The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, November 06, 2002  

Perspectives on the Election

A sampling of perspectives on the results of yesterday’s elections from some of the best political commentators in the country. My apologies to anyone I overlooked, neglected, or just haven’t gotten to yet.



What kind of world do we live in where the governor of Virginia is a Democrat and the governor of Maryland is a Republican?


A LEVEL GAZE - David Yaseen:

Yes, this debacle of an election is the media’s fault. But it’s our fault as well, and we need to drastically change the way we do things in the Democratic Party, not diddle around with how to phrase things to make them palatable to the electorate. If we have to drag American voters, kicking and screaming to chose their own interests, so be it. Otherwise, let’s just give up and leave the fray to Ralph Nader.



It is hard to muster up the will to fight, especially with the deck stacked against us. But to give up our individual and collective voices, especially now, would be to remove the last form of checks and balances that this country has. Debating, questioning, speaking out, envisioning change, demanding change, creating change -- we need to pull together and keep working to improve this country and our way of life.


BODY & SOUL - Jeanne D’Arc [Note: There’s either a message in here or I’m over-reaching and Mlle. D’Arc just really didn’t feel like talking politics today.]:

I have a seven-year-old who needs a supervised bath, a chapter of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and tucking in. Priorities and all.

In last night’s chapter, the White Witch and her evil hordes tied Aslan down, muzzled him, cut off his mane, made fun of him, and killed him. Evil is greedy. People doing bad things always overreach. I could see from the look on my daughter’s face that she was very confused. This is not the way things are supposed to go in children’s books. Evil is not supposed to win. Trickery is not supposed to be rewarded. Oh, maybe it will look that way briefly, but by the end of the chapter, someone is supposed to come and save Aslan. Or Aslan will fight back and win.

When the Witch’s rabble muzzled Aslan, my daughter announced quite confidently that Peter would come with his sword. That was why Aslan had told Peter to make sure he kept his sword clean, wasn’t it? -- because Aslan knew that Peter would need it to save him. . . .

At the end of the chapter the children turned away because they couldn’t stand to watch Aslan be killed. My daughter thinks she sees a loophole there. Since Lucy and Susan didn’t look, maybe Aslan didn’t die after all. Maybe he got away. Maybe Peter came, and Lucy and Susan just didn’t see it. That’s what happened, right?

“You’ll just have to wait and see, sweetheart,” I said. . . .

Tonight I’ll read the next chapter of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In case you’ve never read it -- Aslan comes back.


CAL-PUNDIT - Kevin Drum:

I think the main lesson of this election is that President Bush is a take-no-prisoners campaigner -- which we already knew -- and that there’s not a lot of discontent out there. There’s nothing big to energize the Democrats, but the tiny margins of victory show that the supposedly “angry base” in the Republican party didn’t exactly come out in droves either. (Turnout for the past three midterm elections has been almost eerily steady at 62% of registered voters. I’ll be interested to see what the final figures are this time.)


COOPED-UP - Jeff Cooper:

The president and the Republicans now have their chance. They are certainly more able to claim a mandate than they were two years ago. As for the Democrats, it should be clear now that they are doomed to failure unless and until they are able to put together a platform of ideas, a Democratic analogue to the 1994 Republican Contract With America, around which to rally. Such a move carries risks, to be sure -- it provides the opposition with a target for criticism. But we’ve now seen what risk-aversion produces, and the party can’t afford any more results like yesterday. It’s time for the party leadership to figure out what it stands for, not just what it stands against, and to put up or shut up.



It’s time to build up some street [credibility] with the average voter out there. Treat them like adults. Be HONEST with them. Point out, correctly, that the Republicans throw you a big party, and wind up sending your kids and grandkids the bill. Be principled. Tell them things they might not want to hear. But, be optimistic. Say that while there are challenges before us, and it might be a little painful now, it’s worth it for the bright future in store for everyone. Talk about inclusiveness, the value and gift of diversity of culture and opinion. Talk about fairness, and justice. Talk about upholding our principles as a nation that is not an aggressor, but a defender. There are many things we can fight for. It’s time we, as Democrats, did that.

The Republicans, in their hubris, will self-destruct. They cannot do otherwise. Let’s be there to pick up the pieces when it happens, and give the American people a stark choice.

Fish or cut bait, America. Either we are an intolerant, irresponsible, aggressive, violent, uncaring nation. Or we are all Democrats.



To be clear, I don’t think the Democrats need to turn hard left. What they need to do (as many have pointed out in the comments) is to start acting like Democrats. The Democrats ousted yesterday were all running and voting to the right of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council]! I have nothing against the DLC -- I’m not an ideological purist -- but when you make the DLC look “progressive,” you’re in trouble. If you run as a Republican, a (D) next to your name won’t bring out the base.

Make no mistake about it, the Democrats lost fair and square. Despite voting irregularities in some parts, none were decisive (especially now that Johnson has apparently won his race). The system didn’t fail our party -- our party’s leadership did.


ESCHATON - Atrios:

The other cunning plan is to make tax cuts that mostly come into effect years from now “permanent,” including of course the [elimination of the] estate tax. I’m not surprised this one is popular with his ideological base of course. I’m sure some unproductive junior members of the leisure class are pretty jazzed about it too -- a couple hundred of them more per year might just be able to never work again. Soon as Dad kicks off, anyway. As for the other tax reductions, I bet the 1% of the population that’s going to find their wallets a bit fatter 3-4 years ago, if we’re all still here anyway, are putting in their private jet orders as we speak. Or, perhaps ordering some tasteful knockoffs of Roman sculptures to put in the front lawns to replace the pink flamingos. Ah, the high class of and refined tastes the nouveau riche. Trailer trash with money. Shudder. Maybe they’ll have the cleaning woman in a couple more times per week, too. Trickle down, trickle down.


FREE PIE - Kim Osterwalder:

I’ve just been prevented from voting. The polling place for my precinct is in the middle of a gated community, where there are homes in the million-dollar plus range. The guard at the gate was instructed not to let any one in that doesn’t live there, including the riff raff who only want to come in to vote. I live about 50 yards away. [Note: Visit Free Pie to see how the story turns out.]


GROUPTHINK CENTRAL - Yuval Rubinstein:

I’ll be downing double shots of Cuervo like there’s no tomorrow.


MAD KANE’S NOTABLES - Madeleine Begun Kane:

I’ve been struggling for hours to come up with something positive to say about the election, and I’ve finally got it: Election 2002 is the death knell of Bush’s 2004 Presidential campaign. Think about it. Two years from now, when the country is in even worse shape, who will Bush be able to convincingly blame? Clinton? Naaaah! A GOP-controlled House and Senate? Hardly. A Judiciary jam-packed with right-wing gems? Nope. With all branches of federal government at his beck and call, Bush -- and the rest of us -- will only have himself to blame. Hey -- a girl’s gotta dream!


MAKING LIGHT - Teresa Nielsen Hayden [Note: This is but a small fraction of an outstanding piece of commentary. TNH’s essay is must reading.]:

[I]f even a fraction of the effort some lefties put into personally gratifying but politically low-yield activities like petitions and street theatre were to instead go into voter registration drives, door-to-door canvassing, and get-out-the-vote operations, their causes would be in much better shape right now.

Real political action is always social. The primary interaction isn’t between you and your political ideals; it’s between you and other people. If you don’t engage with your fellow citizens, you might just as well have stayed home, or joined a community theatre group.

And I don’t mean confrontations, or hectoring and lecturing them. You have to talk with people--real talking, the kind where you make eye contact, take turns, and respond interactively.


THE POOR MAN - Andrew Northrup:

To the extent that the election results were influenced by President Bush’s (inexplicable) personal popularity, there was nothing that could have been done. To the extent that many races had to do with local issues than with national concerns, and with the individual failings and qualities of the various candidates, they defy sweeping generalizations. But to the extent that the Democrats’ failure reflects a lack of a national agenda for the party as a whole, it’s their own damned fault.


READING & WRITING - Joseph Duemer:

A few items from Duemer’s “Lexicon for Democrats”: Deficit-loving Republicans. Tax and spend Republicans. The Republican privatization plan for Social Security. The class war started in the boardroom.



I find it extraordinary that people can rave about the extent to which the President “involved” himself so much in the election when in fact he didn’t have to answer one direct question on a single key issue. Is there any more insulated political figure in world politics than the President of the United States?

He’s “involved” in the campaign in a democratic and political sense in the same way that Jay Leno is involved in the staging and production of “The Tonight Show.” Like a television front man, Bush just gets to show up at rallies populated by his supporters who would, let’s face it, cheer if he stood up and sang “I’m a Little Teapot,” and all he has to do is make like an evangelist, recite his motherhood statements about the resilience and greatness of the American people, take a bow, and be deemed “Presidential.”

How would American politics change if the actual President had to do what they pay Ari Fleischer to do?


THE SIDESHOW - Avedon Carol:

Why no exit polls? What was wrong with them? I’m sorry, I just don’t believe the official figures reflect how people voted. The evidence is that the Republicans were pulling out all the stops to make sure they won whether they had public support or not, and I have no reason to doubt that they did exactly that. I don’t think it’s an accident that we don’t even have exit polls to compare. You can call me a raving lefty paranoid if you want, but the evidence is on my side and the official results simply don’t make sense.



Leaving home this morning my daughter had on MSNBC (which is weird since she usually watches CNN in the morning), and as I walked through the room, I saw a commercial promoting MSNBC’s “fiercely independent political coverage.” That’s enough to make you hork a waffle through your nose. I assume they meant “independent” of the facts.


TWO TEARS IN A BUCKET - Ann Salisbury:

Five percent. That’s all that separated Bill Simon from overcoming Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.). And those numbers certainly didn’t match the Davis internal polls -- at least not the ones I heard about. That five percent is 329,420 votes. That’s a lot, but one wonders what could have happened had the President campaigned more for Simon and if Simon had more money. I bet there are a lot of Republicans this morning saying “hmm...” I’d probably even be a bit bitter if I were Simon. He had more of a chance than anyone gave him credit for -- maybe. If I remember correctly (always a big “if”), Simon never broke over 43 percent in any poll.

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