November 08, 2004

Election Redux

Posted by shonk at 12:41 AM in Politics | TrackBack

Realized I haven’t commented on the election since it happens. Basically, I have nothing to say about the whole thing. Primarily, I was rooting for an electoral tie, just because it would have been delightfully ludicrous. Barring that I was hoping for Kerry to win the electoral vote but lose the popular vote, because (a) it would have been wonderfully ironic and (b) because legislative gridlock is always desirable and there wasn’t a chance in hell the Democrats were going to control either house of Congress. Okay, neither of those things actually happened and, to be honest, it all played out pretty much how I expected. I mean, I hate to say “I told you so”, but, well, I told you so:

Bush is going to win this election. For better or for worse, his arguments are essentially positive: I will do X because I believe it is the right thing to do. Whether or not he believes his own arguments, and whether or not what he does exemplifies whatever beliefs he may actually have (and I’m skeptical that he has any), he’s arguing from an essentially stronger position than Kerry, all of whose arguments boil down to the following: I am not George W. Bush.


None of the above should be construed as an endorsement of Bush. Rather, it seems to me unlikely that someone running on an essentially negative platform, like Kerry, is going to defeat someone who at least pretends to be running on a positive platform.

As it stands, the only thing I wish I’d emphasized more strongly is the fact that Kerry supporters, by and large, tried to portray possible Bush voters as idiots, fools and evil psychopaths. Needless to say, not the best strategy for attracting those voters who might be sympathetic to Republican ideas on the war or anything else while also being sympathetic to the Democrats (who, so far as I can tell, didn’t take much of a stand on anything other than that they didn’t like Bush one damn bit). And it looks like at least one voter’s mind was swayed by exactly this fact (props to cosmicv for the link):

Your attitudes, language, and behavior toward people like me: reasonable, thinking Christians who are quite moderate politically and who are just as well-informed as you are (yes, I’ve read all the PNAC essays, too, and yes, they scare me, too) is reminiscent of nothing so much as an abusive ex-lover, a crazy and drunken stalker. “I’ll make you love me, or you’ll regret it, you worthless bitch! Come here and let me beat you over the head and tell you how stupid and worthless you are! Then you’ll see it my way!”

I’m not saying I agree with her stance on the war, Social Security or anything else, nor am I suggesting that domestic violence metaphors couldn’t be applied in the opposite direction with equal justification, but I suspect there are many, many others who felt and feel the same way. Something to think about.

(See also David Brooks’ column, especially the second-to-last paragraph)


It's sort of interesting to compare the attitudes of French people versus Americans here regarding the election. By and large the French obviously don't like Bush, but I haven't heard much about the election one way or another since it happened. The Americans I know, on the other hand, with typical hysteria (since they're 95% Kerry supporters, or rather Bush opposers, which I guess is about as close as you get to a Kerry supporter), moan on an on about the end of civilization, blah, blah, blah. Intersting to note also that when French people do express concern or disapproval regarding Bush, it's usually about something major, like the war (actually, almost always about the war). The Americans I know, on the other hand, seem to be more worried about piddly shit like abortion and gay marriage. Just another thought to chew on.

Posted by: Curt at November 8, 2004 11:44 AM

I meant Bush opposers in that sentence. Correction, please?

Posted by: Curt at November 8, 2004 11:45 AM

I can say almost the same thing for Hong Kong. Lots of anti-Bush feeling, especially among the folks at HKU. Yet once the election was over, everyone sort of shrugged and moved on.

Posted by: elliot at November 9, 2004 04:33 AM

Same story in Oxford.In fact, interest in the election was quite low from start to finish.

Posted by: tom at November 12, 2004 12:25 PM

errr...why are you surprised? it's not their election!

Posted by: petya at November 12, 2004 08:20 PM

errr...why are you surprised? it's not their election!

My point wasn't that, at least in France, people weren't suitably indifferent to the election, because many of them were (all the news channels broadcast from America on Election Day), it's just that they neither broke down in panicky hysteria afterwards, like most of the Americans I know, nor did they become suddenly militant, which both demonstrates the default American tendency to exaggeration and hysteria, and puts the lie to a lot of the fear of some unstoppable, irrational tide of anti-Americanism engulfing the globe, which in my opinion has largely been invented by panicky, hysterical Americans.

Posted by: Curt at November 13, 2004 05:24 AM

curt, speaking of, i wonder if you have read Jean-Francois Revel's book, _Anti-Americanism_ (aka, L'obsession anti-américaine)? i just stumbled on it in the library has been a pernicious distraction from pressing obligations ever since.

Posted by: elliot at November 14, 2004 05:05 AM

I haven't read the book, but I have read a number of articles that Revel has written. It's true that Revel is a good counter-example to the idea that anti-Americanism is largely a bogeyman invented by Americans, but at the same Revel comes from pretty rarified circles (I think he's a member of the Académie Française), where declinism is almost de rigueur. In Ravel the idea seems to have become doubly self-indictive, in the sense that his perception of France's decline is accompanied by the belief that French criticism of America, or its cruder manifestation as anti-Americanism, is itself a symptom of French decline rather than, as many in France seem to believe, a way to escape from it.

All of which is to say that, while I definitely find the main thrust of his arguments compelling, and he's definitely quite astute and non-hysterical, it should be noted that his principal concern is on reforming French society, and this phenomenon that he describes is, I believe, exaggerated, at least in terms of its effect on Americans, partly because it is based on a notion of French decline which is itself often exaggerated here. However, one point that Revel is absolutely right about, and something to think about for those in America who believe in the unlimited virtues of "multilateralism" and making friends with all the nations of the world, is that anti-Americanism, at least in France and to the extent that it exists, has a lot to do with envy of American power, even when it comes in the guise of ostentatious concern about Iraq, or Africa, or whatever else, and hence is in a sense unappeasable. In other words, it may be futile trying to figure out just the right way to exercise American power to make everyone happy, when the mere existence of American power is itself the source of discontent.

Posted by: Curt at November 14, 2004 07:16 AM