This, of course, is the question of the hour for all of us on the left. We were, and still are, absolutely convinced that our ideals of tolerance and equality are superior to the politics of hate and fear that Bush's campaign just cashed in on.
So why were we unable to get this message out to the legions of people who would benefit more from Democratic policies, but voted for Bush anyway? It boils down to a couple things, in my mind_
Quite simply, Kerry spent too much time either defending himself or attacking Bush. Somewhere in the mud-slinging extravaganza of this campaign season, his message got lost. People didn't know that Kerry wasn't going to raise their taxes. People didn't know that Kerry was instituting health care that would cover their asses. People didn't know that he was going to actually fund his education initiatives.
Does some of this blame fall on voters themselves? Absolutely. The average american's knowledge of political issues is appalling. However, any successful campaign has to realize this and play their cards accordingly. Kerry failed to portray his message in a manner that was clear and could transcend the RNC's spin.
2. Wedge Issues
Oh, how we hate the wedge issues... You know the ones_ Abortion, Gay Rights, Gun Control. These are the issues that the RNC uses to reach voters on a gut level. Many Americans are simplistic creatures. They're used to being spoon-fed their information by the television, and don't like to contemplate the ins and outs of tax plans or international law. It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction, though, and say "Abortions are bad" (which they certainly are). The liberal position, which involves nuance, says that "Abortions are bad, but necessary in certain situations, like medical necessity, rape, or inability to care for a child."
Which one is a better sound byte?
The conservative nature of religion factors in heavily here as well. Many religious groups supported Bush, calling Kerry a "baby-killer", and ignoring the fact that Bush was an Arab torturer and killer. Religion can be the ultimate weapon in any campaign. Let's be honest_ Nothing resonates at the ballot box like the fear of eternal damnation for casting the wrong vote. Democrats allowed the Republican camp to own these issues and it cost them dearly.
3. Media Control
How much air time was given to the bullshit Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? How much was given to "Rathergate"? Now how much was given to discussions of the initiatives that each side had for the future?
Entertainment and news have collided, and the media spends its time looking for a scandal, rather than reporting the news. They also show an appaling willingness to parrot press-releases by both sides, resulting in each broadcast being full of campaign rhetoric instead of news.
Again, the Bush team took advantage of this, by inventing scandals, shooting false accusations, and pigeonholing Kerry into terms of their choosing - "flip-flopper", "Massachussets Liberal", etc. They won here by defining the frame of the debate. Kerry did not use these media tactics to his advantage, and he lost as a result.
Coming up next_ More about why we lost, and a piece on what we need to do win in the future.