Make no mistake about this. The President and his brilliant, disciplined political team won the election. They did so against a stacked deck. But as impressive as the Presidents victory was, Senator Kerry got close. The irony-in-chief is that he only got that close as a result of the same factors that ultimately produced his loss.
Self-serving, agenda-driven election analysis will continue to gush from all corners of the political box with Pandoraic abandon. While some of that may well be useful to those who say it, most of it will be wrong because it will focus too closely on incidentals of process filtered through partisanship, conveniently ignoring factual overlays that get in the way of good propaganda. While some of the details are fascinating, and some had effects to varying degrees, they are but trees in search of a forest.
Heres the 2004 election forest: A conservative country elected a conservative president. (If youre in a rush, you may stop reading now, safely operating your equipment without further guidance.) The conservatism of the electorate was multi-dimensional and motivated. It was exhibited on issues foreign and domestic, infused with the far-too-hot catchall "moral values," and it straddled tribal, uh, party lines.
Conservatism demonstrably isolated liberalism by geography, by the dwindling vestiges of its power bases, by the mentality of over- and under-classes, by political instincts fatally ensnared in a time warp, by prehensile public policy positions, by intellectualism overcome by obsession, by delusional arrogance that is palpable.
In that generalized context, the next thousand words are best displaced by the communicative power of images: Michael Moore sharing the box of honor at the Democratic Convention with Jimmy Carter. The miscalculations of Janet Jacksons televised brestatation, pathetic in act, devastating in cultural association. John Kerry "reporting for duty," no better at acting than his celebrity supporters are at politics. Hundreds of others that jarred and stirred, fingernails scraping across the blackboards of our overly sensitive Red America brains.
In the beginning, John Kerry was exactly what the President said, a Massachusetts liberal, of indeterminate conviction and questionable veracity. He was the poor little rich kid trying to play pin the tail on the donkey at a party far from his neighborhood. But for crutches supplied by the mainstream media, the moguls of many moguldums, including the aging godfathers of organized labor, and money that flowed like water from the mount, Kerrys loss would have rivaled those of Mondale, McGovern and Dukakis.
The mainstream media made John Kerry the competitive candidate that he could not have become on his own. His record was expunged and not inquired of further, and the hounds were unleashed against the President. The information fix was in, and that alone produced at least the 15 points that Newsweeks Evan Thomas had, in a moment of bad boy candor, opined could be delivered.
Had the media maintained any modicum of restraint, projecting any credible pretense of objectivity, the effect on the electorate could have arguably had the desired effect. But size matters, even there, even more than outsiders usually see. Generously aided by the celebrity wing, the academic wing and wing nuts who never saw a conspiracy theory they didnt love, the ensuing avalanche of excess, effectively jiu jitsued by a still underestimated alternative media and the powerful pull to the polls of the Presidents laser-sighted grassroots effort, provided the real vote momentum against the artificially inseminated candidate.
"Why am I losing to this idiot?" Senator Kerry is said to have asked.
Senator, if you have to ask, youll never know. But in our Red America simplicity, heres a clue. All the Kings horses, And all the Kings men, Couldnt put Humpty together again.November 11, 2004