Don’t Despair

Sorry for this, but I have to get preachy one last time today. The number of distraught calls, emails, and people visiting me today for consolation has taken me by surprise, I must admit. People, tens of millions of people (no they haven’t all emailed me yet), are crushed by this election result in a way that is striking and probably unprecedented over the past 30 years – because they care passionately about this country and about making it a better place. In a way, it’s good to see.

But don’t get too depressed. At some point you need to gather yourself up and look forward. So for those who need them, here are some thoughts to buoy your spirits:

  • The nation will survive, and recover from the Bush presidency. This country has survived a lot of bad events and a lot of bad policy throughout its history. We’ve already survived four years of more-or-less complete Republican control in Washington. Nothing in that regard has changed with this election; now we just face a couple more years of the same. If we could make it this far, we can make it the rest of the way.
  • Instead of Kerry taking the blame for Bush’s poor decisions, Bush will now reap what he has sown: tremendous fiscal problems, intractable problems in Iraq and the rest of the middle east, international ill-will, a brewing financial crisis, a weak economy, nuclear proliferation among foes of the US, non-state terrorist enemies who are strong and getting stronger… And in four years, instead of Kerry being blamed for these problems, the blame will rightly go to the Republicans.
  • Despite the conventional wisdom, I think that Bush is likely to be weaker in his second term than he was in his first. Why? First of all, because of a high probability of some serious scandals in Bush’s second term. Secondly, because his goals for a second term are likely to be far more ambitious and politically difficult to accomplish than his first-term goals were; reforming social security and overhauling the tax code are far more difficult to do than simply passing tax cuts. Third, because Republican party discipline will increasingly fray as numerous Republicans have the incentive to compete for power with Bush as they consider political life after the lame-duck Bush.
  • The expanding size of the Republican electorate that was evident in this election will further convince Republicans that they can win without appealing to moderates. The party will continue to move right, leaving the center of the electorate increasingly open for Democratic candidates to appeal to.
  • This loss will hopefully convince millions of people on the left that they need to become and remain politically active if they want things to change. This will help to build the base needed to sustain a new left for more than just a single election. In opposition, the left will continue to learn to focus, strengthen, shape the debate, and build the infrastructure necessary to reclaim the nation’s rhetoric and agenda. As I wrote this morning, we’ve already made a good start in that direction; who would have thought a couple of years ago that a “liberal senator from Massachusetts” could win 46% of the vote in Missouri or 49% of the vote in Ohio?

Believe me; I understand as well as anyone the potential hurtful and otherwise bad policies that are likely to happen with four more years of one-party Republican rule in Washington. But there are silver linings to this election result. So when you’re ready to do something to make this country better, realize that the world is not going to come to an end, that things will get better, and get to work.