From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls/ Said, A, O, Oh Way To Go Ohio
4 years ago I when I walked through the door after work on election day, Cathy called out, “The networks are calling Florida for Gore!” We thought it was all over, that Gore had won the election. It sure was a nice to enjoy those couple of hours, now that we know what followed, you know?
Yesterday afternoon and early evening those mysterious exit polls were looking like Kerry was going to kick some ass. When I left work I told some friends I was feeling “tentatively optimistic,” –after all, the bitter taste of 4 years ago still lingered and I was hesitent to invest too much so early. At home I camped out in front of the TV with our laptop booted up and online. Things were looking good. Ted Koppel, talking to Peter Jennings a little after 7 pm eastern time said in his 40 some years of covering elections he had never seen the Republicans looking and acting so grim. Grim was wonderful, and shit, I thought, they should feel grim given their track record over the last 4 years! I excitedly called Cathy on her cell phone and told her, “It’s looking good. And get this, Zogby is calling it for Kerry! Surely he wouldn’t stake his reputation by calling this thing so early if his polling wasn’t showing a pretty conclusive Kerry victory!” Sigh.
Those were a nice couple of hours. That’s all we got- a couple hours of the burden lifting before it all came crashing back down. Watching the real time precincts coming in from Florida and Ohio was a kind of slow motion brutality, with Bush’s small percentage advantages stubbornly refusing to budge. Pennsylvania offered about 15 minutes of respite- an injection of hope because surely- most definitely- Ohio’s population had a similar makeup- a healthy dose of good old Midwestern common sense- each resident equipped with fully charged bullshit detectors that had been going off for the past four years each time Bush opened his mouth. And yet. By 10:00 we both felt queasy with what we were seeing- while Cuyahoga and Franklin counties were going to Kerry, Hamilton was going to Bush- and barely a third of its precincts had reported yet.
I thought it was noble that Kerry and Edwards originally waited to get the absentee and provisional ballets counted even if was looking (and ultimately was) pretty grim. The Bush camp, giving us yet another spoonful of their contempt for all who would dare to stand in their way, were promising a Bush victory speech before Kerry even had the opportunity to concede. Graceful, no?
It’s a tough, tough thing to get my head around this afternoon. The Dems got their collective asses kicked. Republicans gained 3 seats in the Senate and 4 in the House. Bill Frist, speaking on the Today show this morning said, and I’m paraphrasing, “The American public has given the Republican party, if not quite a mandate, then something close to it.” Spunky Katie Couric, bless her, reminded Senator Frist, “I don’t think anybody would call it a mandate.” But one need only look over their shoulder at the past 4 years to see that Bush and his camp have always operated as though they had one- and while that may not have been true in such as highly divided country as ours, and while it’s still not true this morning- there’s no doubt that there’s been an erosion in the Democrats support. Those so-called security moms shifted in frightened droves to the protective arms of Bush’s Texas swagger. At his victory speech this afternoon Bush spoke of a "broad, nationwide victory." He's got a mandate, make no doubt about it- you can point to the fact that he's just barely eeked out a majority, but rest assured that such claims won't ever reach Bush's ears.
It’s way too early to sort out the should of and what ifs and how comes (did Pennsylvania, for example, have a better GOTV operation- more minority voters- Governor Rendell’s steadfast support? And what’s with that 5 point lead in Florida? Those early exit polls were showing the Hispanic vote moving toward Kerry- even an erosion in the Cuban-American block- what happened? And where was the youth vote? 17% voted in 2000 and 17% voted yesterday- what happened to the spike?)
There’s going to be mountains of blame and assessment over the next few months (as well there should be) but I’m taking solace in the idea that the Republicans have spent the last 30 or so years building a complex and highly effective Propaganda machine (see Lewis Lapham's article in Harpers from a few months back for a good primer) while the Democrats have, I believe, only just begun to build their own. We saw many of the 527’s bonding together over the last few months- more effective communications, sharing of responsibilities, asserting the same message, etc… obviously it was too little, too late. Maybe it wasn’t that at all. I don’t know.
I’m also not ready to suggest any antidotes to the upcoming plague of 4 years with a lame duck president easily manipulated by kooky ideologues and utterly convinced that everything he does is on the side of God and His Good. Obviously I think his first four years have been calamitous. Had the Dems managed to take back the Senate we could of at least looked forward to somebody putting the breaks on the runaway train- but now that the legislative, executive and judicial branches are so firmly entrenched I really do fear what this administration is capable of and the terrible burden we'll share when the consequences of such actions begin to roll in.
There are silver linings to be found. Obama, Salazar, Melissa Bean, etc…
Oh, yeah. In four years time- somebody kick my ass if I’m not in a swing state doing something, ok?