THAT IS THE FAVORITE LINE of the red-state styled crusaders for the American way in a fairly vulgar, crass, but culturally significant movie, Team America: World Police. “America, Fuck Yeah!” also seems to describe a kind of pugnacious nationalism that has taken hold of the American personality and just given George Bush a compelling mandate to take his political revolution further.
I know that my progressive, erudite acquaintances are going to give me grief for advocating that you all see Team America. . .but do. I think it gives us, via some puppets and special effects, a very good picture of what Walter Russell Mead has called the Jacksonian American. These Jacksonians believe in a core set of values — apple pie, NASCAR, church, hard work, family values, gay and lesbian stuff hidden from sight. They believe in the country and aren’t bent on notions of empire. In fact, they hate our involvement in Iraq or other global problems but believe that America is the only nation that can set the world straight.
According to them, we Americans don’t want to be a global cop — but if we have to, we will — and we are going to do it our way, damn it.
Listen, the “Fuck Yeah!” crowd just told the rest of the world that Florida was not a mistake; America really wants this guy — George W. Bush. So learn to live with it, work with us on our terms, or shut up.
I have a lot of reactions to yesterday’s election that I would like to list here. I did this earlier today and tried to upload to my site, but there are so many hits on The Washington Note today and yesterday that my site keeps crashing. I lost everything I wrote. So, I have reconsidered some of my earlier reactions, but hopefully the tension I feel will be evident below.
In no particular order, among my thoughts are that exit polls are evil. These polls really misled Americans, blogs, commentators, everyone. This is the second major election where this has happened. Execute the pollsters. Kevin Drum tries to excuse the pollsters by arguing that late in the day, the eventual numbers looked pretty close — well then, we shouldn’t look at anything except late in the day numbers. But it manipulates voting outcomes and political process by sending inaccurate signals from these exit polls. I contributed to this — although I qualified my commentary — but I will never do it again. Exit polls are crap. Jonah Goldberg had that right when he said he wasn’t buying them.
Life goes on — but the political life of some in the inner core of the Democratic Kremlin should be snipped. Can we arrange for a special video session between Donald Trump and Bob Shrum?? Shrum needs to go. McAuliffe needs to go. Big Time failures. Some bloggers are advocating clemency for those inside the Democratic house. Howard Dean had it right — he refused to hire a lot of these retread barnacles who thrive on risk-aversion in the Democratic Party. That is why they helped kill the Dean candidacy.
The Democratic Party is broken badly — and this election proves it. There must be a thorough cleaning out of the party apparatus and a realignment of interests and objectives.
The next major headline-grabbing issue that Republicans and Democrats are going to wrestle over will probably be a successor to Chief Justice Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. We will be debating a new justice for the Court — and will see the selection of a new Chief Justice, probably Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. Does anyone think that the Democrats — soon to be in complete and utter disarray — are going to be prepared to fight an abortion-opposing justice appointment to the Court? Bush has his mandate. Daschle is out. Harry Reid, though a nice guy is not the most compelling example of bold, enlightened leadership in the Senate, is rumored to be in line to succeed Daschle.
Can we just immediately draft Obama into the Senate Minority Leader position? That would be bold, creative — say something other than “business as usual.” Dems will be rolled by the Republicans on the Supreme Court and other issues until they do some blood-letting, fire some folks, and come up with a new, compelling vision for the country. John Kerry never sold that vision. He tried in the end.
Other thoughts.
No universal health care in the next decade. Health care coverage rates in America get worse. We have a greater division of the ultra-wealthy from the rest of society. Winner takes all morality, balanced with a bit of Sunday charity is what will bring tears to the eyes of a faithful and penitent George W. Bush.
We will most likely have a new set of show-downs on abortion, gay civil rights, and advanced genetics/stem cell research. Faith and Secularism may have flirted with each other across a pretty well defined demarcation. But downright fuzziness and blurring of the lines of religion and state may be on the way.
Why didn’t Kerry make the case? All along in this race, I thought Kerry missed opportunities. By the time he pulled his goose-hunting gig, which was some attempt I guess to connect with NASCAR aficionados, I just didn’t think he had done much to connect with non-urban human beings. My family is from Bartlesville, Oklahoma — a small town but a good place — and John Kerry probably could not hang very long with the staff of the local credit union where my mom works. Howard Dean probably could have, and there are lots of Democrats frankly who could find common ground with the typical Bartlesville conservative. But Kerry never seemed to try.
The Cato Institute’s Chuck Pena made a good point today. He said that Bush is a blue state guy underneath who sells well to red state types. John Kerry runs with another pack and just doesn’t appeal well over the line.
No matter what Tom Friedman wrote in his New York Times column, this George Bush is now going to be considered by history to be the better Bush. He bested his dad. He won more votes than Gore did last time. He won two terms and has a mandate,
I am haunted by the energy and enthusiasm, the wacky internal fun, and the passion that Bill Clinton inspired from his core team including George Stephanopolous and James Carville as depicted in the movie, The War Room. Insiders tell me that Kerry’s inner sanctum was icy, mechanical. Some of his closest aides had virtually no relationship with the guy.
This is a technique of Senate staff management where the Senator never wants to get too close to his own personal legislative staff. I saw it a lot when I worked in the Senate and know enough former Kerry staffers from the Hill that I am sure that he employed this approach. Some close aides to Kerry inside the campaign called him “whiney.” Kind of an upper crust, rich guy who really did have to contemplate what made regular folks tick and didn’t do it often enough.
Yesterday’s result was an indictment of the Democratic Party machine that ran mechanically with a group of mostly risk-averse, Brezhnevized advisors from old Democratic party circles keeping Kerry from doing the bold, big things candidates need to do when destroying a powerful incumbent. Listen, I’ll be politically correct. Kerry’s “50% plus one” strategy nearly worked; but I hated it all along because he could have beaten Bush.
With all of the Bush administration’s failings, economically and militarily — from Abu Ghraib to whopping levels of national indebtedness — Kerry failed to close the deal. The reason the Democratic Party needs to be cleaned out is that I have a hard time imagining a “type” of candidate easier to beat than one with the characteristics of the Bush administration.
Just think of this — Kerry had Eminem, Bruce Springsteen, Move-On.org, Ron Suskind, Michael Moore, and many more people and incredibly innovative politically-loaded communications vehicles. All of these players and networks tried to infuse passion, vision, and a sense of consequence into Kerry’s campaign, but they were not part of the core circle. Something is wrong with the machine when two similar types of candidates — Al Gore and John Kerry — get selected and both lose. They may be smart and have impressive records of duty and service to their country — but Clinton and Bush do connect with people. That has to be part of the equation, and when the spirit and inspiration are missing in the core of Kerry’s operation, when rumors get out that he is “whiney and a pain in the ass” from top staff people, there is something incredibly wrong.
I think that all of the great debates of the day are now going to be determined not through the collision of Democrats and Republicans but through battles among factions inside conservative circles. This could be a good thing — at least until the Democratic Party realigns and gets back into fighting shape. But the debate tomorrow will be whether Bush Republicanism is really the kind of Republicanism most conservatives want.
If you want to beat back the right wing, progressives need to begin cultivating potential civil wars inside the Republican camp. Or better yet, Democrats need to redefine their center of gravity, toss out their flawed leadership, appoint strong visionaries who can compete and get back in the game — nationally. Not just in the Northeast and West Coast.
I am riding hard on Kerry and perhaps I am going too hard. But the stakes for the nation were large in this race, and Democrats need to ask what is broken and why they can’t seem to beat a Bible-belting president who uses faith more than empirical evidence to guide his decisions.
I will end what is somewhat of a rant, my own Dean-like scream today. But one more thing. . .What did Edwards bring to the ticket? Despite all of the smugness of recruiting a good-looking, fast-talking trial lawyer from the South, wasn’t Gephardt a better choice? Would we not have won Missouri and most likely Ohio with Gephardt on the ticket?
I think we would have. Gephardt, while not the stem-winder that many people wanted, would have been the right choice for Kerry. Kerry hired so many of Gephardt’s staff after Gephardt stepped down that I thought this would work. But as we all study what went right for Bush and wrong for Kerry — one of the important but fatal errors was choosing a Vice Presidential candidate that brought no electoral college weight to the ticket.
More later.
— Steve Clemons