From my correspondents
The torrents of post-election mail contained a higher percentage of the usual charming screeds from the far right, where they're feeling pumped up. "Na na na na na, you stupid socialist pinhead," summed up the central argument in a number of these letters. But some went further, kindly trying to explain -- despite my manifest inability to learn -- that this midterm election had once and for all vanquished the Democrats, demonstrated the profound conservatism of the American people, commenced an era of medieval Christian rule, and so on.
These concerned writers also offered a lot of advice about what's wrong with liberals, and a few even promised to pray for me. (Which I appreciate, of course -- it's better than their "compassionate conservative" brethren who want to put Democrats behind barbed wire at Gitmo, as one of them wrote.)
What poked out from beneath all the predictable gloating was the sense of inferiority that causes the haters such distress, and drives them to inflict suffering on others. "I'm not sure you want to know the truth or would even recognize it due to your bias and distrust of all of us in flyover country." Ah yes, flyover country -- where my co-author lives, along with quite a few of my relatives and many other friends. I knew I didn't trust any of them. I just didn't know why.
These letters were heavily larded with triumphalism, as if the shift of a few House seats and one or two Senate seats in "wartime" proved that the millennium had arrived for conservatives. There were several writers who amid their gloating revealed their innate insecurities: "People (the majority) think George W. Bush is smarter than people like you. Thank Goodness!!! Your leadership didn't loose this election!!! Idiots like you did. Enjoy the CROW!!!" More than a few take a very dim view of their fellow Americans who disagree: "If the democrats didn't have a lock on the votes of the perverts, felons, illegals, illiterates, and the pseudo intellectuals you wouldn't get 15% of the vote nationwide."
Yes, this was a "historic" election -- but then so was 1998, when Clinton gained seats in his second midterm during impeachment. Remember all the right-wing pundits wailing and rending their garments, after that election supposedly proved the immorality of the American people? With all due credit to Karl Rove and his boss, I doubt that these historical markers are worth dwelling on. Both in 1998 and now, special circumstances overshadowed the normal partisan cycles.
It seems unlikely that a stable "conservative majority" has emerged since November 2000, when the majority of voters chose Gore. As Senator Kennedy pointed out yesterday, the vote totals between Democratic and Republican senatorial candidates differed by about 70,000 nationwide -- all the more reason for the Democratic leaders to hang their heads over their inability to turn that tiny margin the other way. But that hardly means the public has endorsed the ultraright views of Tom DeLay.
Naturally, some disagree: "Can you say ... MANDATE!!!!!!! ... Liberals dont get it because they cant get it ... Its not in there genetic makeup ... The world is ALWAYS in a state of war and always will be ... Winston Churhill ... Its great to be a Coservative in America ... mind you, I came out of high school with failing grades and no skills to become a millionairre entrepeneure, proud father of 4 and productive member of society espousing those conserative values you so loath ... So much for THE GREAT SOCIETY ..."
Why don't I believe that guy is a "millionaire entrepreneur"? Either I'm a terrible skeptic or, as another writer suggested, I don't always get the joke. "The reason people don't like liberals is because they have NO sense of humor? The reason they like Limbaugh is because he has a great sense of humor and is well-rounded (no pun intended) but full of passion." I should spend more time in flyover country, like Rush -- except that he's always dining at 21 with Roger Ailes. (I guess even when he's jetting off to Paris or London to buy Cuban cigars, he's still in his own private Idaho.)
Anyway, enough of that. The right-wing shrieks and catcalls always encourage me, but I probably waste more time enjoying them than I should. For a day or two, the mail was filled with wails of despair and fear, but those messages are already being replaced with determination. Liberals and progressives want to replace the Democratic leaders, but they also want new messages and new ways of organizing. (If my mail means anything, then Terry McAuliffe should start packing yesterday.) I hope the new leadership, whenever it arrives, will be paying close attention to the grass roots. Among the best ways to do that is logging onto Web sites like Liberal Oasis.
I also have a few words for the Greens and Green-leaning Democrats who bamboozle themselves into the "no difference" school of political science: James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a Republican with a zero rating from national environmental organizations, will chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next January. The Republicans never make the mistake of thinking that there's no difference between their party and the Democrats, no matter how impatient they might have become with the elder Bush, Reagan or any other politician. That is the biggest difference, in some ways. They don't walk away. They don't hide under the pillow. They don't waste much time with third parties. They sucked up their drubbings in '92 and '96, and fought back harder. They do have many advantages -- including a pliant media, a fat corporate expense account and an intense desire to dominate. Anyone who thinks they can't be beaten, however, hasn't been paying attention for the last 10 years.
[8:45 a.m. PST, Nov. 8, 2002]