Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Electoral Collage

We the people have just given four additional years to a president who misled the nation into an unnecessary and unjustified war that has fostered, not suppressed, greater terrorism around the globe; who bought off the electorate with a pandering and insignificant middle-class tax cut that served only to hide much larger givebacks to those who need them less; who impugned the valorous war record of his opponent despite using family connections to avoid combat; whose morally bankrupt fiscal policies have created a mammoth budget deficit that our children and grandchildren will be forced to contend with; who gutted essential and effective environmental legislation; who demonizes those who disagree with him rather than engage in dialogue; who ran on a record of compassion and unity, then governed as if his dictionary didn't include those words; who has pathetically little command of the English language; and who claims to be guided by God in his decision-making.

How the hell did this happen?

Will Saletan of Slate has as good an explanation as any:

I think this is the answer: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.

Bush is a very simple man. You may think that makes him a bad president, as I do, but lots of people don't -- and there are more of them than there are of us. If you don't believe me, take a look at those numbers on your TV screen.

Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states -- Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire -- don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones.

This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? Not courage -- he proved that in Vietnam. Not will -- he proved that in Iowa. Not brains -- he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens. Bush had one issue; Kerry had scores. Bush ended his sentences when you expected him to say more; Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another, until nobody could remember what he was talking about. Now Bush has two big states that mean everything, and Kerry has a bunch of little ones that add up to nothing.

Understand, I'm no Kerry fan. He never stood for anything, changing positions more often than Paris Hilton in front of a videocamera. (Pause for rimshot.) My vote for him was far more a statement against President Bush than any endorsement of Kerry. For the second straight election now, and the fifth of the last seven, the Democrats have saddled the country with what appears to be the safe choice, the guy who looks great on paper but who doesn't understand that leadership -- real, effective leadership -- is intimately tied to human connections. It's not about who's smarter or whose resume is the most glittering; it's about who understands people and their problems. Bill Clinton knew that; Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry didn't.

The more I look, the more uneasy American politics makes me. The Republicans have been hijacked by a politically ruthless and deeply troubling secterian wing that has abandoned the party's core principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government. The Democrats, after a successul flirtation with the pragmatism of the Clinton years, can't get out of their own way; they seem unwilling or unable to adapt to political reality and adjust their messages, and their candidates, accordingly.

So what now for moderate centrists like me? I'm a registered independent perfectly willing to split my ticket -- did it yesterday, in fact -- but these days I fear I have no place to go. So -- do I join a party and try to work from within the system to improve things? If so, which one? Do I move beyond this little effort and become a more vocal advocate for change? Do I run for office myself?

What would you do?


At November 3, 2004 at 3:33 PM, Blogger Tom G. said...

Tom -

As I wrote on my site yesterday, I wanted to steer clear of politics - isn't it more fun to read each other's blogs when we all agree on something? Ah, how I long for the days of the Fire Bowa Mantra. But just as you apparently needed to vent, I guess I do now, too...

How can you go on the rant in your first paragraph, then quote someone who thinks it is impossible to be intelligent, religous, and conservative all at the same time, and then ask, "what now for moderate centrists like me?" It's this kind of attitude that greatly disappoints me when I come across it. For years in graduate school, I kept my mouth shut about my politics for fear of discrimination. Seriously. To this day, I can still see the looks on the professors faces when they realized that they had had a conservative in their
midst for sometime. It wasn't that I had ever lied about it, I just never participated in those discussions. At any rate, they were shocked that someone that valued book learnin' could be a conservative.

Just because liberals don't understand how a conservative arrives at his/her points of view doesn't mean the liberal should view them as a simpleton. I don't understand how you arrive at your views, but I
don't think you are the stereotypical liberal equivalent of the "conservative simpleton".

I'm just thankful that we live in a country where we can have our different beliefs. Around 120 million people voted yesterday in two distinctly different and nearly equal sized camps, but in a week, we'll be back to business as usual because even though it is tough to
recognize at an eventful time as this, it's the simple and sophisticated (and everything in between) people of this country that make it the best in the world, not whoever is in the Oval Office.

- Tom G
A "Simpleton"in a Red State

PS - How 'bout them Phils? (Does that suffice as an olive branch?)

At November 3, 2004 at 6:58 PM, Blogger gr said...

the dishonesty in that slate piece bugs me. bush has two states and kerry has a bunch of little ones? i think bush has both. 2 big states and all the little sparse ones in the middle. he also won 30 out of 50, i think.

i won't get into why i disagree with a lot of slate's writing, especially the tired old point of simpletons in the republican party and the country being hijacked and all this other business. the more i hear it, the more i take offense to it personally, since they are talking about ME. and getting offended never wins anybody anything.

i would however like to note, in my own opinion, that kerry did not have a bunch of messages. he had NO message. he had a bunch of things he said - big difference (not the vietnam thing again!). by and large, one could define john kerry as a candidate. who's going to vote for someone that can't be identified on a basic level?

also, "moderate centrist"? that sounds like something bush would say!

At November 3, 2004 at 9:23 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Okay, deep breath, everyone.

Tom G.: I'm not criticizing conservatives as a group. I'm criticizing George W. Bush. In my opinion, many of his decisions -- as well as his decision-making process -- have been bad for the country. There are some conservatives I greatly respect, and have voted for as well, and there's much about conservatism that I admire. I also think you misread Saletan's piece a bit -- calling someone message "simple" is far different than calling that person a simpleton. In fact, Saletan is hardly a knee-jerk liberal -- and I think he admires the president's ability to keep his message basic and consistent (unlike Senator Kerry).

Greg: The president's ability to make decisions without a great deal of reflection or fact-checking appeals to a great many people. I'm not one of them. Again, I don't think Saletan was calling Bush a simpleton -- his words were "a very simple man," which is a small but important distinction. "Evidently a majority of the voting population of the United States doesn't share your concern," Saletan says to those who admired Kerry's complexity. "They seem to be attracted to a candidate with a simple message, a clear focus, and a human touch." That's hardly demonizing language.

And, yeah, "moderate centrist." I prefer pragmatism to ideology. Not terribly sexy, but there you have it.

Now can we get back to debating about who the Phillies should hire?

At November 4, 2004 at 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For one South Jersey dad it's a very simple matter (no reference or pun intended).........Kerry & the rest of The Clintonistas do not pass the smell test and haven't since the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Quoting Sean Connery's Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables - "they smell like a whore house at low tide."

Dad D

At November 4, 2004 at 9:16 AM, Blogger Chris said...

And to quote another Sean Connery movie: "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it."

I think what Tommy is saying, and also what Tom G. is saying, is that good people can disagree. The Slate piece is unfortunate in that while it's actually pretty nuanced, on the surface it seems to confirm the stereotype of the effete liberal who thinks Bush is a simpleton. Which is about as palatable (and as accurate) as the stereotype of the red-faced conservative who thinks Kerry is a communist. Make fun of Tommy for calling himself a moderate centrist if you want, but all it means is that he agrees with Republicans on some positions, Democrats on others, and this particular president on few if any.


P.S. And, wait a minute, Dad -- you mean before 1968 you voted Democrat? I wish I'd been alive to see that....

At November 4, 2004 at 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's tough being a mom, especially one who's five children (3 sons, 2 daughters-in-law) think so the opposite of her on almost every subject, except the Phillies and loving each other. I find this one of those tough times.

Last night Dad D advised me to "sleep-on-it" before I responded to this posting. I was so mad that I thought my head would explode. Three things I especially disagree, vehemently (did I spell that right?), with you about are:

1)the President did not mislead us into an unnecessary war. He relied on reports from the intelligence community - the same info many, many other countries believed. Iraq is part of the war on terror, in my opinion, and the terrorists are to blame for terrorism, not the President.

2)I disagree with your petty remark about his "pathetically little command of the English language" - I guess I didn't realize that perfect speech was a requirement for the presidency.

3)Lastly, I really take offense at the mocking tone of your remark about asking God for guidance in decision-making. I, for one, have always asked for God's help when faced with making an important decision in my life, and I believe the majority of the American people feel the same way.

'Nuff said already! I love you dearly, my firstborn, but we will have to agree to disagree. Mom

At November 4, 2004 at 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's really necessary is a strong centrist third party.

Idealogues have a lot of influence over the Dems and Reps. They are corrupt. Take medical malpractice reform. The AMA owns the Republicans. The trial lawyers own the Democrats. Serious political reform is necessary.

In 2000 I was for Bradley, then later McCain because they were reform candidates. The antibodies of the body politic rejected the reformers.

And the handlers, political consultants, and opposition researchers of BOTH parties demonize the opposition, and have created (along with the Crossfire school of journalism) have created unprecedented polarization.

The problem is that there is no such centrist third party. The Reform party people had a good start, but Ross Perot was such a control freak he wouldn't let other candidates compete. It didn't grow strong enough, and was ultimately sabotaged by the Republicans.

Perhaps a grass roots campaign needs to be started, maybe via the net. But such a campaign would need to be really centrist. It can't be anti-defense. It needs to have a concern for social problems, but fiscally resposible. It needs to be willing to do what government can realistically do, but the emphasis needs to be on realism.

At November 4, 2004 at 10:49 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Mom and Dad, thanks for the thoughts. I love and respect you both. I'll respond off-list so as not to bore everyone else with family disagreements.

Anonymous centrist poster, can you identify yourself a little? I could have written your post. Feel free to e-mail off-list ( if you'd like.

At November 4, 2004 at 1:09 PM, Blogger gr said...

tom: fair enough. no harm intended.

dad d is my new hero for no other reason than i imagine him speaking in connery's accent.

am i the only one on this blog who is not a member of the durso family? if so, what time is thanksgiving dinner?

its so hard to get excited about the phils with the eagles playing so well and the phils looking like the phils (who's going to pitch next year, exactly?)

At November 4, 2004 at 2:57 PM, Blogger Tom G. said...

gr - We have several things in common:

1. I am not a member of the Durso family either.

2. It crossed my mind as well about what it must be like at the Durso Thanksgiving dinner table. Wow. Duck for cover.

3. I dig the Sean Connery accent too. Both the genuine one and the one done by Darrell Hammond on SNL's "Celebrity Jeopardy" ("You'll rue the day you crossed me Trebek!")

As for the talk of third parties and centrism, I honestly think that there is a lot of comprimising going on in the GOP. Seriously. Stop laughing. Ready yet? OK, my wife and the wife of one of my best friends are perfect examples, both are what would be considered slightly left of center on social issues but when it comes to fiscal matters and defense/security, they are probably right of center. But what is even more interesting in the case of my wife's best friend is that she is the executive director of a pro-choice conservative lobby group. And when her job comes up in conversation, it is almost always followed by someone saying "Wow, I could really get on board with that." I think the GOP is a bigger tent - or at least has the potential to be a bigger tent - than a lot of people realize.

Tom G.

At November 5, 2004 at 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is times like these that I remember a line from the movie "All The President's Men" when Wordward and Bernstein tell Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee that they had learned that the Watergate coverup went all the way up to President Nixon. Bradlee says "The latest numbers from the Gallup Organization just came in, half the people in this country have never even heard of the Watergate break-in. Nobody gives a sh--." On the day Nixon resigned in August 1974 his approval rating was in the low 30's. Even after the Nixon tapes revealed during the Watergate Hearings that Nixon himself directly instructed members of his administration to break the law, one out three people in this country continued to support him. Seems crazy, doesn't it? You would think that things would change, but they never really do.

At October 14, 2005 at 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

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