Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Don't Mourn, Organize

As I sink deeper into depression from the results of this election, I'm obliged to provide some good news from the Great State of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. First, as everyone knows, Obama won in an historic landslide over Keyes, 70%-27%. What's most remarkable about this victory is that Obama won almost every single county in the state, and won 2-1 in DuPage County, the state's Republican base. This means that political scientists will have plenty of questions to answer about the difference between Obama's victory compared to Harold Washington's 1983 Mayoral victory: why did whites overwhelmingly vote for Obama? What does this mean for the future of statewide African-American candidates nationwide? In addition, Obama also walks into the Senate with many IOU's from campaigns he helped contribute to including from Ken Salazer in CO, and Melissa Bean of IL (see below). Of course, we'll see Obama move more and more to the right (think DLC) to put himself in the position for a Presidential bid someday (though he'll have to fight Gov. Rod B.).

Another bit of good news is that the longest-serving Republican in the House, Phil Crane, was soundly defeated by newcomer and moderate Democrat Melissa Bean.

Other observations:

* For all the hype around the 527s (which I helped contribute to), the Republican's internal organization and GOTV machine won the day (with the help of that old time-tested strategy of voter intimidation). In other words, for the first time in modern American politics, Republicans won the ground game over the Democrats. This is especially striking considering the record-levels of turnout (Chicago was 77%).

* Election Shenanigans: I know, I know, Bush has won. But is nobody troubled by the accounts of attempted voter intimidation and suppression across the country AND by electronic voting machines with NO PAPER TRAIL, provided by a major Bush contributor who promised to "deliver the election" to the President? Just asking.

* Ideology and Issues: while many pundits, particularly liberals and the left, will begin the blame game leading to another period of internal turmoil within the Democratic Party, I think the striking and sobering issue we must come to grips with is the simple fact that at least half, if not the majority, of Americans strongly believe in the repressive and oppressive Republican vision. But this always been the case. Abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights supporters, feminists, labor leaders, and gay rights advocates have never had popular support for their visions. Did Democrats lose because they had no vision? Maybe. But God, Guns, Gays and "Terrorism" seem to continue to win over "pocketbook" issues over and over again. And liberals and progressives can either stick with the blind faith that people will one day see their "true economic interests", or they can figure out some other strategy. Maybe we should just stop the chatter about people voting on economic issues and focus on explaining how and why social issues have more resonance. I contend that both parties had a vision and had their issues, but Republicans just had a better ground game at the end of the day.

* Gay Marriage: 11 out of 11 states approved amendments to ban gay marriage. Aside from my personal disgust (though can't say I'm surprised by the result), where I think this is most significant is in Ohio, where the presence on the ballot of the amendment may have also decided the presidential race. Republicans' strategy to place these propositions on the ballots to boost turnout of Christian conservatives seems to have worked in the one state where it made the difference.

* Exit Polls: Aside from the fact that they were wrong and have major problems, a couple of interesting observations. Ending a decade-long increase, union households as a percentage of the electorate declined from 26% in 2000 to 24% in 2004. Kerry received 60% versus Gore's 59%, while Bush increased this vote from 37% to 39%. For all the millions of dollars and historic effort the labor movement put into this election, they have some very tough questions to ask. On the other hand, despite the hype the last two weeks, African Americans remained the most solid Democratic (and anti-Bush) voting bloc in the electorate (89% Kerry vs. 11% Bush, a gain of +2 for Bush), though Bush gained very slightly. Bush gained among Latinos (42% Bush vs. 55% Kerry, +7 Bush), Jews (76% Kerry, 24% Bush, +5 Bush), and lost ground (surprise, surprise) among Gays and Lesbians (77% Kerry, 23% Bush, -2 Bush). The bottom line: African Americans still remain "The Miner's Canary" warning us all about inequality and injustice in America.

* Finally, we should also see this election as the result of a 30+ year movement and infrastructure-building among conservatives ranging from the Religious Right, to think tanks, talk radio, neo-cons, and the restructuring of the Republican Party since 2000 (Terry McAuliffe should be fired immediately by the way: he's lost 2 presidential elections and lost ground in the Senate and House.) By the way, I do agree with Dan Drezner's observation that Thomas Frank will be in huge demand.

I now tend to believe, as Jeff Cowie and Paul Frymer have both argued, that progressive politics and social policy (Reconstruction, New Deal, Civil Rights & Great Society) are mere blips over the long stretch of a fundamentally right-wing, christian, all around unjust American political and economic history. The only hope is that we learn the lessons from the elections of 2004...and 1964.


Rothko said...

Can we get past depression and anger and move, just for a moment, towards hopefulness?

I am a passionate liberal Democrat. I wish the result was different. I wish that Bush hadn't made his victory so difficult to swallow by his callous treatment of his opponents over the last four years. By that I mean, I wish he had been a more centrist leader (as he campaigned as and as the circumstances of his victory should have dictated) instead of being a leader just for his base. I think he would have won by a significantly larger margin if he had been more moderate. That said, he is my president too. I hope he takes the next four years as an opportunity to unite us. Hard as it may seem to believe, I want to like him. I want him to succeed. Not that I want the Republican, hard-right agenda to succeed. I want him to be successful in making America a demonstrably better place for all citizens through his leadership.

His success belongs to all of us. So he's officially on the clock with me as far as his honeymoon goes.

As for the downtrodden Democrats I say this: Be strong and be positive. They want us to be devastated and lost in the woods. You have to get up off the mat. There is a real opportunity to turn the Party around and to rebuild it into something better. We can start by not whining about voter intimidation. These are white guys with bad haircuts, not Ak47's...

Anonymous said...

this has been a total defeat for progressives and liberals, as well as people of color and gays and lesbians. we really have to reflect on how we have prioritized issues, how we have framed the issues, how and whether we have engaged in meaningful dialogue with non-believers in ways that either change our position(s) or persuade non-believers to join us and how to avoid these kinds of defeat in the future.

being intellectually/morally right and on the wrong side of the election outcome is no longer satisfying.


Diane said...

Speaking from Illinois I can tell you Barak Obama's big win has more to do with the ineptness of the IlGOP in choosing Alan Keyes as his opponent. No one took the Keyes candidacy seriously and savvy voters, both republican and democrat voted for the man who will be able to do the most for this state. Obama's good showing in Republican DuPage County does not mean anything much as far as the future is concerned. The county wide offices went almost 100 percent republican.

I'm sorry everyone is unhappy about the election, but in another vein, I thought this blog was an arm of a college political science department. I hope the predominance of pro democratic party thought and reaction isn't the sum of all that is taught.

MyPoint said...

What makes this country great is the fact that we can all disagree and still hopefully get along. If not, we might as well move to some other spot on Earth where you do not get to have opinions.

Democrats/Liberals need to stop being so snotty with thier 'everyone is stupid' accusation. The President got more votes in this elction than anyone ever. Period. this gives me hope that all the multi millions of dollars spent by the usual liberal hacks were not trusted by the heartland. They have good reason to distrust the media and liberal mouthpieces.

President Bush got substantially more votes in the usual democratic bastions. NY, CA, and many others. This should be telling the Democrats to get off that left wing edge that they are hanging on to and move back to the center. This country disagrees with you. Republicans also won more seats in the Senate and House. Solidyfying a Majority. Against whom. House Democrats led by UberLiberal Rep. from CA Nancy Pelosi and of course the obstructionist Senate Minority Leader just paid for his policies with his job.

May G-d bless our Troops and may G-d bless America

Ps. Supreme court vacancies are coming. Can you smell the excitement?

Diane said...

For election analysis by an Illinois man who has been very spot on for the past few weeks. He has a lengthy critique of the Kerry campaign from primary to election night. Tomorrow he will have the same for the Bush campaign. You might take a look, its quite good and I expect the final 2 parts to be engrossing as well. Here is the address:

Anonymous said...

The American elections left us with one certainty, the certainty that the majority of American voters wanted Bush as president.
I just hope that their reasons will prove the right ones.

Armed Liberal said...

"I now tend to believe, as Jeff Cowie and Paul Frymer have both argued, that progressive politics and social policy (Reconstruction, New Deal, Civil Rights & Great Society) are mere blips over the long stretch of a fundamentally right-wing, christian, all around unjust American political and economic history. The only hope is that we learn the lessons from the elections of 2004...and 1964."

Well, look at it this way; if this is how you see American history, why should you expect to connect with an American population that deeply believes in American exceptionalism? Schaar covered these issues pretty well in his essay on patriotism; I might suggest you pull it out...


MWS said...

"I now tend to believe, as Jeff Cowie and Paul Frymer have both argued, that progressive politics and social policy (Reconstruction, New Deal, Civil Rights & Great Society) are mere blips over the long stretch of a fundamentally right-wing, christian, all around unjust American political and economic history."

Sour grapes isn't very appealing from intellectuals. If this is how the left sees American history (and I know it is for the most part on the farther left), no wonder it is marginalized. What gives "progressive" scholars the right to define what the American experience is? I grew up a classic New Deal liberal, but this is the kind of analysis that turned me off to so-called progressive politics. (I am, however, a Democrat and Kerry supporter.) Maybe if the left tried to actually understand the American psyche, they might actually persuade some people. Thank God I'm much too old to be in college any more.