We have a fairly clear idea of what [Bush's] planners want, but what we can expect depends on circumstances, including those we create. That’s what should concern us, not speculating about what we cannot know.
The outcome was a disappointment, but there have been disappointments before. Take 1984, when essentially the same gang of thugs — a little less tilted to the extreme reactionary statist side — won by a 2-1 margin, with about the same percentage of the electoral vote as today. And they were engaged in horrendous atrocities abroad and very harsh and destructive programs for most of the population at home. The world didn’t come to an end. In fact, activism proved quite effective.
I don’t think that the Kerry campaign even tried to include the opinions of most of the population, including those who voted for Kerry. People will vote their class interests when they see some credible political force that might represent those interests. That’s not Kerry or the DLC. There are urban-rural differences, but even greater differences internal to each. We can reach out to people, urban or rural, by taking them and their concerns seriously, trying to understand them, and working to find ways to realize legitimate concerns, without compromising our own principles. The same way we work in, say, liberal academic communities, where there is also vast diversity.
As to fraud, etc. I don’t think it is a major issue, even if true. The election had about the significance of tossing a coin to pick a king. If the coin was slightly biased, that’s unfair, but not the main issue. The much more important point is that the opinions of the majority of the population were excluded from the political arena on major issues. People voted for the imagery concocted by the PR industry. Exit polls reveal that clearly. But to discover whether the imagery is accurate, we have to compare people’s attitudes and beliefs with the actual programs. There’s plenty of interesting and credible evidence on this, and when we investigate it, we discover that people were hopelessly misled. Voters for both candidates assumed, overwhelmingly, that the candidates held their views, which is demonstrably false. In fact, voters recognized that they could not vote on agenda/policies/programs/ideas — about 10% gave that as their reasons — but only on imagery. And in a society based crucially on deceit (what is advertising?), it is quite natural that the political managers and the PR industry will run elections the same way. To repeat, there is overwhelming evidence that the opinions of the majority of the population on major issues were simply off the agenda, either within the political parties or in mainstream discussion, with rare exceptions. That democratic deficit seems to me far more important than the possibility that the coin that was tossed was biased.
Bush won slightly more than 30% of the electorate, Kerry slightly under 30%. I doubt that fraud had much to do with it. That’s about what I personally predicted, if that matters; am collecting some symbolic bets from friends, and even wrote about it a bit, on Znet. It is meaningless. It tells us virtually nothing about the country, just as it would tell us nothing if there had been a slight shift in votes and Kerry had won with a meaningless slight plurality. The important issues are: the opinions of the majority of the population on major issues were off the agenda, people voted for one or another image conducted by the PR salesman, and the images have little to do with reality.
6) Election Responce pt. 6: 1968, 1972 & 2004
The Vietnam war movements were extremely important, but they didn’t displace presidents. Nixon was elected in 68 and 72, the years when the movement finally reached substantial scale. They did affect the war, very significantly, but in other ways. Finger pointing is a waste of time. Understanding what is happening, organizing and acting, are anything but a waste of time. The tasks now are exactly as they were before, and as they would be if a slight shift in votes had shown that the other party’s imagery was more effective in the marketing campaign — which was run at about the level of selling toothpaste, as one would expect in a society where “marketing” is understood to be a massive exercise in deceit, for quite substantial and understandable reasons.
We shouldn’t have paid much attention to the elections in the first place. They can’t be ignored. They take place. But there are much more important things to do, before and now.
7) Electoral Responce pt. 7: How do they do it? Why doesn’t the Left?
The religious right has been organizing for years from the local level and on up — school boards, state representatives, pressure groups, etc. And has done so on a scale that gives some substance to Robertson’s threats to form a third party unless the Republican leadership makes statements of which he approves (and which they will then probably ignore). The progressive left is very substantial in scale, and could be far larger, including the large majority of the population, judging by highly credible public opinion studies that the press scarcely mentions, presumably because they understand that it is much too dangerous to allow people to understand that they are not alone in their views. And it has done important work. But it has not undertaken to create a viable political alternative. Maybe that’s a high priority, maybe not. But those who think it is (I agree) have to work at it every day, not just every four years, at all levels, from local on up, fielding candidates for everything from school boards to Congress and some day beyond, but also in education, organizing, working and acting on issues, etc. It is no use to show up every four years and say “vote for me” in a highly personalized extravaganza, which is what elections have become, given the severe democratic deficit in the country.