Those of us who backed Kerry to the hilt in 2004 and woke up the day after the election to find that, out of fear and spite and indestructible ignorance, the country had re-elected a manifestly and criminally incompetent administration led by an idiot who had gotten creamed in every presidential debate are probably in better shape that anyone to explain to the young un's what just happened to their country. My opinions were fully-formed and firing on all cylinders long before Kerry vs. Bush, but in 2004 I had not yet begun my glamorous and lucrative career as a Liberal!Blogger! so I spent a considerable fraction of my staggering around, raging at heaven WTF?? time after Kerry got beat hanging out in places like the late Steve Gilliard's News Blog.
As a study in how much and how little has changed in the intervening 12 years, as well as some sound advice on the nature of politics. Steve's dispatches from after that election are worth the read.
From Steve's blog, 11/2/04:
What comes nextI know I have been getting yelled at by some people who were pissed I wasn't drooling over Diebold or crying because Kerry lost. Well, the reason is simple: I've been in politics. I've been in a winning room and a losing room, and I like the winning room a lot more. I've worked for both parties, in North Jersey, which is some of the nastiest politics in America. I've seen what an evil, indifferent mayor can do and what it's like to be pissed for eight years.But I'm not sad, and I'll tell you why.A lot of you may have been too young to remember 2000, much less 1992. I did some campaign work in Jersey back then, more in 1996. It seems like a million years ago and not because it was. It's because then, no matter how angry you were, or frustrated, no one heard you, and no one cared. And you couldn't join the party and you couldn't fight back. Either way, you were outside. That was politics.I know people are discouraged. But I have never felt better about a campaign, not 1992, not the local Jersey campaigns, not the NY mayoral campaigns. Why? Because the fact that you can bitch at me and you care what I have to say is a sea change. It is the start of something new and different and important.This is the first campaign were, we, as citizens, could actually be heard. The GOP sent their e-mails and Kerry sent his. But the difference was, we didn't wait for Kerry or the party to direct us. Kos set up his site on his own. So did Atrios, and while I had a generous grant from George Soros, :), I was able to discuss things and be read more than in a hundred newspapers. This election wasn't about Howard Dean or John Edwards or John Kerry. It was about us. We raised money. We supported candidates, we scared Tom DeLay shitless. This was the first time since I've covered politics I felt it was more than just the pros playing along.People invested their heart and soul into this campaign and I know losing hurts like hell. I'm a little distant because I learned from the pros. And believe me, they don't quit after one election.Yes, the GOP controls Congress. But I think while they beat back this challenge, they won't be beating back them much longer.Don't get me wrong. A year or four of George Bush is a mistake we will all regret. But the thing is that we know that at least 55M people stand with us. We are not alone.Now for all the doomsayers who think John Kerry killed the progressive movement.No. This isn't a one man movement.Kerry couldn't fight Ohio and that is a man who isn't inclined to quit. We lost, not because of him or us not working hard enough, but because a lot of people who voted think gay marriage is a threat to their lives. Which is insane. They don't even get it. Not that the Dems ever framed the issue right. But no one took that seriously, and we're gonna pay for that. They're wrong as hell, but we never told them why, lest we be tainted as well. If we start to blame anyone, let's start there and we're all guilty.What we didn't get is that gay marriage isn't just a legal concept, but to many people, the final straw in a world gone mad. They can't control anything, not their job, their rent or their kids. but men marrying men? That's a bit of madness they can stop.Of course, a ballot amendment won't do that. It doesn't stop anything except paper. It doesn't stop people living together. The problem will come when straight couples are affected by the same laws many of them voted for.Karl Rove conned these people. He promised them something that will never happen. They think the war is a speed bump to a Christian America. But if we can stop the homos from marrying, we can save America.And of course, the cruel joke is that two years out, the most disillusioned people in America will be the Christian Right. Bush doesn't need them any more, he'll be looking to his legacy. And being the Jesus freak president will not play. He knows that.Like with abortion. He will play with Roe v Wade, but he has no real motive to end it outright. Because when he does, that will mean the end of the Republican party as we know it. Only the Christian right will be left. There isn't enough of them to force his hand. So he can even find judges who will fritter around the edges. But to overturn Roe v Wade is to lose any hope of the woman's vote in the future. Why do you think they mever pushed this stuff when they could in the last four years? Because they didn't have to.We need a new language to deal with these issues. We need to frame them differently. Because we are doing people a grave disservice. They think it's external factors ruining their lives. TV, movies, drug dealers, gays. Well, no. It's those 50 hour weeks you pull.You don't need to go beyond Oprah and Dr. Phil to see this in action. Six year olds left to fend for themselves. Teenagers coming home to empty houses. Parents working longer and longer hours. Of course families are fucked up with that kind of economic pressure on them. So when they get an easy answer, go to church, oppose abortion and it will all work out. And of course it won't. Because it's not a problem of faith but economics. And until we reframe the issue in those terms, we're gonna lose a lot of votes. We have this unspoken economic crisis exploding, like an illness, and all we do is look at the symptoms.Sure, people dislike gay marriage. But if you think that's the real issue, you're gonna have a few more bad election nights. It's about control and fear. Until we say "look, this is not about gays, but your loss of control. You work all the time, never see your kids and you think gay marriage is your problem? Working all the time, not raising your kids, that's the issue. Your marriage blew up, you don't get child support on time, and you think the most important thing in your life is if two strangers get married? Your schools don't even work and you hope your kids will find a way to pay for college. Yet, with all this going on, gay marriage is your priority?"We simply have to reframe the debate.Once we do, the GOP will lose and lose big. But until we do, we'll get a stalemate, with one side or the other eking out wins. We'll go after the president, of either party and fight a political Western Front. Which mean no health care insurance, no real progress on a whole bunch of issues. No matter who is in office.It makes me sad to hear people talking about boycotting red states. Why? Because what about the blue counties and all those people who fought for Kerry knowing they would lose. The people who did Kerry in Atlanta, and Dallas and Houston and Little Rock? Are we going to walk away from them because of what their neighbors did? There were a lot of people in blue states who voted for Bush on the same grounds. All those folks in Charlotte and Miami and a lot of other places who went for their conscience regardless of the outcome. They knew they were going to lose and they did it anyway. Are those the people who deserve a boycott? They didn't have the numbers, but they had the heart.You know, I've slammed Nader for a long time, but today, I just feel sad for him.It's like we had a big-assed party, and instead of having a beer and relaxing, he sat in his room, making snide comments with his little friends and calling the RA or something.Nader could have joined what is growing here. He could have embraced what Dean and millions of others started. He could have been part of it. But instead, he was part of the past. The old top down lefty model which no one cares about any more. The one where we all follow the great leader. He never really got how many people respected him. He took it for granted. And then he squandered it. It is to his everlasting shame that he decided destroying the Dems was more important than embracing people acting as citizens. We did what he wanted, and then he decided it wasn't good enoughFor a long time progressive was a code word for self-indulgent lefties, most likely heard on Pacifica and in various magazines. Now, it's your neighbors and friends. It's the people around you online and off.Look, Bush won, it sucks and the question we face now is what is next. And I know what my answer is. The question is what is yours.Even before the end of the campaign I was thinking about how I would adjust to the mayoral election. What could we bring from the national campaign to this local campaign and toss 12 years of Republicans out on their ass. Is it meetups, online contributions? What? Where do we go from here to bring all this energy to our homes. I want to see local candidates represent my views and get support. I want change. I couldn't change George Bush, but I can change Mike Bloomberg and kill that fucking stadium of his.The question is how. Where do we go from here with that? What do I need to do? How do I help people?That's what's on my mind today. How do we make this local and make it work.