November 04, 2004

Silence is Golden

Quakers know the value of silence, an integral part of our worship service. I am touched that my fellow bloggers on Pacific Views have joined me in observing a moment of silence on the site while we mourned yesterday’s presidential election results. But now it's time we pick up the pieces, take our bearings and move on. It’s important that we learn the right lessons from this national tragedy so we can turn it into a positive force for change. Let’s start that process right now, by asking the questions:

1) What happened? Specifically, why didn’t the big voter turnout translate into the Kerry landslide that I predicted? Yes, I freely admit, I was way off about that outcome. I understand young people didn’t vote and the GOP did their GOTV homework, but what else contributed to the four million Bush vote margin?

2) Why did blacks, Hispanics, poor, middle-class people and women vote against their economic and personal interests? What issues were most important to them, and to those in the Red states? Are we headed for a more divided coastal vs. Midwest electorate? How can we urban intellectual elitists bridge the gap to the corn-shucking rednecks of the heartland?

3) Did Kerry lose because he took the advice of the DLC, aimed for the “safe win”, nuanced himself into the ho-hum Center and failed to give voters a clearly contrasting choice; or did he lose because the liberal from Massachusetts didn’t appeal enough to the majority of voters who wanted a more Centrist candidate?

4) Where did the Democratic Party go wrong this year? Since hindsight is 20/20, should we have picked Dean as our nominee (and as I was urging Oprah for VP)? If so, what do we need to do to convince fellow Democrats to ignore the media urgings, which will only get worse now, to go for the guy who’s “more electable”?

Those are just a few of the questions we need to start asking ourselves in the “taking stock of the situation” stage. Feel free to suggest other questions and volunteer your observations, but please keep them constructive. And BTW, I was also wrong about taking the months of November and December off. That was when we were needed for the Transition Team. Now we have a lot of planning to do.

Posted by Norman at November 4, 2004 12:21 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

It's simple. Kerry lost for two reasons:

1. No message of his own and nothing substantive to say about his plans to "fix" the country.

2. We're in a time of war, and terrorism is not going away until we do something about it, not just talk. The majority of Americans, whether or not they like the situation in Iraq, felt that Bush was more likely to be proactive about the risks, and/or did not want to change presidents mid-stream. That's why I am guessing that there was quite a number of Democrats who crossed party lines this year.

This second point leads to the answer to your fourth question. The Democrats did not do enough to convince voters that they are willing to continue the war on terror; Kerry and many of his supporters very clearly signaled that they want to go back to the pre-Sep. 11 way of doing of things, which won't cut it with most Americans.

Posted by: Iris at November 4, 2004 08:58 AM

In regard to your second question (which I forgot to answer previously), you are assuming, first, that it was indeed against their interests for those groups to vote for Bush (maybe it wasn't, at least the way they felt about it). You can't say what you believe necessarily applies to the beliefs of individual women, Hispanics, etc. I am a woman, and I personally did not see how Kerry's policies were any better economically.

Secondly, you are assuming that economic and personal issues were as important this year as in previous ones; they clearly weren't to many Americans.

My $0.02.

Posted by: Iris at November 4, 2004 09:13 AM

Iris, you are quite right. I was assuming that it was in these interest groups' best interest to vote for John Kerry, but for differnet reasons. The poor and middle classes who voted for Bush did so to their economic peril. Blacks and Hispanics (and gays) were voting to be discriminated against. Non-Christians were voting for a pro-(fundamentalist)-Christian State. Women were voting to restore the place they held as second-class citizens when this country was born. And senior citizens who backed W. were asking for unaffordable health care.

I certain hope that these issues are more important than the ones they voted for, this or any other year. I am afraid, however, that they got distracted by the fear and lies put our purposely by the Administration in order to get them to vote against their self-interest.

Posted by: Norman at November 4, 2004 09:35 AM

I wrote a message on another site a few weeks ago ( ) talking about what Kerry is doing wrong:

It's the MESSAGE, not the MIDDLE. Teh demcratic party keeps thinking it's about appealing to everyone. you don't need to be a panacea to everyone's ills, you have to convey a message and a concern well and have a strong following. When people see that following and that message, either they join it or they get scared away.

Howard Dean had a message and a backing in the primaries that was almost fantatical. John Kerry had that at his disposal but he coudln't get people that feverent for him. Why? The message was "I'm not Bush."

You can't sell Iraq as a mistake very well with Kerry's record. You coudl sell it better if you are in Dean's shoes or Bob Graham's shoes -- you opposed it from the start and you can show the reasons why the war was wrong.

The flip flopping thing would have been used against dean as it had been used against Kerry though. Hell, they were already doing it before the primaries started (charging him with flip-flopping) in order to make him weaker.

It's the MESSAGE -- NOT the middle. When will Terry McAuffie and the rest of the Democrats learn this one?!

Posted by: John F. at November 4, 2004 04:34 PM

Kerry lost because Bush did what he did best: repeat a simple argument until everyone believed it. He argued, again and again, that Kerry had no plan, position or platform on any of a host of issues. And I guess I'd call the result of all that "the parade of cliches": "don't change horses in midstream," "better the devil you know than the devil you don't," etc.

The flip-flop mantra resonated with people, as did the constant insinuation that indecisiveness equals weakness, which we don't need right now.

Would Dean have been a winner here? Would Edwards? We'll never know. I do know that we can't fight the last war.

Posted by: Brian at November 4, 2004 05:31 PM

Brian - You're right about not fighting the last war. The stolen election of 2000 kept Democrats from taking stock and looking for a new game plan. No excuses now.

If McAuliffe isn't replaced with somebody better, and spokespeople picked who can present themselves and talk well, the party leadership is going to be getting daily hate mail from me.

Posted by: natasha at November 4, 2004 07:18 PM

Thank you for reminding me of a saw my Menonite G'Da taught me many years ago... 'bout the old Quaker who found a burgler in the living room (like there was anything to steal!)...

"Pardon me friend, I'd not think of harming thee, but thou standith where I am about to shoot!"

Posted by: Thomas Ware at November 4, 2004 07:45 PM

I'll chime in on the margin: it swung towards Bush because more red-state Bush voters turned out than blue-state Kerry voters. Kerry got about half a million fewer votes in California than Gore did in 2000. The numbers in New York are similar. I'm talking raw numbers here, not percentages. Meanwhile, there's something like 10 or 15 red states where there were at least 100,000 more votes for Bush than in 2000. So whatever the reason-- whether it's people who were actively turned off by Kerry or people who switched over to Bush-- he just wasn't able to get people to vote for him even in places where it ought to have been an easy job.

Posted by: Patience at November 4, 2004 10:17 PM