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Election Thoughts


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Well, it was close and it wasn't close.

 

Close: Kerry had a real chance to bring it home in Ohio but didn't quite make it. He is a political realist, and so pulled the plug on all the lawyering the Democrats were ready to do, and gracefully conceded. I was impressed. His exit made me proud of him in a way his campaign did not. I was not impressed with Edwards' speech, however. He made no gracious reference to Cheney or Bush, looked dark and angry, flashing that smile of his like a brief electric sign, then returning to his real face. I now believe that his famous boyish grin is a smiley face over the soul of a profoundly driven man whose real motivation is power, power at any price. He spoke of continuing to fight. I have little doubt that Edwards was to have been the point man for Team Kerry if they had decided to go the court route, and would have happily carried it on for months, if need be, without regard for the nation's need for a new administration to prepare itself to govern on Jan. 20. I will never support him again.

 

Not Close: You can't argue with a 3.5+ million vote majority, with all the qualifiers that come with it: most votes ever received by anyone in the history of the American Republic, absolute majority, first majority win since 1988, etc. If Kerry had pulled it out in the Electoral College through recounts and court actions, as murky as these would undoubtedly prove to be, he would have had even less legitimacy than Bush has had since 2000.

 

If Kerry had been elected under these circumstances, I think he would have been the weakest American president since James Buchanan used Pennsylvania as a launching pad to placate the South, weakness that led to the Civil War. The minute Kerry made a firm decision on Iraq, he would lose half the Democratic Party, and facing a hostile Congress, would have no possibility of governing except as a figurehead. The single saving grace would be appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, and that in itself was worth the risk to me, and one of the reasons I voted for him. But he could never have gotten a liberal confirmed, and so the best he could do would be moderate Justices, who, given the independence they have, could turn out quite differently than he intended -- case in point, David Souter.

 

I see two overwhelming lessons for those who lost this election, one for gay people and one for Democrats.

 

Gays: Every ballot initiative featuring restrictions on gay marriage and even civil unions passed. Eleven of them, I believe. It was a dark day for us. I think that the in-your-face approach must be ditched. Polls show that most people, even in quite conservative areas, can be convinced that civil unions are acceptable on the basis of legal equality -- inheritance, hospital visits, property rights, etc. But a large, large majority are opposed to gay marriage. We need to drop the word marriage, drop the "equality" campaign on that issue, stop scaring and enraging conservatives and Bible thumpers, who now hold the levers of power, and go to work shoring up our relationships and legal rights through other channels. To continue on the marriage equality path is to risk even further erosion of the publicly acknowledged rights we have won. What's in a name, after all, if you have the goods?

 

Democrats: Bush has brought religious conservatism into the center of the power structure. Religious values are now the turf on which elections are won. The Democrats and moderate and liberal Republicans need to wake up, realize what kind of country this is becoming, stop living in a fantasy bubble that ignores "red states" country, and accept it. While the media elite and liberals in general laughed and pointed fingers at the freak shows of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who were easy to lampoon, the religious right has been quietly and powerfully articulating its ideology in basic theological, philosophic and political terms. It has moved from gut level rejection of social liberalism into very sophisticated territory, and has been able to share its vision effectively with millions and millions of its supporters. On the issue of the separation of Church and State, they are beginning to peep out of the closet and suggest that this country should have an official religious doctrine guiding its government. There will be more of this.

 

There is at this point no effective counterpart to this movement in the center and on the left. The awkward response of the center and left to the right on the "values" issues demonstrates its current weakness. The response this year was fragmentary and disconnected and driven by individual issues that have become catchwords: "a woman's right to choose", etc. The academic and media elite are largely a-religious or outright atheistic, and unequipped to do theological battle. Their nature is to use differentiation to pursue "dialogue" rather than hammering out broad religious and philosophic agreements and translating them into effective organizations which can mobilize for political action. Democrats are still relying on a Depression-era strategy of bloc voting, depending on unions, blacks, Jews, city-dwellers, teachers and academics to vote motivated by self-interest or fear -- groups of people organized by race or class interest. But we are entering a phase of the country's life where articulated values are increasingly the modalities of power, and they just don't get it. Without a clear moral vision to offer in counterpoint to the Christian right Republicans, I am afraid that the Democratic base will shrink, not grow. Middle class blacks and Hispanics, many of them profoundly culturally conservative, will increasingly find a political home in the Republican Party, which in this next four years will agressively court them. The bloc-voting strategy will guarantee the Democrats permanent minority status.

 

I believe that this work can be done. There is an alternative moral and political vision of social justice, empowerment of the poor and the oppressed (among whom surely gay people find their home), individual blessing in a context of economic commonwealth, organized as well as individual compassion, and the recognition of the divine intention moving in the direction of greater equality and inclusion as the main overarching movement of history, in Jewish and Christian faith, and you don't have to look far to find it. It is compelling and attractive. Kerry was making some stabs at it this fall, but it needs to be more than a couple of speeches by an individual every four years or so. It took the Religious Right at least 30 years to build to this point. It was a sustained effort of millions over many years. The alternative vision needs the same dedication to build a foundation in shared values that is clear and public and effectively presented as a values system. If this is done, the moderate and liberal elements will begin to expand again. But if they continue on the old tracks, they will become increasingly less relevant, and we all will suffer for it.

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>

>I see two overwhelming lessons for those who lost this

>election, one for gay people and one for Democrats.

>

>Gays: Every ballot initiative featuring restrictions on gay

>marriage and even civil unions passed. Eleven of them, I

>believe. It was a dark day for us. I think that the

>in-your-face approach must be ditched. Polls show that most

>people, even in quite conservative areas, can be convinced

>that civil unions are acceptable on the basis of legal

>equality -- inheritance, hospital visits, property rights,

>etc. But a large, large majority are opposed to gay marriage.

> We need to drop the word marriage, drop the "equality"

>campaign on that issue, stop scaring and enraging

>conservatives and Bible thumpers, who now hold the levers of

>power, and go to work shoring up our relationships and legal

>rights through other channels. To continue on the marriage

>equality path is to risk even further erosion of the publicly

>acknowledged rights we have won. What's in a name, after all,

>if you have the goods?

>

>

 

Thanks for the very thoughtful post, and interesting analysis of the election results. However I wish to disagree with your point about having gays accept Civil Unions, and dropping their demand for marriage.

 

I see marriage for gays as a simpe civil rights issue. If we settle for less (civil unions), we will never achieve full marriage status. It would be like saying to Rosa Parks, "Rosa, honey, how about if we let you sit in the middle of the bus. That isn't as bad as the back of the bus, and you will still get to your stop."

 

I think the issue is not that gays should settle for less, but rather gay people need to do a better job of helping others understand the civil rights and discrimination issues involved here. We should not simply give in to the views of the red state and jesus folks, but rather we should help them understand that thier fears are unfounded. Rather than say, OK, we will take civil unions and go away quietly, we should help them realize that they have nothing to fear. I lived through the black civil rights movement, and fear was a strong motivator of those who chose segregation and discrimination (It was an "if we let them eat at the lunch counter, then they will rape our women" mentality.) Most of the fear was unfounded, and was generated by those who saw a loss in thier power and the a loss of the way of life that they had come to accept as normal. Discrimination is about finding a way to beleive that you are superior to another group, so that you can have an identity and feel better about yourself. Those who are happy with who they are never need to discriminate, because they don't need to feel superior to other groups.

 

I think the whole country will be better off if we continue to work to end discrimination, rather than just accepting it because the majority thinks its OK.

 

I was interested to see some results of the exit polling on Tuesday night around this issue. (Not that the exit polling was very reliable.) However it showed about 23% of Americans support gay marriage, and another 37% support civil unions. This shows that over 60% of Americans support some rights for gay unions. This is great progress, and it also means that those who oppose any rights for gay peopel are NOT in the majority. There a lot of them, and they are mean, but they are not the majority. I think that we have made great progress in this area in a relativley short time, and we need to continue to educate the population. I think it is better to seek the ultimate goal of full gay marriage rather than to accept being placated by civil unions.

 

Of course, I am from Massachusetts, and I am an unrepentant liberal.

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For the last 60 years, Americans have seen big social changes forced, yes, forced, upon them by the courts, legislating new and unintended meanings to the Constitution and laws. Democracy doesn't mean much if the biggest laws are legislated by the courts against the will of the people. That long history is part of the problem with gay marriage. It is big social change which is likely to or may lead to others (polygamy, polyandry etc.) and the courts have started the process of forcing it upon society by reading unintended meanings into the Constitution. So, in every state in which there has been an initiative or referendum, it has been passed overwhelmingly by the people. More than gay marriage is involved. It also involves a long history of resentment at our loss of democracy over the last 60 years.

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>For the last 60 years, Americans have seen big social changes

>forced, yes, forced, upon them by the courts, legislating new

>and unintended meanings to the Constitution and laws.

 

Can you give me some concrete examples here. I know about Brown vs. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation, and Roe vs. Wade. But can you give me some others please? And since you set the window at 60 years, would you advocate that we should go back to racial segregation in this country. After all, if civil rights were solely left in the hands of the voters, we would still have racial segregation in this country. I think those folks in the "red states" were the strongest advocates of that. I think that it is urban myth (or rather, rural red state jesusland myth) that the courts are imposing undesirable lifestyles onto folks.

 

>Democracy doesn't mean much if the biggest laws are legislated

>by the courts against the will of the people. That long

>history is part of the problem with gay marriage. It is big

>social change which is likely to or may lead to others

>(polygamy, polyandry etc.) and the courts have started the

>process of forcing it upon society by reading unintended

>meanings into the Constitution. So, in every state in which

>there has been an initiative or referendum, it has been passed

>overwhelmingly by the people. More than gay marriage is

>involved. It also involves a long history of resentment at our

>loss of democracy over the last 60 years.

 

The problem with your argument is that Civil Rights are not subject to majority rule! Can't you get that through your head? If majority rule were the sole arbiter (rather than the Constitution), then the majority could readily discriminate legally against any minority they choose. The founding fathers allowed that the world would change and the courts would have to rule on things that they could never have even thought of. Technological advances will always provide new tests for the Constitution. That's why we have the courts, as an EQUAL BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT! Am I the only one who took civics in public schools? If you think that we should back off of our demands for the civil right of marriage because the majority does not feel comfortable with it, then you need to remember back to the 50's and 60's and the Black Civil Rights movement in this country. Maybe if you were not alive then, you don't understand it. President Kennedy had to use National Guard troops just to allow black students to register at the University of Alabama. George Wallace, the duly elected Govenor of Alabama tried to physically block them. Alabamans were very uncomfortable with that, and they felt that the will of the majority was not being respected by the courts and Federal government. 40 Years later we think nothing of the fact that the Secretary of State, a Supreme Court Justice and the National Security advisor are black. Likewise, I beleive that in 40 years, no one will bat an eyelash at gay marriage.

 

And Rick thankfully already rightly ridiculed you for ridiculous statement about polygamy and such.

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Guest zipperzone

I am often puzzled by the thought processes of many gays in both the USA and Canada.

 

Bush won - we (gays) lost - that's clear, it's history and we have to deal with it.

 

If I am looking for acceptance by any group, and I'm not talking specifically about gay here - one of the first things I do is try to ensure that I do not offend their sensibilities. Gays often do just the opposite.

 

People judge others by what they see. We all know the old expression - "you only get one chance to make a first impression".

 

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not implying that the following is why gays lost the election but...........

 

Why do so many of us take delight in shocking the shit out of our straight neighbors? Take your average Gay Pride Parade, for example.

Do we really think that a half naked drag queen careening down the street, behind a bunch of more naked hunky leather queens etc. etc. etc., actually help the cause of gaining acceptance.

 

Give our heads a shake! If we present ourselves as freaks, why should we be surprised when we are percieved to be freaks and are treated as such. If we want to advance our "adjenda" as "they" like to call it, we should hire a few PR firms to give us advice. We ARE different and should not have to blend in with the rest of the homogenized population. But we are shooting ourselves in the foot to think we can attain our goals with shock value.

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Let That Be A Lesson To Us All

 

>>

>>I see two overwhelming lessons for those who lost this

>>election, one for gay people and one for Democrats.

>>

 

>Thanks for the very thoughtful post, and interesting analysis

>of the election results. However I wish to disagree with your

>point about having gays accept Civil Unions, and dropping

>their demand for marriage.

 

On the one hand, gay marriage will come to pass. While some courts may lead on this, progress is inevitable as it was with legislated racism and slavery (by the way, for which many also offered a defense with a "moral" underpinning), women's sufferage, one man/one vote, direct elections and every other progressive change adopted in this country, gay civil rights, including gay marriage, are simply, inexorably, inevitable.

 

Those who do not like this today will be viewed in the next century the same way those who bound women's feet, lynched black men for whistling at white women, or thought the world was created in seven days are viewed today.

 

Of course, that is the rub: many people believe in creationism as a plausible, if not actual, scientific fact. THIS is what needs to be changed, not which strategy will best succeed at obtaining basic human rights when even gay men view them as nothing short than the opening of the door to beastiality.

 

As for the rest of this analysis, I again return to the New York Times:

 

In other words, nothing has changed. Mr. Bush's victory on Tuesday was not based on his demonstrated competence in office or on a litany of perceived successes. For all the talk about values that we're hearing, the president ran a campaign that appealed above all to voters' fears and prejudices. He didn't say he'd made life better for the average American over the past four years. He didn't say he had transformed the schools, or made college more affordable, or brought jobs to the unemployed or health care to the sick and vulnerable.

 

He said, essentially, be very afraid. Be frightened of terrorism, and of those dangerous gay marriages, and of those in this pluralistic society who may have thoughts and beliefs and values that differ from your own.

 

As usual, he turned reality upside down. A quintessential American value is tolerance for ideas other than one's own. Tuesday's election was a dismaying sprint toward intolerance, sparked by a smiling president who is a master at appealing to the baser aspects of our natures.

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Guest Tampa Yankee

Don't Kid Yourself

 

> He is a political realist, and so

>pulled the plug on all the lawyering the Democrats were ready

>to do, and gracefully conceded. I was impressed. His exit

>made me proud of him in a way his campaign did not. I was

>not impressed with Edwards' speech, however. He made no gracious

>reference to Cheney or Bush, looked dark and angry, flashing

>that smile of his like a brief electric sign, then returning

>to his real face.

 

You really think that these speeches weren't coordinated with respect to tone and content. One to appeal to the nation and the other to appeal to the loyal base. Once Kerry decided to concede and then called Bush both of them could have walked in front of microphones to speak from the heart. That is not the way things are done in politics.. usually. Edwards has his +s and -s but he was a good solider and I doubt he deserves all the credit/blame for this speech.

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RE: Don't Kid Yourself

 

Actually, knowing now about Elizabeth Edwards' diagnosis Wednesday with breast cancer, I wonder if Edwards wasn't emotionally preoccupied with that terrible news. I now give him the benefit of the doubt on his facial expressions, which he might well not have been able to control, and with good and understandable reason. My heart goes out to him and her and their whole family. What a horrible morning for both of them. The words were written -- he was scripted, and I am in agreement with you that he was a spokesman for the bad cop side. Still, I am surprised at how graceless they were, compared to Kerry's elegant exit.

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