Depressed? Yes, but…

OK, Bush won. Fair and square — or not. The last 4 years have shown that it doesn’t really matter, as long as Bush’s ass ends up warming the chair in the Oval Office. Like many, I really, really, really REALLY didn’t want to see a second Bush term. Not that I was particularly enthralled with Kerry — he was better than he seemed at first glance, but certainly wasn’t offering the kind of radical change I think this country needs. But still, he was someone I felt we linkies could work with, someone who would at least open his eyes and ears (and maybe even his heart) to the American public now and again, and even act on what he saw, heard, and felt coming from us.

But — and this is strange as all hell — while watching the Bush victory speech today, I felt… I dunno, almost joyous, for a brief moment. It’s part of the ritual for the losing candidate to declare that “the fight’s not over” and that he will “keep fighting for the American people”, so although Edwards gave me warm fuzzies, I wasn’t particularly reassured. Gore promised the same thing, remember? And where has Gore been hiding for the last 4 years? But watching Bush play out the role of the gracious winner (yeah, right) I did feel this moment of elation — this isn’t over. We’ve been given a chance, at long last, to shrug off the dead weight of the Democratic Party, the way I see it. In 2000, the Dems could, rightly or (I think) wrongly, point to Nader and somehow convince themselves that their own wishy-washy politics weren’t to blame for the loss. This time around, we’ve seen an overwhelming desire for change. Bush didn’t win this, any more than Kerry did — nobody wants either of them in office, as far as I can tell. As far as I can tell, Bush stayed in office because a) he’s the evil we already know, while Kerry is the evil we don’t know, and b) in the absence of any moral core to current American politics, a lot of Americans were willing to substitute for the cheap replacement for morality offered by Bush.

It seems to me that the field is now open for whoever can present a set of real issues — things that directly touch the lives of Americans in real, tangible ways — grounded in a real moral vision. Not a moralistic vision, mind you — a real sense of right and wrong and of the subtleties and difficulties involved in choosing well. More than that, though, I think it’s time that candidates, politicians, and engaged participants (that’s us citizen-types, y’know?) start addressing voters as individuals (what could be more American?) than as representatives of various voting blocs: blacks, working mothers, NASCAR dads, evangelical Christians, cultural liberals, etc.

I’m not sure the Democratic Party has anything to do with this kind of future. I’ve kind of resigned myself to the impracticality of third-party solutions on the national stage, given the demands of modern politicking. So what I’m really advicating — what struck me as Bush platituded his way through his speech — is the creation of a second party, a real alternative to the Republican machine that, sooner or later, cultural conservatives are going to realize is using them as a smokescreen for the dissolution of the American government.

I’m willing to entertain the notion that this is just crazy-talk. It may be that, after a brief high, alcoholism returns as the only rational response to a Bush presidency. But I don’t think it’s all crazy-talk. There hasn’t been a real issue discussed on the American political scene in a long, long time. Gay marriage is not an issue, it’s a campaign ploy! What we’re not talking about is who is making the decisions that shape our daily lives — and here’s a hint: it’s neither us nor our government. Real issues might not play well on TV — but shit, we got the Internets now, right? And I think we’ve got to take a big step back, to the early days of the Dean campaign, when the promise of the Internet seemed about to take root. We’ve got two years before the next elections, and an electorate that’s actually excited about the democratic process for the first time in decades — seems to me that we’ve got a lot to work with, no?

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