Post-Election Delayed Dejection Rejection

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Of all weeks to quit smoking…or rather, of all weeks for my blog to quit working!

Since I don’t smoke you’ll have to take that metaphorically.

But frustratingly for me, this blog has been on the fritz. I have been posting some of my thoughts on the election over at Personal Democracy Forum, a new site that I am proud to be nurturing along with Andrew Rasiej. But it’s not a place for partisan rumination, more a place for pondering how technology is changing politics. (For the latter, I believe, as you’ll see from reading my latest article in The Nation, called “The Rise of Open-Source Politics.”)

That said, here are some quick thoughts, written as I rushed off for a weeklong Public Campaign staff retreat.

While it’s true that you can’t beat something with nothing, the presidential elections showed that you can’t beat nothing with nothing, either.

Bush had nothing. So he ran hard (like a challenger) against Kerry, using Terror as his open weapon and gay marriage as his not-so-secret weapon. The Big Lie held–by 52-44 the final exit poll (the only one anybody should pay attention to) showed voters saw Iraq as part of the war on terror. And in 12 states, anti-gay marriage ballot questions (carefully cultivated by Rove) did the job of motivated the religious right base.

Against that, Kerry presented nothing. His vote for the war AND his failure to admit that that was a mistake made his Iraq critique ring hollow. He also failed to deliver a coherent message on the economy, Bush’s biggest weakness and his strongest issue. In Ohio, 62% said the economy was not good, but they split 48-48 on who they would trust to deal with it. The anti-gay measure there passed 2-1, by the way.

See my friend Doug Ireland’s blog for more along these lines. He had been predicting precisely this kind of debacle for about the last two years, forecasting clearly how the anti-gay initiatives would stir up the religious vote and pinpointing the many weaknesses in Kerry’s hapless campaign. For more on those, be sure to pick up the post-election issue of Newsweek for a blow-by-blow.

The bottom line: claiming that we’re descending into fascism is really quite facile, but explains nothing, and it’s an insult both to the victims of real fascism and a way to reproduce the pattern of behaviors that got our side into this hole. It’s time to admit that the Democratic party is in a real crisis, one that won’t be solved by a restoration of the Clinton family. (Marc Cooper’s dissection of Democratic self-denial is a must-read, in that vein.) Some folks understand that and have been trying in various ways to foster new initiatives and new thinking. It’s critical that that continue.

Bonus link, cuz it made me laugh: David Weinberger’s “Democratic Grief Advisory System.”


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