Election Thoughts

by Joel on November 3, 2004

A little over a year ago, I was pretty much convinced that George Bush would coast to both a popular and electoral vote landslide. My main interest was in supporting someone who had made a principled stand against invading Iraq. Kerry was on both sides of the issue to an extent, so there wasn’t going to be a clear referendum on Iraq. But Kerry spoke forcefully to the issue of global cooperation, which I think is essential for the long-term health of both the U.S. and world.

Republicans can be rightfully gleeful that they won and won decisively, even as the poular and electoral college vote was fairly close. I’m disappointed Kerry lost but relieved that Bush didn’t get a landslide that might have propelled him toward even greater foreign policy recklessness.

Although cultural issues played a big part in Bush’s re-election, I think the larger matters were 1) Kerry’s failure to define himself at the Democratic convention (although he made up a lot of ground in the debates), and 2) the great reluctance of the electorate to oust a war-time president.

During the past year, the people I have come to admire the very most are the Bush supporters from “blue” states and the Kerry backers from “red” states. It’s pretty easy to be for Kerry if you’re from California or Bush if you’re home is Oklahoma. But I can respect a person such as Justin Katz from Rhode Island for standing up for what he believes in even though his state will vote Republican only during Reagan-type landslides, it seems.

Some will try to spin this election as simply between the faithful and the secular. However, there are a lot of us faithful liberals and we may need to be more vocal in organizing for the cause of economic and racial justice.

Even as I was disheartened that Republicans made an anti-gay animus such a big part of their election efforts, I actually think the future for gays and lesbians is very bright. As more and more people reveal their sexual orientation and a greater number of people come to realize that this community of people aren’t simply child molesters or perverts, I think the country will move on with the issue. It should be noted that toward the end of the camapign, Bush came out in support of civil unions. He could have saved the country some of the bitterness over gays by explaining his position more coherently from the get-go. My suspicion is that he didn’t because his advisers wanted the matter as a wedge issue.

We Democrats should have some humility about our shortcomings. For my own part, I regret that I haven’t spoken against abortion as forcefully as I could have. For Republicans, perhaps they could look in their own backyard and see that poverty, divorce, child abuse and meth labs are a big part of the red-state landscape. Are Massachusetts liberals really to blame for that?

Democrats have taken a really silly and head-in-the-sand approach to Social Security. The system, which I support, wasn’t designed to work where there are two workers for every retired person. Saving Social Security will eventually require private savings accounts. Unfortunately, Democrats used fearmongering tactics.

If President Bush expects to have a productive second term, he will have to govern from a sense of common purpose rather than division. To me, that doesn’t require compromising your principles but of showing respect for your opponents. When Republicans at the highest levels approved, two years ago, ads juxtaposing images of Osama and Democratic candidates, they showed disdain for some very worthy opponents.

By pushing for war and tax cuts at the same time, Bush sent a message that Americans will not have to sacrifice anything to move forward. He didn’t prepare us that we would face a difficult challenge, but just offered us a “beer for bombs” mentality. Because of that, the President cannot afford things to go much worse in Iraq.

Republicans are adamanant that they oppose affirmative action. But I expect that Bush’s first appointment to the Supreme Court will be to nominate an Hispanic as a justice. This will result from a conscious, and I think just, effort to balance the needs of a diverse nation. But Republicans will pretend that a conscious decision to so place an Hispanic bears no relationship to affirmative action.

In sum, I am not despairing over this election. I’m too old and have been through too many election cycles to do that. There’s always tomorrow.

{ 1 trackback }

Dust in the Light
11.08.04 at 2:47 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Ali 11.03.04 at 10:32 pm

Thank you! That’s the first civil response to the election from a Democrat I’ve seen. I have hope too, and you’ve brightened my day.


Bene Diction 11.04.04 at 12:45 am

It is good to see some grace, I’m not surprised at the ‘day after’ contentiousness. Thanks for this.


49erDweet 11.04.04 at 3:00 am

Joel, not to take umbrage with your thoughtful and conciliatory post, but ” For Republicans, perhaps they could look in their own backyard and see that poverty, divorce, child abuse and meth labs are a big part of the red-state landscape. Are Massachusetts liberals really to blame for that?”

Specifically, probably not. But liberal-activist courts - many of them established or enabled by east coast liberals - (some likely from the Bay State) - have certainly contributed to “divorce, child abuse and meth labs” problems.

As a red voter in a blue state I can tell you those problems are endemic to blue states, too, so I missed your point.

This is not to say that Repubs don’t need a gut-check on our approach to folks in need “taking responsibility” for their failings. Those individuals are still part of our human family, and we need to somehow make sure they are furnished the basic tools to lace up their bootstraps just prior to ‘pulling themselves up’. The thing is, the idea that it doesn’t alway take the government to do that, I guess, is where we part ways.


Eugene 11.04.04 at 3:29 am

Now if you could ask Dubya to reopen the border to Canadian beef you would make my father and thousands of beef farmers happy.
Think about it.
May God guide your president.



Bene Diction 11.04.04 at 5:20 am

Man Eugene…as the congress becomes even more protectionist, I doubt those Martin-Bush photo ops and invite to Ottawa will translate from word to deed.
I think we Canadians better brace for a rough four years. Bush is going to be way to busy with his domestic trouble to notice anything. We Canucks can expect to be blamed for a lot of things this term.
I hope our beef farmers and our foresters have opportunities to develop other markets, or settle in for a long wait. I’d like to be wrong but…

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