Yes, we are all sad. Yes, we are all wondering if we could have done more. Yes, we are all trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, and we are all holding long, extended conversations with ourselves.
But it isn't the time for ranting and raving. It isn't the time for recriminations and blame. Sober examination and criticism is useful. Finger-pointing isn't.
It's time to retool, calm down and soberly think.
Here's an insane fact: polls show that most people don't like the direction the country has gone in for the last four years.
If you don't like the direction the country is going in, why would you vote for more of the same? Well, that's what they did. That does NOT say good things about the alternative that people saw in Senator Kerry. But, to be honest, I didn't think Kerry ran a bad campaign. He made some mistake, to be sure, but so would anybody.
I suspect that it's more accurate to say that Bush's mischaracterizations and smears raised sufficient doubt in people's minds. Which REALLY bothers me. Lies should not work, and them working grossly offends my sense of justice. But I think that's what happened, and I think they worked.
People do NOT like Bush, they don't like his policies and they don't like what he's done. But, perversely, they believed that John Kerry would be "soft" on terrorism, and other policies don't much matter if you think you're in danger of getting bombed. Bush convinced people that they were in danger of getting bombed unless he was in charge. Totally ludicrous, but there it is.
I think that we have to concentrate on three areas. I will no doubt think of more later.
1)The Press. In my opinion, the one thing that he was most aided and abetted by was the American press. And that, I think, is the one thing that we must work hardest to change. The press has almost entirely abrogated its responsibility as a Fourth Estate. They have almost completely ceased to function as an authentic check and balance on government power. Almost the only ones doing that are the blogs and Air America. And they help, but their megaphone just isn't loud enough (yet). With one party controlling all branches of government, it is IMPERATIVE that reporters do their jobs. And, being notoriously lazy and venal, they won't unless their customers DEMAND it. We HAVE to demand that they do real investigative and critical reporting.
The Republicans have figured out how to exploit a well-known weakness of the press: a desire to do no critical thinking. One side says something reasonable, and the other side says something that is both unreasonable and false; but the press treats both statements as though they had equal validity, in the name of "objectivity." That has GOT to stop. The press has GOT to start examining the statements made by those in power for both accuracy and reasonableness. And again, they won't unless we demand it.
2) Local elections. Much of the groundwork for the recent success of the Republicans was laid many years ago, when they began concentrating on small potatoes - School Board Elections, Mayoralties, Council seats, State senators. Ex-Lizard-of-the-House Newt Gingrich put a lot of energy into State Senate races because they draw the lines for Congressional Districts. And those redrawn lines led directly to some Senatorial gains. And the holders of those small offices went on to win larger ones.
3) Grass roots. You are currently signed on to the greatest organizing tool that the world has ever known: the Internet. We have to remain in touch with the like-minded, trade ideas, discuss solutions and use the raw numbers that cyberspace generates to make our voices heard. We must also deal in actual persuasion instead of invective (although a bit of open mockery aimed at some asshole who desperately needs it is certainly occasionally appropriate). As James Carville said, "We're Right, They're Wrong." I am firmly convinced that that is the case. We have got to move the debate away from people's emotions and move it to the pragmatic question of what actually works. If we do that, we win, because our ideas have proven to be successful and there's have proven to be failures. We should not be afraid to say so. Loudly. Again and again.
And in case you are wondering, this blog isn't going anywhere. If we lie down, we get flattened. When President Clinton won a second term, the right-wingers didn't sit around moaning and saying "Woe is me" - they fought like maniacs and actually succeeding in tying Clinton's hands (somewhat), winning the Senate and Congress and instituting an IMPEACHMENT based on a pile of nonsense.
I would love nothing more than to return the favor.
And I intend to try.
And I hope you'll join me in the effort.