Early this morning, many of us still held out hope that something akin to Paul Hamm's Olympic comeback might happen for Kerry. That hope is now gone, as Senator Kerry has already called and conceded to President Bush.
There were things about last night that took me by surprise.
First, a sense of sheer, appalled awe that Florida has not corrected its voting problem. Out of all the states that needed to work on its election processes, Florida was surely number one after 2000. And yet, it was reported last night that they still have six different balloting systems in place, and over a million absentee ballots. I remain in a state of shocked disbelief; this is an unconscionable affront to the integrity of our electoral methodology.
I am especially disappointed with the election results on a personal level for a variety of reasons. I feel somewhat bitter because I personally changed parties for this election, and it didn't matter. For the very first time, I voted Democratic in the national election, rather than Libertarian. Heck, I actually voted pretty much a straight Democratic ticket. I've never done either of those things before.
My whole pre-marriage family voted for Kerry. Another thing that's never happened before. Many of the independent voters that I personally know went that way, too.
And it didn't make an iota of difference. In fact, Bush widened his margin of victory in Georgia, from 55% in 2000 to 59% this time, as reported by 11 Alive News. In Georgia, we now have two Republican senators, instead of one Democrat and one Republican. Although this was anticipated, I have to ask: where is the balance? Where is the middle ground? Where are the moderates?
With 97% of precincts reporting, 77% of Georgia voted yes on Amendment 1; I was in the 23% minority. Even Oregon, which I had some hope for, went 57% for banning gay marriage.
Oh, and to just to serve as the bitter icing on the partisan cake, that insane socialist, Cynthia McKinney (I really do think she has some sort of mental disorder), won her old seat back.
Most of my adult life, I've endured slightly snide smiles or outright condescension about my political choice to the effect of "you're throwing your vote away!" Well, this time I didn't "throw it away" (though I never thought I was doing so), and a fat lot of good it did.
I am tired of not being represented, and I worry that this bodes ill for the next four years. We lack commonality. We are a nation divided, suspicious and contentious, NOT one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
My husband was, at least, very gracious and kind this morning. "You voted your conscience. You did what you believed was right," he said.
Yes, sweetie, but it didn't make a damned bit of difference in my state. Georgia just seems too conservatively entrenched outside of the metro Atlanta area for my vote to count for much of anything.
What bothers me most, though, is the way the gay marriage vote will affect the future. We'll get rid of Bush in four years. However, what has been written into 11 state constitutions may well have far more lasting and troubling repercussions. As streamweaver rightly said, America seems to be turning into a theocracy rather than a democracy, and it is chilling. I don't want us to get to a place where the pendulum will get stuck and not swing back.
It bugs me that the Republican analysts got it right. They did their homework, found a wedge issue that people would cross party lines for (gay marriage), and successfully got it on 11 state ballots, including the swing state of Ohio. As rdansky said, it was no coincidence that those measures were there: it was entirely tactical. It was totally an election year leverage point, and people's rights are suffering for it. Suffering just because one party wanted to keep political power. It is wrong, it is unjust, and it is moving us away from a secular society. Make no mistake: those measures appear to have really gotten the fundamentalist vote out, and it mattered. Somehow, some way, Democrats need to try to bridge that gap. In fairness and to their credit, I think they tried to use stem cell research, but it was too little, too late.
What can Democrats learn from this? Surely there are lessons here, and Nader wasn't enough of a presence this time to cushion the blow.
First, if gay marriage is that unpopular, it would be political suicide for them to run Hillary Clinton in 2008. Democrats also need to learn that it is imperative for their candidate to be likable -- in fact, it appears that, unfortunately, the presidential election is a popularity contest, and likability is actually more important than intelligence.
They need to understand that Massachusetts liberals are not electable in the current political geography of America, and remember that Democrats don't win the White House without some support in the South. They also need to incorporate the idea that anti-incumbent sentiment is not enough; they have to be offering something concrete and easily digestible by the masses. I encountered a whole lot more anti-Bush voters during this campaign than I did pro-Kerry, and it is an important distinction.
It pains me to say this, but they also need to learn that the debates are not enough. They help, but unfortunately, being a strong debater is not sufficient to win an election. Both Gore and Kerry are generally considered to have won their debates, but as we can see, it wasn't significant enough to create a decisive victory.
They also need to not count on the youth vote so heavily. According to multiple news networks last night, only 17% of voters under 29 turned out. Unless something has altered those statistics in the last 12 hours, that's exactly the same percentage that came out in 2000. They'll register, but apparently they don't show up. It's good to try to keep reaching out to the youth vote, but don't be so dependent on it as a segment of the road to victory.
Finally, Democrats and Republicans need to stop getting lost in their own fishbowls. Humans create communities: it's what we do, and we tend to gravitate toward those who are like us, and distance ourselves from those we perceive as "not like us." Especially among the blogger community, it's too easy to subscribe to RSS feeds and friends whose views we want to hear, and then extrapolate that that's somehow the majority opinion. I'm not saying conservatives don't blog, they do, but it seems like there's an elder population out in the heartland that's a conservative voting base without much of a web presence. Not saying they're Luddites, exactly, it's just that it was a little after their time and they don't seem to need it or care for it.
What is particularly unfortunate is that I think the Republicans are less likely than ever to reach across the aisle to try to build a connection. They don't have to: they believe they have a mandate, and the popular vote bears them out. Watch out where the Patriot Act could lead this term.
Where is America today for 49% of us? Where is our country, for those who are in mourning for the direction she has taken?
To be proactive, what steps can we as individuals take to try to restore her?
weetanya asked in her LJ: "What will you do for your country today -- this month -- this year?"
Before the election, I had planned, after we get a house, to get involved as a volunteer poll worker. Today, I don't know what my plans are. One of the best ideas I've heard was from orthoepy, suggesting that we donate money to the ACLU, 'cause they're almost certainly going to need it.
I think I need a day or two of reflection before I try to answer the question: "Where do we go from here?" Right now, I just want to move to a more centrist state than Georgia, but that's not new -- I wanted that before the election as well, it's just that the desire has been rekindled.
Most importantly, can the 49% find tolerance for the 51%, and vice-versa? Until we can work together at least a little, I don't think we'll see much movement across America's political divide.
Unfortunately, what has always bothered me about the answer to that question is that, truly, speaking as objectively as I can from the middle, just from my observations and anecdotal experiences, I've generally seen more tolerance extended from the liberal side. Blame Rush Limbaugh, talk radio, or whomever you like, but it has always disturbed me that I'm willing to grant them their right to live life as they see fit as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, but so many on the Right are not willing to grant me and mine the same right in return.
Uniter not a divider, my arse.