Saturday, November 06, 2004

Reflections on Re-election

Well, I joined many Americans this week in my disappointment at the re-election of George W. For me it was partially the fear of what might happen under another four years of neoconservatism, but also the feeling that I'd just been sucker punched. Unlike many Kerry supporters of my generation I'm not suggesting that the election was stolen or fabricated. I don't think that the Diebold machines were all hacked or that hundreds of thousands of minorities were denied their right to vote. I don't think the Republicans had to do any of that. I think we were outplayed on a basic level. Their media campaigns were better. They sold their ideas in thirty second sound bytes. They adapted to the global information age, and, frankly, we didn't. Kerry supporters assumed that because their ideas were so much better for the country, their ideals so much more worthy of the greatest nation on earth that they would triumph. We were wrong.

The Republicans learned to sell George W. Bush as John Wayne. They sold values and a stern father. They sold steadfastness. It wasn't hard to fit that into the attention span of the average American, but it's nearly impossible to fit concepts like "making the war on terror multilateral" into a soundbyte. Kerry's mantra "fighting for the middle class" is just wrong from a sales perspective. No marketing exec worth his salt is ever going to include the word "middle" in something. The popularization of the prefix "mid" is thanks to marketing execs who want to avoid seeming boring in a society that values standing out. Further more, the middle class just doesn't sound like a group that needs fighting for. Would you ever say: "I'm fighting for the guys who aren't bad off, whose kids are all in college, and who just bought a new lawn mower." No, no you wouldn't.

It's time to get off our high-minded horses. It's time to get our hands dirty. In my home county of Shelby County, Tennessee we won. We turned a starkly divided county flat out blue. We mobilized minorities. We made sure that voting rights were protected. We politely asked people to listen. We didn't attack their ideas, but showed them how our ideas were compatible. We didn't approach people wearing Kerry buttons and waving flags. We waited until we heard conversations about "those ungrateful French" and then we talked about how frightened we were that the euro was getting stronger than the dollar under Bush. We asked what they were interested in and we told them how our ideas could help. We let pro-lifers be, and we didn't try to sell everyone on ideas that Bush had made controversial. We played his game, and here, in this little patch of racially charged politics, we won.

Now, we're getting organized. We came together for John Kerry, but we're staying together for each other and for you. We're keeping this going, not for ourselves, but for those we love and for those we've never met, for our soldiers, for our children, and for our future. Spero Meliora are the words on my family crest. They mean "Aspire to Better." We aspire to a future worth creating.

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