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November 06, 2002

Black Tuesday

It's hard to imagine how Republicans could be much happier about the outcome of yesterday's elections, or how Democrats could be more disappointed. But there should be no disappointment among Democrats; yesterday's ugly defeat should come as no surprise. They have reaped what they've sown. They've shown no leadership, and garnered few followers. Last week William Greider called for a change in Democratic leadership, and that would seem necessary, except in order for Democrats to change leaders, they'd need to have a few in the first place. I tried to convince people to vote, but honestly it was difficult to find concrete reasons and examples from recent history of why anyone should support the Democratic party. Except for a few notable rebels (such as the few who voted against the resolution authorizing unilateral force against Iraq), Democrats have acted in the last two years as if they don't have a single thought in their heads or principle in their hearts. And since they've voted according to what do the polls say, I can only assume that for the next two years we'll not only have a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, but we'll also have a me-too/what-they-said Democratic minority constantly playing catch-up.

Meanwhile, as I listen to this morning's news reports, I hear snippets of victory speeches from Republicans like Jeb Bush and Elizabeth Dole, and what's most striking is that they sound like I'd expect Democrats to sound, saying things like "we're going to help working families, and reduce domestic violence and make sure mothers can get good child support and we're going to take care of the minors and nurses and custodians, etc." Those used to be Democratic lines; now they come from Republican mouths because the Republicans have learned that campaign rhetoric need not have any correspondence to political reality once they're elected. So we can look for more military spending, more "wars" on god knows what or whom [1], more attacks on the rights of women to control their lives and bodies, and more handouts and giveaways to corporations—especially oil and energy corporations. And if you think any of this is going to help women and poor working families (or make Americans or the world safer or more secure in any sense of that word), I've got a whole bunch of bridges to sell you.

In a comment to my last post (below), Muraii explains that he didn't vote because he didn't have time to keep up with issues and candidates:

I think this is a significant factor in the apparently decreasing voter turnout year in and year out. Americans, at least, are working longer hours than ever before to achieve our standards of living. Families are especially hit logistically, I think, because there are all sorts of issues (child care, education, etc.) which affect them more directly, and this only makes the task of becoming an informed citizen that much more daunting.

Muraii is correct: Working people often simply don't have time to stay informed, and the partial and inaccurate information found in the mainstream press doesn' t make that any easier. But the fact that people work harder and longer to maintain their standard of living is no accident of history, instead, it's a direct result of tax cuts and increased corporate spending, both of which decrease public spending, the kind of spending that might provide child care and/or health care for those working Americans, so perhaps they wouldn't have to work so damned hard to make ends meet.

One more reason Americans either don't vote or don't vote in an informed way is that, simply put, keeping up with politics and world developments is bloody depressing. (Negative television ads only exacerbate this problem.) Compared to some people, I only half keep up and today, thinking about the implications of these elections and the possible future we face at the hands of a completely Republican Congress—frankly I'm terrified and probably about as despondent about life in general as I've ever been. And I know that if I just tune it all out and concentrate on books and television and movies and work and all the other nice distractions of our contemporary world, I won't have to feel so depressed anymore. My life will go on, even if lots of Iraqi lives don't. So it's no wonder average Americans remain uninformed; it's difficult and dirty work trying to be otherwise, and what's the payoff? (Of course, if everyone committed to do this work, in time things might get better and the work would neither be so arduous or dirty, but....)

So I'm wondering if the silver lining here is that the Republicans will now have enough rope to hang themselves by 2004. With majorities in both houses, perhaps their irresponsible economic plans and their cowboy foreign policy will mess up our economy and our world to such an extreme degree that the American PeopleTM will finally get angry and demand change. [2] The trouble with that as a "silver lining" is that it suggests the world is going to get a great deal more ugly before it gets better. I hope I'm wrong.

And finally I wonder: Is it time for that third party yet? The Greens, perhaps?

[1] Now we kill by remote control. Note how differently this is being covered by the Glasgow Herald (UK) and USA Today, then ask yourself how so many Americans could vote for the party of war while the rest of the world is appalled by U.S. military actions. The different coverage of issues like this helps explain, at least to me, a lot of that disparity. Americans who rely on the mainstream press for their news are simply not getting an unbiased or anywhere near complete story, and we all know politicians are liars, so people simply don't have the information necessary to make good decisions about voting.

[2] The fact that people aren't angry is shocking and significant, and is obviously working in favor of Republicans. Perhaps voters don't want to blame anyone because, post 9-11, simple cause-effect connections seem harder to make. There's certainly something to that (hello postmodern world), but it doesn't help that no one is pointing fingers at Republicans (which is what the Democrats should have been doing for a long time now, polls be damned).

Posted November 6, 2002 07:54 AM | general politics

I'm going to good-naturedly (is that a word?) jump on the link to the Glasgow thing... I don't know if the concern about legality is justified. For centuries, all nations involved in the "Great Game" (i.e., espionage) have practiced some form of assassination. It wasn't until the late seventies that the US unilaterally decided on a policy (not a law) of not assassinating political leaders (mind you, I don't know if al Quada fits that mold). Hell, we went around in WWII and the Cold War trying to bump off every upper echelon miltary leader that we could (as did the Brits, the Soviets, the French, etc.). In fact, the French and the Brits were very active with assassinations in 1980's Africa. I think this might be a little dishonest of the Europeans to go after us for this. They bumped off so many in North Africa that the French were more aware of Libyan and Tunisian geography than most Libyans/Tunisians.

Posted by: TPB, Esq. at November 6, 2002 12:49 PM

Well, sure, for centuries people have done lots of things that immoral and inhumane; that's a poor justification for American foreign policy. And don't you think the question of legality is really kind of a tangent? What strikes me most here is the *principle* remote control, vigilante justice. The victims get no trial, no warning; the perpetrators don't need to show evidence or just cause. Just boom bam bing, people are dead in some other part of the world and the U.S. merely says "they were bad guys, trust us." Imagine if that remote control killing machine had taken out some Americans in Kansas, then tell me there's not a problem here. American double standards like this could easily be high among the factors that create people willing to die to hurt Americans and U.S. interests, dontchathink?

Posted by: mowabb at November 7, 2002 08:01 AM

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