No, I'm not trying to be dramatic. As I mentioned a few days ago, I've been suffering campaign fatigue. I am happy that this thing is effectively over. I'd love to be optimistic and think that there was a realistic chance in Ohio, but I have a feeling that before the end of the day we'll hear that even Kerry's campaign will realize that the hill they need to climb is just too steep.
We learned a lot from last night, though. We learned that much of this country is filled with simple-minded people who can't deal with complexities, and therefore they like a president who panders to those uncomplicated natures. I'm not calling Bush stupid (even if I do think he's incompetent), nor am I calling the population of this country idiotic. But it's clear that most people don't like to think through the grey areas of issues, and they want to be told that something is this way or that way, and they succumb easily to scare tactics.
The most terrifying result to me, that also supports this notion, is that politics has simply become football. I'm a diehard 49ers fan, and there's nothing you could tell me that would make me suddenly decide to root for another team over mine. It seems that Democrats and Republicans have fallen along the same lines with a very small and limited number of exceptions. People will celebrate in similar fashion (maybe minus the parade, but then again, just wait until inauguration day) to Boston's recent World Series win. One team won, the other lost. Unfortunately, when it's played that way, we actually all lose.
Rational arguments against the policies of this president that weren't even necessarily ideologically based had little to no effect on the end result. Even if there was some electoral vote miracle because of Florida, Bush would still win the popular vote by roughly 3.5 Million with a clear over 50% majority. Due to the large turnout, Bush can now claim what Gore backers have been saying for four years: he has received more votes than any presidential candidate in history. These days, neither political party campaigns with the hope of convincing and representing every voter because all it takes is 50% plus one. You win, you're in, and you do what you want. That's what happened last time, and Bush certainly didn't have a mandate. What do you think might happen this time now that he at least has, if not a mandate, an actual majority, even if it's a very slim one.
Giuliani is on TV right now talking about how Bush proved how great a leader he is. There seems to be a basic misunderstanding in this country concerning the very concept of leadership. Americans seem to believe that leadership involves making decisions and standing by them regardless of their popularity, but that's only part of the story. As Kerry once rightly criticized, and I'm paraphrasing, it's not leadership when you look behind you and there's barely anyone there. Leadership involves listening to the dissent and trying to bring it to your side, not moving forward and acting regardless. Leadership does not involve simply saying things, true or not, and expecting people to believe them, only to change your story later if necessary and ignore what you said before
Another lesson: polls are worse than meaningless, and if there's any justice in the world, this election cycle will hurt the entire polling industry. Maybe it will hurt enough to lessen the frequency and influence of polls on every issue and aspect of life, but I won't hold my breath.
It was an awful, awful night for the democrats. Tom Daschle, the minority leader, seems to have lost in South Dakota while Tom DeLay, the house majority leader, who is under criminal investigation and has been admonished repeatedly by the House Ethics Committee is headed back to Washington. The significance of that can't be underestimated. On a positive note, the Democratic leadership in Congress has been absolutely terrible, opening itself up too easily to charges of obstructionism and never managing to make a case to the country, especially in conservative states, that they had an agenda which was more than simply anti-Republican. Republicans didn't need to put forward an actual agenda to help people because they were already in power. But Daschle and, until relatively recently, Gephardt couldn't do anything.
Hopefully, the retirement of Gephardt, the defeat of Daschle and the hopeful soon-to-come firing of DNC leader Terry McAuliffe will help the Dems reorganize and figure out a way to speak to the country in a way they obviously haven't been able to do for 10 years. I'm not sure what more anybody could do to get out the vote, but the effort certainly wasn't enough this time, and to all you 18-29 year olds still more concerned with Ashlee Simpsons lip syncing than learning about the issues affecting your life and actually going out to vote, if you're wondering why you have to take a fast food job as soon as you get out of college, think back to this day.
The republicans increased their lead in congress. No, they still can't beat a filibuster, but it's not 51-48 anymore either, and the races that pre-election polling indicated may go against the Republicans simply didn't.
The only piece of news that any Democrat can view positively is also the only thing in this election that was a virtual guarantee: Barack Obama's Illinois Senate win. Hopefully, Obama is the new face of the democratic party, and hopefully others like him will follow to bring a new tone and energy to the party because there needs to be a change, and Hillary running in four years is not the kind of change I mean.
So what do we have to look forward to? Who really knows? I will try to remain optimistic. Bush is still our president, and maybe now that he already has so much experience and has made so many mistakes, even if he won't admit them publicly, his administration will learn from the past and fix what needs to be fixing.
But what terrifies me? How about the likelihood that Dubya becomes the man who gets to nominate maybe as many as three or four Supreme Court justices, probably starting very soon with Chief Justice Rehnquist? The idea of Chief Justice Scalia scares the shit out of me. How about the fact that prejudice in this country is so prevalent that all 11 anti-gay marriage initiatives passed, and it seems overwhelmingly? What about the likely continued easing of corporate oversight and simultaneous tightening of FCC oversight of what is and isn't "appropriate content." I continue to marvel at the fact that the party that wants to remove government from our lives keeps intruding on the most private elements of our personal choices. Really, they only seem to want to remove government from those things that may help people.
The most fascinating exit poll indicated that a plurality of people voted on "moral issues," roughly 21% – more than Iraq, terrorism, the economy, education. I would venture to guess that most people who would say such are thing are conservatives who are voting because they're afraid of people who aren't like them, who don't think the same way they do. They're people – dare I limit them to evangelical Christians? – who believe that it is their right, even their purpose, to impose their ways of life and morality on the rest of us.
UGH … my head is a blur. The rattling in my brain is manic, switching between a million ideas bouncing around to the depressing natural lull of the realization that we're stuck with this guy for another four years. While I'm not a naysayer who believes that our political system is so corrupt it may as well be irrelevant, I do think it's broken, and the strength of incumbencies is my main proof. In my mind, when someone fucks up, you fire them. That's the reason we have elections every 2, 4, 6 years. You give someone else a shot, and if they fuck up, you move on to the next guy. If Kerry had won and things didn't look any better in four years, I'd be perfectly happy to vote against him. There's nothing wrong with voting "against" someone when they haven't done the job, and right now the only way to say that the country or the world is better off due to Bush's rise to power is if you selectively cherry-pick and spin absolutely every fact and issue.
When Bush "won" in 2000, I hoped for the best and my optimism was unwarranted. Now, we have no choice but to do the same, and hope that he doesn't screw things up any sooner. Could these wins actually help destroy the Republican party if things get worse? Sure, but only if the Democrats are able to actually convince people that they're a viable alternative, and so far, they can't do that.
I'm rambling and ranting and maybe not even saying anything. I'm not saying doomsday is around the corner, but it's a sad day in America right now, and those who don't see it yet, probably will some time within the next several hundred days. Here's hoping I'm wrong. Maybe if I just say, "No, things are going great everywhere and will get even better," I can convince myself that I'm right even if all proof states otherwise. Hell, it seems to be working for the Republicans.