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All Is Not Lost

November 13, 2004
By Steve Ayers

Every cloud has silver lining. Grey skies are going to clear up. Maybe not for another four years, but they'll clear nonetheless. Sure we lost the election to the heartland who apparently are more appalled by boys kissing than by the unnecessary death of our children, the raping of the environment, or the ever-ballooning deficit. But despite this mind-boggling, unexplainable loss, we have gained greatly.

We have gained a base of voters and activists and supporters who have come to understand that their fears, their morals, their values, their concerns are just as important and just as worthwhile as those in the Bible Belt or the deep South. I am a 28 year old from Pennsylvania who has never voted. If nothing else, this election has forced me to realize who I am, to realize that I am a Democrat and that undecided voters in a time like this are just looking for the attention.

I believe that this election has energized the Democratic base. It has enabled us to take root in our core beliefs and our core values. Contrary to popular belief, the values of the Republican party are not the governing values of this entire country. It is possible for a liberal to hold values and morals, which may not be the same as the right-wing's, but are nonetheless just as important. The left is concerned with the economy, the deficit, the young soldiers who are dying needlessly.

The way the right insists that government stay out of personal affairs - unless it has to do with your own body or who you want to marry - is fundamentally contradictory. It makes no sense. If Republicans believe in downsizing government then that idea must transcend all aspects of what a government represents. If a government cannot take away your guns, the same government cannot tell you who to marry. If Republicans assume their "every man for himself" mentality, they should assume it to the hilt.

If we are supposed to be smart enough to make our own decisions, then I would assume granting a woman the right to choose is pretty safe. It's all or nothing. This pick-and-choose government interaction only suits the Republican party and their elitist morals and views. And apparently, as November 2 showed us, these morals and views represent - at most - 51% of the population.

Through this election, I have read politics and studied world affairs and policies like never before. I heard MTV and celebrities telling me to "Rock the Vote" or "Vote or Die" in the past, but I never gave it much consideration until this year.

See, the reason that politicians harp on issues such as Social Security, Medicare, and prescription drugs is because the older segment of America are the ones voting without fail. I called my grandparents the night before the election to see if they were voting, and if so, who they were voting for. The phone call opened my eyes like no voter drive ever could. I asked my Italian grandmother if she was voting and her response was as if I asked her if she was making meatballs this Sunday. Of course, she was.

They voted every year, not just every presidential election. I hadn't even been motivated to vote in a presidential election, let alone for my township's representative at the school board meetings.

Then, she informed me she was definitely voting for Bush. This floored me. How could my own family, a lower-middle class family who struggled most of their life think George W. Bush was the president for them? When I asked, my grandmother offered up the reason that John Kerry was a liar. Forget the fact that her current president lied about the reasons for invading another unprovoked country, lied about his support for a Department of Homeland Security, lied about his tax cuts benefiting the lower percentage of people, and lied that he was a uniter and not a divider.

I then asked what Kerry lied about and she had no good example to give me. So, this highly illogical motive was behind her vote. That and the deeply profound reason that Teresa Heinz-Kerry was "dizzy." So, I told her to put my grandfather on the phone. Surely, he, an esteemed veteran of WWII, would side with me in the argument. Surely he would like Kerry based on veteran status alone and the fact that Bush skirted his way out of fighting thanks to Daddy and his political connections.

But, guess what? He was the same robot my grandmother was. He even suggested Kerry earned a Purple Heart from wounds that were self-inflicted. It was amazing to me that a veteran would speak about a fellow veteran that way, especially when his other choice was a man who went into the National Guard to get out of Vietnam and then got out of the National Guard.

I couldn't believe that my grandparents had succumbed to the litany of garbage put in their heads by Fox News and the Bush/Cheney attack ads. I couldn't believe this was my family I was talking to. Then, it occurred to me. This was the case with thousands of people across the country. There were thousands of older men and women voting for George W. Bush because they thought Kerry was a liar, or that Bush scared them into voting for him, or because they didn't know they could vote across party lines in the presidential election, or because George W. Bush is a deeply pious man and they just happen to watch the Sunday masses on TV every week.

I began to argue and refute every point that my grandparents (who are both in their 80s) posed to me, until I realized, "what am I doing?" Sure, I was slicing and dicing and disproving every misinformed point they had, but to what end? They either weren't listening or didn't understand me. It did no good. So, I gave up. They were voting for Bush no matter what. They weren't listening to reason, they were listening to Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Hanging up the phone that night, I realized that the motivation of young people, and on a larger scale, the Democratic base, was drastically important, especially in this day and age. The young and educated need to take a stand and bring our concerns to the forefront. The issues that are important to us need to become the issues of the day and not what the Religious Right and the Republican party tells us is important. We are the ones who search for unbiased news and who educate ourselves constantly. My grandparents, God love them, only hear what they want to hear, and believe me when I tell you their hearing isn't that good anyway.

The next four years are going to be a challenge for all involved. I believe that history will prove the current administration to be one of the most disastrous, secretive, ill-informed, irrational, and poisonous administrations in our history. I, myself, do not think George W. Bush will unite this country. I do not think he will halve the deficit by 2008. I do not think he serves anyone other than his corporate investors and the Religious Right. I do not believe that any normal, hardworking person who isn't a millionaire has a place in George W. Bush's America.

But, you know what? It isn't his America. If this election taught the Democratic party anything, its that there are more of us than we thought and in four years, we'll right this country again. We owe nothing less to ourselves and each other. If nothing else, this election should have opened the eyes of the left-wing and burned a fire in our hearts that what we believe is just as important as what they believe.

I think that over the last four years an untold number of Americans traversed the same political development I did. When it became scandalously obvious that Bush was pimping 9/11 for his own personal gain and struggle, I opened my eyes. I began to see that I did have strong beliefs and that they weren't cohesive with the current administration. But, when I began to see so many others felt the same way, it gave it all a sense of purpose.

That purpose was a great victory for the left. And it is that purpose that will keep us focused for the next four years, whatever they may hold.

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