Part the First:
DailyKos, a new favorite blog of mine, has some good stuff on the recent polling. I'm sure the looming spectre of Bush winning is not the only reason my friends and family back home are variously trying to learn portuguese in order to move down here with me or trying to convince me that it really is time to cut bait with Nader; I'm sure a lot of it is also the media saturation of having to think constantly about someone you loathe (in the case of most of my friends, Bush).
But here on DailyKos are several good threads with the theory that Gallup's poll, which shows Kerry 11 points behind, is possibly flawed, certainly an outlier, and that all of the polls may simply be lagging behind significant retreats in the gains Bush has made (that would be nice, for me as well as for the kids back home). At the heart of the matter, in part, is that Gallup assumes more Republicans will turn out than Democrats for this election -- and also apparently do not consider people who didn~t vote last year to be "likely voters" -- which would exclude the theorized large number of (mostly liberal) people who have come off the bench for this election. Read on and decide for yourself...
Also, a tidbit I had been pretty gleeful about but now am utterly incapable of finding, was an article that reported a survey or some other type of research indicated that while most people abroad hoped Kerry would win, few if any thought that meant life would get any better for them or that foreign policy would change noticeably. However, www.axisoflogic.com has many other articles discussing the Bush/Kerry problem, and I heartily recommend them, having read only a couple. Hopefully, the rest aren't all horrible or something.
Besides the what I consider numerous arguments showing that a Kerry presidency will not better the world -- only better the rhetoric -- I have what I think, hope, is a deeper point. People, i.e. Chomsky & Zinn, say that under a Kerry presidency, there is at least hope that he will change in response to the public, whereas under a Bush presidency, there is no hope.
I think they are incredibly wrong, and have misread the situation.
We have seen, time after time, Bush shifting positions -- his stances on Korea, China, Taiwan, Israel, Palestine, Homeland Security, Commissions, and a slew of issues on Iraq.
Why did he switch? Why, at some moment, did he back down (though claiming the entire time not to be backing down)?
The same reason he switched from not supporting an anti-gay amendment to supporting it.
He was afraid he would lose this election.
Bush has whorishly clung to whatever position he could best exploit to remain popular. Whether or not his advisors knew that stubborness would go over so well, I don't believe for a moment his "principled stands" of never, ever (admitting to) changing his mind come from an honest place; or rather, that if it weren't working it wouldn't be scrapped.
Bush knows that what he's doing is working for him. And he seems to be right, insofar as he's even if not ahead of Kerry at this point. But again, does anyone here have any doubt that Bush wouldn't find a way to move his position, or even become a "nuanced flip flopper" if he & Co. thought it would work to their (electoral) advantage? Of-course-fucking-not.
Now, many of my friends are saying that even if Bush loses, he'll win, because the Repubs are so evil/crafty. While I certainly believe they are doing everything possible to sabotage the election beforehand (i.e. being in bed with Diebold, the continuing problems with people wrongfully expunged from voting rolls in Florida, etc.), I don't think they will be able to steal it if they actually, publicly lose it, i.e. steal it after the fact like last time. While I'm not confident Kerry is a better "strategerist" than Gore, assumedly, hopefully, he wouldn't go Gore's crazy milquetoast way and only recount a select number of places -- research has shown Gore would've won a statewide Florida recount, but not the limited recounts he actually asked for.
But I have no more confidence in the Bush team's complete god-like genius now than when people said "even if they don't find WMDs in Iraq, they'll find some." After all, GHWB was CIA head, right? They could find a way to plant that shit.
Ain't happened. For two reasons I think -- they believed their own press ("everybody thought they had WMDs" -- give me a fucking break) and also it's very logistically difficult, and not that hard to expose.
Similarly, while I am SURE they are creating conditions for a fixed race, I think should it shift significantly Kerry's way, it will be his to lose. That is, if he, like Gore, chooses a challenge in such a way that even were it carried out, he would lose, then I think the GOP might be able to take another after-the-fact victory; Gore managed, as they say, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Was it truly worth it to avoid looking petty, to lose the election?)
There WILL be irregularities. It looks like it will probably be close. And the GOP has any number of harrassment, subterfugeristic strategeries, and other ploys (like the true ploy, outlined in Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media" (but documented in Bush campaign tax documents, so any conservatives who are here by accident or something, there IS source material to back up liberal claims) of bringing people from OUTSIDE OF FLORIDA to stage protests in front of the Florida government about the FLORIDA recounts).
While I'm alternately called too cynical and too naive by friends, I think that in a close election, if Kerry keeps the pressure on in a way wholly unlike Gore, he can win. Last time, Gore had the facts on his side but not the stones. This time, I have a hard time imagining the Supreme Court finding for Bush again. It left a bad taste in many of their mouths -- especially Sandra Day O'Connor -- and I don't think anyone outside of the big 3 -- Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, the Boy Wonder -- would want to go down in history as having decided two presidential elections for the same guy. No, they would either avoid this hot potato or find in some way to not decide it conclusively. And seriously, I think the left would seriously go on an apeshit riot if it came to the Supreme Court again. I'm not entirely sure what kind of result that would lead to.
But my point here is this: in this election, it is largely irrelevant what president wins. You heard me. Bush has showed himself to be a pollwatcher as much as any other freakin' president, and he *follows where the polls go*. When HASN'T he? He's been able to do what he's doing because the country is split slightly in his favor, but he makes strategic retreats to maintain said favor. The reason such retreats have not been gains for the Left, like the bungling of the patient's bill of rights, the Health Care bill, anything dealing with Iraq, etc., is because the Left has not been able to create or maintain pressure outside of their own pre-existing groups. I do not believe the ability of the Left to maintain or create such groups depends heavily on the President; Chomsky & Zinn argue they will be more effective under Kerry, www.counterpunch.org has articles arguing the Left would demobilize under a Kerry presidency (a more likely outcome, imho). In either case, however, the challenge is not to create more protest groups, but to create a sustained, involved political movement reaching out across traditional lines. The "Hard Left" cannot afford leaving behind the soft left and the soft right. (The Hard Right definitely has to simmer for a bit longer before we try and gnaw on that hunk of meat. Or something that makes sense.) And I do not believe a Kerry presidency will in any way HELP remove the rift between the Left/Right (and various other divisions) we now see. It is POSSIBLE under a Kerry Prez, but no less possible under a Bush pres.
If we start changing those millions of Bush backers, it won't matter if he's still in office. It's been pointed out he went to Iraq even though the public wasn't behind him. But he went to Iraq months after ramping up about it, and basically wore down the resistance from 75%ish to 60% to around 50/50 and then, once in, it collapsed into very clear support. (Of course, there is still the argument that a Dem wouldn't have gone to Iraq in the first place... which is an argument I have to grant. Nevertheless, we ARE in Iraq, and it is clear that Bush does not have the political capital to go BEYOND Iraq, and Kerry doesn't have the political will to get OUT of Iraq. Looking at all those prepositions, it seems to me the "would've" is irrelevant in this case; the case today presents us with two candidates who I think will pursue essentially the same strategies, one because it's what he wants, the other because it's not so far from what he wants and he's too weak to move it too much.) If we had a true grassroots movement, beyond our 50% of the electorate, we would not have gone to war in Iraq. If we had a solid 60% of people against the war, or 75%, or everyone but the hard right, and it was clear that it was NOT going to dissolve once boots were on the ground, we would NOT have gone to Iraq. I think one of the lessons George W has taken from George HW is avoid unpopular decisions at all costs -- HW took the seemingly rational step of raising taxes. That's not the only reason he was defeated, but it contributed significantly, I think.
Bush will not do that. If faced with clear opposition that threatens to hurt his electoral chances, he has backed down every time. On the Patient's Bill of Rights, he was against it, then for a different version, then he had to go through back doors, getting the one medical Doctor in Congress to switch from for- to against- it, and not much later, it was dead. How many people know this is how it happened, how this popular issue got quashed? I guarantee you, had those moderate Republicans who were for it a clear idea of how it got quashed, and what was at stake, it would've gone differently. Bush could not afford to veto it; thus, he arranged for it to die in committee and he didn't have to take any political heat; it was, ideally, dissapated among not only Congress Republicans, but also the Democrats, who the GOP could claim stopped the bill because of obstructions in committee. Safe and sound for Bush.
Given that, to me, the grassroots movement depends on real, deep education and knowledge, I don't see what it matters who's president except as far as whether or not I will be able to keep my food down during the next 4 State of the Union Addresses. But while Bush has hurt education, Kerry has helped him. And it is certain that a Kerry president would not revolutionize the way education happens in the US, and it is clear Bush cannot stop the Left from teaching. The Miami riots were quashed, brutally, but this backlash clearly would not have propagated to Bush, even had it been out. And Clinton, like Kerry I suspect, was willing to have riots quashed as president as well, if not with such efficiency. But protests are effective only insofar as they are a learning tool, and very few center-rights listen to what is taught there.
Whatever the Left's strategy for the future is, winning over the soft right (or, hey, better yet, getting the Non-voting downtrodden Left on board -- another problem I have with Kerry -- numbers show many eligible women in the last election didn't vote, and most women vote Democratic. Further, many nonvoters are poor and minority, and don't vote for that reason. There are MILLIONS of votes Kerry could get with plans for REAL change -- politically dangerous, yes, off the beaten path, yes -- but it seems like a foregone conclusion that a candidate that can make the worst-off electoral base of the US *believe* in what they say, they will have gained a constituency of millions... more, I suspect, than the fucking swing voters everyone's so fond of. But no, this tactic was passed up for exactly the kind of pandering keeping many of those too cynical to vote exactly where they are) -- whatever the strategy for the future is, it won't depend on who is in office. It will depend on who is on the ground, and what they think, and what they are willing to do about it -- most especially, what they are willing to do about in November.
We can't afford the soft bigotry of low expectations (my hands will never be clean now, I quoted Bush in earnest). We can't afford to convince only ourselves. And we can't afford to think changing the face of our government will in large or small part mean that our education and compromising with the reality of other US Americans will be affected. Millions of Democrats (I believe) voted for Bush in 2000. Some number of Democrats will vote for him this time. Many eligble voters will not. Our job is to help in whatever way is needed to understand these people's views and, should we be correct in our ways, convince them to see it from our view, indeed, to think about many views, from that time on. Bush will not do this. Kerry will not do this. We can, we will, and we will not do that by spiting the only candidate who actually believes in it, the only candidate not wholly a whore to our present system.