The Defeat

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2004-11-10

Dangerous times -- as others have said, like Germany right before Hitler, only different of course. And at least Hitler could not claim that he was voted in by the majority. Hitler received (according to credible sources) only 31 percent of the popular vote before he seized power. But Bush got a majority -- claims to anyway -- although what happened in Florida and in Ohio, beginning with thousands of missing absentee ballots, tens of thousands of miscounted electronic votes in Democratic areas, uncounted provisional ballots, voter intimidation and massive vote suppression in black (hence Democratic) areas -- may still be challenged in the courts.

But be that as it may, I fault the Democratic party, and Kerry in particular. Because the major issue for the voters -- and this was agreed on by all the pollsters before election night -- was the war in Iraq. And the Dem. party's strategy was to appeal to the tiny fraction of swing voters -- and to ignore the Dem. party's base -- while Bush was carefully nurturing HIS base. And the most damaging thing to Kerry came from Kerry himself in the height of the campaign. He was asked by a reporter whether knowing what he now knew about all the facts that finally came out about the war, the fabrications given for it and its results, whether he would have voted for the resolution supporting going to war when he did.

At that point Kerry actually delivered the statement (which came as a blow to the solar plexus of his loyal supporters) to the effect of: "Knowing what I know now about all the false reasons the administration gave for the Iraq war plus the awful mess we've gotten in now, etc., Yes, I WOULD STILL HAVE voted for that war resolution when I did." -- that did more to kill his credibility than any Swift Boat TV ads could ever have.

Kerry could have at that point answered the direct question the way (Republican) Congressman Greg Bereiter did who, when asked the same question responded: "Of course I would never have voted for it, knowing what I know now" or even as Senator Clinton did when asked the same thing, when she responded, "There would never have been such a resolution." (Not that Senator Clinton is a paragon of liberal virtue otherwise.) But Kerry had nothing to lose at that point and everything to gain if he had answered differently (and also to finally get rid of his originally damaging alliance to the Bush policy.) But no.

So in the end those very swing voters -- who were not especially concerned about the issues since they paid little attention to them, and as voters are just interested in personalities -- were not impressed.. When asked, they simply questioned Kerry's believability and gave their vote to Bush, the more "believable" one.

Also on the very issues that could have made a difference and presented a real alternative to the Bush agenda Kerry blew it time and again: (1) Never mentioned the Abu Ghraib torture scandal which would have been a perfect opportunity to show the difference in moral standards between what we say and what we do (2) Never mentioned the Bush preventive war doctrine that trashes the whole concept of the United Nations Charter (3) On the the question of "terror" he allowed Bush's framework of "them against us" to go unchallenged -- Kerry's message: he would kill them better. Some alternative!

There was an inner hollowness to Kerry's campaign, and it was obvious, unfortunately for all those who had placed their hopes of regime change in him.

I believe that the theory of the ABB (anybody but Bush) strategy of picking the candidate, and also the assumption that most Americans are conservative and thus we must choose the "most electable" who may be a slightly better version of what we don't like -- and thus we pick the "lesser evil" to support -- is a self-fulfilling destructive proposition. That is how real democratic reform or progressive change gets ruled out.

Because I believe most people (outside of their fears and defensive mechanisms) are really NOT conservative, no matter what the pundits say, and instead are thirsting for ALTERNATIVES -- viz., the amazing meteoric rise of Howard Dean's campaign -- before he was trashed by the media and painted with the "unelectable" brush. Indeed, some writers said, before the primaries were over, that Dean, the one candidate who had both credibility and charisma and who presented an alternative that was real -- was the only one who COULD win.

(An indication of how different a Dean election campaign against Bush would have been is hinted at in Woodward's book when he tells how Carl Rove admitted that he was glad that Bush was not running against Dean since that would have made the Iraq war a major negative issue for Bush and a probable defeat for him.)

Speculation on that subject is not terribly useful, of course, but it highlights for me again the emptiness of trying to do what seems to be "possible" in politics and thus narrowing the perspectives for ourselves of what IS possible.