Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to sort through my feelings and emotions in the wake of last Tuesday’s election debacle. Like many on the Left, I’ve gone through a good portion of the grieving process- denial, anger, acceptance, yet more anger- over the past six days. In an attempt to come to grips with the situation and move forward, I’ve decided to borrow a literary technique frequently employed by Thomas Friedman. I’ve decided to interview myself. It may not resolve anything, but it might prove entertaining if I don’t manage to put you to sleep first. Here goes:
So what is it about the result of last week’s election that has you so out of sorts?
Well, I think it was the realization that things like honesty, integrity, and intellecual agility matter less than perceptions, prejudices, and fear- at least to the majority of the American public. I was disappointed that a majority of Americans either don’t realize or don’t care that the war in Iraq is based on lies and deceptions, and that more than 1100 dead American soldiers gave their lives for…well, for what, really?
Doesn’t that strike you as perhaps somewhat arrogant on your part? Are you one of those who subscribe to the theory that 51% of the American electorate is stupid?
Well, I’m hesitant to participate in name-calling, but you have to wonder about the collective IQ of American voters (the voters in my district did, after all, re-elect Tom DeLay). The willful suspension of disbelief when it comes to George W. Bush and his lying is stunning. Bill Clinton gets his helmet polished by an intern, lies about it, and gets impeached. George W. Bush lies about WMDs and Saddam’s involvement in 9.11, gets over 1100 American soldiers killed, and he gets re-elected?? It’s almost beyond comprehension.
How many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9.11? I’m disappointed that so many Americans seem unwilling and/or unable to ask the hard questions. Instead, it would seem that most voters made up their minds based on the Bush campaign’s negative advertising. This campaign was a thoroughly depressing validation of Josef Goebbels’ “Big Lie” theory. Bush and Cheney kept repeating the lies, and eventually those lies became the Truth in the minds of too many Americans.
What do you think it is that’s responsible for creating this sort of environment?
Frankly, I think it’s that part of human nature that wants simple, easily digestible answers. This will probably sound horribly elitist, but I honestly think that most Americans don’t care enough or simply lack the intellectual agility to consider opposing viewpoints. Someone once told me that Fundamentalism is the sound of a mind slamming shut. I think that something along those lines in happening within the American electorate. Conservatives have found a way to speak to the fears and prejudices of Americans in simple, easily understood terms. Game, set, match.
Liberals have ceded the “Lowest Common Denominator” vote to Conservatives. While the Left still thinks it is possible to have a reasoned and in-depth discussion about issues, the Right recognizes the “sound-bite” mentality that exists in America today. People aren’t going to remember dissertations on Social Security and the deficit. They WILL remember 10-15 sound bites which twist the words and meanings of something said by a Liberal (Swift Boat Vets for Truth, anyone??). It beats thinking, right?
What do you think the Left can do to turn things around?
Well, as much as we might hate to admit this to ourselves, those of us on the Left must figure out how to fight by the current rules of the game while still maintaing our identity and our dignity. We don’t want to sink to the depths the Right has, but you can’t argue with results, can you? So how DO we wrestle in the mud without getting dirty? I’m not certain that I have an answer to that one, and I think this accounts for some of the current dismay and confusion in the Democratic Party.
Conservatives have Niccole Machiavelli, Lee Atwater, and Karl Rove. We have Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry. Conservatives have demonstrated that, in the pursuit of victory and political power, NOTHING, no matter how negative or untrue, is out of bounds. Again, look at the success Republicans have had while following this philosophy. Is this something we want? Could we live with ourselves if we descend to the depths that Republicans have (successfully) shown themselves willing to? Do we want to be party to the “Willie Hortonization” of American politics? Or have we already reached that point and we need to recognize that reality? I’m hoping for the best while I’m fearing the worst.
So, what next?
I don’t know…maybe I’ll go to Disney World….
No, dumbass…what I meant was, how do you deal with the next four years?
Well, I’m not sure about that one. Republicans are going to claim they have a mandate from the American people to shove their narrow-minded agenda down our throats. I’m not sure how anyone can define 51% as a “mandate” to do anything, but they won, so I suppose they get to define the arguments, right?
Somehow, those of us on the Left need to make it clear that we are not simply going to bend over and grab our ankles. We may be relegated to being the “Loyal Opposition”, but we still have a responsibility- to the poor, minorities, to anyone who doesn’t necessarily agree that being on the Right means BEING right. Of course, it’s still a bit early to figure out how all of this is going to play out.
….And don’t call me a dumbass, OK? Unless you really WANT to take this outside.
Sorry, man. So where do you go from here?
Hard to say, but for now probably back to bed. Today, I’m home sick after another visit from the Migraine Fairy. I’ve done about all the thinking I care to for one day.
Can I go now? My brain is full….