Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004, was a day I spent in a melancholic haze. Many of my friends said they felt numb. Others, like myself, cried on and off. Fortunately, I live in the "liberal enclave" of the West Coast and have company in misery.
We don’t need to try to figure out what happened. We know what happened. We, the "reality-based community," got served by a phony cowboy who will go back to his ranch in Crawford, TX and roll around in oil money like Uncle Scrooge in his vault on Duck Tales. This election was not, however, about John Kerry versus George W. Bush. It was about the reality-based community versus neo-conservative Christian America. And they won by a narrow margin. Karl Rove made the rules, and Kerry’s team chose to play by them, but they played the game badly. It was about "values" or at least perception of values, and "image." Poor Kerry wanted it to be about the issues, but Rove is just too good at the game. People didn’t realize Kerry was a human being until he almost burst into tears during his concession speech.
Once again the Democratic party gave in to potential pressure from the media, in an attempt to avoid the "spoiled loser" moniker, by not fighting to make sure EVERY LAST VOTE was counted before conceding the election. In 2000, they focused on only counties, not an entire miscounted state. This time, they let Ohio go when the math didn’t seem to work out in their favor. In an article for TomPaine.com, Greg Palast, contributing writer for Harper’s writes:
The election in Ohio was not decided by the voters but by something called "spoilage." Typically in the United States, about 3 percent of the vote is voided, just thrown away, not recorded. When the bobble-head boobs on the tube tell you Ohio or any state was won by 51 percent to 49 percent, don't you believe it ... it has never happened in the United States, because the total never reaches a neat 100 percent. The television totals simply subtract out the spoiled vote.
Palast believes that were all the votes counted the way they legally ought to be counted in a this country, Kerry would have won Ohio. But to have those votes counted properly would have caused Kerry, Edwards, and the Democratic Party to engage fierce litigation and would have left the nation without a winner for an unpredictable amount of time.
Essentially, the Democratic Party gave up on the hope and the values of democracy to save face. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I can say that I’m sorely disappointed. You cannot concede an election and follow it with a promise that every vote will be counted. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Kerry and Edwards caved to pressure, hoping to return to Senate seats in Washington, and go back to life as usual. They fought the "good" fight and lost.
But the bigger loser in this election is not John Kerry. It is America.
The United States are no more united after four years of George W. Bush than in 2000 and, with a lame duck neoconservative president backed by a Republican congress, it is likely that in 2008 we will be even more deeply divided. The president no longer has to pander to the moderates for votes. He can dive head first into the sea of the neocon agenda. The left and the right will likely be even more hostile toward each other. We see what they do not see; they have blind faith in what we do not have faith in. All of us think that we’re right.
I won’t argue that the "reality-based" community of the left is smarter than the ideologically fueled cowboys of the right because that gets us nowhere. And I, too, as a writer, would like to save face in order to persuade a few people on the other team to see things our way----or at least get them to take off their blinders and think critically about our nation’s plans for itself and the world. Invective will not do that. Unfortunately, neither will reason.
Just as in the "War on Terror," our elusive enemy is not a single person. We are fighting ideology. The numbers don’t lie. The wealthy and uneducated white people of this country supported Bush; the educated, poor, and lower middle class supported Kerry. The civil war brews not only between the classes but also between urban and rural Americas. We want very different things, the left and the right. The right wants to make sure gays can’t marry, put God in schools, protect their wealth, and wage wars without consequence. The left wants to protect the Constitution and give away rich people’s money to help those in this nation who need it. Very, very different things. Yet, liberals are called "un-American." How quickly our own great nation’s history has been forgotten, particularly the founder’s principles, which today would be considered coffee shop liberal idealism by the right. How quickly we forget...
What you won’t see is the left calling the right "un-American." You didn’t see that in the 90’s when the neo-cons, led by Newt Gingrich, impeached Clinton. We didn’t call the impeachers "un-American." Crazy, maybe. Annoying, certainly. But never un-American. And we won’t do it now, because that in itself would be un-American. Our disagreement with their principles does not equate to un-American behavior. Dissent is not un-American. We are a nation founded by men whose principles relied on equal representation regardless of opinion.
What we won’t do is sit idly by and watch the erosion of our civil liberties, and we will not allow cynicism and apathy to erode our own base. We will fight for our rights, for an overhaul of our own party, and we will come back in 2008 reorganized and strong, ready to win the next battle in the ideological war. Because, ladies and gentleman, America as we once loved it is worth fighting for, and no ideology can erase history completely.