THE AFTERMATH. I just watched Kerry's concession speech on CSPAN.org a little while ago. It was a good, strong message from a good, strong candidate. Judging from the margin by which he lost - 3.5 million votes - I'd say it was never there for him, and probably wouldn't have been there for any other Democrat either.
Should Kerry have thrown in the towel? Absolutely. There was no way he was going to pull it out in Ohio. Let's remember the dynamics of 2000: Gore had moral standing to keep fighting because he'd won the popular vote; Bush had moral standing to keep fighting because he always held the lead in Florida, regardless of how questionable that lead may have been. By contrast, Kerry was way behind in Ohio, and he would have put himself in the impossible position of trying to use the Electoral College to unseat the first presidential candidate to win an outright majority of the popular vote in 16 years.
Was there unreported ugliness? Hmmm ... an intriguing question. Already, Media Log has heard from readers who wonder whether the exit polls look worse in areas that used those fancy new voting machines. The idea is that maybe the exit polls were right, and that it's the machines that screwed things up. Of course, the conspiracy-theory possibilities here are endless, and I don't want to chase a rabbit down that hole without real evidence.
Anti-Bush blogger Jeff Jarvis has gotten quite a bit of attention with his "post-election peace pledge." CNN's Aaron Brown emerged from his undisclosed location last night just long enough to give it a plug. It reads:
I promise to... Support the President, even if I didn't vote for him..... Criticize the President, even if I did vote for him..... Uphold standards of civilized discourse in blogs and in media while pushing both to be better.... Unite as a nation, putting country over party, even as we work together to make America better.
Will Media Log take The Pledge? In a limited kind of way, yes, sort of. Obviously Bush now has legitimacy that he had lacked up to this point. Nearly four years into his presidency, he has finally won an election for president. We do have to respect that.
But I'll tell you one thing that's really bothering me. In keeping with The Pledge, I want to make it clear that I'm sure this wasn't deliberate on Bush's part, and that he agonizes over the war he started just like any other human being would. Still, I can't help but think one of the reasons he won was that voters were understandably reluctant to reject an incumbent president during wartime. And this war was so unnecessary that you could argue he created the disaster that made his election possible.
One thing I'm not going to do is start praising the wisdom of the electorate and bowing to its judgment. The outcome of this election is bad news for anyone who cares about a more just, equitable, peaceful, and diverse society. It's bad news for gays and lesbians, poor people, scared single women who need an abortion, soldiers, you name it. It's good news if you make more than $200,000 a year.
But, unlike four years ago, Bush has earned the right to be president for the next four years. That is bound to change the tone of political discourse. For that matter, it should.
Bush is speaking in a few minutes. Which means I might break The Pledge before sunset!