the myth of a deeply divided nation
the year is 1992, and the main party candidates are william jefferson clinton, democrat, and george herbert walker bush, republican. bush, the incumbent, has squandered astronomical post gulf-war approval ratings by going along with congressional democrats on a large tax increase. the democrats run ads around the clock with bush's infamous "read my lips: no new taxes" promise from the '88 campaign, giving the 41st president pretty much exactly what he deserved for siding with democrats in the first place.
enter ross perot, billionaire and self-proclaimed economics expert. it seems impossible for a businessman with no prior political experience and not an ounce of credibility on national security to get elected today, but the world was a very different place in 1992. our arch enemy, the soviet union, had just fallen. america was the lone superpower, and faced no serious outside threat--or so we thought. our focus turned inward, and the flamboyant perot was just the man voters were looking for. want to run a war? call a general. want to run an economy? call a businessman.
perot's simple appeal made sense to the tune of 19,741,657 votes, a full 18.9% of the total, and they came disproportionately from disgruntled republicans alienated by bush's tax hike. with perot absorbing a huge chunk of his core, bush went down in flames with 37.4%, 39,103,882 votes, and clinton won the election with 43.0%, 44,909,326 votes. not since the election of 1912, won by thomas woodrow wilson with 41.8% of the vote, had a president won with such a skimpy plurality--and in that election, there had been three major candidates (wilson, theordore roosevelt who took 27.4%, and howard taft who won 23.2%) as well as a socialist and a prohibitionist candidate who combined for over 7% of the electorate. one must go back to franklin pierce in 1852 (42.5%) to find a three way race in which a winning candidate did worse than clinton. how long ago was 1852? pierce's main challenger belonged to the whig party and nearly all states west of the mississippi did not yet exist.
if that's not enough to put clinton's victory in perspective, simply consider the fact that nearly 6 out of every ten voters voted against bill clinton in 1992. by today's standards of "mandate," in which a candidate who actually wins an outright majority of the votes is said not to have one, one would have half-expected clinton to govern as though he were a conservative republican.
not that this gave the slightest bit of pause to clinton, his supporters, or the media. wjc was so concerned about healing the divides in our land that he promptly set out to enact one of the most radical social agendas in recent memory, starting with the largest tax increase in american history (pointing out that this was reneging on the same campaign promise that ousted his chief rival seems almost beside the point), closing dozens of military bases (scary considering he asked for a good deal more than he actually got) and slashing the military budget by hundreds of billions of dollars (clinton's vaunted budget cuts almost in their entirety), and, of course, attempting to usurp what was fully 1/7th of our gross domestic product by socializing the american healthcare system. predictably, the voters rebelled and, in 1994, handed unified control of congress to the republicans for the first time in four decades.
skip forward to 2004. republican george walker bush has won reelection with 51% of the vote, beating democrat john kerry by three points and becoming the first president to garner a majority since his father in 1988. he received a record number of votes, 58,978,616 at last count, and in so doing became the first president to be reelected despite winning his first campaign with a loss in the popular vote--a particularly remarkable feat when one considers that high voter turnout was presumed favorable to kerry. like clinton in '92, bush's party controls both houses of congress. unlike clinton, however, bush actually built on both majorities, the first president to do so since the thirties. in addition to these figures, several conservative ballot initiatives passed in states across the union.
yet the media has once more taken up the "deeply divided" mantra from the 2000 election, an election whose controversial results at least offered them a leg to stand on and nevermind that bush had won with nearly 5% more popular support and 5.5 million more votes than clinton in 1992. (in clinton's "landslide" 1996 victory, he had 49% of the popular vote compared to bush's 48% in 2000, although he still got 3 million fewer votes than the republican.)
the myth of a "deeply divided" nation flows out of a perhaps willful ignorance of recent history on the part of the media, combined with their obvious desire to deny bush a "mandate". as previously noted, america has not been this united behind a candidate in 16 years. that's unless one counts the americans united against bill clinton, of course, a majority in both elections. one can argue that a 51-48 victory for bush isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but why didn't anyone argue this in 1992 or 1996 when a far, far stronger case could have been made that americans did not want the president's agenda, and there was no corresponding congressional shift to offset clinton's meagre numbers?
america is not a deeply divided nation. it is, in fact, surprisingly united given the extraordinary circumstances of the past four years. i don't dispute that the vehemence of the opposition is at levels not seen since the sixties, but emotional intensity does not in and of itself constitute "division." most americans are for the president. another ten percent of moderates and conservative democrats could have gone either way, but broke for kerry. that leaves us with the same 40% core democrats that we first saw in 1980 and have seen in every presidential election since--41% for carter, 40% for Mondale, 45% for Dukakis, 43% for clinton. put simply, three-fifths of the country is either desirous of or willing to live with republican leadership, and two-fifths is not. while that two-fifths has become increasingly vocal courtesy of a media all too willing to amplify their plaints, their size really hasn't increased.
america is not deeply divided, or at least, it's no more divided now than it has been for the past quarter century.
locdog thanks presidentelect.org for the stats
ok, what now?
alright, alright. gloating time is over. let's get serious. now that this thing is more or less official, what do the two sides need to do?
what kerry needs to do: concede. today.
i don't fault john kerry for looking into the provisional votes in ohio. although i oppose provisional ballots in general, they are the law of the land and kerry owes it to ohio (to say nothing of our democracy) to see whether or not bush actually is the president. but it's going to become increasingly apparent to john kerry that there's no way he can win, not with the president's 140,000 vote cushion. i'm not sure how many provisional ballots are outstanding, but let's say there are 175,000 which sounds about right. let's say 30% of those turn out to be invalid (i expect it will be a lot more than that, but we'll see) and, of the remainder, let's say kerry picks up 80%. that would leave bush with a little over 40,000 votes, not to mention what he would pick up from absentee ballots which should break in his favor.
now, given the above, john kerry needs to keep two things in mind. first, there is an open seat in 2008 for which he would presumably be the front-runner. second, people will remember.
right now, john kerry is the most important man in america. he has the power to launch us into days of court squabbles and banana republic farce, or he can begin to heal the wounds of florida. the 2000 election was never very far from people's minds in this campaign, and in 2008, john kerry can either be remembered as a hero, or a zero. the choice is his.
what bush needs to do: grab the reigns and go.
kerry needs to be the conciliatory one. for bush, however, that would be suicidal.
let's consider the following: the president has a majority of the vote. clinton--the most popular democrat in ages--never got above 49%. and not only does bush have a majority, he's got around a 3.5 million vote lead and has garnered more votes in total than any other candidate in our history. that's partly due to high turnout, but conventional wisdom before the election was that high turnout favored the democrats. in terms of popular support, bush has really accomplished something. and after winning ohio, his electoral margin will be equally cushy.
furthermore, the president's lead was confirmed by what can only be described as a tectonic shift to the right. the republicans gained seats in the house and the senate, won several conservative ballot initiatives, and, in what more than any other race will be remembered as the symbol of the 2004 election, dethroned the sitting democratic senate minority leader.
democrats and many moderates will say that now is the time for the president to reach out to his rivals and heal the divide in our land. wrong. our democracy has spoken, and if it wanted republicans to act like democrats, it would have spoken for democrats. it didn't. why is it incumbent upon the winner to make overtures to the loser? in a democracy, that's heresy. america trusts republicanism and the democrats can either play ball, or get bowled over. the bush administration needs to seize the initiative early with social security, tax cuts, and, most importantly, the war on terror. if they don't excercise their new-found muscle, they'll find it quickly atrophies.
locdog is tired, but happy
there is a God, and He has a sense of humor
my fellow republicans (and losers),
last night as locdog and electra noshed on a wonderous array of snacks and flipped between a wonderous array of pundits, locdog made the comment that his only hope for the evening was that, if john kerry won, it would be without the so-called "popular vote."
well now we have democrats fighting for precisely that.
no "will of the people." no "mandate." no "democracy." just get the white house any way we can and isn't the constitution wonderful and isn't the electoral college the greatest institution in the history of mankind.
and so, in a race where george w. bush quintupled al gore's margin in the "popular vote," the democrats now strive to thwart everything they claimed to hold dear in the last election battle. no big surprise there.
there's no way the amount of provisional ballots left in ohio--about 25,000 beyond bush's margin of victory (assuming, of course, that the majority of these ballots are not fraudulent)--will be enough to propel kerry to a win, but why should that stop anyone from putting the country through days of pointless strife? so my plan is just to sit back and enjoy as what few scruples the democratic party clung to after 2000 go flying out the window.
locdog congratulates the president on his big win
should white people sing black music?
look, we aren't going to know who wins this election for days. so why dontcha all kick back, relax, and ponder another bite-sized morsel of inflammatory irrelevance from yours truly:
should white people sing black music?
or, put another way, can a race own a particular musical genre?
i ask this because not long ago i saw a commercial for michael mcdonald's (warning: annoying flash intro) latest album, motown 2.
in case you don't have a mom, mcdonald is the latest menopause-set heartthrob to cash in on the key bolton-and-yes-i-think-stewart-is-sexy demographic, aka, bored middle-aged white women.
but however lame his fan-base, the man's really got a set of pipes. if you've been in a waiting room in the past two years--or, better still, seen an MCI commercial--odds are you've heard him belting out ain't no mountain high enough. and he sounds good, too. his voice has that soul, that sensitivity, that passion. he's got that certain...blackness...that just melt's mom's butter.
and he's so, so very white.
i didn't grow up in the fifties--i was a bicentennial baby, which may have something to do with my interest in politics--and didn't learn until i was in my early twenties that elvis was a controversial figure. no, i don't mean the hip-wiggling-ed-sullivan stuff, i mean that there are an awful lot of black people out there who do not like him:
Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was simple and plain
Motherfuck him and John Wayne
that was public enemy courtesy of helen kolawole, who enthusiastically, ah, seconds that emotion and, no doubt, hates michael mcdonald.
the argument in a nutshell is that whitey steals from african-american styles and goes on to fame and fortune while The Man keeps his foot planted firmly astride the necks of poor negro artists. helen even trots out the easily disproved "The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes" bromide to show some direct evidence of the king's supposed racism.
the argument stuck around into the sixties as well. the beatles' great transitional project rubber soul took its tongue-in-cheek name from criticism of contemporary black intellectuals, who derided the british invaders as cheap "plastic soul" knock-offs of the genuine article.
vanilla ice from my youth and eminem from today have faced similar battles--although given that black music dominates pop culture to an unprecedented degree as do black artists themselves, it's becoming increasingly difficult to mistake the argument as relevant.
it's not hard to see the injustice in talented artists being ignored because they happen to be black while the more melanin-challenged among us cash in on the styles they invented, but is that a critique on the successful white artists or the cynical record execs they work for? and if the latter, isn't that really just another way of critiquing society? if america in elvis' day hadn't been profoundly racist, we wouldn't have needed a white boy to sing hound dog.
if you step into the shoes of an elvis or a michael mcdonald or an eminem, you quickly lose your ability to appreciate all the fuss. after all, you're just a sincere artist who grew up loving a certain kind of music, who has an obvious gift for it, and who dreams of doing nothing but sharing your gift with the world. michael mcdonald can't help the fact that he's a white man who grew up loving motown, and that millions of people like hearing him sing it. that's not his problem--not anyone's problem, really. why should an artist have to apologize for his race? and why should a consumer have to apologize for buying an artist whose skin is the wrong color?
the speciousness of the white man/black song argument is not my only knock against it: it's straight up racist, simple and plain. to appreciate that fact, you need only flip the tables. imagine a wildly successful black country music artist (hey, ten years ago, no one could have ever imagined wildly successful golf or tennis stars so don't say it couldn't happen), and imagine how people like helen kolawole would howl when her counterparts in the redneck community inevitably complained of theft.
black intellectuals and musicians have no more right throwing up a racial cordon around motown than the pga would with tiger woods. what's next, suing emeril over a fried chicken and black-eyed peas recipe?
locdog is off to vote, and, come hell or john kerry, will return tomorrow