Just Above Sunset
November 7, 2004 - Summing Up

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Joseph, our American in Paris, looks back on the dialogs – starting with the idea from several friends that it is now time for the Democrats to win over the religious “values” folks of the heartland.


Wow. Apres moi, la deluge. (Louis XIV)

Really, I will address all of this seriously next week. I'll just say that I'm neither suggesting that we become them nor fake it. We didn't get out our base. Bush did that for us. They didn't get out their base; we did. Republicans have been able to keep their fringe quiet, and he quietly rewards them. Our fringe elements mistakenly thought that it was time to go for all the marbles. They were wrong. Their base is bigger than ours. Accept it, and deal with it. Martyrdom is a choice one makes to lose everything just because one can't have it all. That isn't noble.

It’s stupid!

It has been obvious for some time that the senate and house were going down the pipe. With this reality, was Kerry going to be able to extricate us from Iraq? Answer: at this point, no one can.

Was he going to be able to roll back the tax cuts, which even the executive-controlled Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says is mostly to blame for the spiraling deficit? Same answer.

After four years of problems deepening, we have W (or someone like him) again. Do you think whoever comes next for the Republicans isn't going to hire Karl Roverher? Guess again. Where is our Karl Rove, anyway? Where is our Forest Gump? Isn't it enough to be right, and have some access to power? Is it better to feel right and have NONE?

By the way, comparing Bush to Hitler or Nero is shrill and silly. Things are bad, but not that bad. "Forrest Gump", now that's fair. Seriously though, this does us no good. True, I have compared Rove to Goebels, but that was with grudging admiration more than contempt. [Note: see this in these pages where a fellow says. “To a person used to living in France, the country that invested joie de vivre, America seems like a grim and terrified place, and its leader like Forrest Gump with rockets.”]

More to come.

Regarding the limeys saying we're dumb: well, maybe. [See The Day After the Day After - bottom of the column.] But who is the bigger fool, the fool who leads or the fool who follows? Ouch.

I really will make a case cogently next week.

But for now, QUOTE DAY!

"I would rather be right than be president." Henry Clay, who lost THREE TIMES! (Get my drift?)

And on my contention that the Democrats supporting gays came at a great cost, I'll riff on Gary Schandling: "I've never burned a flag. Then again, I've never put one out either."


Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, has a direct response to all this -


I think there is something to be said about them getting out our base, but the reverse is not true. It's been fairly well documented by now that Karl Rove, the "architect," had engineered the evangelical vote for the last four years, and was able to keep it pretty quiet up until the last moment.

And I don't know what you've been hearing over there in Froglandia, but I think there's really been not much noise heard from "our [so-called] fringe elements" over here - by which I assume you mean gays, especially those pushing for gay marriage and such, as I gather from your other message. In fact, I do believe all that state constitutional amendment stuff, too, was engineered by Rove, leaving the rest of us with nothing to do but sit back and quietly watch it all happen.

But also, I think to suggest that gays were somehow overreaching, especially in an election when the vast majority of the real talk was about Iraq, is like saying that the Jews may have had a legitimate gripe against the Nazis but that that was no reason for them to become whiners about it.

Their base is bigger than ours?

I don't see real evidence of that, only that they showed up to vote in larger numbers this year. It wasn't necessarily that big in 2000, and what goes up this election must eventually come down, which it may do in 2008.

Accept it, and deal with it?

How would you want it to be dealt with? What are you suggesting we all do? If this is one of those "learn to deal with your grief" or "get over it" things, I've never bought into that sort of thing. It may make one feel better for the moment, but I think misses the point in the long run.

You say, "Martyrdom is a choice one makes to lose everything just because one can't have it all. That isn't noble. It’s stupid.

Although (and I'm not being coy here) I honestly don't know how martyrdom enters into this -who are the martyrs in this, and what are they doing to make themselves martyrs? - but I do disagree with your characterization of martyrdom. In reality, martyrdom is a sacrifice one makes of oneself, for the benefit of others. It's sort of like what I.F. Stone says in his recent quote being floated, that you have to fight and fight, even knowing you will lose and lose, because years from now, someone will end up winning that fight. [See The Day After the Day After - top of the column – for the Stone quote.]

But yes, Stone says you must not feel like a martyr in doing it, but do it because you like it. Maybe so. Whatever. Noble? Maybe, maybe not. But stupid? Not.

After all, had Henry Clay decided to be president instead of being right, there's a very good chance he would have ended up being neither, and then we would never heard of him! Now that would have been a stupid waste of a life on his part!

Maybe next week we'll continue this, but I'm guessing we won't be in the mood. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm getting tired of it already.)


And Dick in Rochester New York adds -


Tagging along behind Rick...

I believe that what lost this election and a whole bunch previously is Democrats letting Republicans define them - very successfully. I do not remember "liberal" being a real four letter word until Reagan pasted it all over Mondale and Ferraro. Reagan mentioned it against Carter, but did it in skywriting in '84. Bush I did same thing with Dukakis in ‘88. The Democrats have never reacted to change liberal to a positive. (Many of us still believe this. Civil rights, cross-culturalization, Affirmative Action, Social Security, Medicare and so on. Consanguinely, dems/libs have let rep/neo-cons successfully create wedge issues that capitalize on "good conservative values" and "squishy, godless liberal lack of values.")

Simply - the Republicans can do one syllable attack crap and Democrats respond with three paragraph rhetoric and the audience is already gone. Deomocrats have never made much effort to challenge why "tax and spend liberals" is not nearly as bad as "borrow and spend neo-conservatives."

It probably does not matter that much now as the doomsday clock is in overdrive.


And Joseph wraps up his points -


Damn if I'm not getting a little tired of this myself.

Think I'll just make a few points and drop the matter.

1. Alan cited an article saying the loss was not on the gay issue, but on terrorism.  Baloney.  Yes, that was also a factor, one of several. Another (my first thought after Iowa) is that Kerry is from Massachusetts . Don't the Democrats get it yet? Republicans can nominate a northerner, but Democrats cannot. Those who are thinking of Hillary for 2008 must really enjoy losing.

2. Yes, Rove worked the Christian angle, but the Democrats played into their hands in many ways. Witness the shrillness of Michael Moore, or the Guardian UK's adventure in Clark County, OH. Preaching to the converted, and driving MANY who were ambivalent into the arms of the President. Again, making comparisons to Hitler is not helping us. We need to tone it all down. Comparing gay marriage to the Holocaust, as someone just did, may play here or in Berkley or in the back bay, but in most of the country it does not.

3. The ground has shifted beneath our feet. It is time to recognize that Republicans are right - Democrats ARE out of step with the mainstream, or the mainstream is out of step with US, if that makes you feel better. The mainstream has lunged right leaving the Democratic Party almost irrelevant. While it is tempting to think of history as a gradual rise toward enlightenment, but even a cursory view proves this false. The trajectory of history more closely resembles the DJIA: seemingly ever upward in the long view, but a bumpy ride with many bear markets along the way. On must adapt or die. We ARE out of step. An anti-gay marriage amendment passed in Oregon. OREGON!!! And Oregon makes California look like Kansas. This should tell us something about the pulse of the nation.

One must tailor one's expectations accordingly. How did the civil rights movement fare in the '40s? Not very well. I imagine that Rosa Parks would have been thrown off the bus, or thrown in jail and that would have been the end of it. That's not to say that one should stop fighting, but one has to let the context determine how one fights. Sorry to say, but many of the things that lefties hold dear are ideals that will never be achieved. Some will be achieved, but very slowly, in fits and starts. This is simply not a time in history when one should expect great lurches forward towards enlightenment principles. Fight, but don't expect nor demand everything tomorrow. Okay, I may have been winding you all up a bit, but on this I am perfectly serious: Are gays not substantially worse off in much of the country than they were before? Worse off than they might have been had certain elements been less militant? Isn't there a fair chance that the issue opened an opportunity for putting these state amendments on the ballot for no other reason than to get a few million extra conservatives out to the polls? A chance that this made the difference? I think so.

And when Dan says that it made a big difference in Ohio, I for one believe him. Point: if we want to win the hearts and minds of the enemy, we need to listen to them and adjust our message rather than self-righteously talking AT them. Note to Michael Moore: just go away.

4. That doesn't mean abandoning principles. "What goes up must come down" is cute, but when? History suggests that we could be in for a long ride. What to do? Several answers: Don't sell policy, sell virtue. We have enough of it. The funny thing (and Dan, perhaps you will scoff) but I actually believe that the Democrats embody not only Christian new-testament principles better than the Republican party of today, but the conservative values of old: responsibility, caution, community. Funny, but in many ways WE are the party of Reagan! This would not be the first time the parties have completely reversed polarity. Sell THAT.

The Reps don't get hung up on policy details. And pragmatism impresses the wonks, but not in Peoria. Give me a candidate from the South who really is a Christian, not a faker. Someone who can connect and inspire. I don't care if he's dumb as a post. Give me Forrest Gump. We can always package him with smarter men. Works for them, and lefties will still vote for him. Republicans, ironically ARE more pragmatic in this regard: They know what kind of guy they need, and what he needs to say to get the office and trust that he'll do lots of stuff once he gets their that it was “better not to talk about while he was running.” Again, we need to disengage our need to prove we're right, and just be right. Swallow the indignation and be effective.

5. Being "right" is a fine thing I suppose, but what good is wisdom if it's of no profit to the wise? David Mammet refers to this as the "great liberal fallacy": that it is sufficient to merely recognize an injustice and empathize. If we can temper the need to prove we're right, go quietly about doing what we do, keeping an eye on the big picture rather than parochial interests, be patient and keep divisive issues in the background, then we may achieve a position from which all this high-mindedness is actually put to some use. It works for them, and it can work for us. Mark Twain wrote "Thunder is fine; it is impressive. But it's the lightening that does the work". Being right is not enough, and if we let it get in the way of getting to do the work that is the real betrayal of principles.

6. The thing that is really troubling about the gay issue is that blacks and Hispanics, statistics show, are somewhat more homophobic than whites. I would like to see statistics on minority votes in the states with marriage amendments on the ballot. Democrats should have the Hispanic vote hands down, but we do not. This is one reason. There are others. Had Kerry chosen Bill Richardson he might not have won the election, but he would have won Hispanics for a generation.

7. Finally, someone recently wrote that this was not the massive loss the press is making it out to be, that it all came down to Ohio. Bullshit. Think about how dishonest that is. We lost by FOUR MILLION VOTES. Think of it. In four short years, we have gone from being outraged that one can lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College, to believing that the Electoral College is the only thing that counts. I assure you that had we won by four million votes, we would declare a mandate too. The public has spoken, and by a significant margin, it has said that we suck.



Michael Kinsley here does a riff on the “we suck” idea.


Am I Blue?

I apologize for everything I believe in. May I go now?

Michael Kinsley, The Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2004


Here are the key points, but the article has some interesting ideas about CNN and its Crossfire show (discussed in Just Above Sunset last week here):


The election campaign made it official. These are the Disunited States. There is "red America": conservative, Republican, religious. And there is "blue America": liberal, Democratic, secular. Everybody's message from the election results is that red America won, and blue America must change or die.

It's a terrible exaggeration, of course. People have different mixes of values, and states have different mixes of people. More than 50 million, or 44%, of the 115 million citizens who voted for either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry on Tuesday live in states that went for the other guy. These misfits go out in public, mingle with others and often are treated like normal human beings. (For the half-million that voted for Ralph Nader, it may be a different story.)


… So yes, OK, fine. I'm a terrible person — barely a person at all, really, and certainly not a real American — because I voted for the losing candidate on Tuesday. If you insist — and you do — I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch because they are shared by only 47% of the electorate.

And please let me, or any other liberal, know if there is anything else we can do to abase ourselves. Abandon our core values? Pander to yours? Not a problem. Happy to do it. Anything, anything at all, to stop this shower of helpful advice.

There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

As many conservative voices have noted, American society suffers from a cult of grievance. To put it crudely, everyone wants some of the things blacks got from the civil rights movement: sympathy, publicity, occasional preferential treatment and a general ability to put everybody else on the defensive. No doubt liberals are responsible for this deplorable situation, and I apologize. Again. As a softheaded liberal, I even like the idea that our competitive culture has a built-in consolation prize.

But be fair! (A liberal whine, I know. Sorry.) Conservatives shouldn't assert the prerogatives of victory and then claim the compensations of defeat as well. You can't oppress us and simultaneously complain that we are oppressing you.

Well, of course you can do this, if you want. Who's to stop you? I just kinda wish you wouldn't. If you don't mind my asking. Thanks. Sorry.


Such servility is, of course, tongue-in-cheek.  It’s not the time to roll over.  It should be an interesting four more years.



Sex and God, Part Two

In the previous dialogs, Joseph had maintained that the Democrats’ careful but tenuous alliance with the gay rights issues cost them the election, and Vince argued that that seemed to be the case in Ohio, and Emma was uneasy with gay couples raining children. That dialog continues with Dick in Rochester -


I believe that everyone is traveling obliquely around what I think is a core issue: why is everyone making "marriage" and legalization of a union synonymous? If you want all the legal shit, have a civil union. If you want a "marriage" that should be a church thing and if your church cannot accommodate you, get another church. As a church/state thing I could never understood what in hell gave the church the "power invested in me by the state." Certainly the Catholic Church has a hard time showing empirical expertise in both sides of marriage. No states require any special "marriage counseling" to become a minister. How is your priest (or rabbi or whatever) any more competent to legally bring two (or three or eight) people together than your plumber or service station attendant?

This never should have been an issue in the way it was presented.


Joseph in Paris to Dick in Rochester, New York –


I must admit that I had never thought of it that way. And then I saw the following letter to the New York Times, which perhaps makes it a bit clearer.  This does suggest that in trying to alter the meaning of "marriage” some are unaware that they are tinkering with what is primarily a religious institution, and thus it's a bit like the guy who recently tried to baptize the zoo lions.  Ouch.


Here in Frogtopia, the indifference is widely recognized, and 80 percent of all civil unions are between heterosexuals.  That's right - straights.  Breeders.  It's less complicated, less costly, and isn't looked upon as a "second-class" marriage.  Again, my point  is that in going for all the marbles, one often leaves with less than one came with.


I cite again the wisdom of Attaturk, who in the course of trying to make Turkey secular managed to get Muslim women to stop wearing the veil not by making it illegal but by requiring prostitutes to wear them. It is often the cleverness of this "oblique attack" that is needed, but only can be afforded if one is not consumed with "being right".


Perhaps gays would get further by seeking to make civil unions "not just for gays anymore", as they are over here.


The Times letter?


To the Editor:


The sweeping support on Nov. 2 for amendments to state constitutions defining marriage as between a man and a woman should come as no surprise.  After all, marriage is largely a religious institution and the United States is largely a religious country, and most major religions view same-sex marriage as at least inappropriate and probably sinful.


The proponents of same-sex marriage make the mistake of treating marriage as primarily a legal issue instead of a religious one. In a logical world, any government that aims for separation of church and state would concern itself solely with defining civil unions and the legal benefits that accompany them, and leave it entirely up to the religions to define "marriage" in any way they see fit. Perhaps proponents of same-sex marriage would be more successful if they worked diligently toward that end.


Richard Yoder

New York, Nov. 3, 2004


Well, it’s an idea.


Vince adds this -


Yes, but Dick, the argument isn't really ABOUT legal claims - despite your good logic.

The issue that swung Ohio and Georgia and the rest was FEAR - of people who are different than I AM!

American version of Jihad - without the blood!

Instead it's paid with "political capital"!  Aren't WE civil!!

Dick - on second thought - to trump my own comment - rather than fear of others, how about the whole gay thing being FEAR of OURSELVES - our own sexuality!

Now THERE'S a real John Wayne moment! A TRUE motivator!

But that may be giving too much credit to Karl Rove... then again, maybe not...


Well, Vince may be right.

But does it matter?


I’ll give Vince the final word.


Does it matter?


Joseph put it eloquently - only if the insight is taken off the shelf and ACTED UPON.  Otherwise knowledge has an awfully short half-life on the shelf!


So is the real question... What to do with an insight?


Or to put it another way - what's the antidote to fear of self?  (And I'm guessing the only answer there that matters is NOT an intellectual one!)


We chase our tails don't we?


Indeed we do.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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