Thursday, November 04, 2004

LAND DOESN'T VOTE. The right-wingers are waving those blue-and-red maps as though they were some sort of moral rebuke to those of us who live in Blue America. Yeah, there's a lot of red. No, there's not much blue. And yes, it's even more striking when you look at a county-by-county map.

Well, so what? Land doesn't vote. People vote. The fact is that half the country is crowded into urban areas in the Northeast, on the West Coast, and around the Great Lakes. Yes, the Republicans control a far greater land mass than the Democrats. That's completely irrelevant. (On the other hand, the red states are gaining in population and the blue states are losing - that's damn relevant.) Other than Texas and Florida, the Republicans control a vast array of states where almost no one actually lives.

Already we're starting to hear a lot of blather about how the Democrats need to change in order to win the 2008 presidential election. Of course the Democrats have to try something different. But let's not get carried away. The story of Tuesday night is that the Republicans and the Democrats each represent about half the country. The red half - especially white middle-class families and evangelical Christians - are more reliable voters than is the infinitely more diverse blue half: African-Americans, gay men and lesbians, Latinos, white liberals, young singles, and the like.

To some extent, I suppose the Democrats are going to have to take some action to neutralize the Republican appeal to "moral values." But the last thing they should do is alienate their own base. What would the critics have had Kerry do differently? Endorse a constitutional amendment against gay marriage?

In the weeks and months ahead, there is going to be way too much emphasis on what the Democrats have been supposedly doing wrong, and way too little acknowledgement that the two parties simply represent radically different constituencies at this point in history. If the Democrats had nominated a moderate Southerner whose opposition to gay marriage seemed less forced than Kerry's, would it have helped? Probably. But Democratic primary voters could have chosen John Edwards if they'd wanted to, and they didn't. (I happen to believe that Edwards would have done far worse than Kerry because of his inexperience and his easily lampooned background as a trial lawyer, but that's another matter.)

What the critics are looking for is a Democrat who will compromise his party's own moral values and sell out some of the party's most ardent supporters - oh, just a teensy little bit - in return for flipping one or two red states his way. Tactically, this might make sense. That, after all, was what eight years of Bill Clinton were all about. It might make sense morally, too. Would gays and lesbians today rather have the DOMA-signing Clinton or the Constitution-amending Bush? But Kerry shouldn't be criticized for being more principled than Clinton.

WAS THE ELECTION STOLEN? I don't want to go down this road. I really, really, really don't. But it's what people on the left are talking about today, and at the very least this story bears watching. Slate has a roundup of what we know about the Diebold electronic voting machines, and it's pretty comprehensive despite the snarky tone.

Greg Palast - whose reporting on Florida four years ago was among the best - says today that Kerry absolutely would have won Ohio and New Mexico if it weren't for (1) punch-card ballots and (2) tactics to suppress the African-American vote. Interestingly, Palast doesn't even get into the Diebold controversy.

I need to see a lot more than this to be convinced, or even to be more than just slightly intrigued. But I suspect more than a few Kerry supporters just can't let go of the idea that Bush's presidency is illegitimate.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Stuck inside of Red America with the Blue America blues again.


Anonymous said...

Is this election far from the last word? Is to sink into despair not an option? Action is the antidote.

Silence in the face of known injustice is complicity.


Cambridge Common is the place every Saturday morning at 11 for an OPEN MIC to raise your voice against the intensifying war and continuing human rights abuses in Iraq. Cambridge is the city that thinks beyond the sound bite. Cambridge Common is the public space where the air waves are the open air.

The Open Mic means everyone is free to speak for up to 2 minutes, whatever their point of view. Speak your mind and hear others. The event begins at 11 AM and lasts no more than an hour -- weekly at the intersection of Mass Ave and Garden Street inside the park.

From small seeds grow mighty trees! From a few voices in New England, NYC and northern California, to Howard Dean, to John Kerry. They say the anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage activists are the door-to-door boots on the ground that built the Republican victory. We are the grass roots of the Democratic response. Don't soldiers' mothers weep in St. Louis? 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead. Isn't killing wrong in Ohio? Don't they love peace in Kansas?

Please spread the good word, and join us at the inaugural Open Mic on Saturday, November 6 at 11 AM. Peace today!

Matt Connolly

Massachusetts Peace Action
11 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354 2169

Anonymous said...

And they wonder why centrists and right-wingers are not more conciliatory? This guy is a Limbaugh enabler....

Lis Riba said...

Besides the cartograms, have you seen the maps that show the nation in shades of purple based on the vote percentage, rather than winner-takes-all red or blue? I've seen them by state and by county, and I wish we saw more like that rather than continuing with the divisive red/blue rhetoric. [How *did* the GOP get red and Dems blue, anyway?]
I've also seen somebody take a cartogram and color it in the shades of purple. It presents a much more balanced and less... us/them view of the country: some links on my blog

Anonymous said...

There is a map available (at the following URL) that shows the 2004 presidential election results at the county level using county-by-county election return data from USA Today together with County boundary data from the US Census' "Tiger database"

Site URL for Map of County-by-County 2004 election results:

Anonymous said...

There is an map that shows the Presidential election results at the county level using County-by-County election return data from USA Today together with County boundary data from the US Census…

County-by-County 2004 election results:

Site URL:

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the 'double-post' Dan! :(

Anonymous said...

"What the critics are looking for is a Democrat who will compromise his party's own moral values and sell out some of the party's most ardent supporters - "

Democrats don't need to compromise any of our values, but we damn well better start talking about them as MORAL--because they are. It's moral to stand up for the equal rights of others, to be hesitant about war, to believe in fairness, to protect the environment for our children. Nor are these values incompatible with religious faith. Our lives and our families are just as moral as those in the red states.

We need to save the longwinded policy wonkishness for the websites, keep things simple, and make them personal. It doesn't matter if it's true; middle America thinks of Democrats as out-of-touch tax-and-spend liberals. Kerry and Edwards couldn't connect with people enough to make them see anything different.