Saturday, November 13, 2004

Anyway the Wind Blows

Stolen election or not (and as I've said numerous times here, I'll let the jury decide), the system is screwed and it needs fixing NOW. Not just by 2008 and well before 2006 but it's going to take the Dems getting really ballsy and really pushy to hammer the point home that all of our values, as Americans, are tied up in the legitimacy of the vote and making voting accessible to all Americans.

There's an interesting article here, a report on voting in Cleveland from about how inept the system is in Ohio. People waiting in line for hours only to find out they were at the wrong polling location, arrogant and stupid poll watchers, voter rolls that didn't make any sense... absurd.

However, at the very end of the article is a telling vignette:
In Akron, Alan Perella, owner of Larry's Main Entrance, pulls up a seat at the bar, where his regulars wait for televised results. "You think there's still hope?" he asks.

A balding drunk in a Hawaiian shirt places an elbow on the bar as if he's about to answer, but instead, he lifts his beer to his lips, takes a sip, and sighs. He looks dejected. Next to him, Dawn Williams, a bulky woman in a cardigan, appears apologetic.

"I feel really guilty for voting for Bush," she confesses.

People raise their heads from their drinks and exchange puzzled looks.

"Wait. Wha--? Why did you vote for him then?" asks a bulb-nosed customer with a southern Ohio accent.

"Well, I only voted for Bush because I don't like Kerry's wife," Williams answers.

The geezer in the Hawaiian shirt tries to steady himself in the face of his own drunkenness and Williams's stupidity. He grips his pint as he stares blankly at the glowing red map of Florida on TV.

"We're fucked," he slurs.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "Wow, I wished I didn't vote for Bush... I didn't think he'd actually win!" And when I respond, "Well, what were you thinking?!?" the answer goes something like, "Well, I kind of felt sorry for him..."

And you know, I have to confess that although I'm appalled that they'd use such mindless criteria in picking their president (especially in the face of the peril our country is now in), I can understand where they're coming from. Bush got trounced in the debates, his own campaign was a fiasco (and repulsive with its negativity), but I think that to many Americans he comes across as the harmless mensch at work who, although of anybody in the place is most deserving to be fired, you'd feel for when they finally let him go.

Kerry (and the Democrats) didn't inspire the kind of anger at Bush that many of us felt. We kept hearing about Republican dissatisfaction at Bush over many issues such as the war in Iraq, the economy, and civil liberties but apparently Republicans had almost 100% voted for Bush (and that's some of the "evidence" that the election was gamed). "I kind of felt sorry for him," hardly translates into, "I was pissed at what he's done to this country, I'd have voted for a poodle."

Second guessing what happened in the primaries, the Dems went with a stiff. The old guard didn't want a firebrand like Dean running so they went with a Mr. Least Objectional. The aversion to Dean was, I believe, that he scared a lot of people. Well guess what, the people he scared were hardcore Republicans because they knew Dean was the kind of candidate that might inspire undecideds and independents with a backlash against Bush and his policies. I remember the talking-head circles yammering about the Dem prospects prior to the primaries and conservatives on those gab-fests being the ones with the greatest enmity towards Dean. Kerry, it seemed, was an "acceptable" candidate to them.

Two things: Dems need to stop taking advice from people like Bob Novak and William Kristol - get a clue, you idiots, they're not offering advice because they want you to win! Secondly, Dems need to re-arrange the primary itinerary, put Iowa and New Hampshire down the list and put states like New York or California (or Colorado) at the top. If you're going to let your base decide who the candidate will be, it needs to be a broader base. Democrats have to decide who their candidate will be based on that candidate's ability to inspire enthusaism not on what a few party hacks think will be a "safe" candidate.

"Values" didn't decide this election (no matter how many sub-intelligent pundits I hear echoing that canard, I've seen more compelling articles debunking that schoolyard fib), the inability to inspire the need for change decided this election. When I hear people say (and I've heard it quite a few times) that they wish they hadn't voted for Bush, it tells me that they wished they'd had a better reason to vote for the alternative.

The time to fix the system is now, both inside and outside the party. In the most important election of our generation, the Democratic party failed miserably by cowering at the liberal label and offering a clearly articulated alternative to Bush. Whether or not the election was stolen remains to be seen but Democrats need to proceed "as if" and make election reform a top priority, externally, party reform a top priority internally. The future of this country depends on how well the Democrats can rise to those tasks.


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