Saturday, November 06, 2004

In other words, nothing has changed. Mr. Bush's victory onTuesday was not based on his demonstrated competence inoffice or on a litany of perceived successes. For all thetalk about values that we're hearing, the president ran acampaign that appealed above all to voters' fears andprejudices. He didn't say he'd made life better for theaverage American over the past four years. He didn't say hehad transformed the schools, or made college more care to the sick and vulnerable.
-Bob Herbert

Well, first of all, I will admit to my Election Day predictions being wrong. I think this is too bad.

Secondly, I will admit that I was quite depressed by Bush's reelection, and I still am disappointed in it, realizing all that it may portend, but I will say this: none of us know what is going to happen in the next four years.

Unlike some, who logically figure that it is in Bush's best interest to reach out to a divided electorate and an alienated group of international allies, I believe he will not even try, as he has never shown any interest in doing so in the past. He lost the popular vote (and likely the electoral vote) in the 2000 election and proceeded to act as if he had a mandate; in this election he won with a slight majority of the vote. He even declared, as a someone of his pettiness would, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." This is not the voice of a man who seeks to unite a fractured world, as Senator Kerry gracefully urged him to. This is the voice of a man determined to get his way.

When I think of the great leaders of our country, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, I realize that they all united our country in times of upheaval and crisis. Of course, there were still struggles, nothing is perfect, we cannot imagine a utopia of national unity, but as we try to figure out the 2004 election in its aftermath, it is clear that the victories came at the expense of national unity. We have one political party that is determined to use prejudice and base fear to drive people to the polls and ultimately vote for economic and foreign policies against their interest.

As for what to do now, I am not going to leave the U.S. (unless for some reason circumstances take me abroad) once I get back there in December. More than 55 million people came out to vote for John Kerry, lots of races where Democrats, often challengers, ran against Republicans in "Red" states, came very close, and the Democrats have just begun to mobilize and coordinate our activist groups and so on. Plus, more of the country agrees with us on the issues. We cannot abandon a country with core values as the ones that the Constitution was founded upon, and we cannot let a group of fear-baiters defile the Constitution (or perhaps, at least motivate people to vote for defiling the Constitution--I think the Republicans are more interested in passing their economic agenda than their social agenda).


Chris said...

To use someone else's words: "I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama."

I will admit that I thought Bush was going to lose, but I was pleasantly surprised. As with the 2002 election, it's very easy to campaign against vacuousness, but Bush made it really hard for himself by being bold and taking risks. As for campaigning on voters' fears and prejudices, what about insisting that young people will be drafted, that blacks are being systematically denied the right to vote, and that your disabled relatives won't be able to walk again if Bush is reelected???

Anyway, I've found Kerry to be more respectable and gracious in the past week than many of supporters have been. I agree with your larger that not all "red" states are pure red, and not all blue states are purely blue. However, the democratic activist groups have been around for a long time, and, many would argue, they are part of the reason the Democrats did so poorly and may continue to do so in the future. The GOP is far from perfect, but this will be the first time in history that conservatism will be tested because of the strong trifecta, and if it succeeds, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves. The Republicans will have an easier time to getting people to vote for them, because the only thing that all Republicans agree on is a strong foreign policy...I know this will come as a surprise for you, but from there, one can stand almost anywhere on "the issues" and be a part of the party.

Elaine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elaine said...

I'm not sure that I know what is meant by the contention that Bush took risks. Driving people out to the polls based on their prejudices has become the time-honored strategy of the Republican party. Though, I guess one could argue that promoting views that are so blatantly divisive is risky, and I agree there: it is risky for the state of our union. Preceding the Civil War, we had presidents try to lead a divided country, and I can only imagine how unpleasant it was to try and unite such a split nation. Today George W. Bush and his administration is amazingly going out of their way to exacerbate our country's divides by, for instance, appointing a man who is against birth control--a widely, widely used contraceptive that has been accepted by society for years as a safe method of contraception--to the FDA, and we all know that an extreme appointment of this nature is not an isolated incident for Bush. Furthermore, the group of people who are claiming credit for Bush's victory--the Evangelicals and others who came out to vote for Bush, linking him with the the anti-gay marriage amendment and with being against the pro choice view--seem to belive that we can live in a nation that conforms precisely to what they call their morals, discounting that there is an even larger amount of people who disagree with these views. If Bush chooses to go down the path of making policy for them, I can only hope he fails, for the sake of a pluralist country and for the sake of individual choice. (There is an argument that he mostly just gives these people lip service and then mainly leads to benefit the well off, with right wing economic policies, but even by appointing some right wing judges, the Evangelical Christian agenda is having an affect on our country and its laws).

I don't know what it is you expect of Kerry's supporters. If Kerry had won by Bush's margin and was announcing to the world that he intended to spend his political capital with his "mandate" that he earned, well I don't even want to know what those Bush supporters would be up to. Perhaps following along on their abortion clinic tactics, they would block Kerry from entering the White House? Maybe they would go to chapels in the few places in our country where gay marriage is allowed and block gay couples from marrying? This is a democracy, people are allowed to disagree. As you said, Bush ran a risky campaign, which I'm assuming you mean as he was bold with his views. If he is going to put forth controversial views, the least he and his supporters can expect is a response and a strong one. I would like to hope that even Bush fans don't want a one party-state mentality prevailing, but I don't know anymore.

Chris said...

I expect a strong response, but one that is logical, well-argued, and civil. I think the Evangelicals, who are claiming to have helped Bush, are themselves responding to a atheistic secularism, that from my knowledge of US history, has never existed in this country despite the claims of secularists. I'm far far far from an Evangelical, and I think they are deluding themselves as much as the Democrats delude themselves when they blame gays for losing them the election, I do believe there is some balance that is needed, and one which we have yet to find. However, I think people are beginning to realize that moral relativism has its limits (read any article about what is going on currently in the Netherlands).

I expect Kerry supporters, once they get over their period of bereavement, to accept Bush as their president...none of this, "Bush is not my president" crap, because it's part of the social contract in this country. Most, note: MOST, Republicans, aside from the crazies in Congress, accepted and respected Bill Clinton for most of his term...I don't see that happening now. However, there's always hope. As for what might have happened should Kerry have won...nothing would have happened. Although the sentiment might be increasing, Republicans aren't ones to protest and do crazy things like blockade the White House. They know that there's a system in place for getting things done, and that they currently control the most powerful branch of the government, Congress. That aside, I think taxes and social security reform, two Bush's big issues, are issues that can be discussed and negotiated for two reasons: 1) there are calculations involved and definite numbers are possible solutions and 2) neither issue has much of anything to do with morality. The national government should have never gotten involved in issues of morality - whether it's now stem cells or originally abortion (I take PA as an's perfectly legal to have an abortion, but none of the doctors in PA practice it).

I personally think a healthy opposition party is something that's needed, however. A healthy opposition party keeps the majority party on their toes and is enough of a potential threat to keep corruption from increasing - it's currently a vicious cycle on both sides, but it could be much, much worse. So, keeping the Democrats in a strong minority is ultimately beneficial for the long-term success of the GOP majority. The worst thing that could happen, is for the Democratic party to split, as they might be doing in NY state with the development of a workers' party. So, in this case, too much of a good thing is definitely. possible.

Elaine said...

Your statement that most Republicans accepted Clinton as their president is patently untrue. Recall his near impeachment, saved by a close vote in the U.S. Senate. This fervor may have been instigated by certain more extreme Republicans, but the more extreme Republicans, especially since 1994, have been a very prominent party of the political scene. I will write more later, must run to class, but I thoroughly disagree with your statement about Republicans accepting Clinton.

Chris said...

Clinton, was, in fact, impeached but the Senate voted not to remove him from office. Just thought that should be corrected.

Elaine said...

You say the national government should have never gotten involved in "issues of morality". First, I have to disagree with your defnition; for instance, I think the way taxes affect people has everything to do with morality, and a tax code that is becoming increasingly regressive strikes me as very immoral. The fact that a national sales tax--a very regressive idea--has even been bandied about suggests that the current political leaders have little understanding for people within the lower and middle income brackets and for those with very minimal income who a sales tax will greatly affect. A sales tax hasn't been proposed you say? Well, why are the Republicans focusing all their energies on the estate tax, taxes on captial gains, and taxes on corporations, taxes that don't affect the majority of people. And healthcare, also a moral issue, as there are around 40 million adults and children without health insurance in our country, meaning they likely won't get primary/preventive care, and will end up using "free" services like the emergency room. This, to me is a moral issue, and I think that should be left up to the entity best able to deal with it, so probably a cooperation between the state governments and the federal government.

As for your objection to the federal government taking up what you call moral issues; first, people tend to be for states' rights when they think the states will go their way and for more power to the national government when the national government will go their way. Take for instance the ban on gay marriage amendment, which people who claim to be for states' rights regarding abortion are supporting. Why not just have each state decide whether gay marriage should be allowed?--it's because people against gay marriage, even if it's happening far, far away from them, see an opportunity to wholly ban something that they are against. I'm gussing you were referring to the right to have an abortion as something that has been settled by the national government, i.e. the courts: while some people may think the abortion question should be voted on by states legislatures, I happen to think it is an individual choice issue, which is the type of issue that civil courts are there to decide and to put a stop to majoritarian impulses if such impulses violate indivdual rights. Of course, this brings us to the fundamental disagreement over abortion rights between pro choice and anti choice people. I won't get into that.

Also, I don't know about you, but most Republicans I know were cheering right along with the Congressmen who impeached Clinton; however, most moderates or center-right people were a little more rational. Anyway, I think you will just have to accept that most Democrats aren't happy that a man who proclaims to be against bascially everything we are in favor of is president. There were Republicans who hated Roosevelt and Truman, for instance, and lots of Democrats didn't like Nixon (and they ended up having a point!)--that's presidential politics my friend!

Chris said...

Let me see if I can respond succinctly:

Taxes are amoral - neither good nor bad -they are just a necessity. Yes, a national sales tax has been put out there as an option. Frankly, I suggest you look into this proposal a bit more: the lowest two brackets are exempt, and the fact that rich people buy more, and more expensive things, means that they will by default pay much more. Why is the mere presence of something as an option so horrific to you? Instead of being so reactionary, say what you think should be done. What I think has more support, having talked with many here in DC, is a flat tax, which would exclude a significant portion of people, most of whom don't pay income taxes to begin with. As for the estate tax and capital gains tax, they are taxes on income that have already been taxed, not to mention that these taxes have ridiculously high rates. Additionally, the the absence of the estate tax is reason family farms still exist in the U.S. As for health care, there is no right to health care anywhere. These are moral issues of a socialist state, which by definition is immoral because of its imposition on the freedom of conscience of every person. Taking care of yourself and other people is a moral issue, but relegating that duty to the government takes that entire moral responsibility away from the people themselves.

I don't think there is need for the FMA yet. So far, 48 states have rejected gay marriage; the two that allow some form are Vermont and Massachusetts (the state where the court really had no basis for their ruling). The fear on the part of most people is that a court case will come to the Supreme Court, and the Court will rule in favor of gay marriage because of a technicality (ie. the Full Faith and Credit Clause). The other option, is for Congress to take away that appellate jurisdiction from the Supreme Court, which has a mixed record on judging such Acts of Congress. As for abortion, there's no right to abortion, but states can determine that on their own - in many states abortions just aren't done (see Planned Parenthood of SE Pennsylvania v. Casey). As for your feelings towards "majoritarian impulses:" unfortunately, that's kind of how a republic functions. The judiciary is the branch most separated from the people, and they were never intended to create law, which they did in Griswald v. Connecticut, the basis for Roe v. Wade's "right to privacy." That's why legislation is to originate in the House. I personally don't think Roe v. Wade should be reversed, not because it violates so much of American political philosophy, but because once you give someone something it's awfully hard to take it away.

In many ways, the permanency and post-historical status given to FDR's programs are reason for a lot of the problems in this country (ie. the costly New Deal entitlements and judicial activism). They don't need to gotten rid of, but they can be changed an improved immensely. As for people hating Presidents, there's still a majority of people who do like the President. And that's when some of those who hate the President begin to hate the people who voted for the President, and that gets awfully is about more than just politics my friend!

Elaine said...

No thanks to national sales taxes. We do need to figure out some way to get people to save more, as the high credit debt in the U.S. is contributing to the plunge of the dollar against the Euro--among other factors--but exempting the bottom two brackets doesn't make the tax much less regressive. Capital gains is not income that people earn from work, thus, it should be taxed more when we need the revenues. Naturally, no one likes taxes including me, but we need to pay taxes as you say. If we focused on debt reduction by taxing higher income earners, those earners would benefit in the end, as they did under the Clinton administration. People who are solidly anti-tax are often short-sighted in this regard.

I'm sorry that your perception of guaranteed health care is so riddled with the standard "socialized medicine" rhetoric. Tell me, how does it make someone more free to not have health insurance because they don't have a job? I think your perceptions of the European systems are also pretty misinformed. For instance, the French have much more freedom of access to health care professionals than we Americans do because they operate under a social insurance system. Some argue that they have too much freedom. Too much freedom!! How about that, and to think they live under a system that some would pejoratively call socialized medicine. Most in anti-guaranteed health care people in the U.S. don't have a good sense of the Western European, Japanese and Anglo-Saxon systems that they demean. There are certain services that our society just has to band together under and try to ensure for everyone. I couldn't create a great public transport system like the Metro here in Paris or a beautiful lakefront park like Lincoln Park in Chicago by myself, even if I was given back the tax dollars that I pay for such things to exist.

Since Bush won, what I've seen in the American press is a subtle or worse yet vitriolic disdain for those of us who don't like him. It's all "the demise of the democrats" this and an "uprising of moral values" that, always pointing out how much liberals hate everyone else. Sound goofy? I agree. And then of course there is the talk about our nation being divided, as our political leaders continue to divide. It is high time we have a uniter at the head of state, but it's not happening any time soon, I fear.

Elaine said...

Just wanted to comment on one more thing. Part of the judiciary's role is to rule in favor of those individual rights that have been defined in the constitution when what has been called "the tyranny of the majority" infringes on those rights. Our founders recognized that even majority rule has its flaws.

Chris said...

Instead of raising taxes, how about getting Congress to stop spending so much on ridiculous things...this happens on both sides, and luckily most of the new Republicans elected to Congress have major issues with current spending and are going to fight to cut back on pork. Also, when you increase tax rates for the wealthy they find ways out of it, ie. becoming citizens of the Caymen Islands or Switzerland. And also, the incentive to make more money is reduced... unfortunately, people aren't that charitable unless they do the giving themselves...and a lot of the wealthy alreadly get out of paying taxes through charitable contributions.

I'm sure the health care systems of Europe have their additional benefits, since so much money is spent on them. However, the economy is stagnant in Europe (increasingly because the euro is worth TOO much), and France and Germany are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for these things...and when Schroeder cuts benefits, he gets Germans protesting his party daily. The fact remains, they cannot support their social programs for much longer. If the French have such incredible medicine, how were thousands of elderly French citizens allowed to die during the hot summer last year...aside from the neglect of their families, who were to busy on holiday. As for the Brits, the "Anglo-Saxons" as you bizarrely call them, I'm sure if you talked with some of the residents of the Western Midlands in England, you'd find out that they didn't really appreciate having to drive twenty miles and then wait in line for days last year just to visit a dentist. Additionally, ccording to HHS, 75% of the uninsured in this country have jobs...they elect not get health insurance and they are usually people between 21 and 29.

As for your complaints about the American press, the only disdain being shown are reactions to demonstrations of distain coming from liberals in the media (i.e. Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Seymour Hirsch just to name a few). The media, I think, plays up the divisiveness in the country, because fighting always brings in ratings. The people are talking about the "demise of the Democrats" is because of such things like this fact: in 1960 50% of America considered themselves Democrats, now it's 35%, while in 1960 24% of Americans considered themselves Republicans, now 37% consider themselves part of the GOP. That's a huge increase for Republicans. However, you have a media that likes to hyperbolize these things, as well. I assume by "uniter" you mean a Democrat...unfortunately, because the most divisive issues are moral issues, there's no way that people are going to unite on those things...and you can't coerce people to agree with you.

The judiciary has the responsibility to interpret law according the words contained in the Constitution, words not convoluted implications. The "tyranny of the majority" of which you speak is in regard to Congress and majority factions (as well as minority factions) - a faction being a group interested only self-interest rather than common good. The way in which the founders attempted to prevent these factions, both majority and minority, was something called multiplictiy and diversity of interests. They assumed that every member of Congress has their own interests, and that there will be a significant portion of the House and Senate that will be neutral and serve a jury-like position and judge the merits of both sides of the debate about a given issue. They created a bicameral system because they thought that the Senate should be a check on the "passions of the people" (ie. crazies in the House)... but they could do this better when they weren't elected by the people. That being said, the judiciary has no obligation to revoke ridiculous laws, such as the one in St. Croix, MN that prohibits the consumption of hamburgers on Sundays or the one in a town in OK that prohibits a person from biting someone elses hamburger, because no matter how much that law infringes on your freedom and "rights", it has nothing to do with what is in the Constitution. Also, the "tyranny" they speak of, is actual tyranny, i.e. getting rid of those who disagree with you, actually persecuting them, not passing laws with which they disagree. Read _The Federalist Papers_ if you want to know what most of the founders intended.

Elaine said...

Alright, I'm going to put a big ol' the end on this conversation but with a couple of things.

(1) So we shouldn't tax the rich because they'll always dodge taxes? Why not just...penalize them for dodging taxes? There are more lawful ways to make people who flout tax laws contribute to a society of which they have drawn so many benefits.

(2) Your using the heat wave in Paris as evidence that people aren't well covered in France is just poor correlation between variables. Chicago had a similar heat wave problem in the early-1990s and both tragic incidences revealed gaping holes in the public health systems in the two cities. Improving public health would mean requiring more coordination between health authorities, for instance. When increased coordination is practiced, it has been proven very effective. As for the UK, did you know that the NHS was incredibly popular up until Margaret Thatcher started demonizing it? Of course, the waiting list issue is a problem, but to suggest that it is unsolveable or that the U.S. system is far above the European systems is wrong. Furthermore, did you know that of the Ango-Saxon nations (Anglo-Saxon, I used it referring to Australia, Canda, UK, U.S.--common terminology in social policy and history readings, sorry if you haven't seen it) and the European nations, U.S. has the highest, yes highest spending per GDP in health care. Even our public spending is very high, though only covers 44% of the insured population. As for people 21-29 with jobs not being insured, the reason most of them elect to go uninsured is because premiums our so high. This is not a good thing. It is both immoral and inefficient when a lot of people aren't insured. Furthermore, your sky-is-falling analysis of Europe's social programs is just that. Although alarmists claim U.S. social security is going to run out in the next ten years (not true unless U.S. keeps running massive deficits to "starve the beast" as Republican think tanker Grover Norquist wants to do to get rid of social program spending), we can pay for social security. I seem to remember 4 years back that there was a social security surplus. If we set about with more austerity which means cutting programs that are wasteful, increasing taxes where needed, and not involving ourselves in international conflicts that aren't productive we can work towards minimizing the deficit. As for European economies, France for instance has an incredible rate of foreign investment, and the policies you deride like vacation time and the 35-hour work week actually contribute to productivity. Of course, no country has figured it out, but if the French want to have more vacation time, what harm is it to us. The U.S., with an average of 3 weeks of vacation time per person, could stand to use a little more. I think we deserve it. I think people are getting bent out of shape about the Euro strengthening: Europe has a better savings rate and less of a trade deficit than the U.S. which is a lot of why the Euro is going up. There will probably be a plateau point soon (I hope because I get poorer everyday from the exchange rate), but in the meantime it is not ideal for an economy like the United States to try and benefit from a weak dollar.

(3) I have read the Federalist Papers, and I still stand by my interpretation. We can twist and turn the Constitution all we want, but history indicates that the Founders were never crazy about actual democracy, that is decisions being made by the masses. Hence, the courts. Today, of course we have gotten more comofortable with everyone voting (well, most of us have), but marjority rule is never perfect.

Feel free to respond, but I am done. As always, I think you and I have to agree to disagree. Now I'm going to write a blog on the Paris Metro.