BEFORE THE BLOODLETTING….I know the Ohio provisionals are yet to be counted, but it looks to me like George Bush won. This is obviously a pretty devastating loss for liberals, made worse by the fact that we can expect no quarter from the Bush White House over the next four years, close election or not. It’s going to be tough, discouraging sledding.
But while there will be plenty of time for some valuable and needed soul searching over the next months and years, I have a few miscellaneous thoughts before the bloodletting starts:
I hope Democrats resist the urge to lash out at John Kerry. After all, the conventional wisdom said that a liberal senator from Massachusetts would get swamped, but in fact the election was razor close. It all came down to a swing of 1% of the vote in one state.
Did I say 1% of the vote in one state? Does that sound familiar? That’s two nailbiters in a row for “Landslide Karl,” not exactly the stuff of political legend. On the other hand, he did do it with George Bush as a candidate, and I guess that counts for something.
The senate is almost more frustrating than the presidency. In a way the results weren’t unexpected, since there are more red states than blue and Republicans are bound to pick up more and more of those seats over time. But just as in 2002, the Dems lost almost all the close races. Bunning won in Kentucky by a swing of one point, Martinez won in Florida by a point, Thune won in South Dakota by a point, and Vitter won in Louisiana by a point. Salazar in Colorado was the only Democrat to win a close election.
Among other things, Dems really need to figure out how to eke out a few more votes in close elections.
I sure hope all the liberal energy that came together this year doesn’t dissipate. After all, the real problem has never been George Bush, the problem has been that a bare majority of Americans agree with George Bush. That’s not an academic distinction, either: just as movement conservatives built up their machine in the ashes of Barry Goldwater’s loss in 1964, liberals need to continue building a long-term machine dedicated to changing popular opinion. And it’s hardly a herculean task: a switch of only 3 or 4 points in public opinion is a virtual landslide, and if we can pull it off it means that guys like George Bush can’t get elected anymore, even if they are the kind of people you’d like to have a beer with. It can be done.
But it takes money, energy, and coordination. Despite last night’s loss, liberals did a pretty good of pulling themselves together this year. If we keep it up for another four there’s no reason we can’t turn things around.
Oh, and one more thing: screw the youth vote. That sure didn’t work out well, did it?
UPDATE: A note to the humorless conservative brigade descending on this post: that last line was a joke. Lighten up, guys ? you won.