It’s been awhile, I know, and some of the regular readers have emailed me asking where the hell I’ve been. Sorry for the absence. I’ve been A) busy, and B) just trying to figure out where to begin. Now that I’ve collected my thoughts, what started out as a brief post has turned into quite the missive, but it lays the groundwork for my feelings going into the next four years, so in this case, I feel a rather long post is warranted.
Lots of blame has been laid at many doorsteps since Nov. 2, a day that will, no doubt, live in infamy. I’ve addressed the big three, Election Fraud, Values, and Kerry as a Candidate, and will leave the rest. After this, we move forward.
While there is admittedly a tiny part of me that yet holds a sliver of hope for a recount in Ohio, an investigation turning up irregularities that prove fraud, and Kerry being declared the victor after all, I doubt it’s going to happen. Was there voter fraud on a massive scale? It doesn’t look like it. And yet I am by no means convinced that the election wasn’t stolen. Multiple incidents of minor voter fraud (or at least, voting problems—just yesterday an election was overturned in Indiana due to Democrat straight-tickets being improperly counted, though there’s no evidence it was intentional), voter intimidation, registration challenges, provisional ballots, too few machines in some places causing massive lines…all of these combined add up to the very real possibility that a fair electoral process was undermined, significantly enough to have affected the outcome.
Still, there is no evidence of anything illegal, and being a proud member of the reality-based community, I can’t abide by going on faith when I criticize others for doing the same on other issues. Until I see proof, I am going to have to continue to advocate for recounts, emailing my support to Keith Olbermann (and any other member of the mainstream media who grows the balls to cover this story), and demanding paper trails in future elections. In other words, I have to operate under the assumption that Bush won the election fairly until I see evidence to the contrary. To all those who are passionately pursuing the truth, keep up the good work.
It is the opinion of this blogmaven that we did not lose on values. I believe this election pivoted on terror and the war in Iraq. Kerry made the right decision to avoid providing a detailed plan on either count, as he cannot discern the future and probably did not (and does not still) have the full story about what is happening on the ground in Iraq. At one point, he said something like, “Give me the presidency, and I’ll give you my plan,” which was a wise and appropriate sentiment, unfortunately ignored by the media (quelle surprise). The complaints from voters that he had no plan was ludicrous; it would have been foolish and irresponsible to attempt detailed war planning without the information afforded the commander in chief.
I, and anyone with a brain, was able to discern from his positions the type of leader he would have been, and as an extension of that, the type of war he would have waged. That his position was dependent on such nuanced thought clearly did not work in his favor this election cycle. That does not, however, make it a faulty position. The same holds true for the values issue. We hold pluralist, egalitarian values, as intended by the Framers, who were themselves flawed, but it was we on the Left who have endeavored to remedy their prejudices. While the Left has been behind the Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, the Voting Rights Act, the Feminist Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement, the Right has been wrong on every issue since the Revolution.
We cannot let the Right equate legislating a specific religion-based morality with being strong on values. Indeed, it is the conscious unwillingness of the Left to legislate morality, but instead legislate secularly to leave room for individual ethics and morals, that is our greatest strength.
Kerry as Candidate.
This is perhaps the biggest thorn in my side. During the primaries, I was a Deaniac, and I was disappointed when Kerry emerged as the frontrunner after the first few primaries. But he was going to be my candidate, and so I found out everything I could about him, his record, and his platform. And although I didn’t agree with him on everything (mainly and almost exclusively his vote on the Iraq war resolution), I came to respect and admire him greatly. Someone in a comments thread on DailyKos described it as slowly falling in love with the boy next door you’d never really noticed before, which was the most apt description I’ve read of my own experience in coming to believe with all my heart and soul in John Kerry. My heart was broken when he lost not just because he bore the weight of all my hopes for the future, and my very vision of America, but because I so cared for him personally.
Mr. Shakespeare’s Sister, in his despair after the loss, told me that he felt more connected to Kerry than any other politician in his lifetime, and that in a way, he almost loved him. (A sentiment I share completely.) This, I believe, illustrates Kerry’s ability to connect with voters, contrary to the persistent media mantra that he could not, for Mr. Shakes found this great bond with a candidate not in his native Britain, but in his adopted homeland of America. It is a tribute to Kerry’s integrity, passion, goodness, and—yes—likeability that he had such a profound effect on both of us. And I do not believe we are alone.
After the election, it was revealed that the Big Dog, Clinton himself, had recommended to Kerry that he support the state gay marriage ban initiatives in order to help his chances. Kerry flatly refused. It was further evidence of the honor and courage this man has exemplified throughout his life, including the campaign, and a bitter reminder of the inspiring leadership that remained, frustratingly, just out of our collective grasp.
Which brings me to my next point. Already we are bandying about possible candidates in ’08. The conventional wisdom on Kerry seems to be “he had his chance.” It is one of my greatest aggravations that we on the Left are so intent on cannibalizing our candidates. After his loss, Al Gore was cast into the wilderness for years. Upon his return two years ago with a series of fiery and brilliant speeches, the Right’s talking points included calling him insane, unstable, and “off his meds.” We on the Left did little to counter such thinking. We did next to nothing to embrace this man who has done so much for causes we care about, such as his amazing work on behalf of the environment. We did not even consider the possibility of rallying around him for a second presidential bid; he had “had his chance,” too, after all.
In the end, Al Gore and John Kerry turned out to be very similar candidates. Both men were children of privilege, both men had served in Vietnam, despite every opportunity to avoid service, both men have been great Democratic Senators, and both men are strikingly intelligent, thought to be short on charisma, and favor nuanced policy. Al Gore was painted as an exaggerator during his campaign; John Kerry a flip-flopper—neither of which were correct. Either of them would have led administrations vastly different from George W. Bush.
Most importantly, both of them stood for the Democratic principals we espouse to embrace. But immediately after each of their defeats, we turned our backs on them, despite Al Gore’s having won the popular vote and John Kerry having won more votes than any Democratic nominee ever and having come closer to unseating and incumbent wartime president ever.
Instead, we turn back to Clinton—what did he do to win? Clinton, the man who was a proponent of throwing gays to the wolves to win this election, who threw them to the wolves during his own administration (see DOMA, Don’t’Ask Don’t Tell, etc.), who evidently believes that this grave civil rights divide is not worth fighting for. Clinton, who has done more to hurt the Left on the "values" issue more than anyone else. No, I don't personally think that his affair should undermine his political legacy, but why couldn't the guy just keep it in his fucking pants? Were it not for that scandal, and the resulting perjury, which was indeed an impeachable offence (let's face it—we'd be calling for Bush's head if he did the same), many people wouldn't have soured on the Democratic party. Al Gore may very well have been elected and we could have avoided all the bullshit we've had to deal with the last four years. Don't get me wrong; I admire Clinton very much in many, many ways, but I think one of the things the Left needs to face is that he really fucked us, and the longer we continue to lionize such a divisive figure, the harder time we're going to have conveying that we are a party of superior ethics and values.
Similarly, we continue to look to the “Clintonistas” as our potential saviors in campaigns. I don't believe we should continue to put so much stock in people like James Carville and Joe Lockhart, both of whom I actually tend to like. We on the Left seem to have such a selective memory, and selective outrage as a result. Clinton & team realistically probably only won because Perot was a spoiler (which we never acknowledge, though we are quick to blame the spoiler Nader for our '00 loss). It's foolish to remember the latter in bitterness as an excuse for a loss, and forget the other lest we be faced with the fact that without Perot, we may have been on a losing streak since 1980 rather than 2000. It doesn't bode so well for our current leadership, when you look at it in the correct perspective. Unfortunately, looking at it in the correct perspective rarely happens. In all the post-mortem I’ve read that suggests we should look to the Clinton presidency to guide our future, nowhere have I seen the name “Perot,” and yet he was perhaps more key to that presidency than anyone on our side.
We also get peeved (and rightly so) about things like Bush's cousin being the first to call Florida for Bush from his spot behind the Fox News anchor desk in ‘00, and Fox's Cameron's wife being a fundraiser for Bush, and all the other media whoring that goes on, but we don't get quite as uptight about Carville and Paul Begala keeping their fat checks from CNN's Crossfire while they work as advisors to Kerry's campaign.
I tend to be of the mind that I don't care if there's partisan hackery in the media, as long as it's not presented as "Fair and Balanced." (In Britain, the rags are clear about their biases, and I think that's fine. What I don't think is fine is the continued attempt to appear objective when that is clearly not the case.) Now that our guys are willing to do the same thing that we've been pissed off about, instead of using that selective memory again, we should get pissed at them for stooping to the same level, for compromising, and find new campaign leadership.
Finally, to borrow from Britain again, I suggest that we support Kerry in a Shadow Administration, akin to the opposition party in Parliament. We should band behind Kerry, who is now a known quantity to the American people, and who is, miraculously, a scandal-free candidate and has shown himself to be well within reach of the presidency. Throughout the next four years, each time Bush makes a decision that infuriates the Left (and I suspect there will be lots of those), Kerry should be there, making a statement about what is wrong with the decision, what the right decision was, and why he would have made it. This is the true role of a real opposition party, as opposed to the mumble-and-capitulate party the Democrats have been for the last four years. Kerry has the strength and wherewithal to do it, if only we’d give him our continued support.
The worst thing we can do is continue to point the finger at him, when instead we should be pointing the old one-fingered salute right at Bush.
I lament the state of the Left, not because we have lost the election, but because we have lost our ability to embrace our candidates and our values, and compromise neither. We will not win as Right-Lite. We will win when we take our strengths and show them for what they are—the future of America.