50% mark. Fishy? Perhaps, but who knows?

Let’s look at the bright side – Bush is surely to continue humiliating himself and I’m sure to laugh more with Bush in the WH than with Kerry there. As they say, laughing is the best medicine, but if Kerry was there, maybe I wouldn’t need medicine in the first place.

Fellow Poli"T"icians,

Thanks for the battles folks. Some of you are clearly fine people and I’ve enjoyed our discourse no matter how nasty it became at times. I’m afraid to say that I’m rather glad my interaction with some others doesn’t exist beyond our virtual discussion room…and I’m sure this feeling is mutual.

Congrats to the many T-men who so desired Bush to win. The feeling of comfort you must be experiencing is probably close to the sense of despair I am feeling. I have had a knot in my stomach since last night, as I feel in my gut that things are going to get ugly in the next four years. I certainly hope not. I really hope things don’t get worse and the direction of America changes.

I won’t be posting under the moniker JeffR has assigned to me. Not because I’m cheating the bet, but because I won’t be posting on the political board for now. The reason is that there’s nothing to fight for, nothing to hope for. No matter what Bush does, I’ve got to deal with him for 4 more years.

With crossed fingers, farewell.

RSU – I think this captures where you and yours are at the moment:

Beaten Again,
Democrats Ponder
Shift in Philosophy
Wanted: Charismatic Leader
To Capture Religious Vote
And Retake the South

November 4, 2004

WASHINGTON – Twice in four years, the Democrats seemed inches from the front door of the White House, only to be turned away. Now what?

John Kerry’s defeat has Democrats grappling with whether the party must make fundamental changes in philosophy to recapture the White House. Already, influential party insiders are mobilizing a debate that’s likely to center on a few difficult questions:

Should the Democrats seek national success by moving to the left, as many party faithful demand? Or should they shift rightward, which is where the election suggests the country is? And will their leader be a liberal, such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean or Sen. Hillary Clinton, or the more centrist Sen. John Edwards – or some fresh face from Congress or the ranks of Democratic governors?

“We had a spectacular turnout effort this time and we need a spectacular ideas effort for the next round,” says Bruce Reed, head of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council.

The task will be all the harder after the real successes the Democrats notched in this campaign. Turnout was indeed extraordinary. The party raised a record amount of money. The Democrats’ already formidable ground operations grew stronger. And the candidate was a war hero who was widely believed to have prevailed in his debates.

Yet he lost anyway. “I don’t know what’s next; I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong,” said Erik Smith, head of The Media Fund, an independent Democratic group that ran political advertising during the campaign.

Tuesday night’s results underscored the gulf that has grown between the nation’s electoral center and the Democrats since the Clinton administration. In exit polling, voters listed terrorism and morals as two of their top three concerns, supplanting such issues as jobs and education that play to Democratic strengths. Eleven states passed ballot initiatives banning or limiting same-sex marriage, defying Democratic opposition. The Democrats’ traditional army of labor-union and minority voters was overrun by conservative Christian voters who stampeded to Mr. Bush.

All of which means the party has to do more than just raise more cash and get more voters to vote. John Podesta, President Clinton’s former chief of staff, is among key Democrats who think the party must recalibrate its positions on religion. “Leaving the field to suggest that, ‘If you are religious, you are conservative,’ is dangerous for the Democrats,” says Mr. Podesta, who now heads the Center for American Progress, a think tank. “Most people, I think, want a sense from you that you have a strong moral core and they want to see something authentic in that regard. Our political leaders are going to have to feel more comfortable in speaking in those terms.”

Moderate and left-leaning religious organizations are struggling to reassert a voice that has faded since the 1960s civil-rights movement. Late in the campaign, some Christian and Jewish leaders organized in support of Mr. Kerry, but they went largely unheard amid the stronger conservative voices of Catholic bishops and evangelical Protestants.

Harold Ickes, another former Clinton aide and founder of The Media Fund, says figuring out how to compete with the Republicans on cultural issues is critical. “We Democrats need to do a better job of figuring out some of the cultural issues – guns, choice, gay rights – because the other side has no compunction about using these issues to divide and conquer.”

Democrats need to develop better ways to talk about their policies in a framework of family and social values, says Simon Rosenberg, president of the moderate New Democratic Network, which has helped lead efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters. “Our effort to give everybody health care is an incredible statement about our commitment to family and community in a very important way,” he says. “But we’ve lost our ability to characterize our compassion for people in values terms.”

A problem that has become chronic is the Democrats’ difficulty breaking through in the South, once a party stronghold. The Democrats’ woes there were underscored Tuesday in their loss of Senate seats in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. One solution could be to place a southerner at the top of the ticket. It worked in 1976 with Georgia’s Jimmy Carter and in 1992 and 1996 with Arkansan Bill Clinton – the only Democrats to win the presidency since Lyndon Johnson, himself a Texan.

In 2008, the Democratic southerner could be Mr. Edwards, Mr. Kerry’s charismatic running mate. Or it could be Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a centrist politician and successful businessman in a state the Democrats nearly won. Other southern Democrats include North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu. Aside from Sen. Edwards, all are little-known in most of America.

Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey and former Democratic aide in the U.S. House, says, “They never again should nominate anyone from Massachusetts. A nominee coming out of Massachusetts has never had to stretch himself, has never had to deal with conservatives and has a constituency that is very forgiving.”

Some think the party’s problem is less a matter of ideology or geography and more a question of finding national leaders with broad popular appeal. Sen. Kerry’s main failing, in this view, was a shortage of charisma and likability. That is one reason why newly elected Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has received so much attention in the party. Sen. Clinton and Mr. Dean also raise passions among their supporters but may have trouble winning broad support.

If the Iraq war and terrorism are still big issues in 2008, the Democratic nominee will need to hone a distinct position that can win over voters, party insiders believe. The Bush campaign made Democratic ambiguity in this area a centerpiece of its message. In exit polls, voters who said they wanted a strong leader opted for Mr. Bush.

“There are parts of the country where our message isn’t getting through because concerns about moral issues and security are keeping just enough people from voting their economic interests,” where Democrats score higher, says Mr. Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council.

It’s one thing to call for a united position on terrorism, but another to agree on what it should be. Liberals, after largely being muzzled during the Clinton presidency, have gained some strong new voices during the debate over the Iraq war. In addition to Mr. Dean, MoveOn.org, a powerful liberal online organization, has joined the Democratic camp.

The party has two wealthy backers who lean left. Billionaire George Soros helped found the party’s new network of independent turnout and advertising organizations. Following in his footsteps is John Sperling, the founder of the University of Phoenix. Mr. Sperling personally financed a comprehensive analysis that concludes the path to victory is by boldly wearing the liberal label. Mr. Sperling thinks abolishing the electoral college, which gives more weight to lightly populated rural states, would help the Democrats. However, Mr. Kerry was also defeated in the overall popular vote, so such a change wouldn’t be a panacea.

In the 2004 presidential vote, the diverse network of Democratic supporters – from trial lawyers to environmentalists to African-American groups – spent the entire year plotting strategy and sharing budgets, united in their dislike of Mr. Bush. For a traditionally fractious party, that was a big accomplishment. In the next four years, it will be a challenge to keep that unity, even as the party throws its core principles open for debate.

Thanks for putting up a good fight RSU. I also feel ill over the result, and disappointed with America. And while the people were manipulated by Rove and co, I guess democracy has spoken.