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« Ed Wood Found | Main | Negativity and Artsyak »

November 26, 2004

Post-Election Wrapups

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A post-election point that seemed to me to be overlooked was that perhaps many of those who pulled the Bush lever weren't really voting for Bush. After all, who really likes what he's done to the economy, let alone his stance on immigration?

Perhaps what many Bush voters were doing instead was voting against Kerry's backers, many of whom have been fantastically abusive and snide towards Red America. As far as I can tell, it almost never occurs to the left that the other half of America might not like being ridiculed, being called stupid, and being put down for what they believe in. Yet as dumb -- or at least clueless -- as this demonstrates them to be, these same lefties persist in thinking that their only problem (and the only reason they lost) is that they're too smart for the rest of us. Good lord, what to make of this?

And, hey, has anyone else been as struck as I have by the way lefties -- so quick to ask "what have we done to make them hate us?" when we're attacked by foreign nuts -- never think to ask the same question about why so many of the people they share their own country with dislike (or at least mistrust) them?

I thought Dennis Prager's analysis was the most trenchant wrap-up piece I read. I thought Graham Lester's look at "voting irregularities" was the funniest.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at November 26, 2004




Comments

It works both ways, though, doesn't it? Try this variation:

"As far as I can tell, it almost never occurs to the right that the other half of America might not like being ridiculed, being called sinful, and being put down for what they believe in. Yet dumb -- or at least clueless -- though this demonstrates them to be, these same righties persist in thinking that their only real problem is that they're too righteous for the rest of us. Good lord, what to make of this?"

Was there really nothing else going on in this election? No issues... perhaps?

Regards

Posted by: Chris Kearin on November 26, 2004 04:13 PM



Chris -- I'm not sure where I suggest that I'm offering an explanation for everything. I'm just mentioning an element I thought got underdiscussed in the many post-mortems I read. BTW, and FWIW, I know a fair number of righties, and I'd characterize very few of them as thinking of themselves as "more righteous" than lefties, who they generally think of as kinda sweet, kinda silly, and a little prone to childish hysteria and abuse. I know scads of lefties, and I'd characterize almost all of them as thinking of themselves as smarter than Red staters. More "righteous" too, come to think of it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 26, 2004 04:23 PM



Which isn't to not deplore excesses on the right, of course ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 26, 2004 04:34 PM



And it's all such a shame...it isn't like there aren't real issues facing our country. It isn't like there weren't real things to be discussed. And it the political class entirely failed us there, and resorted to insults on both sides. I don't know if Barrack (sp?) Obama meant it in his keynote speech, but I thought he nailed it when he said, "There are plenty of people coaching Little League in the blue states, and there's plenty of people uncomfortable with their library records being accessible to the justice department in the red states; plenty of people worship an awesome god in the blue states, and we all have gay friends in the red states." Red state people are not all dumb and reactionary and bible-thumpers (some are, and not everyone who worships at a Christian church is a bible-thumper) and blue state people care what their kids watch on TV. It's like a comment I heard 15 years ago when someone said AIDS was a punishment for sinning: "If God was handing out diseases as a punishment for sinning, we'd all be at the free clinic." If God was handing out righteousness or smarts by political party...

Posted by: annette on November 26, 2004 06:32 PM



Michael -- I too know righties who don't think they're more righteous than lefties, but I don't think they're the ones who turned out in numbers in the so-called heartland. The Falwell-Robertson flock, and the people who snapped up sixty-odd million copies of the "Left Behind" books, are not likely to regard those who disagree with them as just "kinda sweet, kinda silly etc." Heck, we're gonna burn.

More generally, I think there's a general fallacy underlying most election postmortems: namely, the idea that the candidates start out with an equal chance to win, and that therefore whoever loses did so because of mistakes they made, while the winner made all (or enough of) the right moves. In fact, the allegiance of many voters on both sides (including mine) had been determined long before the campaign began, and the odds at the start of any election are rarely 50/50. The question is, where is the benchmark? Did Kerry (and his supporters) fail as campaigners because they didn't get 50% of the vote, or because they didn't beat what Gore got in 2000? Or did Bush & co. in effect fail because they barely squeaked through an election that might have been a landslide. Look at Bush's approval ratings in the months after 9/11, and where he wound up on Election Day. Look, also, at the landslides achieved by Republican incumbents Nixon in 1972 (also during a divisive war) and Reagan in 1984; you could plausibly argue that Bush did such a bad job that he drove away an extra 10% of the electorate in comparison. After 9/11, and in the midst of a war, how could an incumbent fare so badly?

I don't think there's any one way of explaining what happens in an American presidential election. There are countless factors, any number of which could be viewed as "decisive." The resentment of elite "Easterners" on the part of many "heartlanders" is certainly a factor (see Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas?"), but I don't think you can say that the moral of the election is that lefties are getting what they deserve for turning their noses up at the hicks -- which some of them incontrovertibly do. Arguably, about the only thing certain that you could say is that the reason Kerry lost the election is because Bush got more votes.

Posted by: Chris Kearin on November 26, 2004 08:52 PM



I loved the answer to the "stupid" remark by a friend (albeit only a virtual one), a graduate student of NYU:
"if it were the case that the Bush states were dumber, what's wrong with you people that you couldn't brainwash the weak into voting for you? What kind of wolves are you that you can't pick off the slow sheep?"

Chris Kearin, if you really want to know the factors that led to Bush's victory, why don't you brace yourself and actually look at the Republican blogs - Wings of change, Chicago boys, Michelle Malkin and others, they are easy to find. Beleive me, many very intelligent people there don't make a secret of their opinions.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 26, 2004 09:38 PM



Dear Michael: Yes you are correct. I voted against Kerry rather than for Bush, who is grotesque about his Mexican fetish. (To be clear, I pressed the button with Bush next to it.) I could not endure four years of conjugal hair flipping and anti-Americanism, though I am going to try to use my Congressmen in an effort to fight Bush in many ways including his Vietnam-like war effort, even though I dearly hope he wins unlike the Bill Clintons.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 27, 2004 07:11 AM



yeah, i think the by now almost mythical red-state/blue-state divide has become lazy political shorthand for real discussion and honest debate of late. those pundits who invoke it trade in the currency of division and dismissal that i believe do their readers and viewers a disservice (if not outright harming america, as jon stewart pointed out on crossfire the other day).

if one steps away from the moral, ideological axis of right and wrong -- a zero-sum, winner-take-all contest of wills -- and instead frame issues as simply working or not working, effective or ineffective, then i think we'd get along a lot better and be much further down the path of dispassionate, constructive discourse... importantly, because i think our goals and values, one person to the next, are not all that different from one another.

if i may quote bill clinton at his recent speech in little rock, arkansas for the opening of his library :P

Yes, this library is the symbol of a bridge, a bridge to the 21st century. It's been called one of the great achievements of the new age, and a British magazine said it looked like a glorified house trailer.
(LAUGHTER)
And I thought, "Well, that's about me, you know. I'm a little red and a little blue."
(LAUGHTER)
What it is to me is the symbol of not only what I tried to do, but what I want to do with the rest of my life: building bridges from yesterday to tomorrow, building bridges across racial and religious and ethnic and income and political divides, building bridges.
I believe our mission in this new century is clear. For good or ill, we live in an interdependent world. We can't escape each other.
And while we have to fight our enemies, we can't possibly kill, jail or occupy all of them.
Therefore, we have to spend our lives trying to build a global community and an American community, of shared responsibilities, shared values, shared benefits.
What are those values? And I want to say this; this is important. I don't want to be too political here, but it bothers me when America gets as divided as it was.
I once said to a friend of mine about three days before the election -- and I heard all these terrible things. I said, "You know, am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George Bush and John Kerry, who believes they're both good people, who believe they both love our country and they just see the world differently?"
What should our shared values be? Everybody counts. Everybody deserves a chance. Everybody has got a responsibility to fulfill.
We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter but our common humanity matters more.
So I tell you we can continue building our bridge to tomorrow. It will require some red American line drawing and some blue American barrier breaking, but we can do it together.

cheers!

Posted by: glory on November 27, 2004 01:09 PM



oh and for "lefties -- so quick to ask 'what have we done to make them hate us?' when we're attacked by foreign nuts," i don't think this is entirely or necessarily an exercise in self-flagellation and anti-americanism. afterall, even the pentagon is asking such questions.

if one stops short of a reflexive and reductive rationale of "them hating us for our freedoms," then i think one must acknowledge that a little strategic self-assessment can go along way. like if you can't admit or leave some room for even just the potential (however, so slight) that one might be engaged in flawed policies, or at least suboptimal ones, then i think you've fallen into one of the worst stereotypes that the administration's been charged -- that of stubborn anti-intellectualism and incuriosity -- and i think that'd be a shame... especially when trying to bring freedom and democracy, and peace and prosperity, to the mideast. those are laudable goals, but i think you're shortchanging them, and yourself, in the uncritical and patronizing belief that only they must change, or be destroyed, as if it weren't a collaborative (and indeed humbling) process where we could not both strive to do and achieve better.

Posted by: glory on November 27, 2004 01:18 PM



plenty of people worship an awesome god in the blue states, and we all have gay friends in the red states (A misquote. Actual speech here.)

Still, one of the lamest lines in the history of political speech.

Obviously, if one side votes the "god" ticket, and the other side votes the "gay" ticket, we have the entire electorate determining governance based upon nonsense. That's the important thing: If you are pro-god, anti-god, pro-gay, anti-gay...you are emphatically pro-nonsense.

Thus, on matters of actual importance, the ruling elite can continue to make its decisions based upon its own motivations.

Posted by: onetwothree on November 27, 2004 02:46 PM



Chris -- You make a lot of good points, tks. I think we may be aggreeing to disagree about something, though. The Dems seem to view the election results this way: they ran a good and gallant race, but they lost because either 1) the election was stolen from them, or 2) the evil Repubs managed to scare stupid fundamentalists into turning out in droves. Or maybe both, of course. You'll find a lot of this kind of reasoning over at Crooked Timber, for instance.

In my view, the Dems more or less actively threw the election away. They should have won in a breeze. All Bush had going for him was being an incumbent during a war. Not insignificant, of course. But he's blown his franchise in many different ways -- where the budget and border are concerned, and much else. He seemed to me about as vulnerable as a sitting wartime President could be. I know this can't be proven one way or the other and that I'm talking hunches and instincts. But it seemed to me that there were loads of otherwise Republican people who'd have willingly voted against him -- had the Dems fielded a plausible candidate and put on a plausible campaign.

But they didn't. Kerry looked weak from the outset; the Dems never came up with any kind of theme; and the juvenile carrying-on that they seem to have not just tolerated but encouraged alienated lots of people who otherwise might have swung their way. Having Michael Moore onstage was not a good idea. Carrying on like hysterics about how Western Civ was about to end was not a good idea.

Another for instance: The Wife and I live in NYC. And during the protests around the Republican convention here, there were tons -- tons! -- of protestors doing the "Lick Bush," "Bush is a chimp," and "Bush=Hitler" routine, wearing tie-dye, and looking mightily pleased with themselves. The Wife, more sympathetic to Kerry than I was, repeatedly said, "Don't they know that they're throwing votes over to the Republicans?"

Big surprise: many Americans are patriotic, think the office of the Presidency should be accorded some respect, think Hitler comparisons should be made warily, and associate '60s-protest behavior with being an adolescent, not an adult. (This doesn't automatically mean they're stupid, or bigoted.) The Dems, it seemed to me, got so caught up in their righteousness and their fantasies that they neglected entirely to appeal to these everyday people. Which leads me to conclude that they threw the election away. It wasn't a miracle to me that the Dems did as well as they did. It was amazing to me that they lost.

Tatyana -- That's a great quote from your friend. If all those flyover people are indeed so dumb, why can't the brilliant Dems figure out a way to appeal to them? Good lord, if the people running GM and Wal-Mart can do it, shouldn't the Dems be able to?

Paul -- It sounds like you made a strong lesser-of-two-evils choice! It's sad when that's all an election allows you to do, isn't it? Sigh: I'd love to be able to vote for someone sometime. But I'm probably being naive.

Glory - That's a vivid reminder of how and why Clinton won and looked good for a while, isn't it? Clarity, charisma, a "let's move into the future" vision ... Amazing that the Dems seemed to have learned nothing from that. Instead, they seem to want to go back to the post-'60s usual. As for your other comment, I agree -- I don't think it's a mistake to ask the "why do they hate us" question, so long as we don't tumble into self-hatred and narcissism. But I do think it'd behoove the Dems to ask themselves the same question about this election: why they were unable to reach 51% of the American voting public? If they're so right about everything, where'd they go wrong? Instead, the Dem blogs and columnists are going on (and on) about how dumb the 51% is. That's their only explanation for the failure.

I'd suggest that that it's the tendency lefties have to deny responsibility for their actions, and the lack of respect they have for everyday mid-America that accounts for why the 51% voted the way they did. These people -- like 'em or not -- aren't stupid. They can sense that the Dems have contempt for them, and with their non-Dem votes they're pointedly saying "screw you" to that. Why can't the Dems sense that? And why aren't they asking, "What have we done to make these people -- 54% of the voting public -- dislike us to the point where they'd rather vote for a bum instead?"

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 27, 2004 02:58 PM




Christ, they're _all_ dumb. Why pretend otherwise? Half of the adults don't even know that the Earth goes around the Sun in a year.

The same is true for public policy issues. Most Bush voters, in surveys, said that they believed in all manner of silly crap about Iraq. A goodly fraction of Kerry's voters also believed that crap - and those that didn't for the most part believed _different_ nonsense.

The average American is a truly lousy citizen - ignorant beyond dreams.

This has been the case for a long long time, at least since the 1930s, possibbly forever.



Posted by: gcochran on November 27, 2004 05:08 PM



Michael.
Is this post offered as serious commentary on politics?
It is full of such wild assertion of "abusive and snide" something -- your lack of any specific examples is pretty striking -- that I assume you are simply being satirical.
Do you have any specific examples?

Posted by: David Sucher on November 27, 2004 09:04 PM



David Sucher,

You ask for specifics to back up the contention of an "abusive and snide" attitude of Democrats/liberals to the rest of America. The Dennis Prager article cited in this post is loaded with specifics. I can do no better than to quote from that article:

To most Americans, Michael Moore is a Marxist who has utter contempt for most of his fellow Americans, who goes abroad and tells huge audiences how stupid and venal his country is, and in his dishonest propaganda film, portrays the American military as callous bufoons. Yet, this radical was given the most honored seat at the Democratic Party convention, next to President Jimmy Carter.

To most Americans Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are race-baiting demagogues. Yet they are heroes to the Democratic Party. Most Americans do not see their country as the bigoted and racist nation regularly depicted by both black and white Democratic leaders.

To most Americans, Hollywood stars are regarded as terrific to watch in films but also as narcissistic ingrates when, between private jet trips to Cuba and Cannes, they express their contempt for traditional America. That the Democrats have a veritable monopoly on support from folks like Sean Penn and Robert "Castro-is-a-great-leader" Redford may give Democrats a heady feeling, but for tens of millions of Americans it merely reinforces their belief that the Democratic Party shares Hollywood's values. Even The New York Times, in a post-election analysis, wrote of the "possibility that activist entertainer's fervent endorsements may have cost Mr. Kerry the election."

Posted by: ricpic on November 28, 2004 10:24 AM



I have commented further with "Mommy, they said the bad word. First!!"

Posted by: David Sucher on November 28, 2004 11:01 AM



"In my view, the Dems more or less actively threw the election away. They should have won in a breeze."

So true. I consider Bush highly incompetent and was all ready to vote against him, but the Dems completely dropped the ball and seem to have forgotten what it means to be an oppistion party. My three major problems with Bush are:

1) Iraq
2) Deficet
3) Immigration

If the Dems had run someone who ran against the Iraq war as a mistake and getting us out as quickly as saving face allowed, I would have voted for them. If they'd ran someone who was for balancing the budget and smaller government, I would have voted for them. If they'd ran someone who was for a sensible immigration policy that served the citzens best intrests, I would have voted for them. There were tons of openings on Bushs right, and yet the Dems didn't capitizlie on any of them!

Come on lefties, we need you to offer some credible oppostition to keep the worst elements of the Republican party in check.

Posted by: Zetjintsu on November 28, 2004 08:50 PM



By the same token, most people I met who voted for Kerry did it simply because he wasn't Bush. Lesser of the two evils, they said. This is what the future of the world comes down to.I haven't read all the comments yet, so I apologize for not noting this point if it's already been covered.

Posted by: Neha on November 28, 2004 09:32 PM



Yesterday I saw the most enjoyable biopic "Kinsey", and this morning read a Talk of the Town piece in the "New Yorker" detailing the continuing attack by Judith Reisman and other wingnuts on Kinsey's scientific legacy, including an attempt, at this late date, to initiate a congressional investigation of Kinsey. I'm a relative newcomer to this blog, so could someone please explain how it's possible for an intelligent person to have any attitude other than ridicule and contempt for these demented assholes?

Posted by: Mike on November 29, 2004 09:17 AM



I believe that Bush would have won the election in a breeze if it weren't for the Iraqi war. The Fairmodel put together by Ray Fair of Yale was predicting a 57% Bush victory using tried-and-true (mostly) economic variables. Bush in fact rang up a 51% victory, 6% less than the prediction. In a postelection interview, Fair himself attributed this underperformance to the Iraqi war, a variable exogenous to his model.

Posted by: JT on November 29, 2004 10:44 AM



Zetjintsu -- I'd vote for anyone with your set of priorities.

Neha -- That's a good underdiscussed point too.

Mike -- Thanks for dropping by. But: which "demented assholes," exactly? People attacking Kinsey? I'm not by any means totally up to date on Kinsey. But, whatever his contributions, wasn't he also a fairly dicey character who produced some fairly dubious scholarship? But maybe I'm a demented asshole.

JT -- Pollsters, eh? There's an interesting Nicholas Lemann piece in the current New Yorker analyzing the voting. I'll see if it's online, and if not maybe try to summarize it...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 1, 2004 02:47 PM



Sorry for beating the dead, but today I found great post on the topic, in Russian LJ:

...Last elections delivered some rude awakening. In the most unexpected way rednecks voted against circuses. And against bread too. Phenomenal stupidity of The People was entirely incomprehensible to the liberals. "May it be that we did not promise enough? May be they just did not understand the stakes? Why would they vote against their interests?" - Democrats were puzzled, - "Ah, hey, you… whatsyourname... you, boy - go, ask them rednecks - are they out of they fucking minds?" - ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and NYT hurried to oblige, elbowing each other on the way out. They came back somewhat unsettled. "Well, you see, the unwashed said that they are concerned about..., - press looked in the notepad, - ah, here it is, moral values!" - "What? - liberals' collective jaw dropped, - what values?" - "They said moral values... if we wrote it down correctly. No idea what they meant by that..." - "Wait, wait a second. Did you ask them about free prescription drugs?" - "Oh, that we did. Rednecks said something about them not needing other people's money" - "Other peop... What kind of shit is this? - choked liberals, - wait… get us water! No, not water - pills!" - and they rushed out to see therapists...

Author's apologies for poor translation.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 1, 2004 11:09 PM






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