As the usual suspects gin up their “Kerry was robbed” one-trick wail-a-thon, let us pause to reflect on who was really robbed in this election: anyone who looked at the anti-war movement as anything more than a tool to help Kerry get elected.
Look down that lonesome road, before you travel on. Consider some numbers. Go ahead, compare apples and oranges while you wave goodbye to the Not-Bush Brothers.
Nationwide, Ralph Nader won fewer than 400,000 votes, costing Kerry not a single state, although at least two commentaries blaming him for Kerry’s defeat, one by Doug Ireland and one by Chris Suellentrop, appeared online before the last votes were even cast in Ohio, let alone counted. Never mind that Gallup polls, week after week, consistently validated Nader’s widely-ridiculed claim that he would draw more voters from Bush than from Kerry.
In Pennsylvania, if you wanted to vote for Nader, you had to write in his name, and his running mate’s name, and the names of all 21 Nader electors, correctly and legibly, in a tiny space. Think about that and then talk to me about fair play.
After engineering that little stunt, and many others like it, for Democrats to complain about being robbed by Karl Rove is like the James gang crying that the cops are on the take.
There are many ways of being ridiculous. Dozens of bloggers counseled Democrats not to “blame Kerry” for his defeat. Some blamed the electorate, calling the American people stupid and vicious for taking a pass on the Not-Bush Brothers.
Not everyone is assigning blame or crying foul. Some are looking forward: before Iowa had even been called, William Saletan had already endorsed John Edwards for 2008.
Others call for the Democrats to reframe their message(s), reach out to religious people, learn to talk to Red State pickup drivers, find ways to make the homophobes feel comfortable again. The Jungians call this activity “perfuming the corpse.”
Well, why not? one might plausibly quibble. After all, the Democrats ran this campaign effectively enough to have won the last campaign. Surely they can run 2008 in a manner that would have won this year’s, perhaps by showing the Eminem video yet again and putting Springsteen on the ticket with Edwards.
Here’s another number: in Illinois, approximately 1,371,882 people cast their ballots for Alan Keyes in the senate race won his fellow death penalty advocate Barack Obama.
My fellow Americans, we live in a country where Alan Keyes, running against a rising star for the U.S. senate from a state where he had never lived and from which he has no doubt quickly departed, got three times as many votes as Ralph Nader running a national campaign for president.
That is because the only fighting anyone saw the Democrats doing in the 2004 campaign was not against George W. Bush. Instead, they went after Nader the way Rove went after Kerry, with a zeal and ruthlessness not seen since the days of Robert Kennedy. And that was the only thing they really accomplished: they set back the progressive cause by splintering the anti-two party coalition, co-opting the anti-war movement, and running “no one in particular” under the banner of “Anyone But Bush.”
Millions who might have known better were speechless Wednesday morning when “Not-Bush” rolled snake-eyes. They desperately wanted “Someone Else For President,” forgetting that in order to have that outcome, you had to actually vote for a Someone Else, not just a not-somebody.
Will these good people now become anti-war again, after supporting a candidate who voted to authorize the war and vowed to expand and “win” it? Or will they gradually (or even quickly) lose interest in following the facts on the ground in Iraq, now that they can no longer affect the outcome of the presidential race? Will they give up on it all as effortlessly as the Not-Bush boys appeared to do?
Edwards and Kerry conceded the election in Boston as though nothing particularly important had happened, muttering of how “the fight goes on” unencumbered by actual events, thanking everyone, urging their supporters to work with the president to “heal the divisions” and “seek common ground,” meaning “co-operate to keep the country in the grip of the two-party corporate system.”
Now they can rest a few days and then go help Sen. Harry Reid, who has consistently voted with Republicans against abortion rights, become the new Senator Minority Leader, replacing the already-forgotten Tom Daschle.
The Kerry-Edwards campaign, like a thief in the night, left no fingerprints on anything. Not a single memorable phrase, not one galvanizing moment. Nothing like the day in 1968 when RFK showed how to go after an incumbent when he said, “Mr. President, stop this war!”
Ralph Nader kept the faith, but all the Not-Bush Brothers gave us was a few poll-tested slogans, like empty bubbles, and then the water closed over them as though they had never been there.
DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com