Just Above Sunset
November 14, 2004 - Rick Brown on why what was said last week was wrong, or inadequate...

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Last week in the Just Above Sunset Election Issue there was extended discussion of what happened in the election and why, dominated by our friend Joseph, an expatriate American living now in Paris.  See November 7, 2004 - "You need to disengage your need to be right." and November 7, 2004 - Martyrs and God and Money and Gays and the Press and November 7, 2004 - Summing Up and November 7, 2004 - No Concessions? for all that.


Ric, the News Guy in Atlanta, has been reviewing that all and begs to differ -




I've been busy for the last couple of weeks, and was able to successfully avoid, until last weekend, reading long postings, especially those that looked like they needed my attention.  Apparently I missed a load!


Sorry this runs on so long, but you should've seen it before I cut it down.


Picking and choosing:


Alan cited an article saying the loss was not on the gay issue, but on terrorism. Baloney.


Remember those Election Day exit polls that said Kerry was winning?  The next day, those same fuzzy exit polls were saying it was all about "moral values."  But now that the smoke is clearing, it turns out it was mostly about terrorism after all!


As for the marriage amendments, you cite Oregon ("OREGON!!") but forget that Kerry not only took that state, he took it by 5% more than Gore did!  And as later exit polls point out, if you add up all those voters who said they believe in either gay marriage or civil unions, you get 62%.  That's not only more people than voted for George Bush, but almost three times the folks who said their votes were based on "moral values."


But this election was not, no matter what you may hear in Frogtopia - even if you are the ultimate online virtuoso who could find out more about any country than the people who actually live there - it was not about gay marriage!


... Kerry is from Massachusetts.  Don't Dems get it yet???  Reps can nominate a northerner, but Dems cannot. Those who are thinking of Hilary for 2008 must really enjoy losing.


Hold the phone!


Bush isn't a northerner - he's from Texas!  So is Cheney! (Although to get around the constitutional ban on both on the ticket being from the same state, Cheney had to pretend to move back to Wyoming.)  Bush Senior was also from Texas.  Yes, Dole was from Kansas, which is a northern state, but Dole lost!


So a related question is, should the Democrats pick someone from the South?  Their last loser was from Tennessee, not a northern state!  And although Gore received most the votes in this country, they were mostly from the north!  In fact, he didn't win one southern electoral vote, not even his own state!  For all the good his southern roots did him, he might as well have been from the Massachusetts.


It's not about the region or state, it's mostly about the candidate and what he believes and how he comes across, and it's also about whether he and his campaign can sell themselves to voters.


Dems 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.


I never saw Moore's film, and I don't think I know anyone who did. And especially, I'm sure, I doubt that very few Bush voters saw it.  As if Michael Moore drove potential Kerry voters into the welcoming arms of the Republicans?


As for the "Guardian UK's adventure in Clark County, OH", I'm sorry, but whatever it is you are referring to may have had a huge effect on the UK vote, but not many of us over here subscribe to the Guardian.  Maybe only Bush voters saw "Guardian UK's adventure in Clark County, OH," but I, for one, have no idea what it even is.


[Editor’s Note: See My fellow non-Americans ... The Guardian (UK) Wednesday October 13, 2004 and a write-up in the Telegraph (UK) Guardian calls it quits in Clark County fiasco
David Rennie in Youngstown (Filed: 22/10/2004)
- The Guardian yesterday ran up the white flag and called a halt to "Operation Clark County", the newspaper's ambitious scheme to recruit thousands of readers to persuade American voters in a swing state to kick out President George W Bush in next month's election.]


Again, making comparisons to Hitler is not helping us. We need to tone it all down. Comparing Gay marriage to the Holocaust, as you just did, may play here or in Berkley or in the Back Bay, but in most of the country it does not.


The first time I read this, I was thinking, "Hey, I've got to check up on all those emails I missed to find out who made comparisons to Hitler! And also, who was the idiot who compared gay marriage to the Holocaust?"


And it took several minutes for me to realize, you were talking about ...  me!!


For the record, I never mentioned Hitler, and never compared same-sex marriage to the Holocaust, nor did that comparison ever even occur to me.


The reference was not about the Holocaust; it was to the concept of "blaming the victim!" The point is that governance is about addressing the concerns of all the people, not just some of them, and that gays should not be held responsible for the religious right not liking them.


The ground has shifted beneath our feet. It is time to recognize that Republicans are right, Dems ARE out of step with the mainstream, or the mainstream is out of step with US, if that makes you feel better.


It always has. I refer you to an old saying: "Show me someone who's in the mainstream, and I will show you someone who's all wet!"  Which is to say, the mainstream is not always right.  In fact, it's no so much the ground that shifts under one's feet, it's the mainstream that does that.


Yes, things may, in the process, take a route of DJIA-like ups and downs, but things do get better.  Fifty years ago, in the town where I now live, the mainstream insisted that blacks and whites go to separate schools. Today, you can hardly find a person alive who admits they ever thought that was right.


Which brings us to...


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 ... Sorry to say, but many of the things that lefties hold dear are ideals that will never be achieved ... This is simply not a time in history when one should expect great lurches forward towards enlightenment principles.


This just in: Rosa Parks won! The action she took in the name of one of those "lefty ideals" - equal treatment under the law of all citizens, regardless of race – did succeed!


How did civil rights fare in the '40s?  Looking around today, I'd say it did pretty good, thank you very much!  If all those black soldiers returning from WWII hadn't the guts to start taking stands in the forties, Parks probably would not have been able to get away with what she did in the sixties, and blacks might still be riding in the back of the bus today.


And yes, had Truman not set the stage by informing the Dixiecrats back in the forties that Jim Crow will no longer be welcome in the Democratic party, I suppose they wouldn't all be bolting to the Republicans today.  Still, it takes courage to get good things done, not cowardly bows to "political realism.”


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 polls?


Gays?  Why the hell do you keep talking about gays?  Gays had virtually nothing to do with this election!  Anti-gays, maybe, but probably not as much as stem-cells, abortion, late-term abortion, the ten commandments, gun control - not to mention "terrorism" and Iraq and the economy.  Maybe you've been reading a lot over there in France about gays doing and saying things in this election, but since we weren't reading about it here, it's not likely it swayed many actual votes.


Yes, there was all that flurry of activity many months ago about them all trying to get hitched in various states, but I'm willing to bet they weren't doing that for campaign reasons, any more than Rosa Parks was trying to sway some election by choosing to be seated on that bus.


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.


Adjust our message?  To what, the Republican message?  Aren't voters already getting that from the Republicans?


And to those who believe in trying to achieve victory in 2008 by copying what the Republicans did in 2004, I pose this question: Did the Republicans "adjust their message" in order to win this past election?


(Hint: No.)


They did fiddle with the politics a tad, just to get the "political conservatives" and "social conservatives" back to singing off the same page, like the two factions used to do, but what they were selling this time around was not substantially different from what they've always been selling.


This business of you thinking we should "adjust our message" leads me to wonder if you don't prefer the other guy's message anyway. In that case, rather than Democrats changing their message, maybe you should just change parties?


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.


Sounds like fun!  And after we try to sell the idea that all us Democrats are actually "Reagan true-believers" in disguise, we can all dress up in goose-hunting outfits and go trick-or-treating!


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.


(First of all, if our hypothetical President Gump is really dumb as a post, who is to say he's not already a registered Republican?)


But also, I, for one, don't care about someone who is a true "Christian" and I, for one, would not vote for a dumb-as-a-post Forrest Gump-type Democrat who you try to "package with smarter men" - and nor would my "fellow southerners.”


I'm not anti-Christian, but I am against any Christian who is anti-me, and if you're asking me to change my feelings on that, you're asking too much.  I'm not saying the government should force everyone to share my religious convictions, I'm merely saying it should not compel me to share anyone else's.  And if those Middle Americans you seem to think we should adapt to don't like the idea of freedom of religion, we'll just have to try to change their minds about that.


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.  Dems should have the Hispanic vote hands down, but we do not. This is one reason.


Whoops!  Hey, maybe you're right!  If pandering to the black and Hispanic homophobic vote is not enough reason to sell out one's principles, then what the hell is?  (I'm trying to keep in mind your original claim of "I'll just say that I'm neither suggesting that we become them nor fake it," but I'm not yet convinced that you're not doing one or both of those things.)


But in fact, the Dems still do get the Hispanic vote, it's just that this gap seems to be closing, and many say it's largely due to upward-striving Hispanics believing the Republicans are better at managing the economy.  And however blacks voted on those amendments, they voted 88% to 11% for Kerry over Bush this time around, which is the vote that counts the most.


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 4 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 ... The public has spoken, and by a significant margin, it has said that we suck.


I hate the Electoral College idea.  In fact, I think the Democrats should stand for abolishing the electoral vote.  Electing a president is not a federalism issue; the states should not be picking our executive for us, We The People should do that ourselves.


But I'm sorry, this election was not a landslide!  52% to 48% may not be razor's edge, but it surely isn't huge.  Nixon had a landslide in 1972 (23% margin).  2004 was certainly not as close as 2000, but it was way closer to a split decision than most others in our history.  In fact, from back when they started keeping track of popular votes in 1824 through 1984, the average difference between the winner and second place was 10 percentage points.


Also, three-and-a-half million votes out of one-hundred-something-teen votes cast is not much of a "significant margin," certainly not enough to refer to the winning half of the country as "the public" who thinks those in the losing half "suck.”  Maybe our group - which, let's face it, is just about as large as theirs, and maybe even larger -- thinks they suck!


From one of your later messages...


Let's not get hung up on the word "liberal" - it's only a word ... However wrongly maligned, the word is now corrupted.


One reason Bush won, especially on the "terrorism" issue but also on a visceral level, is that he was seen as having more "guts" than his opponent.  For one thing, if Kerry were really strong enough to keep us safe, he might have proved it to many voters by striking back every time Bush and his surrogates referred to him as a "Massachusetts liberal" - maybe by pointing out that the American Revolution, which led to the founding of this country, was started by a group of brave "Massachusetts liberals".  (Can you imagine what Bush would have said if Kerry had maligned Texas in that way?)


Democrats have always run away from that liberal label, probably because they don't like confrontation - which, when you think about it, is the problem.  Voters don't like candidates who run away from a fight, they like candidates who aren't ashamed to say what they believe and that stand their ground.


As a matter of principle, we should stop calling today's Republicans "conservatives", because they aren't anymore. And we should start calling ourselves "Conservative Democrats".


First of all, there still exists in the collective memory of many of us the term "Conservative Democrat."  They were the folks who, not too long ago, were most notable for believing in segregated water fountains and schools, but after their national party abandoned their cause, they switched sides and are now known as "Conservative Republicans."


Second of all: Why stop with trying to co-opt the word "Conservative"?  For all that, if we really want to be on the winning side, why not start calling ourselves "Republican"?  (Some may laugh about that, but there's historical precedent for this: The party now known as "Democratic" was originally known as "Republican" but, for various reasons, morphed its name over time.)


In either case, one reason the winner won was because he was seen as not trying to convince folks he was something he wasn't.


At the same time, the Democrats struggled with their dilemma of finding an "electable" candidate, someone they thought the average Republican core voter might go for - preferably one who actually killed someone in a war, is religious, doesn't shy away from shooting guns at defenseless animals now and then, and doesn't believe in gay marriage.


None of that worked. After all, what voters basically ask themselves about a candidate is, (a) Is this the kind of guy who will try to do the things I want done, and (b) Is he likely to succeed in getting those things done.  After looking at both candidates, slightly more than half of them saw more in Bush than in Kerry of what they were looking for.


In other words, pretending to be conservative - and, yet again, running away from being seen as liberal - is not really a bold new strategy to try, since it's pretty much what the Democrats did during this past election, with unhappy results.


For all the good our trying to make ourselves look like conservatives did us, I think we probably might have better spent the money and effort to get liberals and moderates to the polling places, and to try to even make some converts to our way of thinking.  Given the Democrats' track record, that would be the bold new strategy worth trying.


Yeah, Joseph, I'm sorry this was really long.  Feel free to just ignore most of it, and even to reply that we'll just have to agree to disagree, or something like that.  That would be nice.


 - Rick


I’m sure Joseph will reply.


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