Wednesday, December 08, 2004


You may have noticed the absence of any political commentary here since the election. That's largely because I haven't had anything to say. I don't know why Kerry lost and I have no idea what the Democrats or the Left should do next (though I do have an idea what they shouldn't do; see below). And to be honest, it was sort of a relief to have the election over. I did my part (not as much as some, but more than most; and greater effort on my part wouldn't have made a difference), and what happens next isn't my responsibility anymore. Which means I can ignore politics if I want to, and I did want to. I particularly didn't want to read any of the many articles describing all the terrible things that would happen now that Bush had been elected: all these consequences had been predicted repeatedly before the election, and I didn't want to be reminded of them now that it was too late.

Recently, though, I've come across a couple of pieces written by others in response to the election which are worthy of notice. "Mourn," Katha Pollitt's column in the Nov. 22 Nation, is the best immediate post-mortem of the election I've come across. It also includes a splendid swipe at the idea, popular on the left, that the Democrats need only nominate a "progressive" candidate to win:

"The logic of the "Left Is More" position seems to be this: What people really want is a Debs or La Follette who will smite the corporations, turn swords into plowshares, share the wealth and banish John Ashcroft to a cabin in the Ozarks. But since the Democratic Party denies them their first choice, they will--naturally!--pick a hard-right warmaker of staggering incompetence and no regard for either the Constitution or the needs of the people. Better that than settle for a liberal centrist who would only raise the minimum wage by two dollars. In other words, these proto-progressives will consciously choose the greater evil out of what--spite? pride? I scorn your half-measures, sir! Keep your small change!"

In her conclusion, Pollitt makes the following depressing reflection:

"Maybe this time the voters chose what they actually want: Nationalism, pre-emptive war, order not justice, "safety" through torture, backlash against women and gays, a gulf between haves and have-nots, government largesse for their churches and a my-way-or-the-highway President. "

I hate to believe this, but it seems difficult to deny it.

There's also a very good article by Louis Menard in the Dec. 6 New Yorker (apparently not available online) which does a good job of refuting the idea, which became conventional wisdom immediately after the election, that "moral values" was the main factor in Bush's victory. (Menard's article wasn't the first to do so, but is more accessible and comprehensive than the other refutations I've seen.) Hopefully Menard's article will also put a stop to the discussions of how Democrats can appeal to conservative evangelicals. I know everyone was upset, but that doesn't explain why so many people decided that trying to appeal to the people least likely to vote for you would be a good strategy.

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