I know things seem hopeless. We fought so hard, we gave it our all, and Bush won anyway. More people voted against Bush than against any sitting president in history, but -- unfortunately -- it's also true that more people voted for Bush than for any president in history. The young people voted, and it wasn't enough. Minority voters turned out in record numbers, and it wasn't enough. It's so easy to throw up our hands and say, "Oh well. We tried." But please resist the urge to be a defeatist. It's so unbecoming.
There's plenty to fear:
Democrats have to deal with the fact that President Bush is now no longer a minority president, however slim his majority may have been. They also need to contend with his expanded senate majorities. But this is what I fear will be a growing pattern in this second term: an effort to use a narrowly secured majority not only to govern, even govern aggressively, but to make institutional changes that strip away the existing powers and rights of large minorities. These formal and informal checks and balances constitute the governmental soft-tissue that allows our political system to function.There's plenty to mourn:
Maybe this time the voters chose what they actually want: Nationalism, pre-emptive war, order not justice, "safety" through torture, backlash against women and gays, a gulf between haves and have-nots, government largesse for their churches and a my-way-or-the-highway President.But there is also plenty to make us hopeful:
Democrat Barack Obama trounced his right-wing opponent to pick up a senate seat in Illinois. Despite voting for George Bush by a 20% margin, Montanans elected a Democrat as governor... Perhaps most importantly, nationwide, the progressive movement came together in an unprecedented way and mobilized millions of new voters to go to the polls. Liberals and progressives united, and millions of people gave time and money in an effort to swing the election.Be glad that so many people became involved in the political process. We can't lose those people, can't let them think that their efforts were for naught, can't afford to return to the 1990s, which hung under a cloud of taking everything for granted. I'm not especially optimistic about the next four years. I agree with Paul Krugman:
I don't hope for more and worse scandals and failures during Mr. Bush's second term, but I do expect them. The resurgence of Al Qaeda, the debacle in Iraq, the explosion of the budget deficit and the failure to create jobs weren't things that just happened to occur on Mr. Bush's watch. They were the consequences of bad policies made by people who let ideology trump reality.As responsible citizens, we can no longer let "ideology trump reality." We can't let people continue to vote against their own best interests. So I've made a decision.
It's time to stop over-politicizing everything and instead focus on educating people to make wiser political choices. I'm convinced that if people were more educated about the implications of their choices, they would vote more wisely. I don't want this to sound condescending. But a few days ago, I saw a television reporter interviewing an self-proclaimed undecided voter. The conversation went something like this:
Reporter: So, have you decided who you are voting for yet?These undecided voters are the ones who -- in many ways -- decided the outcome of the election. If people are making choices that are not based on a full understanding of issues, then how can an election truly be fair?
Voter: Well, I was undecided just yesterday, but I think I've made up my mind to vote for Bush.
Reporter: Why? [Good question. -ed.]
Voter: Well, there's just something I don't like about Kerry. I can't quite put my finger on it -- it's just something that rubs me the wrong way.
Here is my proposal: The next four years will be bad news politically for fair-minded Americans. I don't want to waste breath or ink pleading with a government that has secured not only a Republican president but majorities in the House and the Senate. Instead, I want to launch a campaign to educate America. I want to raise money to give voters the facts about Iraq, the "war on terror," gay marriage, Roe v. Wade, Social Security, the Patriot Act, Halliburton, healthcare, tax cuts for the wealthy, and Bush's "fiscal house of cards." I want there to be "WAKE UP" commercials all year round, not just around election time. I want to mail pamphlets, make websites, and send speakers to schools and churches and public squares. I want to shake the American people out of their zombie trance and let them know what they've been missing -- I bet they'll be pissed.
(Cross-posted at Fire & Ice.)