Ask Auntie Pinko
November 11, 2004
By Auntie Pinko
I am writing to you to ask your sage guidance. Ever since the
results of the election were made clear and Kerry delivered his
concession speech, I find that I am filled with an overwhelming
sense of sadness. I am finding it difficult to concentrate on my
work, and cannot seem to muster up any energy for anything. Every
time I start a task at the office, I find myself worrying about
the Supreme Court, or fantasizing about moving to Canada.
Can you offer a glimmer of hope, as to how the country may come
to its collective senses? Do you see a way in which the country
can be freed from the stranglehold of gun-toting, gay-hating, evangelicals?
What has to happen in order for people to wake up? Please suggest
how I can look on the bright side. I really need a silver lining
to this enormous grey cloud.
Let us start with a perspective check, shall we? One poignant
element Auntie sees in my liberal friends' grief over this election
result is the horror and disbelief that "a majority" (however slim)
of our fellow citizens actually voted for Mr. Bush. The thought
of this "majority" fills them with sorrow, anger, and wondering
For whatever small measure of comfort it may offer, Mr. Bush did
not win "a majority." What he won was two minorities. These
two minorities, combined with the Democratic Party's inability to
get across an effective message about keeping Americans safe from
terrorism, gave Mr. Bush the margin he needed to eke out his electoral
Neither of these minorities was sufficient in themselves, but
together (combined with the issue of domestic security, this election's
contextual wild card) they did the trick. We can take hope from
the knowledge that these minorities have considerable philosophical
differences, and it will be terribly difficult for Mr. Bush to continue
to please one, without alienating the other.
The danger lies in the temptation to dismiss or misunderstand
these minorities, something that the Democratic Party has been obstinately
doing for upwards of thirty years, now. When we had electoral victories,
we have ridiculed and/or ignored them; when we have been defeated,
we have vilified and demonized them. And the longer we continue
making these errors, the longer our winter of discontent will last.
Respecting and accommodating the beliefs of someone with whom
you have deep philosophical differences is never easy, particularly
when you are feeling like the wronged party with a legitimate grievance.
Principled, inclusive opposition is not capitulation. It is not
"giving up the fight." It is not "compromising our values." It is
rebuilding a nation shattered by misunderstanding, mistrust, and
Let's take the easiest target first. The grotesque pathos of a
man whose "God" cannot permit him to stand in front of naked Justice
and uphold our Constitution in equity, dignity, and compassion,
has become our symbol of those now being dismissed as "values voters."
We, no less than the GOP, are guilty of using our little codes and
labels to stereotype neighbors whose sincerely held beliefs about
marriage and the nature/sanctity of life shape their political decisions.
I have read, several times in the last week, the scornful lashing
out of those who see such voters as "choosing a single fertilized
egg in a clinic freezer over millions of children with diabetes
and grandparents with Alzheimers." I have heard my fellow liberals
automatically and dismissively equate a vote to legally define marriage
as a heterosexual relationship as the worst kind of callous homophobia,
hatred, and intolerance.
Keep thinking and talking that way, and the handbasket will only
pick up speed on the downslope. Am I suggesting that we "cave in"
on denying a woman's right to control her own body? On permitting
the pseudo-"science" of "Creationism" to be taught to our children
as a credible theory of the development of life? Please. I hope
you know Auntie better than that.
We may never be able to entirely win the hearts and minds of these
"values voters." But a willingness to listen respectfully to their
concerns, to discuss them seriously, and to make sincere attempts
to find and share common ground where possible, could pay off in
Right now, the GOP has been able, with our willing complicity,
to convince these neighbors that we Demon Liberals are an evil so
great that nothing the Republicans can do - not total economic incompetence,
blatant disenfranchisement of millions, criminal indifference to
the quality of the air they breathe and water they drink, or the
dismantling of a safety net that enabled our whole society to live
the Christian values of caring for the sick, clothing the naked,
feeding the hungry, etc. - could possibly outweigh the horrific
result of a Democratic victory. No one can change this perception
The second minority, the "opportunity" voters (resist, oh resist
the temptation to call them "opportunistic") is both tougher and
easier to reach. These are the individuals whose economic anxieties
are enabled by denial, fed by fear, and exploited by hope. This
is the group who have been taught to regard us Demon Liberals as
the greedy, conscienceless bastards who will swoop in to "tax away"
their hard-earned money or their lottery windfall, should the luck
they have so long deserved ever actually show up.
These voters do not see, and do not believe us when we show them,
the connection between a government focused on raising the floor,
patching the cracks, and adding rungs to the ladders, with their
own economic security and hope for upward mobility. The raised floor,
to them, makes the ceiling look closer, hemming in their aspirations
to prosperity and achievement. The GOP's indifference to the cracked
and sinking floor, and their deliberate dismantling of some ladders,
seems insignificant next to the hope-filled vistas opened by the
holes they are punching in the ceiling.
Unless we can find a way to overcome this denial, we have lost
these voters, which is a shame, because many - maybe most - of them
are really Democrats at heart. They just don't know it, because
they no longer know what "Democrat" really means.
Auntie is no political strategist, but I do know there are some
things that offer us definite hope:
First, Mr. Bush and the GOP are now standing in a cesspit of their
own making, with no one to blame and no one to rescue them. The
collapsing economy, the worsening crisis of Americans without health
care, the ghetto of our international pariah status, the bloody,
tragic quagmire of Iraq - they are all Mr. Bush's problems to solve.
And he must solve them in a way that pleases both his "values" voters
and his "opportunity" voters.
I think it is entirely possible, after four years of his attempts
to do so, that there will not be another GOP administration or legislative
branch elected for thirty years. This is no consolation for the
pain Americans (and the world) will suffer until the messes are
dealt with, but it at least offers hope of a chance to deal with
them firmly and unequivocally.
Second, this exile in the wilderness, like so many before it,
gives our Party the opportunity to unify and strengthen itself.
If we can use this opportunity to generate a consensus around some
bold, intelligent ideas for change, we will be able to use the chance
a disintegrating GOP will offer us.
In short, liberals are now, (more or less) where the ultraconservative
wing of the GOP was back when Mr. Goldwater was defeated in 1964.
They did not give up, but planned long and carefully, and worked
hard and continuously, to come back and overwhelm the GOP, recast
our cultural understanding of political, economic, and social realities,
and impose their vision on the world.
I suggest we learn from their experience, and repeat it. Without
all the unconstitutional stuff, of course. It may not be much of
a silver lining, John, but it's what we've got, and the sooner we
get to work, the sooner we'll succeed. Thanks for asking Auntie
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