Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Our 1964

Damn, it's been a long time since I've posted.

As I write this, the election is pretty much over. Nothing short of direct divine intervention would keep Ohio out of Bush's hands, CNN's "green state" business be damned. We can safely say we're looking at four more years of George W. Bush. Add to that the loss of four Senate seats in the South, the probable defeat of the sitting Senate minority leader, and continued Republican dominance in the House, and you have what appears to be an unmitigated disaster for Democrats. Yes, it was close, but in the end, conservatism appears to have captured a clear majority.

Some pundits may start blaming some of Kerry's weaknesses for this defeat - that he doesn't connect well, that he appears aloof, etc. I don't buy it completely. This election was more about Bush than Kerry, and most people (yes, 51% is still most) still agree with Bush.

Which leaves liberalism where, exactly? If a centrist like Kerry can't even beat the arch-conservative Bush, where does that leave those of us on the left? The same place conservatives were in the 1960s, that's where - an ideology whose party has abandoned us, whose leaders have failed us, and whose country has ignored us.

I'll put it to you bluntly - we won't get even a non-conservative administration until 2016 at the best. If the Republicans have any brains at all, they'll nominate McCain in 2008, and he's so wildly popular that he's good for eight years (barring a major policy screw-up). We've got some time to think, folks.

I wrote after the disaster of 2002 that liberals had to stop being afraid of their own shadows and engage the country. Tonight, the lessons of 2002 were re-learned - if you don't present a clear alternative, no one will listen. It's time to come up with an ideology, folks, a clear statement of what liberalism is and where liberals want to lead the country.

Because there is hope for liberals - we are not doomed to a conservative-controlled country indefinitely. Take a look at Barack Obama - an unabashed liberal who outperformed Kerry in Illinois. He not only found a way to win big in Chicagoland but managed to rack up big numbers in rural areas as well. And these rural voters are the ones that Democrats all but write off to the Republicans nowadays.

And parts of the country that once showed no signs of "going blue" now are back into play. Ken Salazar pulled off a big win in Colorado, of all places. Here in the Triangle, two conservative state House members - Don Munford and Sam Ellis - lost to relative upstarts (Grier Martin and Linda Jackson, respectively). Munford and Ellis weren't redistricted out of jobs - they just flat-out lost them.

Maybe in Obama, Salazar, Martin, and Jackson, we can find our silver lining. In 2016 Obama will be 52 - about the right age to run for President. That's the election I'm looking towards now. It may seem like far off, but when it comes to rebuilding and selling an ideology, there's no time to lose.


Anonymous said...

To be fair about Obama outperforming Kerry, Obama was running against Alan Keyes. The Republicans could have nominated Slobodan Milosevic and done a better job than Keyes.

Long term? I'm thinking Howard Dean may pull of what Newt Gingrich did over the '80s and early '90s. Obama.....some people I talked to think bigotry's still got too much of a hold for a Black guy to win. The first Black President would probably be someone like Colin Powell.

Mike wrote in his blog about America needing to unite. I don't see that happening. We're more divided than ever. Edwards was right about "Two Americas." But it's not just rich and poor. It's Conservative and Liberal. I like to think there's some sort of middle ground, but I'm beginning to think that my observation about abortion applies across the board: people are approaching things from fundamentally different viewpoints and they are talking (sometimes shouting) past each other. Not even at each other, PAST each other. No communication is happening.

A liberal by 2016? I hope so. I hope our country survives that long.

- Ben

Anonymous said...

Don't worry so much about liberals. Hilory Clinton will be president in 2008. The Republicans will never, ever nominate McCain, and even if they did he wouldn't stand a chance against Clinton (talk about someone who is widely popular and given the boost she'd get from the fact she would be the first female presidential candidate). The only people I see them nominating that would have a shot at winning against her are Powell or Ahnold. Since they probably won't get an constitutional amemdment passed in time for the Governator and Powell's chances of winning the nomination are even less than McCain's, you guys are pretty safe for '08.

And even by some fluke McCain is nominated and wins would that be so bad for you guys? He would have a "R" on his ballot but it's not like he's Mr. hardline bible belt conservative.

- Miguel

Mike said...

As I mentioned to Jeff on the phone, I think McCain will be too old with too poor health to run in 2008. Beyond a few dark horses, I see the most likely candidates being Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, Zell Miller (haha), Rudy Giuliani, or Ah-nold (if they get the amendment passed - it's supposedly being considered in the Senate). For the Dems, I'm pretty damn sure Hillary is going for it in '08. Edwards might try again too, if he can retain his following. Probably a sprinkling of governors too, but I don't know which ones. So I'm not sure we're as doomed to conservatism (can we really even call Republicans true conservativm anymore?)

Suffice to say, Hillary vs. Ah-nold would be the best presidential race EVER!

Anonymous said...

Actually, if Hillary ran, I don't think she'd win. I suppose it depends on who she's running against and whether we've been able to reframe the debate by 2008. But she is widely hated in many parts of the country (maybe by people who are already lost causes anyway). She's certainly less popular than her husband was. She's certainly more liberal than her husband.

Ok, I don't actually know how any of those factors would play out. I just seem to remember having some conversation with a fellow Dem who thought that if Hillary ran she'd get creamed. But I'm trying to remember his reasons.

- Ben

Mike said...

Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that I thought Hillary would win. In fact, I think the opposite. Is the country ready for a female president? I like to think so, but I'm not so sure. I am pretty sure, however, that the nation is not ready for Hillary.

And when I say Hillary vs. Ah-nold would be awesome, I mean for the sheer novelty of it. And besides, pitting a liberal Democrat against a moderate Republican would signal the country's move back to the center after two straight elections of a moderate Democrat against a right-wing Republican.

Anonymous said...

As bad as this election was for the left, it represents an equally harsh defeat for many on the so called right. The re-election of Bush and quite possibly represents a major break in the conservative movement. From Goldwater to Reagan, libertarians and conservatives were cohesive in the face of Communism abroad and the Great Society at home. With the collapse of Communism in 1989-90 and the new liberalism of Bill Clinton, that alliance was rendered less necessary.

This year's election represented a choice of futures for American conservatism. Choosing Bush is a choice to sell out to the center and abandon the goals of creating a smaller, less activist government. Both liberalisms lost out on Tuesday – my classical liberalism, and your modern liberalism. Libertarians and small government conservatives are feeling just as disaffected as the left is, and I expect this will continue as security concerns fade into the background and the long-term consequences of the Bush Administration’s follies become forcefully apparent.

I don’t know where we should go from here. There’s no better time for classical and modern liberals to work together in common cause, but it’s going to be tough, perhaps impossible. The biggest obstacle is the Democratic Party’s diverse base of interest groups. If Democrats can bring back someone like Clinton, who appealed to minorities while still being pro free trade and carrying out successful welfare reform, the left could draw off a great many of culturally liberal supporters of small government. (A nominee who could keep his pants would help, too).

So Jeff, what are the odds we can pull off a new alliance?

-- Jacob
This year's election represented a choice of futures for conservatism

Jeff said...

Hmmm... a libertarian-liberal alliance... Actually, given the current political scene that wouldn't be too far-fetched. The important issues nowadays are issues where liberals and libertarians tend to agree: Iraq, terrorism, gay marriage. Economic issues would always be a point of tension, but libertarians and conservatives always had that same tension on social issues, and that alliance worked out well. And I think that a plan of lowering corporate taxes overall and eliminating subsidies for corporations who send jobs overseas (like the one Kerry proposed) would appeal to some incrementalist libertarians.

Right now the most pressing need for liberalism is to find some ideology, some core values, some way of framing issues. The notion of protecting our basic freedoms would be a good unifying point for liberals and libertarians; the notions would be mostly shared.