Friday, November 05, 2004

First Thoughts

Democrats learned to mobilize in 2004 but were still outgunned by Republican organization and tactics. Karl Rove correctly figured that in a closely divided electorate, he could build on his key bases and carve out the few needed extra votes. So even though we got the vote out, they did too and BushCheney got a majority. From which they will claim vindication and a mandate for their program of economic militarism. After all, “Four million more voted for us. George W. Bush received the most votes for president in history” to paraphrase the victory claims. Of course, to an unelected administration installed by judicial coup, an actual majority, however slim, must seem like a mandate. We’ll be hearing mandate often in the days, weeks and years to come.

At least this time BushCheney earned their claim to office; they got a majority. (Reported figures give them 51 percent. But the many questions about malfunctioning machines, lost and uncounted ballots create a some uncertainty. “They”couldn’t have programmed all those machines all over the nation. Could they?”) Their majority notwithstanding, the country is still divided. BushCheney may have received more votes than any previous candidate but John Kerry was close behind. And 3.6 million is a very slim majority in a record turnout of 115 million. But I have no doubt about who is in control. BushCheney strengthened its hold on Congress, adding three new southern Republican senators and the spawn of Tom Delay’s redistricting coup in Texas. They’ve got a lock on the United States government that will be disastrous for this nation in the long run. The good news is that they, not John Kerry, will be in office to reap the whirlwind. The bad news is that we will pay for it.

BushCheney will push privatization and American corporate and economic expansion throughout the world. They will claim to be supporting democracy but, reality, they will be serving the oil dependent, increasingly uncompetitive American corporations in a world where America faces strong economic competition from China and India. Instead of helping American workers and industries create real jobs in the US so that American workers and businesses can compete in a changing international economy, BushCheney will spend vast sums to protect the interests of their corporate cronies. The real concerns of most Americans–good jobs, health care, safer neighborhoods, a cleaner environment, education–are not part of their agenda.

It’s bad enough that they are squandering the people’s money on military adventurism. It’s even worse that they are killing the America’s sons and daughters. BushCheney stole Americans’ patriotism and prostituted it in the service of their narrow interests. They have cleverly manipulated public opinion, distorted facts and lied outright. And half of America believes them. Or rather, voted for them. Their success frightens me. George W. Bush should never have gotten close enough to steal the 2000 election. He was not and still is not a credible candidate for President of the United States. Dick Cheney was and is but could not be elected so they ran George. It worked and has given us four years of BushCheney, a combination of military aggression and economic control combined with effective propaganda. How else can you explain the completely misinformed American public (about WMD’s, Iraq-9/11 links) a’s tactics are and their willingness to accept an unnecessary war that reduces American security. BushCheney has made highly effective use of the Big Lie. Their improvement over previous practitioners is their effectiveness in a stable society with a long democratic tradition. America has lost part of its soul since BushCheney took power. The nation and the world will be poorer if BushCheney complete hijacks America during the next four years..

What is to be done? Don’t Mourn (at least for long). Organize. The election was a tough loss, especially after all the hard work that so many put into it. But it was not landslide or overwhelming defeat. Half of the electorate voted with us. We earned a right to be heard, at least as much as BushCheney earned political capital. A few strong voices remain in Congress. We also have our own voices to speak out. We learned to organize this year. I hope we can continue that effort to give strong voice to progressive values for all Americans.

Forty years ago conservative Republicans were swept away by Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory against Barry Goldwater. Democrats held commanding majorities in Congress. Four years later, Vietnam had totally discredited Johnson and gave the White House to the Republicans. They’ve had it all but 12 of the 36 years since. Congress took longer but Republicans finally took control in 10 years ago. They did it. We can do no less.

Monday, November 01, 2004

End Game

The Long Campaign ends tomorrow. Election day will produce a result and America will move to the next political stage. Traditionally, the Transition begins after election day. The nation’s politics slow dramatically for about a week as everyone catches his or her breath and studies the new landscape. Then the politics of transition begin. The 2000 Election also featured the Wrangling stage, where the votes are contested. Living Americans had never experienced this stage although it occurred several times in the 19th Century. Some voters may remember the long counts in 1960 and 1968 but those were resolved within a day. The conventional wisdom is that the 2004 Election will involve several close states on which the balance hangs. Both sides are prepared for legal combat across the nation.

The 2004 Election marks my return to active campaigning. I’ve not been this energized on behalf of a candidate since Barry Goldwater in 1964. That year I was a Young Republican, passionate in my belief in Goldwater and conservative politics, fighting against the liberal socialism of that turncoat Texan, Lyndon Johnson. Maybe I’ve not been active since then because I am naturally embarrassed by my politics and beliefs at that time. I was a racist asshole. My support blossomed when Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. All the rest was rationalization. And it all crumbled when I went to college and found a much more open world.

This year I am a foot soldier, making phone calls and walking neighborhoods. Which translates mainly to recording messages on answering machines and leaving literature on doors. But I do get to speak to actual voters at times and their support renews my energy. Drivers honk enthusiastically and constantly when we parade around a busy intersection at rush hour. How can we lose with all this energy? The reality of Arizona politics should tell us that we are engaging in a futile effort, no less so because the Republicans are mounting similar efforts. But this year may be different, though. John Kerry has at least a chance of carrying Arizona, so our effort is worth it. It’s what we can do.

And it’s been fun. I meet and talk to many good people. I am serving my country. And I am fighting for the values I believe in. John Kerry may not be everything I want in a president but he shares many of my values, far more so than George Bush. I know he will not correct all of America’s problems and shortcomings. He is unlikely to change the hegemonic corporate militarism of the last half century but he well knows its consequences and dangers so he may be more cognizant of the need to mitigate those consequences and dangers.

With one day left to Election Day, I will canvass and phone. I think back to 1964 and try to recall what exactly I and my fellow Young Republicans did. I remember meetings at the Chamber of Commerce building, selling cans of Goldwater (a lemon-lime-ginger ale soft drink; think what a case that would bring on the memorabilia market) and handing out literature. We argued with Democrats a lot. There weren’t many but they were supremely confident. And we ignored the polls even as they predicted a crushing defeat for Goldwater. They were just part of the Liberal Media’s propaganda for LBJ. Reality set in early on election night in 1964. The networks pretty much called the election for Johnson by 9:00 pm. My hoped for Goldwater victory evaporated in that evening’s darkness.

So I sit here on election eve wondering how it will come out and can’t offer anything more than the same hopes I held as the votes were counted in November 1964. Other elections since have brought real disappointment: 1972 when Nixon crushed McGovern (I had no illusions that year but the loss was particularly sad), a narrow loss in a the hard fought 1973 Virginia gubernatorial election and, of course, 2004. This year could be more of the same. The signs are better. The pundits say it will all depend on turnout. Guess it’s time to go canvassing.