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Thursday, November 25, 2004
Happy Thanksgiving

Am a little burned out right now...will probably post something more salient this weekend.

Until then, enjoy the quinessential American holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Right Thing

There's morality, and then there's morality. The folks who put out this hit-piece on childless coupless are as amoral as the most libertine socialist swingers.

Yes, yes, God commands us to have sex only to procreate. Jim-dandy. Except....

Children are the most wonderful gift we can receive--and the most difficult job we will ever face. I love my daughter and am grateful every day for her, and there are still days when I just want to crawl into bed for twenty hours to recuperate.

Any couple that emphatically doesn't want kids should not--must not--have them. There's no shame in being childless, and far more shame in bringing a child into the world that you are unable or unwilling to raise.

My daughter, for all the chaos in her parents' lives this year, is being raised by two loving parents who want nothing but the best for her, and are both willing to sacrifice to provide it. A child being raised by someone who isn't willing to sacrifice--well, he or she is not going to grow up to be a functional adult.

I may be wrong, but I don't believe God will judge me on how many children I fathered, but on how well I parented them. And I think He will not look down upon those who arrive before Him without children--because He will know that they made the right choice for those children they could have, but didn't have.

Monday, November 22, 2004
And Then There Are the People For Whom Death is Too Good

Exhibit #324.

And yes, I'm glad she lives in Texas.

Friday, November 19, 2004
Jim Ramstad, My Faith Is Rewarded

The Rammer (R-MN) is in the Shays Handfull.

That's my kind of Republican--pro-choice, sensible, able to work across the aisle, and in possession of a moral compass.

Thursday, November 18, 2004
Tell the Truth, Mark Kennedy.

Mark Kennedy seems to have some difficulty with the truth in re: the DeLay capitulation:

This morning his staffers said they didn't know how he voted. Later he was a letter-writer. Later still we heard they were saying it was 'closed vote' and the 'no vote was taken' line.

The last TPM reader who got through to the congressman's office was told that the ote was by "unanimous consent", which should come as some surprise to those in the Shays Handful, who say they voted against it.

Just admit it, Mark: you voted for the rule change. Lying and playing CYA won't save you.

Give Rep. John Kline credit. When I called his office, the staffer forthrightly told me he voted for the rule change. I think that's shameful, but hey, at least he copped to it. Rep. Kennedy, will you be as forthcoming?

Seriously, Guys, You've Got to Give it Up

WMD in Iraq!

UPDATE: Except not!

Yo, warbloggers, it's your old pal Jeff here. You just have to give this up. This is like, time # 132,241 that I've read this exact sequence of posts. There weren't weapons there, and every time you go running after the "Two Vials of Botulinum Toxin in Baghdad! Oh's just BoTox." story, you prove to all of us just how bereft of chemical weapons Iraq was.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The High Road

Today's GOP likes to trace its lineage to Ronald Reagan, and in a sense that's right. Certainly, Reagan laid the ideological groundwork for the right, and he made it safe to be a conservative. Reagan's sunny optimism is a face that any party would love to have as its symbol.

But while Reagan made it safe to be a conservative, today's Republican leadership was really forged by the election of 1994.

It's easy to forget, but ten years and a month ago, the Democrats held the House and the Senate. They had held the House since the Truman administration. And like any institution under the constant leadership of one group, the Democrats were growing insular.

The indictment of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was hardly the only scandal to pop up; there was the check-kiting scheme in the House Bank. There was the drive by the Democratic leadership to add votes by allowing the (democratic) delegates from the territories to vote on procedural motions and in committee.

Now, none of these had anything much to do with ideology. But the actions of the majority were a signal to the average American: we don't much care about you. We're far more interested in ourselves.

This is the reason that ethics matter--because an unethical majority has lost touch with the people that they represent. Consolodating--and benefitting from--their own power is now more important to them than anything the People could want or deserve.

In 1994, the House Republicans offered a radical menu for change. We remember the ideological notions. But we have forgotten that many of the planks in the Contract With America were procedural and ethical--a direct response to a majority that had lost touch.

In a direct rebuke of the Democrats, the minority voted term limits for chairs and a ban on any Republican serving in the leadership while under indictment. It was a stern challenge to the majority, and it worked. 1994 swept the Republicans into power in the House and Senate; they have held the House ever since, and only lost the Senate for two years thanks to a defection by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT).

The Republicans were right in 1994. Oh, not about everything--term limits were a singularly bad idea, and certainly their ideology left something for moderate lefties like me to desire--but they were right about the institutional rot in the House. When Newt Gingrich assumed the mantle of Speaker, the new majority sought to right the wrongs in Washington. Yes, they had setbacks of their own--Gingrich himself was rebuked for securing a large, lucrative book deal--but when they went after then-Pres. Bill Clinton for perjury, they could stand up and argue that it was the Republican party that was the guarantor of government ethics. And they were not wrong.

Until today.

Today, the House majority voted to scrap one of its rules from the 1994 Revolution. The majority voted overwhelmingly to rescind the ban on indicted Representatives serving in the leadership. They did this to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), the de jure number two in the GOP hierarchy, and the de facto leader of the Republicans in the House. DeLay is facing the probablility of indictment for his role in the scheme to redistrict Texas in an off-year, one that helped the GOP pad its majority in the House, but one which may ultimately cost the most powerful House Republican his freedom.

Now, you can argue--and indeed, the GOP has and will argue--that the indictment is politically motivated claptrap. If so, DeLay will certainly beat the rap, and there's no need to fear. But we as a nation have seen what happens to a leader who faces legal trouble--be it impeachment or indictment, it limits their effectiveness. If DeLay is found Not Guilty, he could resume his leadership position the day the gavel falls--and lash out righteously at his opponents.

But until that day comes, DeLay will not be able to serve effectively. Were he but one of 435 Congressmen, that would matter little. But he is not. He owes it to his party and the nation to step aside. He will not. His party should demand that he step aside, the better to advance their agenda and, more important, the better to serve the citizens of the United States. They will not.

In short, the Republican party has had its chance to live up to their own high rhetoric of the '90s--their broadsides on Rostenkowski and Tony Cohelo, their impeachment of Bill Clinton, their attacks on Al Gore. They had a chance to pass their own test--and they failed.

At the same time, the Senate majority continues to look at ways they can whittle away at the rights of the minority--rights they vocifeorously defended as recently as 2002. The President slowly replaces outgowing independent appointees with his friends from Texas. And the Republican party proves that it is advanced. It took over four decades for the rot to show in the Democratic Congressional majority. The Republicans have taken only a decade.

It Is All Hell

When civilians like me contemplate war, there's always something romantic about it. Oh, yes, we've all read Dulce Et Decorum Est, and seen Saving Private Ryan, and yes, those people we know who've seen combat never do seem absolutely together--not years after they've returned to private life.

Nevertheless, we are a product of our culture, and Western culture has been telling its children that it is sweet and glorious to die for our nation since the dawn of the nation-state. For this reason, we aren't able to fully understand or comprehend the horror of combat; nobody who hasn't been there could, I suppose.

And yet there are signal markers that tell us just what war does to its soldiers. They are events that live, fixed in amber: My Lai, Nankin, Wounded Knee. The actions of men who were probably just average guys, who were twisted and tortured by battle to the point where they were able to rape and pillage and murder and not think a thing of it. We like to think that these men were "evil," but they weren't--not in our understanding of it. They simply were no longer a part of civilized humanity. War had pushed them to a point where raw force against any living thing was the only understandable and rational decision.

It is not surprising that war has this effect. It is only surprising that it doesn't happen more often.

The latest poster child for the horrors of war is a Marine, younger than me and likely younger than you, who executed an unarmed Iraqi in Fallujah. The video is grim indeed, and a reminder of just how terrible a price war exacts on all involved.

The Marine can be understood and, perhaps, forgiven for his actions. But he cannot be pardoned. His actions go against the letter and spirit of the Geneva Convention and the more basic rules of humanity. Justice against him should be swift. On this, everyone can agree.

However, there are a few bloggers out there who feel compelled to argue that this event has happened in a vacuum:

But what it boils down to is that it's something that is a symptom of the stress of combat, something individuals and small groups do in the heat and pain and pressure of battle.

Not as a matter of national policy.

I would ordinarily feel silly pointing that last out. It's not rocket science. But a number of leftyblogs, not being themselves rocket scientists, are trying to create an Abu Ghraib-like scandal out of this - and pin it on the Administration....

My friend and colleague Mr. Berg goes on to quote a few inexpertly phrased posts that show left-leaning bloggers lashing out at the Bush administration for this event.

Mitch is right that George W. Bush is not personally responsible for this; he was not there, he did not pull the trigger, and I imagine that he is as horrified by this as the rest of us. And he is essentially correct in arguing that this is against administration policy--at least, post-Abu Ghraib. While Attorney General-designate Gonzales has called the Geneva Convention "quaint," nobody in the administration has seriously argued that unarmed prisoners should be subject to execution.

But Mitch is wrong to hold the administration harmless in this case, for one simple reason: the war in Iraq was a war of choice, and we made the wrong one.

There can be little doubt that if Americans had a do-over in Iraq, we'd take it. We know now that the Iraqis posed little threat to America; certainly not as great a threat as at least three of their neighboring states. Gulf War II: The Vengeance was not a war we had to fight, and moreover, we've managed to fight it with too little manpower to fight it effectively.

So quite simply, this Marine gave up his essential humanity because he was driven to it. He was driven to it by a war we never should've been fighting in the first place. And that is, simply and unarguably, George W. Bush's fault. And it is why we are not wrong to point to events like this and note that they need not have happened. No, this is not the final word on Iraq, nor even one of the most important. Yet it is still another signal that our actions there do not rank with our nation's greatest moments, and that we have yet to truly find a way to win a victory in Iraq while preserving our honor.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Moderation in the Defense of Propriety is No Virtue

"No surrender, no compromise, no bipartisanship, no civility, no reaching out to Republican officeholders (as opposed to detachable Republican voters): nothing but scorched earth from here to victory."

In this case, that sounds about right.

Monday, November 15, 2004
The Name on Everybody's Lips is Gonna Be...Condi!

So GDub has appointed everyone's fave incompetent NSA as the next Secretary of State, thus proving that the Republican party is no stranger to the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The National Security Advisor is sort of the Butch Vig of presidential appointees: his or her job is to take the different strains of intelligence from State, the CIA, the NSA, Defense, the FBI, and whatever other shadowy governmental agencies gather intelligence, and weave them into a coherent intelligence narrative. In other words, the NSA's job is to make the agencies play nice and work together.

By any objective criterion, Condoleeza Rice's tenure as National Security Advisor has been an abject failure. Quite simply, from 2001 to 2004, our nation's intelligence agencies have fought each other as much as they've fought our enemies abroad. The CIA, in particular, has been used and abused, while questionable intelligence laid the groundwork for us to invade another nation which--funny story--turned out not to be a significant threat to us.

But hey, being Condi Rice means never having to say you're sorry; now she'll go replace Colin Powell, a good man who found himself in a bad spot and, unfortunately, failed to rise to the occasion.

As for the appointment, strategically I think the Democrats in the Senate should proceed in the same way for all of them--question sharply, demand answers, then let the GOP have its way. Indeed, Rice is being tapped for the same reason Powell is being ushered out--because she's loyal to the President and his vision, whatever it is.

I'm increasingly concerned--nothing Bush is doing thus far resembles improvement over the past four years. Then again, that's why I voted against him.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Bull Moose asks a good question: what happens if the GOP actually succeeds in overturning Roe v. Wade?

The Moose's response to the religious right's mighty advance is "bring it on." The worst thing that could happen to the Grand Old Party is overreach by the religious right. Yes, the values war has assisted the Republicans - that is because the image of the donkey is often shaped by cultural elitists who are truly out of touch with red America.

But, don't think for a moment that the country is prepared for a radical shift in the ultural correlation of forces. For instance, if a Supreme Court actually negated Roe v. Wade, that could potentially be devastating to the elephant. First, it would not outlaw abortion, the ruling would only return the issue to the states where it would be made legal in most of the country. Second, it would energize the Democratic base and force it to build a grass roots network to defend abortion. Third, and most important, it would precipitate a huge split in the Republican Party. The center would no longer hold - social moderates would be at war with the social conservative base of the party.

I have long believed that the GOP has a great deal to lose by the overturning of Roe, and I have also long believed that the GOP knows this. Consider that seven of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are Republican appointees--and that Roe seems as secure as ever. Yes, we're ofter "just one vote away"--but that vote never seems to appear.

Is it an accident that Bush pere appointed reliably liberal David Souter? I don't think so. The elimination of Roe is a great campaign tool--for both sides. Right now, the left can afford to be blasé about abortion because the right can't get rid of it. But if that changed, the political shift would be immediate, radical, and strongly beneficial to the left. The same can be said about other social changes in regards to school prayer, free speech, and so forth: an activist conservative court would be a godsend--electorally speaking.

Would it be damaging otherwise? You bet. And for that reason we shouldn't want these things to come to pass. But there would undoubtedly be a partisan silver lining to losing on these issues--and both sides know it.


Posting has been light lately, simply because sometimes you just sort of run out of things to say. Bloggers, as a group, tend to react to this by doing one of two things:
  • Boldly soldiering on, yammering about next to nothing, or
  • Shutting up for a few days while we think about things.
I decided to opt for the second choice, simply because I felt it was better for me to wait for inspiration to strike. Besides, there were already a number of good posts out there worth reading.

#1 on the hit parade is Josh Marshall's splendid takedown of Bob Shrum and the Wailers, the neverending stream of mediocre party hacks who somehow keep managing campaigns into the ground, unable or unwilling to react to the just-plain-better-at-this operatives on the other side of the aisle.

The post's opening sums it up nicely:

There's an ugly but resonant line usually attributed to Joseph Goebbels, but apparently written by the Nazi playwright Hanns Johst, which goes, "When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my revolver." And ugly as it is, I am tempted to say that when I hear Democratic consultants, who made millions spinning and strategizing and rainmaking over the last decade, opining about Red State culture and the need for Democrats to break bread at Applebee's to commune with the zeitgeist I'm overcome with a similar feeling.

There is no end of Democrats in Washington and certainly in every state across this country who often eat at Applebee's or Bennigan's or Coco's, and not simply for research purposes.

Nor did they need election disappointment to put them on the case.

I've often said that Democrats are united by two things: our hatred of George W. Bush, and our hatred of Terry McAuliffe. But it isn't just our pusilanimous DNC Chair's fault--it's all the strategists who just don't seem to get that the Republicans are out for blood, and nothing--not truth, not propriety, not tradition, nothing--will stop them from trying to win. (I think Carville gets it--but he's been out of the game in any real sense since 1992. And quite frankly, he's too fat and happy as a pundit to get back to it.)

What's the answer? Simple--get the Shrums and the Brazilles out, and bring some new blood in. Now, will new faces translate automatically into victory? Absolutely not. There's a lot of things we need to look at differently, and simply changing campaign chairs isn't going to change that.

But we can't keep trotting out people who made their names during the '88 campaign--or even the '92 campaign. Experienced losers are not what this party needs.

On another note, the question of what our party needs to stand for continues to rage. One interesting and counterintuitive thought comes from the editors of The Stranger, who argue that, rather than reach out to rural and southern America, Democrats should become, unabashedly the party of cities:
If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities. An overwhelming majority of the American popuation chooses to live in cities. And John Kerry won every city with a population above 500,000. He took half the cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000. The future success of liberalism is tied to winning the cities. An urbanist agenda may not be a recipe for winning the next presidential election--but it may win the Democrats the presidential election in 2012 and create a new Democratic majority.
It's an interesting and persuasive take, although I would caution that in deriding exurbs, as the editors do, they need to remember that for the urban strategy to work, Democrats will have to do well in suburbs. Yes, exurbs like my current home are probably culturally out of reach for now (the Lakevilles of the world are closer to rural in philosophy than urban), but Democrats must do well in older, transitional suburbs, suburbs that are seeing their populations turn over. In many ways, these older suburbs represent the true swing area of our country. I agree that Democrats need to focus more on urban affairs--it's where the base is, stupid, and besides, it would help us eliminate the ridiculous, wasteful farm subsidies that are benefittng ConAgra far more than the family farmer--but we can't be stupid about it.

Finally, from Colorado we get a charming story of how a group of high school students (members of the band "The Coalition of the Willing"--that's a phenomenal name for a band, guys) wanted to play a 41-year-old Bob Dylan song, "Masters of War," at a school talent show.

So some parents called in the secret service.

A certain blogger would call that "Crushing of Dissent"--but only if it happened to some conservative students.

Thursday, November 11, 2004
War Poetry
Veteran's Day Edition

To the Indians Who Died in Africa
by T. S. Eliot

A man's destination is his own village,
His own fire, and his wife's cooking;
To sit in front of his own door at sunset
And see his grandson, and his neighbour's grandson
Playing in the dust together.

Scarred but secure, he has many memories
Which return at the hour of conversation,
(The warm or the cool hour, according to the climate)
Of foreign men, who fought in foreign places,
Foreign to each other.

A man's destination is not his destiny,
Every country is home to one man
And exile to another. Where a man dies bravely
At one with his destiny, that soil is his.
Let his village remember.

This was not your land, or ours: but a village in the Midlands,
And one in the Five Rivers, may have the same graveyard.
Let those who go home tell the same story of you:
Of action with a common purpose, action
None the less fruitful if neither you nor we
Know, until the judgement after death,
What is the fruit of action.

11/11 11:11

Happy Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Ashcroft: Crime, Terror Wars Won

WASHINGTON (AP) Church bells tolled, people danced in the streets, and a joyous nation rejoyced at the news that outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft had simultaneously defeated crime and terror.

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," declared a jubilant Ashcroft, standing before tastefully attired statues of Justice. "Who wants pizza?"

The victory came as a shock to a nation beset by enemies on all sides. Families of soldies eagerly awaited the return of their loved ones from Afghanistan and Iraq, while police officers lounged on street corners, smiling broadly at their lack of business.

Meanwhile, a chastened Osama bin Laden gave a hurried press conference.

"It is true, America has defeated me. What can I say? It was a nice run. I'd say 'death to America,' but let's face it, I'm the one who has to be concerned about death."

The reaction was similar from the nation's gang leaders, racketeers, pimps, thugs, murderers, and general malcontents.

"If only John Ashcroft had defeated crime a few years sooner, Laci Peterson might be alive," said CNN analyst Larry King. "That would have been a horrible blow to my ratings. Thank God he waited until now."

The simultaneous victories in the War on Terror and War on Crime were expected to give a boost to the recently re-elected George W. Bush, who had campaigned as a tough war president. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "The President is of course happy that there is no more crime anywhere in America, though he is of course saddened that this will mean a reduction in capital crimes. And he is very happy that the War on Terror has come to an end; we hope to move to a different war footing against our nation's true enemy, France."

French President Jacques Chirac declined comment.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry issued a statement of his own.

"I always said: right war, right place, right time. Good for George W. Bush and John Ashcroft. Have I mentioned that I used to be a prosecuting attorney? I understand you have a position open."

The victory in the Wars on Terror and Crime represent America's greatest triumps since America succeeded in winning the War on Poverty in 1980, allowing then-President Ronald Reagan to successfully utilize the "peace dividend" by cutting anti-poverty programs. What the result of these great victories will be is beyond the comprehension of most people.

"All I know," said conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, "is that if Ashcroft says it, it must be true."


Kevin Drum asks the questions on all of our minds:

Will Hillary run in 2008? Should she run? And can she win?

My quick answer: yes, no, and absolutely not.

Department of TMI

Didja know that Andrew Sullivan picked a wedgie on natonal TV? Didja know? Didja didja didja?

Okay, we get it. Marginally embarassing, although I think it probably isn't all that big a deal, because:
  1. It happened on Bill Maher's show, so only eight people saw it, and
  2. It's Andrew Sullivan. Who cares?
Nevertheless, Sullivan's response to Wedgiegate 2004 changed before I could even get this post up. He now says that it itched, but in his original post, Sullivan said--and I am not making this up--"The reason? Slate demands an answer. My boyfriend chimes in that if they knew him, they wouldn't be wondering."


Actually, good for Andrew and his boyfriend. They're...they're lucky. But I still didn't need to know that.


All right, I need to post something apolitical.

Here's something apolitical.

Ten movies you'd watch over and over: Clerks; The Princess Bride; The Shawshank Redemption; Mallrats; Office Space; Old School; The Incredibles; Kill Bill (vols. 1 and 2); Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Dodgeball: a True Underdog Story

Nine people you enjoy the company of: My daughter, my ex-wife, my homies Andy, Chris, Don, and Werm and the spouses of the latter three.

Eight things you're wearing: My custom Vikings jersey (#13, "Fecke"), a long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt, two socks, glasses, and a pair of shoes.

Seven things on your mind: Should I take the more or less expensive health care plan? Should I look for a new apartment yet, or wait 'til March? Is my idea for a novel ready to start working on, or should I just think about it some more? Should I be flattered or concerned that a number of conservative bloggers are making favorable remarks about my blog? Will the average person ever be able to make Pixar-quality movies on their laptop computer? Should I go to bed early tonight and get up early tomorrow, or should I stay up late and sleep in? What kind of class should I get my daughter involved in?

Six objects you touch every day: My bed, my laptop, my razor, my car's steering wheel, my cell phone, the Earth's atmosphere.

Five things you do every day: Write, read, laugh, love, and take prescription narcotics.

Four bands (etc) that you couldn't live without:
Mike Doughty/Soul Coughing, They Might Be Giants, Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown, U2.

Three of your favorite songs at this moment: "Burning Photographs" by Ryan Adams, "American Idiot" by Green Day, "Hurt" by Johnny Cash.

Two people who have influenced your life the most: My eighth-grade social studies teacher, Mariel Wolter, and my ex-wife Shelly.

One person who you love more than anyone in the world: My daughter, Katie.

Mitch Berg has his list, too.

Being Respectful (Christian Right Edition)

So in case anyone had forgotten, the right has its share of offensive zealots:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Dobson, you also have a problem with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy. I want to show something that was reported in "The Daily Oklahoman" during the campaign. In the "Daily Oklahoman," it quoted you saying, "Patrick Leahy is a God's people hater. I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people." Now, Dr. Dobson, that doesn't sound like a particularly Christian thing to say. Do you think you owe Senator Leahy an apology?

DR JAMES DOBSON: George, you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about? You know, I think -I think I'll stand by the things I have said. Patrick Leahy has been in opposition to most of the things that I believe. He is the one that took the reference to God out of the oath.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But Dr. Dobson, excuse me for a second. You use the word hate. You said that he's a "God's people hater." How do you back that up?

DR JAMES DOBSON: Well, there's been an awful lot of hate expressed in this election. And most of it has been aimed at those who hold to conservative Christian views. He is certainly not the only one to take a position like that. But I think that that is -that's where he's coming from. He has certainly opposed most of the things that conservative Christians stand for.


DR JAMES DOBSON: No apology.
Yes, Patrick Leahy hates God's people. No apology necessary for saying that.

As we look to reach out to the center, let's not forget that some people would not accept the left no matter what it did. James Dobson is the poster child for those people--and we are allowed to believe he is wrong.

Monday, November 08, 2004
Battle for Falluja Has Begun

I don't know whether it was good or bad that we waited until after the election to engage here--I generally believe that the President should conduct the war as if his political fortunes meant nothing.

Whatever. The battle has now begun. Nobody wants our troops to fail here--and I hope that success means less, not more violence in Iraq.

That Which Unites Us

Left and right are often at each other's throats, and it's easy in all the battles over partial-birth abortion and overtime rules that Americans are, for the most part, ideologically heterogeneous. What we argue over is the details--the major truths are not in question.

So as we on the left search our souls to determine where we go from here (and, I hope, as those on the right search their souls now that they are the party that controls--and is responsible for--the government), I thought it would be good to go over a few of those things that unite us as a people.

We believe in liberal, representative democracy.

It seems like a no-brainer, but this basic article of faith is in doubt across much of the world. Even soi disant democracies from Russia to Venezuela have a huge portion of the population that thinks, "You know, if we just put Hugo and/or Vladimir in charge and let him run everything, we'd be safer/richer/free of those Yankee imperialist pigdogs." No matter what those of us who are given to hyperbole say, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are at all interested in eliminating, or even curtailing, democracy.

We believe in the rule of law.

The right can gripe about the left's complaints about 2000; the left can gripe that Bush "won" by a 5-4 vote. No matter. When the Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore, Gore conceded and Bush became President. There were no riots. There were no battles. Massachusetts did not try to secede. We all agreed to abide by the decision, no matter how much many of us disagreed with it.

The courts have issued traumatic rulings to all sides, on issues from abortion to segregation to religion, and while many have disagreed with the rulings, the rulings are obeyed.

We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion.

Yes, we on the left will cry that the right is trying to "infringe upon speech" when they try to outlaw flag-burning; yes, those on the right will cry that we are trying to "infringe on religion" when we go after displays of the Ten Commandments. But these are arguments around the edges, arguments about tiny little corners of the law. I have called the President of the United States a "cock-sucking asshole" on this site. (I was mad at him. The rhetoric was overblown. I'm sorry.) There have been no knocks at my door, no calls to my co-workers, no disappearance of me in the dark of night. Similarly, I'm a Unitarian in a Christian nation. Nobody has spit on me as I attend my small storefront church; nobody keeps a record of whether I've donated to the Church of America.

We may find others' speech distasteful, and yes, we may occasionally be prone to knee-jerk censorship, but in the end, the pendulum stays toward the most liberal interpretation of free speech, and free excersise of religion.

We believe in defending our nation against its enemies.

Here, we have out biggest current disagreement, but even here, we agree more than we disagree.

I believe the Iraq war was a mistake, primarily because I believe we had bigger fish to fry, and more important foes to conquer. But that does not mean I believe we should fold up our tent overseas and hide in our collective bunker; in Afghanistan, we were righteous in our fight, and every attack we make on al Qaeda is a good attack. And with few exceptions, nobody--left or right--argues that.

Even in Iraq, there is general consensus that whether or not we were justified in invading, we are there now and must succeed in stabilizing the region. We may disagree on what methods are best to defend America, but nobody is suggesting we just open the door to the bin Ladens of the world and let them have at it; we--all of us--want them dead.

We believe in a controlled free market economy.

The left and right love to take potshots at each other, but in truth, we have a tremendous amount of agreement on our economic system: we're capitalists, thanks, and that's that.

We believe in the market. We believe in working hard to get ahead. We believe in striving to do your best. We don't believe you should get something for nothing. And we most certainly don't believe that the government should guarantee you much.

Our social welfare system is one of the least robust in the Western world, but if the Democrats could make every change in our minds to that social welfare system, it would still be one of the least robust in the Western world. We don't want to see kids starve. Beyond that, suck it up and get out there and do your best.

We believe in American exceptionalism.

Yes, some of us want America to listen more to those other countries than others of us do, but we all believe that this nation is special.

We believe that because it is special. We were the first nation in the world founded on an ideal, rather than an ethnic group. We are the world's oldest Constitutional Democracy, and our Constitution is a marvel of simplicity, left deliberately vague so that it could stretch and bend enough to support us for over two hundred years. We have the world's most dynamic economy, we have the world's most powerful military, we have the world's most advanced technology. And yes, we have made mistakes, but we are the world's most functional multiethnic society, as well.

We are a special country, and while we are not perfect, we strive to become, in the words of our Constitution, ever a more perfect Union.

And so we will bicker and fight, as siblings are wont to do; we will accuse each other of trampling on civil rights or attempting to launch Communism. But we should all remember that if you dropped a Democrat in France, he'd be a staunch conservative, and if you dropped a Republican in Russia, she'd be aghast at the actions of her government. For all that divides us, we do share a common faith, a common belief, and a common politics. We will continue to fight; we must continue to fight, because there are still areas of disagreement--on gay rights, on abortion, on health care, on social security--that are worth fighting.

But that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. And we, the people, forget that at our peril.

Friday, November 05, 2004
Bright Spot

For my fellow Minnesotans, there was at least one small measure of satisfaction on Tuesday. The DFL roused from its torpor and cut the Republican lead in the house from 81-53 to 68-66. Among those losing their seats was conservative firearms enthusiast Linda Boudreau (R-Faribault), the House sponsor of the (currently Constitutionally void) concealed carry legislation.

The DFL had to be especially happy because many of the gains came in second-tier suburbs, which have traditionally been solid red territory; indeed, even in Burnsville, home of Rep. Duke Powell (R-Burnsville), a man who once chaired Alan Keyes' 1996 Presidential run in Minnesota, Democrat Will Morgan only narrowly lost.

No matter how Gov. Timmy and House Speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) try to spin this, it's a pretty clear repudiation of the GOP's hard-line stances of the past two years--and it will force the GOP to deal with the still-DFL controlled Senate if they want to get anything done.

Of course, given last year's track record, that's debatable. But hope springs eternal.

And In Other News....

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN) did beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from activist Patty Wetterling, but at what cost? By stooping to the misleading attack ad--to Kennedy as the sword was to Zorro--Kennedy may have cost himself a shot at unseating Sen. Mark Dayton in two years.

To recap: Wetterling sprung to national prominence after her son, Jacob, was kidnapped in 1989. To date, Jacob Wetterling has not been found, but Patty Wetterling has become a national spokesperson for abducted children. (You know the AMBER alert system? Patty Wetterling was a driving force behind it.)

In short, Patty Wetterling is deservedly beloved. And yet Kennedy trashed her like you'd trash any opponent.

I think it showed a bit on Tuesday. Kennedy won by about 8%, but he'd been up in polls by upwards of 20%. Moreover, outside his fairly conservative district, he managed to alienate every swing voter in what remains a blue state--including a number of staunch Republicans.

Yes, Kennedy would be facing Sen. Bunker (erg. Kennedy-Dayton? That is Tweedledum and Tweedledumber). But he starts behind because he couldn't lay off the attacks.

Well played, Rep. Kennedy. Well played.

Alas, poor Arlon. I knew him, Mitch.

Finally, we bid a fond farewell to Rep. Arlon Lindner (R-Corcoran). The former Committe Chair was best known for refusing to see the pagan Dhalai Lhama when he spoke before the Minnesota Legislature, then arguing that no gays had died during the Holocaust, and indeed that the Nazis were, in fact, gay. He tried to redeem himself by arguing that allowing homosexuals to have equal rights would turn America into "Another African continent," which managed to also insult African Americans.

Give the GOP credit; his constituents denied him the republican endorsement, and Lindner lost easily after running as an independent. Farewell, Arlon. It's been fun.

Being Respectful

Kevin Drum says something I've been thinking about over the past few days:
We didn't lose the election by much, and there are plenty of red staters who aren't extremists. They're the ones who are uncomfortable with homosexuality, but understand that a steadily increasing acceptance of gay rights is probably inevitable. They don't want to ban abortion, but feel like it's common sense to require parental notification. And they're ready to agree that we need to do something about global warming, but that doesn't mean they take kindly to thinly veiled accusations that they're personally responsible for it just because they drive an SUV or eat a Big Mac.

In other words, they disagree with us, but not so much that they can't be brought around or persuaded to vote for us based on other issues. Too often, though, a visceral loathing of being lectured at by city folks wins out and they end up marking their ballots for people like George Bush.

So maybe we should knock it off. I know it's fun, but most of the time it's pointless and misguided — and it costs us elections and prevents even modest progress on issues we care about. That's a high price to pay for a bit of fun.

No kidding. And we can start by stopping the spread of smarmy things like this. "Jesusland?" Really? We're putting down a wide swath of the country for sharing a religious belief with the vast majority of the country?

Look folks, I'm not even a Christian, and I'm offended by this! But hey, I'm not the one you have to worry about. I'm a Unitarian, and I'm somewhat libertarian, and that makes me a solid democratic vote.

But somewhere in South Carolina, there' s a guy who worked in a factory--until today. It shut down, and moved its operations overseas. Hey, outsourcing is all over the place, and it's a fact of life, but tell that to the guy's kids. Tell that to his wife.

So he goes home, an empty feeling in his gut, unsure of what he's going to do. He's worked hard, he's paid his bills, went to church on Sunday. He's a good man.

And he's looking through the internet, looking for a job, and he gets a forward from a friend who came across this little graphic.

Now, tell me: does this man--a man who isn't a zealot, who isn't very anti-gay, a man who just wants to work hard and do well and just had his life ripped from him by a company whose CEO earned $114.2 million last year, a man who should be a Democrat, a man who we should want to be a Democrat--is that man going to become a Democrat?

No. He's going to look at that email, and think to himself, "Damn godless liberals. They hate anyone who prays."

And then he's going to go vote Republican next time out. It's going to hurt him, yes--he's backing the friends of the people who took his job. But what have we done to convince him that we actually respect him?

Nothing, that's what. We've spit on his beliefs and told him that worshipping God is foolish--and voting because of his faith is even more foolish.

All for a little chuckle on the internet.

We do that in a thousand different ways, folks, and it's time to knock it off. Because guess what? We need more people to support us. Mocking and ridiculing them won't help.

So let's stop doing it. And let's start this cessation by eliminating the phrase, "I just don't understand how anyone could vote for George W. Bush" from our collective vocabularies. Because more people voted for him than voted for our guy--and if we don't understand why, it's time to figure it out.

Thursday, November 04, 2004
From the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party

I'm best described as a DLC Democrat; I came of age as a Clinton democrat, and my policy views are best represented by that wing of the party. But the DLC can blow it from time to time--usually by strongly recommending that the party abandon its core values.

So it was with relief that I read Ed Kilgore's take on the election:
To those of you who think of the DLC as an organization that wants to engage in intra-party warfare, and that perennially advises Democrats to "move to the right," I suggest you give today's New Dem Daily a thorough and dispassionate read. We do not think this is a good time for a "struggle for the soul" of the Democratic Party; the unity we achieved in this campaign is a precious asset that it would be stupid to throw away, and moreover, we are all complicit in the mistakes our party keeps making.

Moreover, and I will say this personally, you won't get any argument from New Democrats that the Dean/MoveOn legacy of this campaign--the ability to build passionate grassroots organizations, and to raise money from small donors--should be thrown away, either. But in the end, the problem we had this year was not a shortage of money, volunteers, organization, excitement, or candidate charisma: it was a shortage of message. An electorate poised to fire Bush and his Republican allies was never convinced it understood exactly what Democrats would do with the power they sought, and that was the killer.

The GOPers had a clear message, and a mobilization strategy as well. We just had a mobilization strategy, and it wasn't enough. You have to persuade as well as "energize," and we didn't do it.

It's time, finally, for Democrats to understand that we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to persuade and mobilize; we have to appeal to voters on cultural and economic issues; we have to make inroads in red states without sacrificing blue states; we have to turn out our base and reach out to expand it.
Of course, that's easier said than done...but the sentiment is spot on. And ultimately, in the postmortem of 2004, that is our error: we chose glittering generalities over conviction.

We can't make that mistake again.

Rhetoric to Read

I'm not sure exactly how the Democrats should modulate our message. But here's one idea, and it has the advantage of coming from the Democratic National Convention--the words of the incoming Junior Senator from the Great State of Illinois, Barack Obama:
For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

I repost this because it's a good starting point. We don't need to panic--we are not the Democrats of 1984, or the Republicans of 1964--but we do need to start learning to talk to the parts of the country that are not hearing us.

Obama's words are a good place to start.

Arafat Brain Dead

Say sources. Good riddance.

2008 Power Rankings
Because It's Never Too Early

So with the 2004 elections over, it's time to look ahead four years, because that's what we do.

So, the players on the Democratic side, in order of power:

1. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

Yeah, it's cliche. So what? She's Hillary Clinton, bitch. She starts with 33% of the primary vote in hand. #1 until she drops out.

2. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)

He's still the fair-haired golden boy and still the Great Southern Hope. Working against him: he didn't exactly shine as a Veep candidate, and he is just an out-of-work, one-term Senator. He needs to do something useful over the next four years, or his stock will drop.

3. Fmr. Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT)

There's a large portion of the Democratic party that thinks we'd be celebrating today if Howard the Doc had been our nominee. I'm not one of them. But you can't discount the possibility of a rise four years from now.

4. Fmr. Sen. Al Gore (D-TN)

Forgot about him, huh?

5. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

His loss yesterday may not look so bad four years from now, depending.

6. Sen.-elect Barack Obama (D-IL)

He'll run for president someday. I'm not sure about 2008. But no good semi-accurate list of potential Democrats will leave him off.

7. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)

He's Latino, he's from a swing state, he's perfect. Except he's Bill Richardson, and that really doesn't excite anyone. Still--whoo.

8. Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) (D-AR)

I doubt it. But one never knows.

9. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)

Come on, admit it: you can see him running. Winning? Not so much.

10. Ben Affleck (D-MA)

I don't know if he'll be 35 yet, but if you really want to go down in flames, this may be the way to go. Then again, if Schwartzenegger gets the nod....

11. The Field

Jo Biden? Kathleen Siebelus? Al Sharpton? Vermin Supreme? Any and all could rise again. Who thought Howard Dean would be a player in 2004 way back in 2000? Nobody. Then again, who thought John Kerry would be a player? Pretty much everyone.

Meanwhile, the Republicans....

1. Fmr. Mayor Rudoph Giulianni (R-NY)

He's America's Mayor! He pimped for Bush! He's pro-choice! Okay, that last one might be a problem.

2. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

He's gonna be pretty old to make a run, but if he does, he's got a tremendous chance.

3. Vice President Dick Cheney (R-WY)

Probably won't run. If he does, goes immediately to #1, all others drop off list.

4. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN)

Good news: Senate Majority Leader, leader of the Republicans in the Senate, third-most powerful Republican in America, a natural choice. Bad news: last Senator to run was John Kerry, last Senate Majority Leader to run was Bob Dole.

5. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Pro: charismatic, staunch conservative from a swing state. Con: once compared gay sex to "man-on-dog" sex, last name now a slang word for a byproduct of gay sex.

6. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)

Liddy is a great speaker, and she's got good connections. And who doesn't want to see a Hillary-Liddy matchup?

7. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)

Probably not for President. But don't be surprised if he's on some short lists for VP.

8. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)

See: Sen. Norm Coleman.

9. Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger (R-CA)

Immediately jumps to #1 if he becomes Constitutionally eligible for the office.

10. Ambassador Alan Keyes (R-Mars)

Because you know you want him to run.

11. The Field

Mark Kennedy? Jim Bunning? Bob Smith? Who knows?

It's gonna be interesting.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
After the Fall

Democrats are an odd bunch.

The oft-quoted Will Rogers line about not belonging to an organized party fits us to a tee. We're fractious, and fratricidal, and often at each other's throats.

But not this year.

This year, we were in lockstep. The Moore/Chomsky left walked arm-in-arm with the Lieberman/DLC right. We were united in one vision: to beat George W. Bush.

I was part of it too. We were bound and determined to beat Bush, no matter what.

Guess what? We were wrong.

Not about beating Bush. He deserved to lose--he has not been a good president, and I don't hold out much hope for the next four years. He has lied to the American people, and he has yet to admit he is capable of error.

No, we weren't wrong about beating Bush.

But we were wrong to make it the only thing that mattered.

Two years ago, when I started this blog, I railed about a huge problem with our party. The column could've been written today, a column I should've read more carefully in the past few months:
And still, my friends, Democrats will claim that they lost narrowly, and they did. And they will claim that if one or two races had just swung their way, they would have won...and they would be right.

But they will fail to see, as they have failed to see, that it was not luck that lost them the Senate, and it was not luck that lost them the house, and it was not luck that lost them the Governor's mansion in Minnesota and Maryland. They lost for many reasons, but luck was not one of them.

The Democrats lost because they sent lawyers to precincts to contest races, and not workers to precincts to get out the vote.

The Democrats lost because they spent time arguing about alleged republican shenanigans instead of the issues.

The Democrats lost because they ran simultaneously for and against the war with Iraq, for and against the Bush tax cut, for and against George Bush.

They lost because they did not articulate a reason--any reason--to vote for them. They gave only reasons to oppose the republicans, and you cannot win simply to negate the other guy.
And yet, that was our strategy. We ran against Bush. Conservatives would chide us about being anti-Bush, rather than pro-Kerry, and we would react defensively. "John Kerry is fine! He's!" we'd proclaim, then go back to chiding the president for his latest failure.

I said it two years ago, and I was right: the Republicans may have the wrong vision for America, but they have a vision.

Democrats have a vision too, but we fail to articulate it. We cower for many reasons--Bush pere's "liberal" attack has a lot to do with it--but in the end, we fear that if we say what we stand for, that it will weaken us.

Now, the far left of the party jumps in here and starts to argue that we need to come out for free abortion on demand and unilateral disarmament and immediate withdrawl from Iraq, but that's not what I'm saying. The republicans don't run on a platform of mandatory prayer in schools, though the far right of the party is staunchly in favor of it. No, they run on a sketchbook of ideas that they've honed to a razor's edge: tax relief, anti-abortion, anti-gay "special rights," pro-prayer, pro-family, pro-military.

And they've done a good job of painting the democrats of being pro-taxes, pro-abortion, pro-gay, anti-prayer, anti-family, and anti-military. And we don't have a good comeback, other than "am not."

The Rising

The next four years won't be fun, but that's life in a democracy. I echo Oliver Willis when he tells the people who want to leave for Canada and Europe to go. If your love of this country is so weak that a couple bad elections can ruin it, then get the Hell out. We don't need you here.

The Republicans won yesterday. They won fair and square. That's not a fun fact to contemplate, but it's the truth--and in a democracy, when the votes don't go your way, you swallow your pride, accept the outcome, and start trying to figure out what you can do next time to win.

We need to start by deciding, ultimately, what our party believes in. William Saletan has a great idea: become the party of personal responsibility, something I wholeheartedly agree with. But that's just one possibility; the discussion should be open across all wings of the party.

More than that, though; we need a Grover Norquist. We need a Karl Rove. We need a William F. Buckley. We criticize these men, and much of what they do is lamentable. But the truth is, they have found a formula to win. We need to learn from them, and take what's applicable and use it.

I don't think we're going to solve this tonight. We may not solve this in time for 2008, sad as that sounds. But let's look at the long view.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater got destroyed by Lyndon Johnson. In '68, Nixon and the Rockefeller wing of the GOP took over.

By 1980--just 16 years later--Ronald Reagan rode to victory on a platform Goldwater could be proud of.

Today--forty years later--the GOP is the majority party, and their ideology is, if anything, to the right of Goldwater's platform.

Republicans in 1964 had to have been far more despondent than we are today. But they learned, and they organized, and they worked, and they won. We need to learn from them. We need to go back to square one. If we don't, we will keep losing election after election, telling ourselves that republicans are liars and a crooks, ignoring the fact that more and more Americans just don't want to hear it from us. And if we don't watch out, we'll find ourselves on the wrong side of history.

And if that happens, it won't be Karl Rove's fault, and it won't be Dick Cheney's fault, and it won't be Diebold's fault, and it won't be Sinclair's fault, or the SCLM's, or Ralph Reed's, or homophobes', or the voters'. It will be our fault. Because in a democracy, it doesn't matter how right you are. It matters whether you can convince 50.001% of the electorate that you are. We didn't do that. Bush did.


At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether Bush has a "mandate." He has the presidency, and wider majorities in both houses. "Mandate" is a made-up word. Bush controls the government. Therefore, he can pass legislation that he wants to.

That's not wrong. That's a democracy.

That does not mean that we should roll over--not in the least. The job of the opposition is to oppose. Not to stop everything, not to obstruct, but to oppose. If Bush is doing something wrong, we must say so--it is our job. But we can't be surprised if Bush tries to enact his agenda. Guess what? He probably will.

What we can do is come up with alternatives, suggest differences, work to convince the country that we're right. That's more than just saying "Bush is wrong." That's saying "Bush is wrong, and here's a better idea."

That's not going to be easy. But it's our job now. And if we hope to win in 2008, we'd better get good at it.

Four More Years

I don't know if there will be recounts in Ohio, but somehow I doubt they'll work. Right now, the margin is circa 100,000, and even if there are 250,000 ballots just laying around, Kerry would have to have them break 175,001-74,999 to win. That isn't going to happen.

No, George W. Bush is going to be reelected. Not by a large margin, but by Karl Rove's patented 50%+1 margin.

George W. Bush is about to become the least popular two-term president in our nation's history.

Andrew Sullivan suggests Bush be given a fresh start, but frankly, I don't see it happening. George W. Bush proved in this election that he's a divider, not a uniter, and that frankly, he's happy as long as his bitterly divided piece is just a little bit bigger than the other one.

It's a good electoral strategy, but a lousy way to run the country.

So what next? Get depressed and crawl into a hole? Tempting, but we can't do that. There still are two wars going on--one in Iraq and one against Terrorism. One chose us, one we chose--but both must be won.

So I'll support the President qua President. I'll hope he knows what he's doing. I hope in his second term he finds the grace and humility so lacking in his first. And as I said last night, I'll hope I'm wrong about this president. Because if I'm right, the next four years will be Nixon in '73, Johnson in '68, Clinton in '99.

They won't be pretty.

I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Zogby: Kerry Will Win

Zogby has Kerry 311, Bush 213, Nevada and Colorado too close to call.

Now, here's a fun fact: if Colorado is in play, Kerry could lose both Florida and Ohio and still win by taking Colorado.


The Early Data

The early polling looks good for Kerry, but remember, if the exit polls had been right in New Hampshire, Howard Dean might've won.

But as always, better to be up 1% in the polls than down 1%....

The Before Time

I'm writing this at 2:18 in the morning. I should be asleep, but like a kid on Christmas Eve, I can't.

Something's in the air, something indefinable.

I'm more confident this year than in 2000--that year I was cautiously pessimistic, then elated, then flummoxed, then depressed, then elated, then....well, you all know what I mean.

But this year is different. This year, I think we're going to win this one. It's something about the intensity of support on the left, and yes, the intensity of opposition, too.

We want this one. We want it bad. And I think we're going to get it.

I opened this blog a few days after the 2002 midterm debacle. My first post (after the obligatory welcome post) was a diatribe against what the Democratic party had let itself become. But we are not that party any more. The party that couldn't decide whether to make nice with President Bush or fight tooth and nail decided on the latter--with tremendous results. Just two years ago people were describing Bush's reelection as inevitable--and convinced that the Democrats could not rise to fight him.

But we did.

Howard Dean started it, and we shouldn't forget him. Oh, I don't regret Dean's loss--his meltdown in Iowa would've come sooner or later, and best it didn't happen in the general--but I am grateful for Dean's race. He pushed and prodded his opponents to start fighting. And by golly, it didn't destroy them--it saved them.

John Kerry learned from Dean, and took the lessons to heart. You could attack the President--indeed, you had to attack the President--and you could win.

I don't know that Kerry will win tomorrow. I think he will. But even if he doesn't, I won't be angry this time. Kerry ran a race he could be proud of. It was a tough race, yes. It wasn't always pretty. And no, it wasn't perfect, and should he lose, it will be because of those imperfectons.

But Bush emptied the barrel, and he's on the wrong side of the ledger. He took every slimy play in Karl Rove's head and used it, and he couldn't destroy Kerry.

Kerry may lose, but should he lose, he loses with honor.

Bush may win, but should he win, he wins with lies.

And yet....

I do not believe that Bush will win today. But should he, we will all move on. Our Republic has endured more difficult times than these, and come out the other side the better for it. George W. Bush has come up wanting, and I hope for my country's sake that he loses. But should he win, it will not mark the destruction of our nation, but merely another battle to fight. And while I may not like it, I will continue to have faith in my country, and continue to hope--as I have for the last four years--that I am wrong and the President is right. I just hope at some point to be proven wrong. I'm tired of being proven right.

Similarly, I hope those on the right realize that when Kerry wins, it will not mark our unilateral surrender to France. Even if you mistrust Kerry, grant him the opportunity to succeed or fail. Yes, you must challenge him if you think he does wrong--that is not only your right, but your obligation as an American. But you also must give him his victories, and grant him the opportunity to succeed.

Whomever wins today must succeed. Because his success is not just his success, but ours as well.

And so, in the still hours of this morning, waiting to see if Kerry will fulfil my faith in him, waiting to see what is coming around the bend, I have this wish for my country: may the winner tonight be the best man to lead us over the next four years, and may he serve his nation to the best of his abilities, and always with the welfare of his nation on his mind. I have faith that my fellow citizens will make the right choice. And I believe.

Election-Watching Guide for the Lazy
Clip 'n' Save!

So, you want to watch the election tomorrow night but you haven't been obsessively following the polls? You've come to the right place! Here's your guide to the election--and your chance to see who's winning and losing before the pundits do.

7:00 PM CST

The Eastern time zone comes on line here, and here's your chance to really dig in. The two most important swing states are here, along with some other fun.

What to Watch For

Florida and Ohio. Florida and Ohio. Florida and Ohio. These two states are the key to the election. If things fall as are expected, these two states will tell the tale. If John Kerry wins either, he wins the election. If George W. Bush wins both, he wins the election. That may not be certain, but it's damn close.

You'll Know It's a Bush Romp if he wins....

Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has been trending a little bit more purple of late, but it still should be pretty solid for Kerry. If Bush takes Pennsylvania, he's found something special.

You'll Know It's a Kerry Romp if he wins....

North Carolina. Yes, John Edwards is on the ticket and from North Carolina, but Kerry's never led here. Nevertheless, the penultimate Zogby poll has Kerry within three, giving him the faintest glimmer of hope. If that grows to victory, you'll know it's a Kerry landslide.

Senate Race to Watch

There are several to choose from, but Florida's Senate race is as close as the race for the Presidency.

Wacky Fact

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.

8:00 CST

Bring on the central states!

What to Watch For

The troika of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin collectively have as many electoral votes as Florida, and they've been almost as hotly contested. If Bush does lose Florida and Ohio, his only hope would be to run the table in these three states. Similarly, If Kerry wins Ohio but not Florida, he must hold at least two of these states.

You'll Know it's a Bush Romp if he wins....

Minnesota. Oh, sure, it's been a battleground state, but it's been swinging hard for Kerry in the waning moments of the campaign, and it's the only state to vote Democratic every year since 1972. There will be a day my friends on the right finally turn Minnesota red, but if it happens this year, George Bush is on his way.

You'll Know it's a Kerry Romp if he wins....

Arkansas. Oh, Missouri would be the trendy pick here, but Missouri going for Kerry wouldn't stun me. Arkansas, home of Bill Clinton? That would be shocking.

Senate Race to Watch

Can John Thune (R) oust Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in South Dakota? And if he does, will any Democrats really be disappointed? And can Alan Keyes (R) break 20% against Barack Obama (D) in Illinois?

Wacky Fact

In 1984, Jeff Fecke shook Walter Mondale's hand after Fritz's concession speech at the old Saint Paul Civic Center. Mondale had proudly represented Minnesota, only losing the Electoral College by a margin of 525-13.

9:00 CST

Rocky Mountain Hiiiiiiigh....Colorado.....

What to Watch For

Colorado is a key state; if Kerry loses both Ohio and Florida, he still has a chance if he can pry loose Colorado. Of course, if he's lost Ohio and Florida, he probably can't pry loose Colorado, but if you're a Kerry supporter who's lost Ohio and Florida, you'd best put that out of your mind at this point.

You'll Know it's a Bush Romp if he wins....

New Mexico. Actually, you won't know it's a Bush Romp if he wins there, because he sure could; still, it's the only state in the Mountain time zone that Bush isn't winning right now.

You'll Know it's a Kerry Romp if he wins....

Anywhere other than Colorado and New Mexico.

Senate Race to Watch

The Colorado race has Salazar and Coors...and twins!

Bonus Note

The Daily Show starts now. It's probably not only funnier, but more accurate than the coverage you're currently watching.

Wacky Fact

John Kerry was born in Colorado. It hasn't helped him so far.

10:00 CST

Goin' back to Cali...Cali...Cali....

What to Watch For

Who wins Nevada? Seriously, that's it, there really isn't any suspense on the West Coast. By this point, the Florida and Ohio calls should actually be coming in.

You'll Know it's a Bush Romp if he wins....

Oregon. But he won't.

You'll Know it's a Kerry Romp if he wins....

Like Bush in the Mountain time zone, the only state Kerry isn't favored to win is Nevada.

Senate Race to Watch

None of the races out there are very interesting. Go back to Oklahoma, where the race is between moderate-to-conservative Rep. Brad Carson (D) against insane right-wing nutjob Tom Coburn (R), a doctor who once performed abortions who now believes abortion should be not just illegal, but a felony. The race is too close to call.

Wacky Fact

California's Governor, Arnold Schwartzenegger (R), once appeared in movies before he entered politics.

Alaska and Hawaii

If we don't know the winner by this point, turn off the television, and do as follows:
  1. Take out a cocktail shaker (stainless steel works best.)
  2. Fill with crushed ice, 9 parts vodka, and .1 part vermouth.
  3. Shake liberally, then pour into a big enough glass that it all fits.
  4. Drink.
  5. Repeat as necessary.
What to Watch For

Is anyone conceding? Has the cheese tray turned? Did they just pull Ohio away from Bush? Oh, and can Bush win in Hawaii?

You'll Know it's a Bush Romp if he wins....

Hawaii. But he won't.

You'll Know it's a Kerry Romp if he wins....

Alaska. But if he does, that means he's won a 538-0 victory in the electoral college, so you already knew that.

Senate Race to Watch

The Alaska race between Tony Knowles (D) and incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R) is a great chance for a Democratic pickup, and may well make Tom Daschle the new Majority Leader, unless he lost to which case it probably will have little influence on who becomes the new Minority Leader.

Wacky Fact

In the classic Happy Days episode, Richie Cunningham is having a party to celebrate the entry of Hawaii as our 50th state, until the heater breaks, causing the room to grow cold. Fonzie suggests he change the party to a celebration of 49th state Alaska--so Richie can slow dance up close with the girls. He then rides his motorcycle over a polar bear. Ayyyyyyyy.

And Then....

So now we have a new President! Or we've started the Recount!

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the election. Y'all come back again real soon, ya hear?

And Now, Our Revels Have Ended

This is not the sound of a winning campaign:

Bush's aides predicted victory when talking on the record, pointing to polls showing that the race remained a tossup, both nationally and in key states. But despite the insistence that all was well, the erosion in the moods of Bush's inner circle over the past two weeks was unmistakable. Several of his close advisers said they were concerned because the president had achieved no last-minute momentum, and Democratic turnout was looking as if it might swamp the Bush-Cheney campaign's projections.

A Republican official who is privy to Bush-Cheney strategy and polling said that as the incumbent, Bush should be further ahead of Kerry in polls. "Some of them have been moving in the right direction, but it isn't enough," the official said. "Karl [Rove] is a big believer in the bandwagon effect, but there has been nothing over the past week for the president to use it to turn it around."

To say Karl Rove is a believer in the bandwagon theory is to say that Charles Darwin was a believer in evolution--it's true, but it doesn't quite capture the magnitute.

Karl Rove is all about the bandwagon. And there's no bandwagon this year.

And in twenty-four hours, he'll have four long years to think about that.

Monday, November 01, 2004
State Watching

I'll post my election-watching guide tomorrow, but right now, it looks like this race is boiling down to Ohio and Florida. If Kerry wins either, he wins. If Bush wins both, he wins.

I like those odds--especially with polls in Florida leaning to Kerry, and Ohio too close to call.

I still think John2 wins both--but either one is enough.

October Surprise

Did anyone else notice that Karl Rove's "October Surprise" failed to materialize?

I know there are still a few hours left before the election, but it would seem to be too late now.

Was the "John Kerry didn't meet with Bulgaria" thing all they had?

Yeesh. Bush's Brain is off his game.

Poll Watch
The "I Was Just Kidding" Edition

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't be posting any more polls...but this one's just too good.

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics, October 30-31, 1,200 Likely Voters, MOE +/- 3%

John Kerry (D) 48% (+2)
George W. Bush (R) [I] 46% (unc)
Ralph Nader (I) 1% (unc)

Zogby was also on FOX saying that the FOX poll mirrored one he'll post later today.

Yes, FOX has Kerry ahead, and Bush in the "dead zone."

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


I suppose I should be upset at "Those People" who stole my Kerry/Edwards sign today. Instead, I just made a new one.

So there.

The First Quadrennial BotML Election Pool!

Hello, my name is Jeff Fecke. You may know me from Aliens 9 and Stop, or My Monkey Will Shoot! Welcome to the first quadrennial Blog of the Moderate Left Election Pool!

It's pretty simple. Simply copy the races below into an email file and send it back to me with your percentage (or electoral votes) for each race. The winner is the person who comes closest overall to the final percentages. Email the list to no later than 5 PM Central Standard Time on Election Day.

The winner gets a surprise gift of negligable monetary value, and the traditional six-pack of beer that nobody actually gets because everyone forgets to buy it. So vote early, vote often!

Pool Races

President and Vice President--Popular Vote %
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (R) [I]
John Kerry and John Edwards (D)
Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo (I)

President and Vice President--Electoral Vote
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (R) [I]
John Kerry and John Edwards (D)

Alaska Senate
Knowles (D)
Murkowski (R) [I]

Colorado Senate (Open, Campbell [R])
Coors (R)
Salazar (D)

Florida Senate (Open, Graham [D])
Castor (D)
Martinez (R)

Illinois Senate (Open, Fitzgerald [R])
Keyes (R)
Obama (D)

Kentucky Senate
Bunning (R) [I]
Mongiardo (D)

South Dakota Senate
Daschle (D) [I]
Thune (R)

Good luck!

Kerry, Comfortably

I wouldn't be a very good armchair pundit if I didn't post my take on the 2004 election, now would I?

So here, without further ado, is my prediction for what we'll be seeing tomorrow night:

John Kerry/John Edwards (D) 51%
George W. Bush/Dick Cheney (R) [I] 47%
Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo (I) 1%
Other Candidates 2%

John Kerry/John Edwards (D) 311
George W. Bush/Dick Cheney (R) [I] 227

So how do I arrive at these numbers? A little bit of pollwatching and a little bit of intuition.

First of all, almost every poll has the race within a point, and the polls are pretty evenly split between Bush and Kerry leads. That means that the race is tied.

A tie race is a disaster for the incumbent. Bush is at about 48%, but no higher. Kerry is also at about 48%, but the Rule of Incumbents suggests that those numbers will break to Kerry.

Second, there is strong anecdotal evidence that the Democrats simply want this race more. Reports of 5-hour lines in Florida and people shutting down businesses to work for Kerry on Tuesday indicate a strong Democratic surge. There aren't similar stories from the Bush side--indeed, most Republicans seem to be rather dubious about Bush, though reluctant to vote for Kerry. Dubious, weak support doesn't send people to the polls in droves.

Third, the new voter registration seems to favor Democrats, and decisively. Those voters don't usually show up as Likely Voters--but they certainly are able to vote.

As for the Electoral College, I get there by assigning all of the safe states and then taking a look at the others. Here's my breakdown of the swing states:

Kerry Will Win Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Bush Will Win Missouri, New Mexico, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Now, there is certainly room for those states to switch. Of Kerry's "Will Wins," I would say that Nevada is the least safe--but New Mexico is so unsafe for Bush that the two are an effective wash. Ohio is the next least safe for Kerry, followed by Florida. If both of those drop to Bush, Kerry would lose 264-274. But I don't think they will both drop to Bush. I think Florida is leaning Kerry, and Ohio is straight up and down. That would leave Kerry with a 291-247 edge. If that holds, Kerry could also drop Minnesota and Wisconsin and still win.

My gut tells me, however, that the Democratic ground game is just better this year than the GOP ground game. The Democrats just plain want it more.

I've written before about the 1994 election and its lessons for this year. In 1994, the polls showed a slight edge to the Democrats going into election day. Some contrarian polls suggested the Republicans might gain somewhat, but none predicted what actually happened--a Republican sweep, a takeover of both the House and the Senate by an easy margin.

Why did the Republicans do so well in '94? Because they were strongly motivated to rebuke a Clinton administration that they believed was too liberal and corrupt. The Democrats, meanwhile, were not exactly thrilled with Clinton themselves, and they simply didn't race out to the polls like their conservative counterparts.

I think that's where we are today. Despite the happy talk, everyone on both sides knows that Bush hasn't been a great leader. The Republicans are happier with him than Kerry, but not by enough to really motivate them to get up and vote. The Democrats, conversely, are ready to crawl through mortar fire on November 2.

In the end, the tie goes to the challenger. Kerry won't win in a landslide, but we won't be counting hanging chads on December 1, either.