Wednesday, November 03, 2004
A fairly substantial Republican win across the board (here in Illinois excepted). Kerry shouldn't mount quixotic legal challenges in Ohio. It's a completely different situation from Florida four years ago; not only is Bush's lead more substantial, but he also won a decisive victory in the national popular vote. The country doesn't want to see a long fight in the courts, and the Democrats are just going to look bad by dragging it out to the legal limit. Face it, Bush won.
It's an emotionally draining defeat for liberals, who are going to find it hard to accept that the President will come out of this actually more powerful than when he went in, with a mandate from the popular vote and better majorities in Congress. Look for an extremely aggressive agenda from the Republicans -- cutting taxes, reshaping the judiciary at all levels, privatizing Social Security, drilling in Alaska and elsewhere. Not to mention continuing to feed the epidemic of anti-American sentiment worldwide. There will be little that Democrats can do to stop them.
Looks like a values-based defeat. By most surveys, a majority of Americans agreed with Kerry more than Bush on the actual issues; they mostly didn't approve (by now) of the war in Iraq; and they consistently voted against their economic self-interest. But the Bush supporters just thought he was a better human being, and therefore a better leader; not only is he more resolute and sure of his convictions, but on the key issues of God/guns/gays the Democrats have no hope of ever attracting these voters. It's sobering to think that the last non-Southern Democrat to win the White House was Kennedy in 1960.
How can we fix it? There isn't any easy way. A Democrat may very well have an good chance of winning in 2008, just because voters get sick of the ruling party fairly quickly. But the longer-term diagnosis isn't great. Ultimately we will have to fight values with values. I honestly think we have to figure out a way to convince more rural, heartland Americans to think like good secular liberals -- i.e., to come to celebrate (or at least accept) differences in race, sexual preference, religious belief, and so on. (I said it wouldn't be easy.)
In other words, we have to recharge the liberal-humanist agenda, both in putting forward new ideas and in making the good old ideas more attractive. How do you convince a rancher in Montana that it's okay to be non-Christian, non-white, non-straight? More abstractly: how do you convince them that there is value in nuance and ambiguity, in seeing the world in shades of grey? I suspect that deep down there is an economic/class-based undercurrent even to the values issues; people don't like to think that elitist snobs on the coasts are pushing beliefs down their throats. So somehow we have to repackage liberal ideals, which are really just contemporary versions of the same philosophies on which the country was founded, so that they are compelling to folks in the red states. Don't ask me how, but I think that has to be the long-term goal.
Frustrated progressives will grumble about moving to Canada. Not me; I'm going to stay home and fight.