Today is the tenth anniversary of one of the worst criminal acts in United States history: President George W. Bush’s theft of the 2004 presidential election from Democratic Senator John Kerry.
On the afternoon of November 3, the day Kerry conceded the election (prematurely, as investigative journalists Brad Friedman and Greg Palast have long noted), I went to Faneuil Hall in Boston to see what the atmosphere was like outside of the building where Kerry would bury his dream. As long as I live, I will never forget the horror on the faces of the young people near the building. It was though they had just borne witness to a mass murder.
In a way, they did. Bush’s heist lead to the loss of more lives in Iraq, to say nothing of the countless lives lost thanks to additional four years of US non-leadership on global warming. No wonder those young faces were so heartbroken. They knew, instinctively, the deadly consequences of what had just happened. As then-Boston Phoenix writer Dan Kennedy noted:
The outcome of this election is bad news for anyone who cares about a more just, equitable, peaceful, and diverse society. It’s bad news for gays and lesbians, poor people, scared single women who need an abortion, soldiers, you name it. It’s good news if you make more than $200,000 a year.
That day, Kevin Drum also observed:
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.
Sound advice, a decade on.
Granted, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama’s victory on the night of the heist was a positive development, considering what it would lead to four years later. Yet it can be argued that the gloom of November 2, 2004 has yet to dissipate. Voting rights are still being imperiled, as Friedman has courageously chronicled. The right-wing interests that supported the Bush-Cheney administration still have an iron grip on our politics and media entities. The American electorate can still be manipulated to vote a certain way based on fear and hate. From a certain perspective, it seems as if time stopped on that demonic day.
Whenever progressives note how illogical the political right has become, conservatives often point to the “Truthers”—the folks who think that 9/11 was an inside job—as a prominent example of lunacy on the left. Of course, “Truthers” never actually had political power on the left, but how can any rational person, regardless of ideology, deny that ten years ago today, George W. Bush, in essence, knocked down the towers of democracy?
UPDATE: From 2006, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is interviewed by Tucker Carlson about his Rolling Stone piece:
SECOND UPDATE: From 2004, more of Brad Friedman’s great reporting on Bush vs. Kerry. Plus, more from Slate.