Saturday, November 06, 2004

Interludes and Examinations... Oh, and A Call to Arms

Oh, yeah…

Hooray for Air America Radio (AAR?) – if I’m not mistaken, one of the most downloaded programs on the internet, and a better ratings-earner than Bill O’Reilly’s radio show (ok -- found old source showing that they were projected to out-compete Rush in April 2004(registration required). Don’t hear any news stories about it these days, do you though? At least I can't find any.) All those “this will never work, there’s no market for liberal radio, these people are delusional and don’t know what they’re doing” – where did all of those stories go? Have they all admitted they were wrong while I wasn't looking? No? ...Sigh.

(Other only partially informative and out of date link here showing that Air America raised the station it was on two places in rankings in Denver -- an increase of about 5,000 people -- over the two months it was on. Gee, aren't we lucky the liberal media is so closely following the fortunes of a genuinely liberal, yet genuinely fact-based radio station? I'm practically weeping at our good fortune.)

So it (AAR) seems to be a success to me. More importantly, now that I have internet at home again, I can listen to it, and verify that it still seems like a success to me in the most important way – despite Franken and many of the the other hosts’ DLC-centrism, they still use the facts.

All of this Democratic soul-searching that I’ve been reading the past few days seemed a little… misguided to me. I mean, we lost, and we lost big in terms of popular vote and seats in Congress, and now all of the party faithful are asking, “What did we do wrong? What must we change to win again?” Of course, as Tom Tomorrow points out in the article Why Americans Hate Democrats, A Dialogue: The party's message is low risk, low reward,
and J blog-friend Geoff have pointed out, asking “why does the US hate Democrats?” is RIDCULOUS and emblematic of our problems in allowing others to frame questions unfavorably, considering at least 55 million US citizens DON’T feel that way. (Not to mention the millions of people who didn't vote who are usually assumed to be the poor, the minorities, and others who feel they are ignored by the mainstream but would otherwise be "Democrats".

And all of this “moral values” claptrap seemed a bit off to me too, and solid analyses in Slate and the NY Times (in op-eds by David Brooks and by Gary Langer, ABC director of polling), among others, were able to articulate why I felt that way. “Moral values”, put simply, is an ill-phrased category for a response to the question of “your most important issue as a voter”! All of the other exit-poll questions were specific, i.e. jobs, economy, Iraq, War on Terrorism – these all have relatively unambiguous meanings; but moral values? The fact that the News Media is interpreting this as Gays and God (and maybe Guns) in the face of good counter-analyses (see Geoff, Slate, and the NYTimes), in face of the fact that Bush didn’t do that much better in anti-gay-ballot-intitiative states than he and Republicans have done in the past, but made big gains in other states on national security issues, the fact that only 8% of people said they voted for their candidate based specifically on religious issues, and the fact that if you were a strong Bush supporter but felt that the other options didn’t adequately represent your reasons, “Moral values” could be a catch-all – the News Media is doing us the great disservice of making that great, classic faux-liberal argument, “We’re just morally superior, and they don't appreciate it, and that’s why we lost.”

Now, granted, I think we’re morally correct on the issues where we stand up for gay rights, and against invading sovereign countries on false pretexts to depose a dictator we formerly supported and supplied with weapons, but that doesn’t mean we’re superior; if anything, it means we have had a terrible time doing a terrible job of making our argument. And gee, with a candidate unwilling to take a strong stand on God's place in government (hint: S/He is NOT and should not be Sec. of Defense) or Gays, much less against the War, against the PATRIOT ACT, and against the incoherent War on Terrorism, I wonder why?

Which brings us back to Al Franken: without being judgemental (as he was, a bit) about it, those that voted for George W. Bush, by a majority, had a fundamental misunderstanding, or at least, a fundamentally unsupported view of the War on Terrorism. A majority of them STILL thought that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11, that WMDs were found in Iraq, and that, in fact, the final Duelfer Report to the government, saying that NO WMDs were found, in fact, CONFIRMED that WMDs were found*. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – from the conservative tactics distracting from the fact the GW doesn’t seem to have actually fulfilled his duty to the National Guard to the fact that some of the evidence for this was shaky or forged (despite much STRONG evidence backing it up and near-universal admission of of the underlying facts), to the “Global Test” meme (where Kerry basically said when we engage in pre-emptive war, we need to be able to prove it’s necessary and that our evidence is true, to which GW, almost literally, said “We need to pass some kind of truth test? I don’t think so”, or how 'bout "We don't need no stinkin' test"?**), to the fucking Swift Boat Veterans (why in dear goodness’ name did Kerry let that float unrefuted for so long?) – objectively speaking, the Bush campaign used more lies/obfuscations/errors where the facts were concerned than the Democrats, and used them more consistently, more effectively, and in the end, more convincingly than Kerry could sell his milquetoast version of the truth.

This wasn’t a problem over GAYS (Geoff and others point out that 60% of US citizens support either civil unions or same-sex marriage; the amendments were primarily over marriage, even though some also banned civil unions), this was a problem over framing, and our (the Left, or more specifically, Kerry) inability to make the truth sexy (or really, in Kerry’s case, even acknowledge that the truth might be a useful tactic even if it’s viewed as “negativism”).

(Franken just pointed out that most Bush supporters believed Bush is for the Kyoto Treaty – I have to find his numbers! He also pointed out that most supporters believed that if there weren’t WMDs, and if Iraq wasn’t involved in 9/11, we shouldn’t have been in Iraq – INCRÍVEL! I really have to find his sources.) (...done: The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) Report from August has the results of over 40% of people believing various things demonstrably false about Iraq... articles discussing it here and here.)

Franken’s guest right now of course is conflating this with the idea that we think “Red-Staters” (is anyone else beginning to really hate the red-state/blue-state meme too?) are stupid; which, is easy, because many of “us” are heard to say this in real life. Doh. But frankly, thinking someone is wrong, or was conned, is not the same as thinking they’re stupid – I think people believing the things above were conned by an extremely efficient Republican machine – just like I think many liberals were conned by the relatively inefficient Democratic machine to vote for a guy who doesn’t strongly stand for what we (Progressives) believe in. In this case, I think liberals voted against their interests as well, just like “Kansasians”. (Franken’s guest is decrying the condescension in the title of the book “What’s Wrong With Kansas?”. Although I agree with Franken that there is a non-condescending point to the book – that people are voting against their economic interests out of perceived moral similarity with the Republicans – I think his guest is right that the title doesn’t fully express this free of any kind of derision, without the “What the fuck is wrong with Kansas?” connotation and not just “I think the analysis of Red State Kansans is somewhat in error despite their wisdom as fellow US citizens.” And of course, his guest’s point as well that they DO believe that “moral issues” are more important than their pocketbook is well taken; I think the extended argument needs to be the Republicans by and large only give lip service to the important parts of morality, say, helping others and not invading sovereign countries and killing their civilians, and not lying and not accumulating unsightly wealth, in favor of nice, easy, issues like “gays bad; Bible says so.” Not to mention that religious freedom should go both ways – they should have the right to be very conservative, and others should have the right… not to be very conservative.) (And then there's the whole lying/misconception thing to go back to...)

But until the same type of massive pre-election blitzes of evilness and deception are shown in the Kerry Camp, such as has been pointed out from the Bush Camp -- including further examples such as passing out leaflets saying Kerry would ban the Bible if elected (also pointed out on Franken’s Show), the numerous accounts of Republicans either refusing to register people wanting to vote for Kerry, or “accidentally” signing them up as registered Republicans, or the piles of Dem. Registration cards ending up in dumpsters – we were Outfoxed kids; their tactics won, and their tactics were lies. And I’ll stand by this barring proof to the contrary – proof that people didn’t think there were WMDs, that Bush voters weren't by and and large convinced that Iraq was involved in 9/11, etc. We realized these issues were being distorted YEARS ago, but we let it fall by the wayside, in our rush to jump behind Kerry and his absolute refusal to critique the real problems behind the Bush Administration, and his talk about “reporting for duty” and being a Viet Nan Vet and… what the hell did he talk about of substance? Even I can’t clearly remember.

Wake up kids. Based on THE FACTS, and based on PRINCIPLE, and based on STRATEGY, the key is NOT to move right, to move left, to sell ourselves, to whore ourselves, to fight dirty, to fight more clean simply as electioneering TACTICS – the NEED is to FIGHT our GENUINE FIGHTS. Kerry didn’t fight, he defended. He didn’t stand for our principles, he squirmed from them. We need to say what we mean, mean what we say, and live or die by our issues – if we can’t find a Democrat that is FOR same-sex equality and AGAINST draconian PATRIOT measures, then dammit, we DON’T support him/her next time. We find someone who will MAKE THE CASE for our beliefs, and MAKE THE CASE for the truth. I don't believe in the various "tactics" put forward by many of the Slate-ers, or others, because they are just that -- based in tactics and not in strategy or beliefs. Will Saletan thinks we need to show we can speak morality too -- and kill terrorists just like everyone else without worrying about what the int'l community thinks (Will -- your hard-nosed swift-sword-of-death conservative underbelly is showing...)

I CAN HANDLE (losing based on) THE TRUTH! But what’say let’s try that – because we haven’t, we didn’t, and we lost. We had the strongest machine in recent memory – but we had a candidate as unwilling to call the President a liar when he knew he was lying -- unfortunately, just like "journalist" and my current nominee for "traitor to the truth" Jim Lehrer is. We can’t continue to let the Republicans get away with the same horrible, mushy post-modern relativism they accuse “intellectuals” of using – of our side saying something, and their side saying something, and leave the truth to sort itself out. As we all know, Kerry had plenty of ammunition – but he feared calling Bush a liar, despite ample evidence that he WAS.

This is the true battle. Anything else is DLC boilerplate or a distraction. We can’t decide that playing better politics is going to get us any farther as long as we continue to let all the petty lies (and some big, important, cardinal lies) accumulate without response. I am willing to lose based on what may be decried a bleeding-heart liberal “nuanced” wimpy unilateralist one-worlder agenda – AS LONG AS IT REALLY REPRESENTS MY AGENDA. If we lose based on the facts, it means we have to keep arguing. If we lose based on lies, it means we have to find someone who’s not too craven to call a lack of WMDs a lack of WMDs.

Let us live or die by our values, and by fighting them in their real terms and not in News Media-controlled memes. That’s something I’m willing to go down in the trenches for, and who knows, we might even make progress. But we can't do worse standing on our own values than we've now done standing on a guy one step removed from a President who could barely be farther removed from our views. So,


*Reading the Duelfer report's key findings also turn up this tidbit: He concluded the Hussein's nuclear weapon program-related-activities (to use David Kay's much trumpeted phrase) were primarily aimed at deflecting IRAN; "balancing Israel and the other Arab powers" he states were "secondary" goals -- so where does using them against the US come in? 3rd place, or maybe 4th place after "To Build an Authentic Diorama of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove"? This is great, just great, not only are Bushies misinterpreting their own results on the presence of a threat, but even if the threat were present, the US isn't in the TOP 3 of the threat list of their own assesssor.... WTF, I say, WT Royal F.

** From Saletan's article:
...don't have to argue the point anymore, because last night, Bush confirmed it. Here's what he said at a rally in Oregon, according to a White House transcript:

Once again, last night, with a straight face, the senator said—well, shall we say, refined his answer on his proposed global test. That's the test he would administer before defending America. After trying to say it really wasn't a test at all, last night he once again defended his approach, saying, I think it makes sense. (Laughter.) The senator now says we'd have to pass some international truth standard. The truth is we should never turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

You heard that right. The president explicitly refuses "to pass some international truth standard." Because evidence is the fundamental test applied in France as well as in the United States, Bush thinks he shouldn't have to back up his claims or decisions with evidence.

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