I’m groggy for want of sleep as I jot down these notes on the morning after the election debacle of November 2, 2004.
It’s a gray, chill day here in the north of Vermont. A high wind is blowing through the tall autumn grasses. I don’t relish the prospect of joining the vigil to be held in Montpelier a few hours from now, that is supposed somehow to take account of this monumental election. This vigil will be a continuation, with timely amendments, of the weekly vigil that has gone on in Montpelier for two years, beginning in the long ago days when it seemed that war with Iraq could be averted.
Depleted by lack of sleep and the terrible news of a clear Republican sweep of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, I feel like a Samson shackled, shorn, and under sentence. I don’t have any notion of emulating Samson’s apocalyptic feat of vengeance; but I envy him the late miracle that his connection with the God of his fathers brought to him.
On this Morning After, I feel shorn of my power, stopped in my tracks. I don’t yet allow myself to think in detail of the terms of the sentence America has passed on itself, to live on for 4 more years under a system of heartless and addled Republicanism. Who, in our now-shredded government, will have the power or the guts to gainsay a triumphant Bush and his exultant cohort in the Administration and Congress?
I’ve been wincing, politically, for too much of my life. In the last 4 decades there were successive bad times full epochs, they were — of the Vietnam war, and the successive administrations of Nixon, Reagan, and the dynastic Bushes. The habit and necessity of withstanding, together with the recurrent wincing that has been my — our — lot, now take on the character of a lifelong sentence.
It’s romantic and a tease to escape into the wish to have been born in another time and place. I have vagrant fantasies of another kind of life that a person, enough like me to be myself, could have lived in one of the better corners of Scandinavia or Tuscany.
There is, after all, something savage, selfish, and otherwise morally unkempt in the forms and practises of American conservatism that suffuse the vast interior of our country, the part that on the election maps is colored red. Living tolerably well in civil Vermont, am I an alien in Greater America?
“This land is your land, this land is my land,” goes the soupy song. But I feel the life is being squeezed out of me by the heavy weight of the Conservatism whose prevalence has just been certified for four more years, thanks to the winner-takes-all nature of our election system, that leaves the defeated 49% to gasp under the fat ass of the 51%.
I titled these reflection De profundis. From the Pits. The kind of Melancholy that was beloved of the Romantics, and lauded by Milton, isn’t a fit thing to bring along to the party, these days. So I feel I should disintegrate the words I’ve just written here into their electronic particles — delete them — and let them fall back into the undifferentiated matter from which I drew them.
These are first thoughts the morning after, wrung out of a sleep-deprived mind. By publishing them, I feel I undermine the better discourse of more balanced temperaments, that, to my relief, will follow.
So I temper the melancholy drift of this complaint with what is for me a first redeeming thought, that where Bush and his crowd prevailed, it was in most cases by the small margin of 1 or 2%. There is no overwhelming right-wing consensus on the great issues that can be said to divide the country. Kerry, that flawed man, missed winning in key states by just that kind of small margin, of 1 or 2%.
If we’ve been smashed by Bush’s victory, it’s mainly because of that rigged artifact of American politics which makes a complete hegemon of the man who pulls down as little as one vote above the 50% line.
Four years in the doghouse is too great a price for us, the losers in our multi-millions, to pay. I,m no pendulumist, who believes that an extreme swing in politics is bound to produce an extreme counterswing. But we the losers, submerged in our individual disappointments today, number in the many tens of millions: a colossal number. We,re not alone and certainly not without recourse.
I write these words, just now, after returning from our noontime vigil. I noted there how one woman walked by us, weeping to herself. Another woman I know, who has stood with us every week for most of the last two years, since before the war began, wept privately to me as we drew placards out of a car.
From melancholy to weeping in company to declaring ourselves on the main street of our town … we won’t be passive or impassive in this defeat.
JULES RABIN lives in Marshfield, Vermont. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org