Posts filed under Election 2004

And around we go…

At almost this exact time last year, I wrote this in response to a petitioning campaign by MoveOn.org over proposed cuts to government grants to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Don’t get me wrong. I like PBS and NPR is just about all the radio I ever listen to. The issue here isn’t whether they should face a funding crisis or not; I hope that they don’t. Rather, it’s what you should do in the face of that funding crisis. MoveOn just invested an incredible amount of time, money, and energy into mobilizing a bunch of Progressives to whine about it in Congress and beg for the money back. Meanwhile, instead of signing an online petition, calling my Representative, and e-mailing my friends and colleagues to get them to shake the change cup with me, I shut up and put down a pledge of $10 / month to Detroit Public Television.

Now, if 1,091,509 people in MoveOn’s orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, then by my calculations PBS and NPR would have $130,981,080 more money for programming in the upcoming year. More importantly, they’d have that $131 million no matter what Congress and the Senate decided to do.

You might claim that not everyone who gets MoveOn e-mails will put down a pledge, but a lot more people will put down a zero-cost signature. You might think that MoveOn just can’t command that kind of money. Well, that strikes me as making excuses: we are talking about the group that just threw tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (depending on the as-yet unreleased budget data for their 501(c)(4) branch) down the tubes for electable John Kerry just last year. But fundraising is tricky, and maybe they wouldn’t make as much as they might hope. But think it about it this way: when you give money directly to people doing good work, the economics of failing to meet your goals are different. Lobbying is, more or less, an all-or-nothing game, with very few chances for gains on the margin. Names on a petition may or may not make a difference; but if they don’t make a difference (and, frankly, it doesn’t look like they made much of one here) then the names and pious hopes that NPR and PBS got out of the campaign aren’t worth the electrons that they’re printed on. But if you don’t hit your targets in direct support, the contributions you did get are money in the bank, no matter what. If only half as many people pledged as signed the petition, well, then PBS and NPR would have $65,490,540 that they didn’t have before. If the average contribution was $30 instead of a $10 / month pledge, they’d would have $32,745,270. Maybe that will save Big Bird and maybe it won’t; but even if it doesn’t it’s a darn sight better and more secure than the nothing that failed petitioning campaigns produce.

There’s a general principles here worth mentioning; it’s a principle the Left used to care about. It’s called direct action, and the longer the Progressive wing of the Left keeps ignoring it — the longer that they spend throwing time and organizing effort down the tubes to beg the government to support the institutions that they like — the longer we are all going to be losers.

— GT 2005-06-25: Shut up and put up

image: a hamster runs on its wheel

Above: Mister Buckles is saving public broadcasting!

Hey, guess what showed up in my inbox last week? Quick! Everybody make a massive public outcry!

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/8/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Everyone expected House Republicans to give up efforts to kill NPR and PBS after a massive public outcry stopped them last year. But they’ve just voted to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS—unbelievably, starting with programs like Sesame Street.

Public broadcasting would lose nearly a quarter of its federal funding this year. Even worse, all funding would be eliminated in two years—threatening one of the last remaining sources of watchdog journalism.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS again this year …

Here’s what Winer was referring to:

Health research, school aid and social services for the poor would bear budget cuts under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday. … The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee approved the bill by a 9-7 party-line vote Wednesday …. The panel’s action also rekindles a battle fought last year over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The bill would cut by 5 percent previously appropriated funds for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and eliminate subsidies for educational programs and technological upgrades. The bill also fails to provide future-year funding for public television as is the typical practice.

— Andrew Taylor, The Guardian (2006-06-16): House Panel Cuts Health Research Budget

Four days later, Winer was ecstatic to report:

From: Noah T. Winer, MoveOn.org Civic Action
To: Charles Johnson
Date: 6/12/2006
Subject: Save NPR and PBS (again)

Dear Charles,

I just wanted to share some very cool news with you.

Over the last couple of days, over 300,000 people (including 80,000 who are totally new to MoveOn) have signed on to our petition to save NPR and PBS. That brings the total number of signers to over 1,400,000—making this not only our largest petition ever, but one of the largest petitions anyone’s done.

But the next vote in Congress will be as soon as tomorrow. To stop Congress’ budget cuts, we need to go even bigger: we’re aiming for 1.5 million of us to sign on by tomorrow. Can you join us by adding your name to the petition to protect NPR and PBS? It just takes a minute, but it’ll make a real impact.

The real impact that this made was to send over 1,400,000 copies of the following note to members of Congress:

TO: Your senators and representative
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Save NPR and PBS

Dear senators and representative,

(Your personal note)

Congress must save NPR, PBS, and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children’s programming. It’s money well spent.

This strong show of public outrage produced the following real impact on June 13:

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to restore $20 million of proposed cuts in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides money to local public television and radio stations.

The Bush administration originally proposed to cut about 37% of the federal funding for public broadcasting, and a subcommittee last week proposed a cut of $115 million, or 23%.

A net cut of $95 million, if passed by the House and the Senate, would go into effect Oct. 1. It would result in the elimination of some educational programming, including Ready to Learn, a literacy program, and Ready to Teach, an online resource for teachers, according to a National Public Radio spokesman.

Los Angeles Times (2006-06-14): Smaller Bite Sought Out of Corporation for Public Broadcasting

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - The House Appropriations Committee voted on Tuesday to slash funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and refused to fund the service for 2009.

— Brooks Boliek, Reuters (2006-06-14): House panel votes to slash public broadcast funds

Meanwhile, I shut the fuck up and made an annual contribution to my local PBS station at the $40 membership level. If those 1.4 million people in the MoveOn orbit had done what I did, instead of what they did, public broadcasters would now have over $56,000,000 to put in the bank, no matter what Congressional Republicans say or do or think about it. The time, energy, and money wasted on throwing 1.4 million nearly identical notes about money well spent managed to salvage a bit more than a third of that in reductions to the budget cuts, and it leaves PBS and NPR at the mercy of next year’s round of government budgeting. (Oh, but don’t you worry—when that happens I’m sure that MoveOn will mount another massive public outcry to save PBS and NPR again, again.)

We can do this ourselves, so quit begging. Shut up and put up.

… or, for that matter, when you don’t.

Greg Saunders, at This Modern World (2006-02-22) recently noted that the civil war in Iraq is getting worse daily, and that the dude riding ramrod on this occupation doesn’t have a goddamned clue about what’s going on:

January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, You mean…they’re not, you know, there, there’s this difference. What is it about?

—former U.S. dilpomat Peter Galbraith

Jesus wept.

Greg adds this, by way of commentary, in the headline: This Is What Happens When You Vote For An Idiot.

… or, for that matter, when you don’t.

And there’s the rub. I, for one, didn’t vote for this idiot, and I don’t think Greg Saunders did, either. I sure know that the Iraqis didn’t get a vote on whether or not to have to deal with him or his flunkies. But we’re all of us stuck with him anyway. If democracy means that the majority get the government they deserve, that leaves us the problem of a minority getting stuck with a government that they, ex hypothesi, don’t deserve. A vote on your rulers means precisely nothing when other people get to vote on your ruler, too—after all, there’s always going to be more of them than there are of you.

Disunion now.

Let the hand-wringing begin

Nobody likes to have an abortion, and nobody would like to have one even under the best of conditions. Things are much better now than they were in the dark days of back-alley butchers; and they could be made much better yet if it weren’t for miles of punitive regulations and red tape made with the explicit purpose of making abortions harder for legally vulnerable women to obtain. But even without the cultural bullies and screaming protestors, even without the government-imposed cartel costs and the intense curtailment of options for procedures, your choices would still in the end be between invasive surgery of some form or another or drugs that make you nauseous and bleeding over the course of a few days. Of course abortion is not the horrendous experience that anti-choicers repeatedly make it out to be; it is far safer and quicker and easier on both patient and provider than nearly every other kind of surgery that there is. It’s safer and less psychologically taxing than giving birth. (Somehow these comparisons don’t seem to get made very often by either the anti-choice leadership or their foot soldiers. How strange.) But root canals are very safe and relatively simple too; that doesn’t mean that anyone is excited to have one.

But so what? Nobody goes around talking about the terrible tragedy of root canals either, or about the need to reach across the divide to unite with the anti-root-canal community (I take it that there are some Christian Scientist types who oppose dental surgery out of deeply felt religious conviction) in order to prevent unwanted tooth decay. Nobody feels the need to prefix every remark about their support for the right to get a root canal with a half-hour of qualifications and apologies. Yet the Party Hack wing of the Democratic leadership seems to have decided, yet again, that this is just what they need. Here, for example, is how Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to celebrate the anniversary of one of the greatest political triumphs for women’s liberation in recent history:

In a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters near the New York State Capitol, Mrs. Clinton firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of “religious and moral values” on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active.

There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate — we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved, Mrs. Clinton said.

Her speech came on the same day as the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington marking the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Mrs. Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, appeared to be reaching out beyond traditional core Democrats who support abortion rights. She did so not by changing her political stands, but by underscoring her views in preventing unplanned pregnancies, promoting adoption, recognizing the influence of religion in abstinence and championing what she has long called teenage celibacy.

She called on abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigners to form a broad alliance to support sexual education — including abstinence counseling — family planning, and morning-after emergency contraception for victims of sexual assault as ways to reduce unintended pregnancies.

We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women, Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Most of this is true enough, as far as it goes. Nobody wants abortion instead of widesperad contraception and responsible sexual education. Nobody likes to get an abortion. And in the present political and cultural climate, all too many women are made to feel far worse about their decision to have an abortion than should be. Fine. But the latter isn’t an unchangeable given; it’s a political fact that is enforced by a constant and intentional climate of harassment and intimidation. And the fact that we’d rather women were able to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place is no reason to spend hours hand-wringing over it and apologizing for it unless you already think that there’s something wrong with getting an abortion. But why should you think that?

Actually, there is one other reason that you might do all that hand-wringing. You might be cavilling in spite of your own beliefs because you think that kind of dissembling is politically useful. I hate to say it about Hillary — she gave such a great speech at the March and all — but it’s hard to know what else to conclude about this particular strategy:

Mrs. Clinton’s address came as the Democratic Party itself engages in its own re-examination of its handling of the issue in the wake of Senator John Kerry’s loss in the presidential race.

Democratic senators such as Harry Reid of Nevada and Dianne Feinstein of California have also pressed for a greater focus on reducing unintended pregnancies, and some Democratic consultants have urged that party leaders mint new language to reach voters who identified moral values as a top issue for them in last November’s election.

Jesus Christ people. Look. No. Just, no.

First, you’re not trying to mint new language. You’re repeating the same crap that you did for the past 12 years. Here, for example, is how Electable John Kerry answered questions on abortion during the second and third debates:

Mr. Schieffer Senator Kerry a new question for you. The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman’s right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem call research. What is your reaction to that?

Mr. Kerry I respect their views. I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views, but I disagree with them, as do many. I believe that I can’t legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn’t share that article of faith. I believe that choice, a woman’s choice is between a woman, God and her doctor. And that’s why I support that. Now I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he’s tried to appoint to the court he wants to. I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.

Now with respect to religion, you know, as I said I grew up a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I know that throughout my life this has made a difference to me. And as President Kennedy said when he ran for president, he said, I’m not running to be a Catholic president. I’m running to be a president who happens to be Catholic. Now my faith affects everything that I do and choose. There’s a great passage of the Bible that says What does it mean my brother to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead. And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people. That’s why I fight against poverty. That’s why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That’s why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith. But I know this: that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told of us that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. And that’s what we have to - I think that’s the test of public service.

And before that in the second debate:

DEGENHART: Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion, what would you say to that person?

KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now.

First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I’m a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

But I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can’t do that.

But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society.

But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.

Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro-abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don’t deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the constitution affords them if they can’t afford it otherwise.

That’s why I think it’s important. That’s why I think it’s important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning.

You’ll help prevent AIDS.

You’ll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies.

You’ll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.

Apparently the apparatchiks have decided that there isn’t enough hand-wringing and pandering to the sensibilities of the Religious Right there. I don’t know how you could add any more hand-wringing and searching for “common ground” with the Christian Right there without the references to a woman’s right to an abortion disappearing entirely, but there you have it.

Guess what? It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Why in the world do they think that it would? Are they trying to win votes from the Christian Right? Do they honestly think that moving the political debate over reproductive freedom back from abortion to the Sanger-era fights over birth control and sex education is going to improve the political climate in this country?

In other words: stop treating the right to abortion like you treat free speech rights for the Klan. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with abortion then quit hemming and hawing forever about how much you respect the position of people who do and how much you’d like to work with them on birth control. You’re wasting your time: a lot if not most ofthem also hate birth control and sex education anyway. And in the process of wasting your time you are also dissembling about your real motives and spitting on women’s struggle for freedom.

Incidentally, Rox, among the reasons I like Howard Dean as much as I do is that in the heat of an election, this is how he answers a question about abortion:

Diane Rehm: We have seen reports that builders across the country are refusing to participate in the construction of Planned Parenthood buildings. What would you do about the threats to freedom for a woman to choose?

Howard Dean: Well, I think that’s a very dangerous game those builders are playing, especially in the city of Austin, which is where it’s going on. Were I down there I would immediately refuse to do business with any of the contractors who were boycotting that. So all groups can play that game; you have the right-wingers playing the game today, but other groups who may disagree with that can also play that game. And I think that’s a mistake for them to do that.

I am pro-choice. I’m a doctor; I frankly believe that it’s none of the government’s business to interfere in a woman’s making decisions about her own healthcare. And I tend not to be very supportive of efforts to enforce political points of view on individuals’ healthcare, and that’s what’s going on in Austin, Texas.

On the Diane Rehms show, WAMU, 2004-12-01 10:00am (they don’t seem to have a transcript; the question is around 45’45” on the audio version)

Elsewhere he’s also directly, and without apology or cavil, taken on both parental consent restrictions and late-term abortion bans, and pointedly insisted that on the issue of abortion, We can change our vocabulary but I don’t think we ought to change our principles..

Second, even if this were a new tack, and even if there were any reason to believe that it would get anything worth accomplishing accomplished, why would you think that women’s control over their own bodies is an acceptable bargaining chip? Women are not pawns to be sacrificed for better board position. Lots of Democrats bolted the party in the late 1960s to become Republicans because the national leadership would no longer keep silent about Jim Crow and the efforts of efforts such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party finally broke the Eastland-Wallace white supremacist stranglehold on the Southern state parties. That lost the Democrats a lot of voters. The difference even lost them several elections. So what? Does anyone think that it would be a good idea to endlessly fret about how to reach out across the divide and find common ground to bring the Klan vote back into the party?

To hell with that. If you’re going to get hung up on winning political office, this is not how you should be trying to do it. Falling back on the apparatchiks and electable candidates using electably mealy-mouthed rhetoric doesn’t work and it wouldn’t have gained anything worth winning even if it did. Meanwhile, the other side won’t believe it, your side won’t pull out the stops for you, and the people in the middle won’t know where the hell you actually stand.

If Democrats are looking for new language with which to frame the abortion debate, I’d like to suggest a good old standard: ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY.

Strict Construction

During the late unpleasantness, in spite of a sharply divided electorate and sharply worded debate, there was one point of agreement that you could always count on. To illustrate, here’s George Bush, trying to lay the smack down on Kerry:

When our country is in danger, it is not the job of the president to take an international poll; it’s to defend our country.

And here’s John Kerry doing his best to sidestep the smack down by insisting that he agrees with Bush on the principle:

What I said in the sentence preceding that was, I will never cede America’s security to any institution or any other country. No one gets a veto over our security. No one.

Of course, Bush and Kerry disagree over something here: they disagree over what Kerry’s position is. But of course that disagreement reveals a fundamental agreement between the two: both of them accept the underlying premise that it would be absolutely damning for a Presidential candidate to tie decision-making about when and where the American military is deployed to another country or an international body. In fact, this is a point of political dogma repeated endlessly by almost everyone who has anything at all to say about the matter. Here’s William Saletan in Slate:

It’s clear from Kerry’s first sentence that the “global test” doesn’t prevent unilateral action to protect ourselves. But notice what else Kerry says. The test includes convincing “your countrymen” that your reasons are clear and sound.

And here’s Dick Cheney, direct as ever:

We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States. That’s part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval.

Now, I think that the Right is obviously wrong on the exegetical question of what Kerry actually said and believes, but I won’t belabor the point here (if you want it belabored, I suggest Roderick’s discussion at Austro-Athenian Empire). Let’s take it for granted that neither Bush nor Kerry would give another country a veto over American security policy, and move on to the critical question: do they have legitimate grounds for refusing to do so?

You’d take it from the way the debate has gone that it’s self-evident that they do: everyone in the droning classes seems to take it for granted that no sane governor could reasonably think that you ought to give other countries a veto over American security policy. Yet both Bush and Kerry were running for President—an office whose legal authority is supposed to derive from the Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution (which you swear to uphold when you become President) says, inter alia, that

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. (Article VI, emphasis added)

One of those treaties made under the authority of the United States is the Charter of the United Nations, which was ratified by the United States government in 1945. If you accept the Constitution as legally binding, then you have to accept the provisions of the United Nations charter as legally binding; and among those provisions are:

Article 2

§ 2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

§ 3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

§ 4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Article 33

§ 1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

§ 2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.

Article 39

The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Article 40

In order to prevent an aggravation of the situation, the Security Council may, before making the recommendations or deciding upon the measures provided for in Article 39, call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable. … The Security Council shall duly take account of failure to comply with such provisional measures.

Both Bush and Kerry claim to recognize the legal authority of the Constitution and the treaties made under it, including the U.N. Charter. But the plain text of the U.N. Charter gives other countries a veto over U.S. military policy, through the apparatus of the United Nations. Except in cases of actual invasion (which are exempted Article 51), the United States government cannot go to war without U.N. approval without violating the U.N Charter, and thus also the Constitution.

Now, as an anarchist, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I couldn’t care less about the United Nations: I’d argue that trusting a body constituted by the world’s heads of state and their representatives to protect international peace and human rights is about as wise as trusting a League of Foxes to guard the hen-house (and for precisely the same reasons). For that matter, I don’t recognize the legal authority of the Constitution and I don’t think that the pretenders to government office have any legitimate authority to ensnare the rest of us in legally binding treaties. But I do care about bad arguments. If there’s anyone who doesn’t agree with my peculiar views on the nature of legal authority, it’s John F. Kerry and George W. Bush; they claim to recognize the Constitution as legitimate and either one would swear to uphold it after being elected. If they really believe what they claim to believe about the law, then a decent sense of intellectual shame would demand that they either:

  1. … accept other countries’ veto power over the United States’ decisions to go to war,

  2. … move to formally withdraw the United States from the United Nations, or

  3. … stop claiming that the Constitution is the basis for their legal authority

Something’s got to give; you can’t hold all the positions that John Kerry and George Bush loudly insisted that they hold without getting yourself stuck in a rank inconsistency. It may be too much to expect intellectual decency from politicians and political discourse. But if political discourse has lost its sense of shame, then the sooner it learns it again, the better. And someone has got to start the teaching, by example.

As the French might say, écrassez l’infâme.

Dear Democrats

Rednecks. Hicks. Hillbillies. Dumb crackers. NASCAR Dads. Trailer trash. Joe Sixpack. Economically masochistic culture warrior fundies. Ignorant, beer-swilling, rib-eating, Bible-banging, truck-driving undereducated yokels. Poor white trash. Those people. You know the kind. The ones who are the matter with Kansas.

That’s why the Democrats lost, isn’t it? Because the True Blue are out of touch with working-class America, and because the yokels are too benighted to see that they are actually voting against their own economic interests. Right?

Wrong. Democrats, quit your whining. Quit your hand-wringing over why the working class doesn’t love you anymore. Quit saying things like:

I think the Democrats are not comfortable speaking the language that resonates with many middle-class and poorer voters: moral values, faith. That’s a message that is reassuring to many voters.

Quit blaming working-class America, and quit worrying about how to get poor people to stop electing Right-wing Republican war-mongers. Why? Because poor people don’t elect Republican war-mongers. Rich people do.

Annual Income % Bush Kerry
Under $15,000 8% 36% 63%
$15-$30,000 15% 42% 57%
$30-$50,000 22% 49% 50%
$50,000-$75,000 23% 56% 43%
$75-$100,000 14% 55% 45%
$100-$150,000 11% 57% 42%
$150,000-$200,000 4% 58% 42%
Above $200,000 3% 63% 35%

If the election were held only for people makng $50,000/year or less, John Kerry would have whipped George Bush 55%-45%. In fact, if it were held only for people making $100,000/year or less, John Kerry still would have beaten George Bush, 51%-49%.

No, that’s not just a regional dynamic. No, poor people still don’t elect Republicans in red states. Bush lost the South (49%-50%), the Midwest (44%-56%), and the West (47%-52%) among voters making $50,000/year or less. If only people making $50,000/year or less had voted, John Kerry would have picked up Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia, and Louisiana and South Carolina would have been too close to call.

(Election data thanks to CNN Election 2004 Exit Polls.)

So, my dear Blue State Democrats, it wasn’t Joe Sixpack or the American working-class or Bubba down yonder who was responsible for the late unpleasantness. If you want to find someone to blame, don’t blame them, and don’t blame the Democrats for not knowing how to connect with them. If you’re a white dude living in a comfortable suburban neighborhood, blame your neighbors, your boss, and your dad. It’s educated professionals making over $50,000/year who went for Bush, and it was the folks making out with $100,000/year and more who put him over the top. This shouldn’t be surprising—being poor doesn’t mean you’re stupid; people tend to know where their bread is buttered and vote accordingly—yet somehow it has been lost amidst vituperation of the South, masochistic rhetoric about the urgent need for Democrats to slither further to the Right in order to reach middle America, and sadistic rhetoric about the grotesque vices of them there rednecks in Oklahoma and homophobic knuckle-draggers in Wyoming. Fancy that—it’s almost as if Democrats were falling victim to some kind of propaganda or ideology or something.

Here is my modest proposal. For myself, I’m fed up with this crap, so I’m not going to worry too much about it, but if Democrats want to put a roadblock in the way of Bushism then it might behoove them to worry about it some themselves. You just won, convincingly, the working-class vote. You got beat on turnout and disenfranchisement. People making $50,000 / year or less are about 75% of the voting-age population; but they were only 45% of those who were willing and able to vote on November 2. If you want to win, what you have to do is not to slither ever further Right, but rather to energize your base to turn out, and fight back against on-going Republican attempts to purge and suppress their votes. You can do that, not by turning into lite war-mongers, but by having the guts to call Bullshit! on this rich man’s war and poor man’s fight. You can do that, not by trashing feminism and gay liberation, or ignoring them as you just finished doing in 2004, but rather by framing them as part of a comprehensive, populist program, together with some serious talk about class in America. (No, this does not mean that I want Smiley John Edwards as the next candidate.) You can do this, not by capitulating to the Republican’s corporatist pork / warfare program, but by defying it. And you can do this by standing up to make sure that every vote is counted and that the victims of the Republican machine (those working class dudes you want to reach out to so much) actually have an opportunity to vote.

Don’t blame Bubba—but don’t try to pander to the caricature of him that the Republicans want you to buy, either. Try sitting down and having a talk with him over some ribs sometime. You might be surprised to find out how much you agree.