Bitter tears

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

In the words of Xander in season one of Buffy, “I'm just gonna go home, lie down and listen to country music…the music of pain”. Specifically, in this case, Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss coming up again and again on iTunes random shuffle.

Result after result going the way of 2000… the growing realisation that there wasn't going to be a swing state going blue, that almost all the contested states were Democratic defences, not challenges. The sickening understanding that the high turnout was Karl Rove carrying out his plan to bring out the four million evangelicals who didn't vote last time, not a tidal wave of young and minority voters taking their country back.

Three simple words on the front of that most optimistic and passionate of Democrat blogs, dailyKos: “Kerry has conceded”. Thread after thread full of people in shock, their despair and disbelief running like blood down the screen.

Tears welling up and falling onto the keyboard.

And – in some bizarre way worst of all – the end of the Bears Will Attack campaign blog, the most consistently erudite and surreal take on the election. “I started to write something clever and jaunty, but I didn't have the heart,” says its owner, Brian Minter, who put this page up instead:

BWA campaign blog closing down page

But this election wasn't stolen like the last one, it was won fair and square – if narrowly – with the largest popular vote for a President in history.

So where next?

In the run-up to the election there were messages posted on the BBC site from Republican supporters saying that, if Kerry won, American troops would be pulled out of Europe – and they would enjoy sitting back and watching Europe burn.

Right now, it's very tempting to reciprocate the sentiments:

You voted for him, now you live with him. We'll sit back and enjoy the fun as your society tears itself apart, your economy tanks, your children are drafted to die in pointless and illegal wars, and your political and legal structures are debased by closed-minded bigots who think a country should be run according to a book of malicious fairy tales from 2000 years ago rather than by the tenets of one of the most inspiring political documents ever drafted by mankind.

Tempting.

But not the right way to go.

That would be turning our backs on the people who will suffer as a result of this. The people now looking at each other with horror at the dawning realisation that they are a minority in their own country.

Progressive forces in the US have a lot of work to do to get past this defeat. They can't hide under the comfort blanket of 'he stole the election' this time. They have to develop a strategy to overcome the fact that the majority of America doesn't think as they do. That their electorate understood what was at stake in terms of civil liberties, government accountability, corporate power and foreign adventurism – and voluntarily signed up for it.

And we overseas have a duty not to turn our backs on Roadcrash America, but to watch and monitor what happens, and to apply pressure where we must.

Because I have friends over there, and also people I respect from afar, and I don't think the next four years are looking too promising if you're a liberal media blogger in New York, a politicised black teacher in Detroit, a free-thinker working in the defence industry, a gay woman in DC, a mixed-up college student in West Virginia, a boundaries-stretching special ed teacher in South Dakota, a children's author in Minnesota, an Alpha Geek with a social conscience in Silicon Valley, or any number of people of all descriptions in Texas.

I smell a whiff of the 1930s, people, and it carries with it the stench of totalitarianism, destruction and death.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.