Friday, November 12, 2004

Another lost moment

Tuesday's election results shocked the nation. This surprise was not about a war-time president winning reelection as much as the Democrats losing to one of the most despised political figures of modern times. While it wasn't a landslide, it came pretty close.
Quietly, with veiled - and not so veiled - help from conservative churches across the country, Democrats were defeated. The majority of voters ignored the important issues of the day - ballooning deficits, the gutting of domestic spending, billions wasted on a needless invasion, the erosion of our civil rights and Osama bin Ladin on the lam - and instead determined that what Adam and Steve do together is a bigger danger to the nation.
There is some legitimacy to the fear of social issues. Things like stem-cell research and gay marriage might wig out any good Christian - but so should biometric microchips being installed in humans and required retina scans just to fly on an airplane.
While it is clear that the Democratic Party is out of touch with some voters, the voters are also out of touch with what is best, just, and right. I don't agree with the premise, but I now understand the frustration of conservatives who suggest that ill-informed people shouldn't be allowed to vote.
Tuesday's election was a hard-hit slap against the media and cultural elite delivered by ordinary people. They are clearly sick and tired of being denigrated for attending church, wanting values in society and schools, and doing what they think is best for their families. Unfortunately, these folks missed the larger picture: The corporate and war culture worshipped by this administration - and some Democrats - is more of a threat to civil society and the United States than anything pumped out by Hollywood.
A lot has been said about the Electoral College in this election cycle. But, once again, the American voter can learn from history and understand why the process is the way it is.
The founders established the Electoral College to keep the mob from ruling. Some changes should be discussed - like some sort of instant runoff voting, ending the rigged two-party system, or awarding Electoral College votes in a more proportional manner. Opponents of the Electoral College can look at it this way: Despite John Kerry's faults and losing the popular vote by over three million, he was within 70,000 votes of winning the presidency.
[Note: Kerry may have conceded too early. The Cleveland Plains Dealer reported last week that over 92,000 punch-card ballots in Ohio were rejected by the tabulation machines. Another 156,000 provisional votes have yet to be counted. Bush won the state by fewer than 135,000 votes. If Kerry earned more than 75 percent of the ballots not counted, he would win the state and be elected president. So, are they going to count the votes this time?]
Kerry's lack of a clear vision and refusal to answer devastating accusations about his war record killed his campaign. Some of us warned voters early in the primary cycle that Kerry would not be able to cut it in the red states. Having watched him for close to two decades, I was not surprised that the Republicans were able to tag him as the out-of-touch Massachusetts elitist he has always been. As Ralph Nader has said, "The Democrats have become very good at electing very bad Republicans."
Over the last few days, I've wondered what might have happened if we could turn back the clock. I thought of Rep. Dick Gephardt stumping throughout the heartland at closed factory after closed factory, calling the president "a miserable failure." I envisioned Howard Dean exhorting the men and women of the Deep South - Confederate flags and all - with the virtues of fiscal responsibility and his endorsements from the NRA when he was a governor.
Such a lost moment.
Isn't it also interesting that the Democratic establishment and Washington cocktail crowd who wanted Kerry so badly were worried that the civil union issue in Vermont would sink Dean in a national election, yet it was an actual court decision about gay marriage in Massachusetts that helped sink Kerry?
It's time the Democrats stopped listening to the insiders.
In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's effort to bring some balance to the Legislature was a $3 million flop. The intention was good, but the implementation was careless. Instead of campaigning on much-needed reforms, the state GOP in last-minute mailers lashed out against some incumbents for being soft on crime. Examinations by the local press revealed the mailers to be not entirely accurate and the negativity backfired: The GOP lost three House and one Senate seat.
Despite the whining and crying about the press by entrenched politicians, setting up debates, investigating voting records, analyzing campaign finance reports, and writing about an incumbent's history are not "hooligan tactics" or unfounded attacks.
Most civil individuals know that it is immature to gloat in the face of victory. Thin-skinned elected officials who believe that the slightest criticism is a personal assault should be mindful that they get the coverage they earn and deserve.
Moving forward, the Democrats have to stop obsessing about social issues and instead, worry about the economic conditions of working families, which will win them back the red states. For almost three decades, both parties have been chipping away at the earning power of the working class. Most workers earn less today in real dollars than they did in 1972. It's no longer "Vote or Die," it is lead or move out of the way.
If the party refuses to reform its ways and work towards the interests of the majority of us out here in the real world, it will never be able to gain power again.

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