Last November 2 was a bad day.
Looking back at LGM, I note that I really didn’t write anything about the election after November 2. Dave and Scott both wrote excellent wrap up posts that hold up, in particular this from Dave:
Don’t despair, at least not too much. Every thoughtful, compassionate and serious person worries about events which lie beyond their control, and they should. But it’s no good for anyone if we succumb to fear and anxiety about such matters. Don’t try to figure out precisely how much damage is likely to be done. It’s unnecessary, impossible, and debilitatingly depressing. We’ll cope, fight, and despair as the situation dictates, and we should prepare for that. The world I live in is full of beauty, wonder and love. It was yesterday and it will be tomorrow and next week and next year, and there’s not a damn thing George Bush can do about it.
I wrote only a couple of very brief posts before moving on to other issues. The reason for this is not that I didn’t feel the defeat deeply; it’s that I felt it too deeply to be able to say anything about it.
2004 was, to date, the most active I had ever been in an electoral cycle. I became a committee officer for a Democratic precinct in which I did not reside (long story). I had this blog. I certainly felt more passionately about the 2004 election than I had about any other election. I believed then (and still believe now) that John Kerry would have made a great President, and that his opponent was (and is) one of the most inept men to ever hold the position.
I think, though, that there was more to October and November of last year than my personal involvement. I got the sense that we were at a contingent moment, one in which the structure of the world is laid bare and transparent to all. American had a genuine choice; the world of President Kerry would differ dramatically from the world of President Bush. I also wondered what the reaction of the Bush administration might be to a defeat, and I honestly suspected that they might not accept a negative electoral verdict.
And then, in a couple hours, all that vanished. The sense of contingency, the sense of the possible. It was gone even before the Ohio verdict was clear. It was gone when Tom Coburn became a Senator, when a senile Jim Bunning kept his office. It was gone when it became clear that, regardless of whether he pulled out Ohio, Kerry would be a minority President with a Congress unified against him.
I was shattered, really. I had brought myself to believe that the American people would be able to see through the transpartent bluster of this faux cowboy. I was wrong. Kerry losing the popular vote was, in a sense, even worse than his loss of the election. Call me a dreamer, but the point of a democracy seems to be that awful leaders get turned out at the expense of good ones. Prior to November 2, I had come to believe that this was true. On that Tuesday evening, my belief in the efficacy of democracy took a hit.
There were other things going on in my life at the time, none of which are terribly important in retrospect. It’s still difficult for me to think about that month, though, because it feels so crushing; as Scott said, it was a dark day for the United States.
And, while I find this pleasing, it really doesn’t make up for it. I feel that we’ve been vindicated, but being vindicated is somewhat less useful than winning in the first place. 65% of American now see what I see when I look at George W. Bush, but I can’t get over my disappointment that they couldn’t see what was obvious last November.