What Went Wrong?


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_

1. Message
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.

Comments

Written by christy -

Chris, I was out of the country, but managed to send in my absentee ballot before I left. I nearly missed my ship because we were so engrossed in the election returns Tuesday. Unfortunately I was traveling with 3 Republicans, but only two of them had the opportunity to submit their absentee ballots before we left. I don't think my dear husband had the opportunity to vote since he was working and taking care of the kids. For the first time in 15 years, we didn't cancel out each other at the polls. I have to say I was a little surprised that Kerry didn't pick up Missouri. I thought there would be a very strong Democratic college turn out up in your neck of the woods as well as in Springfield and Cape Girardeau. Well...the fact of the matter is what's done is done and we can't change the results of this election, but we can start preparing for the next election. Take care and see you at the holidays. Christy

Written by Keith -

I think you hit the nail on the head with your first reason--message. I read a rather succinct analysis of the election the other day that said vision without details beat details without vision. This was certainly a winable election for the dems but they failed to convince voters that they had a better vision for the country than the Bush camp. Keep fighting the good fight. We'll be back again in four years. I just hope things aren't too screwed up by then.

Written by Andy -

As gross as this loss has been, its results might not be entirely bad. Unlike the first "election" which left Bush as president, the current situation is truly cause for an examination of the American left. Lets suck it up and admit it. We (the American Left) really did lose to George W. Bush. There was no apparent evidence of electoral fraud. This isn't a dream, or comic sketch. We somehow lost to a man who has assaulted all branches of civil liberties, been linked with one of the biggest economic meltdowns of American history and slaughtered thousands for god-only-knows what reason in a war with no conceivable end, all while abandoning the ideals of fiscal responsibility which so many from his own base hold dear. And corruption? Dubya's got more corruption than Olive Garden's got breadsticks. We lost to a man who declared himself a "war president" and conceded that in a nation where a solid chunk of the population doesn't have basic medical care or food, his main concern centered around obscure foreign boogeymen. We lost to a man whose economic scheme is disadvantageous for the vast majority of the voting public. We lost to a man whose political locus is more right of center than Kerry's was left, whose family life was so far from any American norm as to be comical, and whose entire life was a scandal exceeding Clintonian proportions. What the HELL are we doing wrong? At this point we can only speculate...something you've begun on this page. One thing this election has revealed though is that something is obviously very, very, very wrong with US. Its not them...its us. As James Carville deadpanned, "if we can't win against this guy, we need to wonder if we can win against anyone". I can think of few instances in history when it should have been easier to defeat an incumbent, and yet we still lost. Its safe to say at this point that the current incarnation of the democratic party may be able to post a president against, say, a self proclaimed necrophiliac, but our political viability pretty much ends there. This is a GOOD thing though. We now know that the problem isn't one of personalities or pre-existing national circumstances...the problem is US. We don't have to spend decades scrutinizing candidates, their campaigns or voter issues. Lets throw out the old bathwater of concern for moderation, character or any other lynchpin of succesuful politics-obviously they're incapable of fixing, or unrelated to, whether or not we win. We clearly had the better candidate, in all respects, and we STILL LOST. Let us seize this as an opportunity to look at ourselves, figure out what we did wrong, and stop doing it.

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