The day after


Senator John Kerry

I am beginning to become accustomed to having a gloomy day after. On the first Wednesday after the first Monday in November of 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 (and not incidentally 2003 when I woke up to find out that my Governor was Arnold Schwartzenegger), I have been greeted with bad news for the Democratic Party. This party just can’t catch a break.

Once again, the electoral process has proven that backlash politics wins elections. Paranoid fears about the threat of terrorism won out against intelligent foreign policy making. “Cultural” issues such as the opposition to equal rights for gays, the right to drive cars that are actively destroying the environment, the obligation for all decent people to worship God in government buildings, and the importance of coming from Texas and not Massachusetts all carried the day against concerns about “material” issues like jobs, the fairness of the tax system, and the lives of our soldiers abroad. Being consistently wrong won out over being inconsistently right. Karl Rove’s dominance is complete, and he has again delivered victory to the President without carrying a single state containing a top-ten university.

So once again my friends from the Grand Old Party will gloat, and I will mourn. They will parrot Bush’s insistence that he has a mandate and they will repeat without end the words of talking heads who insist that Bush’s three point margin of victory is impressive despite the fact that it is, from an historical perspective, one of the smallest re-election margins of any sitting president in a very long time. They should be proud of their efforts. The fact that Bush won despite his dismal economic record and the growing signs of failure in Iraq testifies to the total incapacity of the Democratic Party. And so, Republicans, sing your victory chants from the highest hills, slash more taxes for the wealthy, gut the Clean Air Act, pass your constitutional amendments, pack the court and overturn Roe. You’ve earned it.

But to my friends on the left, in the middle, and what used to be the right: help is on the way. This election did not absolve George W. Bush of responsibility for the errors of his first term, and the issues on which the Democrats have attacked him – the war and the economy – will come back to haunt him. This country is in for a reckoning and the defeat of John Kerry means that the Republican Party, not the Democrats, will take the heat for it.

We are not going to win in Iraq. The Iraqi people have not – and will not – embrace American occupation or imposed government. Not with the way Bush has run this war. The last few days make it hard to be optimistic; Iraq is now in a full state of emergency and more than twenty Iraqi police officers have lost their lives. Two possibilities exist: either we will pull out and Iraq will slide into civil war and become the haven for terrorists that it never was until we invaded; or we will stay and remain bogged down in a fight against an enemy we can’t defeat while backing a government we can’t legitimate. The price of oil will remain high and the risk of terrorism will grow. And one morning, the American people will wake up with the stark reality of failure staring them squarely in the face.

We are not going to get out of debt. Bush’s tax cut, now certain to remain permanent, will ensure that our budget remains as red as the electoral map. More and more of our tax dollars will go to covering interest payments on the deficit. More and more services will fall victim to the axe of the budget hawks. Social Security and Medicare will remain under-funded and seniors will see their benefits drop. Interest rates will inch up, the economy will slow, and the government will outbid you when you try to borrow money to buy a home. And one morning, the American people will wake up with the stark reality of failure staring them squarely in the face.

On that day, Americans will have but one direction to point their blame: the President and the party he so perfectly embodies. There will be no Democratic administration to blame for the economy or the lack of progress in the war. There will be no Vietnam-style mythmaking about liberal activists undermining the war at home or the unwillingness of a Democrat to take the gloves off and chase the Commies back to Hanoi. Bush will preside over his own failings and have no one else to blame. On the day after these failures become clear, the Democratic party will no longer be cowed. Democrats will no longer be blackmailed into supporting wars they don’t like and tax cuts they know are dangerous. Democrats will no longer pretend that they don’t support aggressive environmental protection and civil rights. Democrats will no longer be forced to adopt the strategy of triangulation. Johnson’s war and Carter’s economy wrecked the Democratic majority, and the Conservative movement came out swinging. Bush’s war and Bush’s economy ensure a similar reckoning.

So Republicans, gloat while you can. One day soon you’ll wake up and have a dismal day after.

Matt Macdonald is a 1L. Predictably, he graduated from UC Berkeley and hates freedom.

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