Monday, November 08, 2004

After the End of the World
First, let me face reality up front: this post is, kind of, about politics. It's really about reacting to politics, rather than fulmination, insight or observation about issues. So, yeah, I'm going back at least somewhat on what I said in the last one. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself...

I gather from e-mails that the blog world on the left is starting to hum with accusations of fraud and cheating. I don't find this hard to believe--Greg Palast is a smart guy and a dogged journalist, and he has an admirable willingness to face unpleasant possibilities that the corporate media won't and never will. Maybe Bush did take Ohio, Florida and New Mexico through shenanigans and shady doings.

I still don't think it really matters, in a "scoreboard" sense. Despite James Baker 3d and Ted Olson in 2000, I do think victory in the popular vote count confers legitimacy, and I have yet to see anything remotely suggestive that they stole three million-plus votes. The concerns about electoral fraud really have more to do with the sense I think many people now have: that our democracy is a game, that cheating is essentially acceptable because "both sides do it," and that integrity in the process is an unreachable ideal. I maintain that the spread of this view is corrosive in ways we can't yet totally comprehend, but to the specific question of the 2004 vote, it's not a central issue.

So, what to do? I feel very fortunate to have a girlfriend with Canadian citizenship, a stroke of amazing good luck that spares me from considering this sort of thing. I'd rather not have to uproot and just declare the Free City of New York, for the reasons set forth in the satirical Felber quote below; the truth is, neither secession nor expatriation is super-likely. I badly wanted to change my political reading habits; after almost a week, I find that I can tolerate the subjective but, I think, honest opinings of Josh Marshall and the Bull Moose (see links to the left), but I don't want to read Daily Kos or MyDD, or listen to the ranters on Air America Radio--the ultimate example of becoming what one claims to hate, except that they don't have any power.

And guys like Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira... I've been reading some good stuff on Buddhist thinking this past week, about the absurdity of desire and all that. But I'm still harboring the desire to kick Ruy's deluded ass. (Yes, this is a Simpsons joke I've appropriated for my own purposes. I do this a lot.)

So all this signifies nothing. I still don't know what to do. I'm not quitting my job. I'm not giving up on public policy. Camus justified his getting involved with the French Underground after the Nazi occupation, a move that seemed to contradict his whole philosophy, as giving in to "hopeless hope." This always struck me as a sort of cop-out, a neck-up justification for a gut-level reaction. So be it. I'm doing the same thing. I just want to find, one, a smarter way to fight that doesn't involve further concessions to a worldview I find ugly (the revelation that Kerry disdained Clinton's advise to demagogue the gay marriage question increased my admiration for the man considerably--though it probably would have helped him); and two, ways to better live with the results whatever they are.

Here are two quotes that struck me as the best things I've read since the election. First, my uncle--a moderate Republican who mostly hangs around with Democrats:

...the real issue here, I believe, is how out of fucking touch the people running the DNC are, as it pertains to the reality of politics in the real world - which, while maybe I'm missing the point of the process, to me translates into getting people elected to forward your values and ideals.
You had a sitting President, a stagnant economy, rising unemployment, a record deficit, skyrocketing health care costs, long-time allies that hold us in contempt (if not outright ridicule), the threat of nuclear (or nucular - which I just LOVE) proliferation among people who still ride camels to work, and an unpopular, tragic, and expensive war with no real end in sight.
And the Democrats allowed the Republicans to make this election about terrorism, gay marriage, and right to life!!!!
Am I stupid - or does this look like NO ONE in the Democratic Party knew what the fuck to do - or how to go about doing it!!!
I am of the belief that if the leadership, brain trusts, and strategists of the Republican and Democratic Parties were reversed, the Democrats would have won! Maybe in a landslide, and more likely than not, have taken at least one of the houses of Congress with them.
Now, I admit that it would be naive to dismiss the conservative bent of 'red' America - after all, terrorism, gay marriage, and right to life DID resonate there.
But to allow those issues to be the predominate ones that 58,000,000 Americans based their votes on, is almost unbelievable! And unconscionable.
The Democrats have only themselves to blame for the mess they've made of the Party that Bill Clinton left them.

Chip goes on to suggest that the Democrats should look to appropriate "moderate Republican issues." It's smart thinking, but it's already been done: in terms of fiscal responsibility, moderate foreign policy and environmental rule-making, and much else of what constitutes "the issues," we're there already. This was the completion of what Bill Clinton started 12 years ago. But, as I wrote back to him, I don't think most people voted on "the issues." I think the message Bush voters sent with their votes wasn't an endorsement of endless deficits, nine Scalias on the Court, unilateral war for any reason, or anything else we're all tearing our hair out over; that message was "keep us safe, and advance our values."

It's not a bad message; it's actually something even we godless heathens on the coasts can get behind. The only problem is that Bush, Cheney and the rest of the crew will take those votes as a full endorsement of deficits, unchecked aggression, zealots on the bench, and so forth.

Here's the other, sent to me by Dr. Catloaf. It's not very "constructive," but it does accurately reflect my frustration with the severe double standard of "morality" and cultural tolerance we've seen in many election postmortems: the coasts must respect the heartland, but the heartland is fully justified in shitting on the coasts, glory be to God, world without end.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That's pretty powerful
stuff, and I didn't see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the
President's strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the
ballot in various swing states like Ohio... well, that was just genius.
Genius. It got people, a certain kind of people, to the polls. The
unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited "moral values" as
their biggest issue, those people changed history. The folks who
consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or
terrorism, or the economy... Who'd have thought the election would
belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that.
[Boos.] Now, now. Credit where it's due.
There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time
for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little
story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here
in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk
half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The
reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the
wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states
receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining
about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked
by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a
war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that
you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open
disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual
victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are
the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had
something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons
and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people
in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true,
but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie
because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I
really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who
subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms
about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and
excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And
you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values.
You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share
the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for
its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed,
atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the
bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never
have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to
respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that
for 20 years, we've done just that.

It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.

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