Probably not my last note on this, but quite possibly my last for today:
Kerry was not a bad candidate. There was not a magic candidate who would have gotten the Democrats 51% of the vote. Clinton didn’t win because he was from Arkansas, he won because he was an incredibly good campaigner. He might not have won this election. It’s not as if there’s any evidence that a more moderate candidate (and Kerry’s fairly moderate) would have done better.
The relevations we can draw from this election lie not in the Presidential vote, but in the way the Senate swung to the right. It’s not Kerry’s fault that the Senate Minority Leader lost (an unprecedented event). It’s not Kerry’s fault that Louisiana elected a Republican senator for the first time since 1876. Bobby Jindal, the new senator from Louisiana, is so conservative that even the Republican Party in Louisiana doesn’t like him, and his opponents were very moderate Democrats, as is always the case in Louisiana. He still won an outright majority. Truth is, the vote swung way to the right.
This is really hard, but it’s also really true. Most of the people who read this blog are in the minority, politically. We might get a Democratic candidate who could win an election, but he would not be the kind of guy you’d want to vote for.
Tocqueville said this about the tyranny of the majority:
In my opinion, the main evil of the present democratic institutions of the United States does not arise, as is often asserted in Europe, from their weakness, but from their irresistible strength. I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny. an individual or a party is wronged in the United States, to whom can he apply for redress? If to public opinion, public opinion constitutes the majority; if to the legislature, it represents the majority and implicitly obeys it; if to the executive power, it is appointed by the majority and serves as a passive tool in its hands. The public force consists of the majority under arms; the jury is the majority invested with the right of hearing judicial cases; and in certain states even the judges are elected by the majority. However iniquitous or absurd the measure of which you complain, you must submit to it as well as you can.
And I think he’s right. It’s the flaw of democracy and it is the reason I am not a small-d democrat. (Shock and alarm.) We are today, those of us who hoped for a Kerry victory, wearing John Rawls’ veil of ignorance. We are feeling what it means to be members of a minority in a democratic society. For the first time in quite some time, we’re finding out what it feels like to be definitively on the losing side of an election.
It stings. And here’s what we have to remember. If Kerry had won, a hundred million Americans would now be feeling the exact same way. The house, it is well and truly divided.
Now, historical perspective, cause I love that stuff. We’ve been seriously divided before. It heals. Times change. Republicans learn how to appeal to the south, Christians become politically active, Teddy Roosevelt bolts his party, FDR remakes society, that kinda thing. So it’s not as if this is necessarily going to be the end of America.
But you know, I’d be a lot happier if I could just live in a state that comes fairly close to suiting my political and social leanings without having to worry about what happens in the rest of the country. I think, too, that some of the extremes we see would balance out in this situation. It’s convenient for Texas Republicans to blame northeastern liberals for their problems; politics might get more moderate down there without the bugaboos. Or not, but in the final analysis, I think it’s Texas’ problem who they elect.
Yours for a loose confederation of states, affiliated for mutual self-defense and trade. I think I’ll call it the American Union.
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