Friday, November 12, 2004

Meanwhile, in North Carolina...

My friend Bill Grantham writes about his experience in the presidential election:
Hey Brian,

[this started out as a response to your message and turned into
self-therapy. Sorry if I sound preachy or pundit-like -- I'm more
trying to work out my own feelings than convince you of anything]

Thanks for trying -- seriously, I mean that. For my part, I spent
three Saturdays canvassing door to door, and worked the polls on election
day. Mostly, I contented myself with giving fairly large sums of money, by
my standards, to Kerry, the DNC, ACT, and MoveOn. I did my volunteering
with a group that splintered off from ACT in order to be more partisan.
So we were a grass roots bunch of Democrats with no name or official
status. But we had very good organization at the tactical level. We
were actually optimistic that we could get enough turnout of unlikely
voters in Wake County (Raleigh) to overwhelm the rural vote and tip NC
to Kerry, despite the polls and the fact that Kerry/Edwards had written
off the state. Turns out we were wrong, obviously, but the process
illuminated how ineffectual and petty the Democratic party is in NC.
It seems they were more interested in turf and protocol than being
effective. However, this is only based on one side of the story -- our
leader's -- as I didn't work directly with the party. But there seemed
to be some truth to it.

I have had a strange reaction to the results, so far. Perhaps it is
some sort of physiological defense mechanism, a deep form of shock or
denial, but I have a strange sense of peace, rather than grief or
anger. I'm sure it will pass as soon as Bush resumes his willfully ignorant
policies and pushes for something egregious like drilling in ANWR, but
at the moment I feel no hatred. God knows there's plenty to be bitter
about, from Rove to the Swift Boat veterens to Bush's outright
slanderous misrepresentation of Kerry's positions on security, but I
just can't get myself worked up. Maybe I have indignation fatique.
Maybe I suffer from a variation of the Stockholm syndrome.

But I think another reason for this feeling is that some internal
tensions are resolved. I can now root wholeheartedly for a complete
and total success in Iraq. Previoulsy I was torn. I had opposed the war
from the start, never believing that WMD was the real reason (that
much was patently obvious) even when I believed they existed. I was
appalled by the arrogance, stupidity, wishfull thinking, and plain
boneheadedness with which it was conducted, and hated to think Bush could get away
with it. So I found myself wanting to things to go badly, but not so badly
Kerry couldn't fix them. Until I remembered that going badly means
people dying. So how many people do I want to die, in order prevent
Bush from being re-elected and pursuing policies that will result in
even greater tragedies -- more wars, a viscious cycle of terrorist acts
and responses? A moral quagmire I don't have to deal with anymore.
For better or worse, the people have endorsed Bush's approach.

So now I can hope for a spectacular success in Iraq (just as I would
have if Kerry had won, as I fervently hoped). I hope Iraq becomes a
stable democracy as soon as possible, Osama is captured, Al quada is
crushed, peace is acheived between Israel and Palestine, and the whole
Arab world changes its mind and embraces Bush as a saviour. Not
likely, but nothing would make me happier than for all these things to
be solved and off the table in 2008, so we can get on to what to me are
the real issues -- how can 5 or 6 billion (and counting) humans survive
and prosper without destroying all our fellow creatures on this planet?

What has enraged me most about Bush is not just the folly of his
foreign policy. It is that his administration systematically and relentlessly
undermines the only tools that offer hope in dealing with this grand
question: rational thought based on empirical evidence, and peaceful
resolution of issues through an open democratic process. I don't
expect him to change on this, and we must redouble our efforts to prevent him
from taking us back from the age of reason to the age of faith. In
foreign policy, Democrats and moderate (or non-neocon, at any rate)
republicans must try to make Bush's policy more responsive to reality.
But I am no longer (as far as I can see) faced with conflicting
desires. I don't worry about the Republicans getting credit for winning the" war
on terrorism" -- if they actually did, it would be worth it. Besides,
winning wars doesn't necessarily secure power. The Dems lost in a
landslide after Wilson won WWI, Churchill was voted out after WWII,
Truman barely hung on for another term, Bush I lost after what appeared
to be a decisive victory in the Gulf War. If anything, there seems to
be a trend to turn to the other party for a fresh start after a war.

-- [Well that's as far as I got yesterday, and I didn't get time to
finish it today. Need to go for a run before the light fades, and to
send this before the feeling goes away. Was going to talk about some
more concrete reasons for hope and strategy Dems should take, but that
will have to wait. The one thing I will say is that it does no good to
try to move to the right -- the right will just keep moving the target
rightwards. they will always call Dems extreme left wing liberals out
of touch with the mainstream, so if we let the center become labeled
leftist, the far right will become center.]

My one comment right now to Bill's post is that the Republicans are not looking for an end to the War on Terror, maybe hoping it will be a very long time before people start thinking of a change in political parties for the postwar era. We'll have to persuade the people otherwise.

Anyone else wishing to respond can post in the comments section here, or email Bill at wgrantham (eliminate the space before the @ symbol).

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