Wed, 03 Nov 2004
I’m sure many of you – certainly those of you with ties to the activist community – are going to be inundated with post-election rants this morning. I’ll try to keep my rant short.
The most surprising comment heard on any election broadcast last night was made by the former Governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. In contrast to all the campaign mudslingers spattering the discourse on CNN, NBC, and CBS, Weld offered a startlingly non-apocalyptic take on the evening’s results: “What saddens me,” he said, “is that the fifty percent of the population who voted for each candidate think that the other guy is a corrupt fool. I’ve worked with Kerry and Bush, and they’re both bright, decent guys.”
Now, Weld is a Republican, and it’s easy to be magnanimous when your side is winning. But what Weld didn’t mention is that he ran against Kerry in an ugly U.S. Senate campaign back in 1996. That campaign showcased one of those classic Kerry flip-flops that Bush has made so much hay out of. With the race close in the final days, Kerry violated an agreement he’d negotiated with Weld not to use his family’s personal fortune to finance his campaign. He bought some last-minute negative advertising and squeaked out a win, meanwhile accusing Weld of violating the agreement first – a bogus claim. Weld has every reason to harbour a grudge. In fact, he probably does. But he didn’t feel the need to air it on national TV. It was genuinely classy.
For the record, I was pulling for Kerry. I think Bush is an incompetent manager whom Americans should have taken the opportunity to fire last night. But let’s relax. He’s not going to bomb the French. He’s not going to personally strangle every caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. He’s not going to send the National Guard to round up hippies and put them in bible college. He’s not going to make Arabs sew felt crescents on their shirtsleeves. I’m even optimistic that, like his father, Bush will decline the opportunity to stock the Supreme Court with right-wing extremists. Bush knows that if abortion rights were overturned it would be an electoral disaster for his party.
There will probably be a lot of comments made in upcoming days about the freakish political inclinations of the American people – those bible-thumpers, those Big Mac eaters, those cattle-rapin’ gun nuts. How can they continue voting for this guy when the rest of us are so certain he’s a spazz? It should be kept in mind that, even in strongly Republican states like Montana and Kansas, one out of every three people voted for “our” candidate, Kerry. In the population overall, a sliver less than half the voters chose Kerry. In the electoral college, a break of less than a percentage point in Ohio would’ve meant a new president. If that one percent of Ohioans had shifted their preferences, everyone would now be gushing about how the American people had repudiated conservatism and chosen a radically new direction. It’s silly to generalise about the whole country based on these results. All we’ve learned is that, for the second election in a row, the Bush team demonstrated marginally superior organising prowess in a handful of key states.
But in another four years, the Democrats get to try again. Hopefully with a candidate who’s a little less stiff and pompous. Meanwhile, Bush will continue to spend freely while cutting taxes, advocate free trade while imposing tariffs, and equate tough talking with a sound national security policy. I sorely wish that this Republican President could be a bit more like William Weld and a little less like his cocksure self. But regardless, the world will survive. So everyone, please give your hippie friends a hug and tell them to calm down, it’s gonna be alright.
I’d never seen William Weld “in person” before, but from what I’ve read, I’ve always liked him. I understand he was going to run for president in 2000 if he’d won that senate seat. Most likely he would’ve gone the way of John McCain in the primaries – in fact, they’d have split the moderate vote – but I can imagine a President Weld who’d be sort of like President Bush with all the kooky protruding edges filed down. Tax cuts, maybe, but not without a balanced budget. Invading Iraq, maybe, but not without a genuine coalition. I guess it’s too much to ask for moderation from a Republican president these days. Even McCain has to pretend to be buddies with Bush in order to get the family-values mafia onboard for 2008. But enough about America, I apologise for rambling. I’ll keep it all inside until the midterms in two years.
What does concern me is the general observation that Canadians care more about what happens in the American election than our own.
One reason I get more excited about U.S. elections is that they’re actually competitive. There were about five minutes in the last Canadian federal election where it looked like the Liberals might conceivably lose, and that was interesting, too.
But I’m not sure if it’s generally true that Canadians care more about U.S. elections than our own. We seem to get a pretty respectable turnout when voting time rolls around. Most Canadians devote little attention to the political process – ours or theirs – between election cycles. But that’s not unreasonable. The nice thing about representative democracy is that we get to delegate our attention to other, hopefully more qualified people, while we concentrate on things of more immediate interest, like Britney Spears’ sex life.
There’s something to be said for that division of labour. Let Ujjal Dosanjh work out the details of health care funding, while I concentrate on my job, collecting EI. Every few years I cast my vote on the broad strokes of the government’s agenda, and then I let them stress out over the minutiae. If they screw up, I vote against them. This suits me fine. For those with a keener interest in the minutiae, like you or Jenn, you’re free to join a party and sit through endless policy conventions in Elbow or Moose Jaw.
I thought this would be good news for the hippies…Bush will continue to bring the American empire down and get rid of a couple bad dudes at the same time.
I think you’re right. About how the hippies should be happy, I mean. Bush has given them a huge boost in recruitment. Every religion needs its devil.
By the same logic, I imagine the leadership of al-Qaeda are chortling in their caves right now. Four more years of flight suits and soundbites: “You can run but you can’t hide.” Etc. They’d have gotten much the same from Kerry, of course, but it wouldn’t have had the same blood-temperature-raising effect on the average grumpy young Arab.
I’m not trying to compare hippies to Osama bin Laden, by the way. Osama has a nicer beard.