We've got a whole lot of walking to do.
I had hoped I wouldn't have to write this. I had hoped things might go differently.
But the truth is, I knew all along. I knew the night Kerry shattered expectations in Iowa, that we were setting up to have our hearts broken. I knew the moment Gay Marriage measures got tossed on the ballot in key states like Ohio. I knew the moment Bush took that stage in New York. I knew the day that Terry McAuliffe announced a frontloaded Democratic primary.
So, A lot of shit went down yesterday. We won a few big races around the country. We also lost some big ones too, including a few real major heartbreakers.
But some of the biggest prizes, Senate Seats in Florida, and Alaska are still too close to call, though things don't look very optimistic.
And of course, the biggest prize of all is being held hostage by the people of Ohio, those confused bastards.
But it doesn't look good there either.
But you know what? After all this, in spite of all this, I couldn't be happier about the outcome of this race. To be honest, in many ways, this is what I've secretly wanted this whole time. I hold the somewhat unpopular view that the Democratic party needs this heartbreak. Terry McAuliffe, the old Clinton hack establishment - the party bet the bank on Kerry before the first dollar was raised for the primaries - much less before the first vote was cast. Deans rise and subsequent fall never had any chance of impacting anything. The fix was put in in late 2002 - I remember having conversations about Kerry and knowing he would be the nominee as I worked for Common Cause in Washington that summer. I remember when one of my fellow interns, an awesome fellow named Drew who I sadly completely and totally lost touch with, put me on the trail of this guy Howard Dean, calling him "the future of Democratic politics - if he could ever get through a primary because of the Gun thing." Drew knew what he was talking about in some ways. In others, he and I both were hopelessly naive. The fix was in. We were set up. We've been had.
If you have any energy left. Any outrage to spare, don't spew it at Bush, Rove and company. They are deserving of it, to be sure. Probably moreso than anyone else in this country. But spewing bile at them won't accomplish anything. We had our second chance to turn that rage into change yesterday, and we blew it. At least, for now. But, the third times the charm. After today, McAuliffe and his race to the middle, race to the bottom, frontloaded primary washington insider establishment strategy will have been exposed for the worthless, corporate whore ideology that they are. The worst vestiges of Clintonism can finally be excised, but only if we remain focused, and remember who put us in this situation - of one of the lousiest primary candidates managing to basically clear the table.
In 2000, Democrats, rather than turning from Al Gore and this establishment, and renouncing what had clearly failed them in a terrible campaign, blamed Nader. Nader who drew no more votes than any other third party candidate does normally, was blamed for Gores failings. The man was scapegoated for being completely and totally statistically unremarkable. There's no Nader to blame this time. It shouldn't have been that close last time. And this time, all signs point to Bush widening his margin considerably anyway. This time, we have to understand that we didn't have anything stolen from us. We gave it away.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - A Whole Lot of Walking to Do - Let me tell you why I'm so happy about all this though. I've found, in my time as an organizer, that few things are as energizing as a narrow defeat. And this one was close, to be sure. But we have to learn from it. We didn't learn from 2000, we scapegoated. Now, it's time to start doing some homework. It's time, as Kos put it, not to mourn, but to organize. Or, as Ted puts it in Walking to Do - "All those people waving all the big signs - should just quit waiting on the divine." It's not going to come to us people. The man on the white horse does not exist.
If we want to save this country, we've got to save it ourselves.
That means that if the local city council decides to try to impose a curfew - tell them no. And if they don't listen? Vote their asses out. And if no one is willing to run against them? Run yourself.
That means if your State Legislature just banned Gay Marriage, get your friends together, and ORGANIZE. Groups have power. Politicians respond to a lot of things. Money. History. Booze. Sex. Which ones they'll respond to varies. But I'll tell you, there's one thing they all respond to. POWER. And what is power? Power is being able to visibly and loudly demonstrate that you have enough votes to get them out of office. We made a solid start to demonstrating that yesterday. But we won't have true power until we make them realize that we don't just vote when we're pissed off and at war.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater revitalized the Republican party with a new brand of conservatism. He was firey, and radical. He had unprecedented youth support, as 20 year olds flocked to him in droves. He also alienated most of the country and was crushed in a landslide by Democrat Lyndon Johnson. But Goldwaters followers didn't get crushed. They organized. And now, 40 years later, that organization is in full glory.
Which brings me to why I'm happy about yesterday. I've seen more energy this year, than I ever have in my short life. I've seen more power exercised by young voters, whether through MFA, or through NYPIRG, or just walking New York, and not being able to go a block without seeing an anti-bush T Shirt or button or something. If we can keep only half of this energy, then we're headed for a realignment in this country.
But that can only happen if we stop thinking so much in the moment. All of this "most important election of our lives" bullshit. All of this "end of the world if we have 4 more years" bullshit. It needs to stop. Yes, this loss is a tragedy. Yes, thousands more will die now. But if we just go home and cry, we won't stop the draft. If we go home and cry, we won't stop the next war. If we just go home and cry, Jeb or Rudy is going to be elected in 2008, and it's going to keep getting worse. We need to keep this energy alive. The fact is, thousands more would have died if Kerry had won too. The fact is, if Kerry had won, I fear we'd've gotten complacent. We'd've let the Republican congress continue to run roughshod over our environment, our labor laws, and our constitutional rights, all udner the radar while we look at that wonderful D next to President John Kerry's name in the history textbooks.
Instead, this loss gives me hope. It gives me hope because this time we have no one to blame. It gives me hope because now we have nothing to lose. It gives me hope because now we're poised to take over - before, we were just trying to keep the worse guys out.
Ghost Mice - Austin to El Paso - Alright guys, whose with me? Who wants to join the revolution? Keep your browser here. I'm fairly certain that MFA is in this for the long haul (and if it's not, there's gonna be some serious explaining to do). I'm in this for the long haul - hell, I'm already kicking around some plans for some serious work in 2006. But to make it happen, we need you. We need the folks who got engaged in involved this time because it was "the big one". Because the fact is, that in the end, it was just another election and we lost it. It won't be "the big one" until we win. And we won't win until people realize they need to stick around. As Ghost Mice say - "I would be so grateful, just to know that you still care."
I chose the songs in this entry not just because they're great, but because they represent so much of what I'm feeling right now. Yes, we've got a whole lot of work to do, and the chips are down. But the fact is, I'm more hopeful right now than I've been in years. And I'm hopeful because I think, yesterday, it finally clicked with people, what it means to live in a politicized society. I'd like to think that as of yesterday, a lot of people realized just how much this shit means, and just how important they are. I'd like to think that the opportunity we have to say things like this will, for once, matter in a way it hasn't in the past because, for once, people are actually scared, and have no other alternative.
As I said before, I had hoped I wouldn't have to write this. But the times, they do call for it. This is rushed, unedited, and classic bloggy half-assedness in some ways. It's first thoughts in the truest sense. Just so I'm not unclear, I'm gonna give you a brief summary that hopefully clarifies a bit of what I'm trying to get it.
1) Yes, Kerry Lost. It's bad.
2) It's not as bad as many of you will likely make it out to be.
3) America is still the same country it was on November 1st. Thats not a bad thing, but it's not armageddon either.
4) The only thing we can do now is to get organized, and make some real change happen.
5) The key to getting organized is to tap into all the energy thats shown this year, and to redirect it into positive finite tasks. There's a lot of rage and despair right now. We can rack up a lot of small victories in January if we stick together that long. And who knows what we can manage in 2006.
6) If you're pissed off, run for office yourself. There's nothing stopping you, and we need you, now more than ever.
7) If this election serves as the Democrats '64, I can safely call it a success for us, and look forward to many years of long term success.
8) If this isn't our '64, and the party continues to act like a bunch of fucking morons, strike all of the above.
I think that sums it up. Thanks guys. It's been a hell of a ride - please don't step off just yet. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle.
Nonpolitical musicblogging will resume soon.
Edit: Some additional Nonsense - I was, in the last weeks, increasingly ambivalent about the prospect of a Bush victory for a few reasons. One of those reasons - the prospect of retaking the Senate, has been shattered before my eyes, and that is possibly the most depressing news of yesterday. But the other, bigger reason, I've alluded to, but didn't really lay out. So let me.
I think that Bush has, over the past 4 years, set this country on an unimaginably bad path. By taking three branches of government, the Republican party has effectively shortcircuited our government and put all sorts of HORRIBLE laws in place. Yes, they will want to do more. But the fact is that Bush got most of what he wanted already. Most of the really horrid Bush changges were subtle and insidious and happened in his first year or two in office. But we're only just feeling the effects of any of it now. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Rumors of a draft. The Patriot Act. The War in Iraq. All of these things are wheels in motion that, regardless of who was elected yesterday, would not have stopped. Kerry as president would have had very little ability to actually reverse course. At best, he might've hemmorhaged the bleeding. But, let's take Iraq as an example - how much could Kerry have done? Either he could've kept us in there until we "win" - a recipe for instability and increased terrorism. Or, he could cut and run - a recipe for instability and increased terrorism. See where I'm going here? No matter what Kerry would do, most of the negative effects of the Bush Administration are going to occur over the next 4 years.
I strongly suspect that there will be a backlash to those negative effects, and I strongly suspect that if they were to occur during a Kerry administration, that John Kerry would be blamed. George Bush made this mess. Let him deal with it. And when the American people finally notice it nationwide - because this news will travel slowly - let him bear the brunt of their wrath. And please, let those of us who knew all along be there to reach out a hand and show the better way.