From the discussions taking place online, on editorial pages, and on university campuses since the election, it's easy to see that progressives have gotten themselves in a bind. Under the assumption that "the values thing" really is what led to their loss, they are wondering about how to craft a sustaining myth of their own that is as powerful and comforting as whatever it was the neocons were using.
In the face of a defeat apparently based more on emotion than logic, it's not a surprising conclusion to have reached. After all, a vast majority of Bush voters actually agreed more with Kerry's policies than those of their own candidate, leading us to believe that were they voting rationally, they would have chosen the candidate who supported their own views on how government should function. Furthermore, despite the well-publicized conclusions of the 9-11 commission, a full eighty percent of Bush voters still thought Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda. Clearly, the facts and issues meant less to many of these people than the intangibles Bush was selling: character, packaging, and, perhaps most importantly, a good story.
As progressives now see it, Bush's articulated faith in America's role in world and heavenly affairs was strong enough to get poor people to vote against their own financial interests, and even to feel good about having sent their kids off to a war that has yet to be adequately justified through traditional logic. The people of this nation - particularly the poor - had every good reason to vote for Kerry, or at least against Bush, yet didn't.
Bush’s ability to weather the perfect storm of his own doing (soaring national debt, entanglement in two foreign wars of occupation, job losses, extremist social policies) on the boat of Faith has led progressives to conclude, reluctantly, that people in the red states cannot be reached through reason. It seems as if no quantity of factual evidence can outweigh the conviction of a person's heart. So, like advertisers suddenly realizing that people don't care about product attributes, defeated progressives, working through the Democratic party, are looking to market their candidates and ideology using brand image instead.
Let them Eat Myth
Jennifer Blowdryer and Alvin Orloff
To Ohio and Back
Abba Kovner: The Warrior in Old Age
Men who Laughed
Our 610 Back Pages
Zeek in Print
Fall/Winter 2004 issue now on sale
From previous issues:
Three Jewish Books on Sadness
This Land was Your Land
Tarnation: The Dream of Autobiography