more election wisdom

  • Concede Nothing, by The Black Commentator, AlterNet, 11/9

    The worst possible outcome of Tuesday’s election would have been that George Bush won with the help of a divided black electorate. Instead, African Americans reaffirmed the vitality of the Black Political Consensus – our eyes firmly fixed on the prize: peace, jobs and justice.

    … And, truth be known, we had more white people on our side in this election than at any time in modern American history – just not enough. The Bush men brag that their figurehead won more votes than any president, ever. Yet more people also voted against Bush than any previous president. We who have never – and will never – won U.S.-wide power on our own, were on Election Day at the vortex of the struggle against an enemy that makes the planet shiver.

    … That’s why the Republicans targeted black precincts and voter rolls, everywhere – not just in the battleground states – in the attempt to bowl over the front pins in the Democratic electoral configuration. Republicans know where the center of the party’s demographic gravity lies, and they went for it, in full view of the world. …

    As “provisional” citizens, we subjected ourselves to degrading identification interrogations, lined up like suspects deep into the night – or, as Harvard’s Dr. Michael Dawson puts it, “standing patiently for regime change” – only to be finally assigned a “provisional” ballot that may never be counted, or even known to exist. …

    The last thing America needs is unity with thieves, pirates and punks. The nation and the world need peace, jobs and justice. Let’s get back to work.

p://”>election result maps, skewed for population and county-by-county

  • Dick Meyer, Moral Values Malarkey, CBSNews, 11/5, points out that “moral values” means “Bush’s perspective on moral values.” Of course, that is to some extent true of all these choices; each one is extremely simplistic, just a short phrase, that is not actually descriptive, but often is read to reflect a particular perspective. If the economy is important to you, that must mean you think it’s doing poorly. If moral values are important to you, that must mean you have conservative Christian values.

    Now, we all have a sense of what is meant by moral values in this election: gay marriage, stem cell research, late-term abortion, prayer in school and several other similar issues. What it really refers to is being against gay marriage, stem cell research and late-term abortion. Being adamantly for stem cell research would exclude you from being part of the moral values crowd.

    Moral values, as a phrase on an exit poll, is a Rorschach Test; to a great degree, the question is like asking, “What is most important to you – jobs, terrorism, health care, education, or the issue that is really the most important issue to you.” It’s tautological.

    And in the code of politics and rhetoric, the phrase “moral values” really now just refers to a set of Bush’s positions. So the exit poll question is even dumber; of course people who think moral values are most important will go for Bush.

  • The Unbearable Darkness of Being, Lakshmi Chaudhry, AlterNet, 11/4 [and all the letters in response]

    It’s Wednesday morning, the day after a long night spent watching the election returns. I fight to stay asleep, to postpone the inevitable moment when I’ll get up – and know. As I lay in bed, I remember something a friend said last night: “It’s not our country anymore.”

    As I struggle to get through the day, dragging around the weight beginning to settle on my heart, her words stay with me. They echo in the back of my head when I hear Kerry’s concession speech; watch the CNN blowhards natter on about “unity”; read the inevitable lefty post-mortems that crowd my e-mail inbox.

    They talk about everything except the obvious: It hurts!

    This wasn’t just another conservative victory. Lord knows, progressives have had plenty of practice losing elections in recent decades. And it isn’t about partisanship. I’m not shedding any tears over Tom Daschle.

    No, it’s not about losing an election, but the fear of losing faith. Liberals have always believed that if we did everything right – got the truth out; got the people out – we would prevail. In the past, I could tell myself it was the wrong candidate, wrong strategy, wrong party – some reason why people didn’t show up at the polls or vote for the “right” guy. Not any more.

    On Tuesday, the largest turnout in recent history couldn’t save us from defeat. Democracy won and so did George Bush. And all the Monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t change the sad fact that the truth did not set us free. Nearly 52 percent of all Americans preferred to simply ignore reality to keep their faith in God and the man who is only too happy to play messiah.

    This is now their White House, their Senate, their House of Representatives, and very likely their Supreme Court. It’s their country.

    Or at least that’s the message I get from all the talk of “unity” and “healing” in the media. Now that the Democrats lost the political equivalent of the Super Bowl, I just need to shut up and put up. Anything less would just be typical liberal whining and bitterness.

    James Carville says that if liberals like me want to win, we need to learn how to talk to white guys in pickup trucks who think my gay friends are a sin against nature. But what could I possibly say to someone for whom a ban on abortion is the single most important issue in their life? There’s no point in trying to “speak my values,” if the folks I’m talking to think those values are simply wrong.

    John Edwards was right in a way. There are two Americas: one that values tolerance, justice, and equality; the other that believes in Divine Will. But now that the Democrats lost the election – and control over every branch of government – I get to live in their America. And Carville wants me to talk to these guys? Or is he really saying that I need to be more like them? After all, it’s not like I have any values that might be worth holding on to. Why not just put my silly liberal preoccupations with choice or sexual freedom aside so we can all come together as one nation – one nation under God, Guns, and (hating) Gays.

    It’s hard – right now, at least – to fight that sense of irrelevance, the loss of purpose. I was exhausted and in tears the night we dropped the first bombs over Iraq. But I was back at work the next morning, determined to do my best. The fight was still ahead of me.

    The weariness will pass. It must. And the faith will return. I hope. But for now, I mourn.

  • The Daily Show, 11/3, Ed Helms:

    If you want to have gay sex or go to a library, it’s probably your last night to do those things. I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.

    and Stephen Colbert & Jon Stewart:

    SC: Clearly, our deep national fear of hot man-on-man monogamy drove turnout among the nation’s so-called ‘value voters’. And here’s what’s interesting: These voters see the connection between terrorism and what I’ll call homo-ism. Think of it, Jon. Both groups recruit impressionable young men, at camp, in remote mountain regions. Then, they videotape it and release it on the internet. … Or so I’ve been told.

    JS: Well, first of all, what a gay staff we have.

    SC: Oh yes.

    JS: Second of all, if those are the two major issues concerning voters, again, why would New York City, which really has the most signifigant gay population in the country and already had the most signifigant terror attack in the country, vote overwhelmingly for Kerry?

    SC: Here’s the thing, Jon. We in New York are too close to the terrorism and the gay people. Only the red states, with the advantage of a safe distance, can take in the whole picture and clearly see what we should do about those issues. And so, on behalf of everyone living in the blue states, I’d like to thank the red states for saving us from ourselves.

  • ken layne on jesusland [11/03]

    Rove’s re-election strategy was elegantly simple: Scare the bejesus out of Jesusland. Faggots are headed your way! Satanic Muslims are hiding everywhere! That’s all it took to get Jesusland to do the job. Intellectual conservatives like the National Review staff are flattering themselves if they honestly believe Jesusland cares about conservative thought. The “reality-based” folks are learning that Jesusland doesn’t even care about jobs or the economy. In Jesusland, it’s all the will of Jesus. No job? No money? Daughter got her clit pierced? Jesus is just fucking with you again, testing your faith. Got the cancer? Oh well. Soon you’ll be with Jesus. Reality is no match for a mystical world in which an all-powerful god is constantly toying with every detail of your mundane life, just to see what you’ll do about it. Keep praying and always keep your eye out for homosexuals and terrorists, and you will eventually be rewarded … all you have to do is die, and then it’s SuperJesusLand, where you will be a ghost floating in a magic cloud with all the other ghosts from Jesusland, with Jesus Himself presiding over an Eternal Church Service.

    I’ve never had a problem with actual conservatives, because actual conservative thought — as defined by William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, etc. — is just a way of looking at the role of government. …

    But I’ve got a big problem with Jesusland. If you want to worship the ghost of a jew from the Roman Empire, that’s cool. Enjoy it! But when you people and your bizarre mystery cult claim the goddamned president as your prime convert who rules by the voices in his head, I call bullshit. I don’t care so much about party politics, but I will fight long and hard to prevent this country from becoming a Complete Theocracy — if you can call the intellectually vapid mishmash of evangelical Christianity a true Theology.

  • tom tomorrow, in slate

    First off, I just want to take this opportunity to say to our new Republican overlords: Congratulations! I was with you guys all the way! Please don’t ship me to Guantanamo when you re-enact the sedition laws.

    So, the editors of Slate want to know why Americans hate Democrats? Well, the short answer is, actually, we don’t—55,554,114 of us voted for them on Tuesday. Admittedly, as Jane Smiley just pointed out, 58 million voted for the “ignorance inducing machine” instead—but 55,554,114 is still a hell of a lot of people. If you had a party and 55,554,114 people showed up, you would probably have to make several additional trips to the liquor store.

    The very phrasing of Slate‘s question points to one problem for Democrats—they’re really lousy at defining the terms of the debate to their own advantage. Republicans, by contrast, are the masters. Republicans don’t let something so inconsequential as reality get in their way—George Bush is already proclaiming a mandate, for chrissakes. If the narrow margin of victory in this election had swung the other way, does anyone doubt for a moment that an army of Republican surrogates would have immediately fanned out to the shouting-head shows to argue, until they were collectively blue in the face, that the election of John Kerry was nothing more than a statistical fluke that certainly carried with it no greater meaning?

    This is not to suggest that the sole problem for Democrats is an inability to articulate a message, as if the entire Democratic Party simply needs to overcome its regrettable awkwardness around strangers. There also needs to be a message. At the start of this forum, Robert Wright described John Kerry’s campaign as “ultra-risk-averse.” The same might be said of the Democratic Party as a whole right now. Many of the issues for which Democrats stand are highly divisive—stem-cell research, gay rights, abortion—and in their attempts to finesse that divisiveness, they often seem to stand for nothing at all. In their eagerness to appear reasonable and moderate—and to avoid at all costs being tarred with the dread epithet “liberal”—they become the enablers, the loyal opposition seeking common ground (even as the opposition is doing its best to destroy them and scorch the very earth where they once stood). Gosh, they say, maybe we should go to war in Iraq for no apparent reason, and maybe gay people don’t deserve full and equal rights. And so on and so forth.

    Republicans don’t have this problem. Republicans are perfectly comfortable with what they are and what they stand for (“pure evil,” the provocateur in me is compelled to suggest). They’re the ones who hope to stack the judiciary with right-wing nut cases and eventually repeal Roe v. Wade. They’re the ones who run up sky-high deficits in order to provide tax breaks for the rich. They’re the ones with the aggressive facts-be-damned policy of pre-emptive warfare. They’re the ones who exploit antigay bigotry and antiscience superstition and wrap the whole package up with a neat little red-white-and-blue bow and say, “This is what real Americans believe.”

    They may try to sugarcoat some of it, but they don’t apologize for any of it.

    But the most important advantage Republicans have may be their base of support among Christian evangelicals. The task of getting out the vote is made much easier when you have local institutions in place through which to actually reach the vote. All politics are local, and all organizing is ultimately community-based—neighbors talking to neighbors within the course of their day-to-day lives. Online organizing can supplement this effort but simply can’t replace it.

    Democrats used to have a similar base—it was called organized labor, and the community-based institutional structure it provided gave them a far more effective way to reach their own voters than, say, parachuting in from out of town for a weekend of door-to-door canvassing. Labor unions made a remarkable push during this election, but they just don’t have the heft anymore to help the Democrats over the top. And while one can argue the reasons for labor’s decline, the tendency of Democratic politicians over the past few decades to embrace unabashed free-marketeering at the expense of their own constituency certainly didn’t help matters any. And now, the Democratic Party finds itself the unhappy occupant of a sagging home whose foundation has crumbled from neglect, and damage like that can’t be repaired easily or quickly—but it does have to be repaired. And I would be happy to explain exactly how this can be achieved—but, darn the luck, I’ve just run out of time, so I’ll have to leave that task to Katha Pollitt. Over to you, Katha!

  • diane mcwhorter, in slate. Key insight that I appreciated: the breakdown of the “Southern Strategy”: appealing to one so-called moral issue after another.