UNITED STATES: election postmortem

Peter Orne writes: The following is from a retired Harvard faculty member, Graduate School of Education. She and her husband flew to Ohio for a week to assist with the Kerry campaign: “Things are really intense in Ohio - you can easily feel the heat and light of difference (unlike here) - and you can feel why/how people are reluctant to talk about 'issues.' But we all gotta find ways to move on - not just as intensely certain of our own right ways as we all are now, but also determined to better understand the differences, not to fall back on our own biased certainties about where people different from us are 'coming from.'  We don't know everything; our analyses are not always the only ones; nobody's that smart ... Not me, anyway.... THIS IS NOT THE DEATH OF LIBERALISM ---- though maybe it will come to have another name for a while. Sometimes that happens. But it doesn't mean that things die away forever!"

In a strange way, I remain oddly comforted by the election-day results. I felt much worse in 2000, and I am not as devastated as many callers on the radio talk shows. Here's why. Bush wielded Orwellian machinery and pedaled a rollback all the way to Divine Right, and still he got only half the vote (and a little more). He and Rove had to tack on bigotry, by proposing a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, to push them over the top.

If only Hillary and Julie Goodridge and their seven co-plaintiffs had held off on their gay-marriage suit in the Massachusetts Supreme Court, then several state referendums banning gay marriage would never materialized, along with their accompanying Bush supporters. Instead, war, worship, and weddings brought it home for the president.

Last year, I lived four houses down from the Goodridges in Jamaica Plain in Boston. The bumper sticker on the back of their car says "Just Want a Marriage License." The Goodridges live in a two-story house with a lot of potted plants and an overgrown lawn. They seem like nice folks, and they don't need a gun, a Bible, a Hummer, or Samuel Huntington to feel good when they wake up in the morning. As lead plaintiffs in their case, they put faith in the Massachusetts state constitution, and it worked for them.

With a new civil-rights movement in full swing, Americans got a lot of their systems in 2004. Perhaps Kerry, in his concession speech yesterday, conveyed the magnitude of this. With all his gravitas and “blue-state,” “blue-blood” restraint, he did an enormous service to the country by guiding it calmly through one of the most contentious elections in its history. His childhood hero, John F. Kennedy, did the same for the nation during Desegregation. It must be clear to the Democrats, though, that Camelot really is finished.

RH:  Liberal though I may be, I am with Bush on the family issue, since I view the family as the building block of society. I have detailed thoughts on the issue, but WAISly I will not inflict them on you.

Tim Ashby writes: I think this encompasses my feelings about the American elections: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked.  And denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country." Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trials, 1946. Sound familiar?

RH: When I lived in Germany in 1933 the walls were covered with posters with maps showing Czechoslovakia like a dagger stuck in the heart of Germany  From it war planes were taking off  to bomb German cities. Presumably the posters came from Goebbels' outfit, although aviator Goering may have provided the idea.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: November 28, 2004