Looking back to November 2, 2004

Robert Farley looks back to November 2, 2004, prompting me to do the same, however painfully.

I share almost everything Robert has to say, except:

I believed then (and still believe now) that John Kerry would have made a great President…

Probably not. He ran such a vacuous campaign during which he showed poor judgment at many points, he has been an undistinguished senator, he would have been buffeted from left even more than right, and when a man runs for president almost solely on a single act of personal narrative from over 30 years ago, he probably doesn’t have much presidential material to offer. He deserved to lose. But his country deserved him to win.

Personally, I voted for Kerry and I was more active in his campaign than in any other since I was Garden Grove area petition coordinator for the John Anderson signature drive in 1980. But in 2004, I was voting for the veto, not for the man who would wield it, let alone for his or his party’s platform. I used to loathe divided government, when one party has a majority in congress and the other has the presidency. I still do not like it, for the way it obscures accountability. But divided government looks pretty good right now.

Robert notes that he lost his sense that the 2004 election would be a “contingent moment” when, among other things,

it became clear that, regardless of whether he pulled out Ohio, Kerry would be a minority President with a Congress unified against him.

That’s why it was an election about the veto. I tried to convince many moderate Republicans and wavering independents of that. Don’t worry about Kerry’s programs, because they won’t be enacted. But he can block a wasteful and corrupt congress–a congress so bad that J.C. Watts, a member of the class of ’94 could say:

Republicans in just 10 years have developed the arrogance it took the Democrats 30 years to develop

(h/t Poliblogger, who appends the quote with “yup.”)

I felt then, and still feel, that to oust the White House cabal that had hijacked our national security policy after 9/11 was of transcendental importance. So transcendental that I was willing to break a personal vow not to vote for anyone who had cast a vote in Congress in favor of the abdication of warmaking powers to that cabal.

OK, so readers might ask, how can you be this strident in denouncing Bush, when you say your intention for this blog is for it not to be partisan?

I say, this is not partisan. (And, also, I am not being strident. You should hear me in private moments.) Apparently, people are catching on. Bush’s latest approval ratings are below 40%. That’s not just Democrats, greens, socialists, and others far from the Republican’s erstwhile principles who are now saying they disapprove. In fact, as Philip Klinkner notes today, Bush’s slippage in approval in the past year is around 15 percentage points among Republicans. It is also 15 points among independents (which is almost a third of what he had a year ago with that group), with no change among Democrats.

We are being poorly represented and even more poorly governed, and the problem is far bigger than any one president. In fact, while I think Clinton was competent and non-dangerous, unlike the current Oval Office occupant, I think Clinton was a very bad president before the 1994 election woke him up and a very bad leader of his own party thereafter. It amazes me the extent to which Democrats still rally behind this man (and his wife), when it was the Clintons (and Al “Dialing for Dollars” Gore) who so squandered the opportunity presented by the 1992 election to build a new constituency for a modern center-left (which would have meant co-opting the Perot constituency, rather than ignoring it and defaulting it to the right).

But, again, the problem is far bigger than any one president. The problems lie in institutions that no longer serve us well, that fail to be representative and accountable. Both parties are a problem, and the institutions that give us only these parties as realistic options are the underlying problem. Maybe some day we will wake up. It is hard to be optimistic, and especially so on a week of reflecting back on the missed opportunities of a year ago to rein in the Republican congress and give the cabal its due.

0 thoughts on “Looking back to November 2, 2004

  1. Granted, I was only 10 at the time, but I have a hard time seeing a unified “Perot constituency” that could have been co-opted. You had your usual pox-on-both-their-houses types and others who just didn’t feel inspired by either candidate, probably more for personal reasons than ideological ones (I guess this is why Perot did so well in places like Maine). Then you had the paranoid xenophobic wackos who thought Perot would be the guy who would finally do something about the Mexkins. Is it really any wonder that Clinton couldn’t woo this latter group? They weren’t worth wooing in the first place!

    As for Perot’s other platform planks, Clinton (with much fanfare, I might add) brought the budget back into balance and essentially dismantled welfare. If Perot voters couldn’t warm to Clinton after that, they either weren’t paying much attention or were simply never going to warm to Clinton no matter what he did.

  2. Pingback: Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The radical middle: Perot, Schwarzenegger, the class of 1994, and looking ahead to 2006

  3. Pingback: Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The Surveillance Scandal

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