I figured my fellow Trinity Hall students were good
for some amusing and interesting quotes, which they
were, and that any British students in attendance
might provide a different perspective, which they
did, and that even if the night didn’t go my
way I could at least make lots of jokes about alcohol
But somehow I’m not up to editing through that
night. I finally left at 6:00 in the morning, and
laid awake in bed for half an hour unable to relax.
When I finally went to sleep, I dreamed of the Electoral
College. Now that, as I write this, I’ve gotten
back up after a few hours and taken a painful glance
at some news sites, it’s not any better.
To tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting Kerry
to win. But I wasn’t expecting this either.
A score of homophobic bans on gay marriage passed.
An attempt to reform the Three Strikes law in California
to a more humane standard (and one that most people
thought they were voting for when the original proposition
passed) failed. The Senate Minority leader ousted
for the first time in 52 years. The popular vote not
only in Bush’s favor, but a few million people
in his favor. The first actual majority vote for a
President since his father in 1988.
This isn’t an election. This is a rout. The
legal issues will undoubtedly continue in the days
ahead, but if Bush could fraudulently win as a candidate
four years ago, there is no way anyone is unseating
And I don’t know what to say. I can’t
even muster up the righteous anger that several of
my friends and family expressed. How does a progressive
keep going after this?
Along with the anger, I’ve also heard a lot
of disgust. Several people have said they feel ashamed
to be an American, and I’ve heard “they
deserve him” a couple of times. And true, that
would be one way to react—the quasi-Leninist
strain of showing the populace what the alternative
is, so that eventually they will break and revolt.
But I don’t think that will ever happen. My
father jokes, “Remember the Reagan years, when
Republicans were happy to just ignore the poor people?”
He’s right; those days seem like halcyon twilights
of tolerance. Look at the policy goals Bush was able
to accomplish after an election he didn’t win—changing
the government’s legal interpretation of the
Second Amendment to bring it in line with the NRA
for the first time ever. Declaring the policy of the
United States to be preemptive warfare on their own
terms. Chipping further and further away at a woman’s
right to choose. Making homosexuals the burning effigy
to draw out more support.
Four years ago, Bush defeated John McCain in the
Republican primary by starting a gossip campaign stating
that McCain had a black child out of wedlock. This
season, Republican operatives stood outside polling
places where African-American congregations marched
to after their services with signs saying things like
“Gay Adoption Now!” matched with an actual
Kerry/Edwards sign with a rainbow background.
The politics of hate are no longer a goal; they’re
the tactic as well. I still can’t quite believe
that it’s become acceptable political discourse
to stand up and argue that a discrete and insular
minority group should have less legal rights than
the majority. I can’t believe that it isn’t
a topic discussed in shadowy back rooms, while the
candidates deliver bright and shining lies about acceptance.
I can’t believe that the politics of hatred
and prejudice have become a better election tactic
than running on your platform.
So where do we go from here? What possible consolation
do we, the young activists of the left, have to cling
I wish I had an answer. While I swing between poles
of cynicism and idealism, at heart I am usually willing
to believe in hope. But I don’t know how much
hope I can draw from last night.
My father tells me that when I was a child, my first
steps of political activism were charmingly naive—I
was calling up stores in the mall at 10 years old
to say that they shouldn’t sell fur because
it killed animals, because I was so sure that if I
could just tell them, they would change. I just assumed
that people did bad things because they didn’t
know that what they were doing was wrong, and if I
showed them, they would stop. I don’t know when
it finally came home to me that sometimes people do
the wrong thing because they didn’t care about
injustice, or that they hold values that make an unjust
result seem to them worth striving for.
But it motivated people last night. Arguments about
making abortion illegal again, and ending all gun
control, and continuing and intensifying the oppression
of homosexuals provided a rallying cry for the right,
and they clung to it even as we sink further into
a morass of military casualties, a tanking economy,
and systematic destruction of the social programs
that progressives fought so hard for fifty years ago.
As a friend (that most rare of creatures, a Democrat
in Alabama) put it, people care more about one person’s
position on abortion than whether their own children
have health care. People care more about preventing
a loving, monogamous couple from having the same legal
rights as everyone else than stopping transnational
corporations from exporting their jobs. People care
more about injuring the “others” they
hate than helping the “us” we should love.
So I don’t know how to move on from this. Progressive
politics has never really been a discourse of hate—the
closest we ever come is towards the rich white plutocrats
oppressing the rest of the country, and apparently
we can’t point them out as the enemy to the
electorate because everyone is too busy wanting (hoplessly)
to be them. I’ve always been a stereotypical
leftist, beating my breast about fighting for those
who can’t fight for themselves. But this is
going to be a whole lot of fighting for people who
we can’t even get into the voting booth.
I guess that’s our modern dilemma. Sell out
into apathy, or once more into a yawning, murderous
Gird up, folks. This is going to be a long, hard