Creating A Better World

Creating A Better World

Whatley, Sheri

On November 3, I skipped school and came into work at off our backs, still believing Kerry had a chance to win the election. All votes had not yet been counted in Ohio and New Mexico, and Ohio was the deal breaker.

During the ten-minute walk from my house to work, Kerry decided to concede. It was hard to contain the anger, resentment, disappointment and defeat we all felt at that time. A group of us hung around all day wondering what happened and more importantly, how did it happen?

At first, I didn’t want to believe the results. Reports of the malfunction or intentional manipulation of electronic voting machines were coming in, along with accounts of voter intimidation and the time honored method of simply destroying voters’ ballots.

We believed that Kerry conceded too early, without a fight to count all ballots and without even a peep about all of the inconsistencies of the voting process that certainly looked like the Republicans had this election rigged as well. I felt that Kerry did this to avoid another disaster like in the 2000 election, when the fallacy of American democracy was laid bare for the world to see.

At mid afternoon I got a call from my closest cousin, who I consider a sister, and who is also politically and ideologically my polar opposite. An ultra conservative, extremely religious heterosexual, married to the son of a southern Baptist preacher, she was obviously supporting Bush.

She called me “to gloat a little.” This really hurt and surprised me, because all day I was sick to my stomach and it felt as if a close friend or family member had just suddenly died. Here was someone callously rubbing it in, as if the election were only a sports event and her team had won.

But it was so much more important. There was so much at stake, and 1 was shocked at her inability to sympathize with my feelings of loss from a hard fought battle and with her lack of tact and respect.

Election Reflection

After the dust settled I began reflecting on the election and the past year of campaigning.

The 2004 election was interesting for many reasons. For one, the Democratic Party, for all the negative attributes it’s rightfully earned over the past 3 decades, finally showed signs of life. What’s more, Americans were more excited and active politically in terms of building the Democratic Party than we’ve been in a very long time. Everyone I knew, which mainly consists of activists who have a healthy cynicism of electoral politics, was fervently working on this campaign. One friend quit her job here in DC and moved to Pennsylvania to organize with MoveOn PAC.

Another reason this campaign was inspiring was that the Democratic Party for the first time in goddess knows how long was able to fundraise competitively with the Republicans. Most notable was that a vast majority of the money donated to the Democrats was done through grassroots organizing, as opposed to relying solely on corporate pork, which in past elections was a fact of life and was still never enough to even get close to the amount raised by the GOP.

Finally, Kerry won 48% of the vote, not bad considering this was more than other Democratic nominees received in 1980 (41%), 1984 (41%), 1988 (46%) or 1992 (43%). Bush did not win a majority mandate; rather, with all of the power of the Republican Party it was a pretty dismal election for an incumbent.

However, the bad news is that most people who voted Democrat were not voting for Kerry, they were voting against Bush. Let’s i?ace it, Kerry wasn’t a great candidate. He couldn’t connect with working people on class issues, he wasn’t clear about his positions and direction, and on foreign policy he was essentially a less dangerous version of Bush. You might remember that both Kerry and Edwards voted for every Bush policy that we were organizing against, most notably the invasion of Iraq and the draconian Patriot Act.

We were motivated to campaign for Kerry and vote Democrat simply because he was not Bush. He was the only viable alternative we had and we made the best of it. But it is nearly impossible to win the presidency on a protest vote alone. It’s perhaps even more difficult to unseat an incumbent after an attack like 9/11 and while the country is “at war.”

Yet the two biggest lessons to take away from this election were: the decline of Democratic support by groups like women, Latinos, and the poor and working class, groups who are generally taken for granted by the DNC; and the large voting block of conservative religious fundamentalists who want to turn our country back to pre-1950’s America. These are people organized by the Christian Right who are unapologetic, cocky even, in their quest to take this country back from what they see as “moral depravity.” This fact was driven home to me by the phone call from my cousin gloating about their “win” during our obvious mourning period.

For Christian voters, this election was solely about 5 “non-negotiable” issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, human cloning, and euthanasia. The hypocrisy of calling these issues “moral values” is too easily apparent, especially when these moral values don’t include innocent Iraqi and Afghani lives, and the very real issues of the economy and health care for working Americans.

The most important fact to remember is that the religious right’s movement has been in the works for over 25 years, starting with the founding of The Moral Majority by Jerry Falwell in 1979. They are organized, energized, and well connected to Karl Rove and the White House. Regardless of how ridiculous Bush looks to people with a brain and analytical skills, his supporters see him as one of them and his “good v. evil” kindergarten analysis resonates strongly with them.

The 2000 election did not reveal their movement’s size or their power. Let there be no mistake about it now -they will stop at nothing to create the world they believe in, which to no one’s surprise doesn’t make room for you and me. Feminists, homos, racialized minorities, anti-war and social justice activists, poor and working people, and non-Christians have NO SPACE to exist in their world.

Global Movement

The funny thing is, 1 have more hope now than ever before that we will defeat their End of Times prophesy/vision for the world. They aren’t unbeatable; we just have to stay organized, get clear about our message, and demand what we need to live our lives.

We have the world on our side. And besides, thinking that things will never change has been historically proven false time and again. Every seemingly unstoppable power has been destroyed before and every superpower has been defeated. For instance, did anyone believe that Hitler, with his massive army and seemingly unstoppable force, would be defeated so soundly that he would end up isolated and committing suicide? What about the situation of African-Americans before the Civil Rights movement, women before the modern feminist movement, or sexual minorities before Stonewall and the gay rights movement? I bet there were a lot of people who often felt defeated and hopeless and who had many believable reasons why their lives would never change.

But it will change. We are all capable of creating a clear plan for the world we want. We are more than capable of effecting that change by taking on a small chunk of the work and getting together with others to make it happen. And when the Republican Party self-destructs, as it will most certainly do in the near future, we need a strong and organized community with a realistic alternative in place.

Look at the bright side. Bush and his trat buddies in just 4 short years did what activists have been trying to do for decades: they exposed the innards of the American system of power to the entire world. Honestly, we know our enemy very well, we know what he’s going to do, and we know how he’s going to do it. We even have left over placards and flyers already designed to protest him when he tries. Let’s get out there and make it happen. We need to do it for ourselves and other Americans, and also for the children and people around the world who have been affected by and consistently resisting American policies all of these years. Let’s help build that global movement!

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Nov/Dec 2004

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