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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to a Republican Friend on Nov 5, 2008

Hi John,

I read your take on this election with interest, as I do all your commentary--unless it's of the one or two-word variety! My take is of course going to be different, but before we get to that, I'd like to say that history offers us few moments or chances to grasp at change or greatness. This seems to be one of them. The consistent underestimation of Obama shown by the GOP and McCain should not blind you to this moment, if you really do want solutions to our imploding economy, health care system, national security, and prison and educational systems, which seem similarly and eerily related.

In other words: I hope you will suck it up and help, because, in the words of the Grateful Dead, "this train's got to run today."

Now to your take, with its attempts at spinning this election. To recap:

Despite your characterizations, the results are not a narrow electoral victory eked out by Boss Tweed types working urban precincts. The gap in popular voting is 7 million in favor of Obama. Gore, as you recall, won the popular vote in 2000. Bush won it in 2004 by 100,000 votes. This is a mandate.

The new voter reg and turnout wasn't just black and hispanic, but massive amounts of students, who finally voted instead of sitting in their dorms playing Nintendo and beer pong. The amount of student participation and their fervor is amazing, unheard of. They are the reason Indiana and North Carolina and former red states swung blue. Nor were they credulous airheads. They ran their own campaigns, they mastered the new technologies, they debated issues amongst themselves. They didn't need us. Indeed, they outstripped us at every turn. This is a new day, and one I am having trouble getting used to, but it is real.

Again regarding the urban precinct slur, I know dozens of middleaged white people who spent hours making calls on their own phones during the last weeks, and half a dozen who left their jobs and lives and went somewhere to canvass for votes on their own dime. They were dead serious individuals with houses, mortgages, kids in school, ruined 401Ks--far from woolly headed gay socialists sipping lattes.

Tactics and strategy of course played a major role. Obama and his team had the clarity of mind to devise and hold to a strategy that proved out despite every twist and turn. The only thing you can compare it to is Reagan's own 20 year honing of his less govt less tax message, which was, ironically, what they ended up running against, as it happened to implode in Sept.

The GOP had no strategy. The President was Republican. Congress had been Republican controlled for 6 years. McCain was a 26 year insider. So the GOP ran a tactics race, because they couldn't figure out how to sell McCain as an alternative to a failed government. The Wall Street Journal has reported on this several times; see today's article:

The tactics chosen were familiar. They'd worked against Gore and Kerry. For Obama, the game was to assume that most Americans are ignorant (Obama is a secret Muslim-marxist/socialist-
terrorist-antiChrist-with no birth certificate), racist (he's black, a coke dealer, porno star (yes that was out there)) and easy to fool: see all of the preceding plus this: a $5K health insurance credit to solve all your problems--amazingly out of touch; trickle down tax policy that will raise us all up--even though after 20 years of tax cuts the income gap has worsened faster and is now wider than at any point in our history; and the answer to everything is to privatize, esp Social Security--oops, what just happened to my 401K?.

The Obama campaign fought back with information, which thanks to the Internet moves a lot faster now. They used a weapon which is hard to blunt: the truth. They were the ones who put data and position papers online, and let people read them for themselves.

The GOP put out nothing but vague planks of their platform. The real message of the GOP would be in code, and it would be wink-wink, we know what we're talking about here...

Today we've seen how badly they miscalculated. And were outfought, outplanned, and outmanned. Most of all, Obama and the Dems won by the superiority of their convictions and ideas. Obama's vote effort ran on an army of volunteers, and a volunteer army beats the mercenaries, if given enough time to train and deploy--just like the American army in WWII up against the war-hardened Wermacht.

The GOP hierarchy lost the truth war by not ever competing. They also lost out on manners and human decency. Their words drip scorn and hatred; their hired assassins in the media made fun of hope, of idealism, of diversity--and intelligence. They offered sneers and insults. They blustered and threatened violence.

In the end, like any schoolyard bully, they crumpled and stand revealed as pathetic whiners, a party of the selfish and of lobbyists in tasseled loafers who pretend to be "real" authentic Americans while, in McCain's case, living in 7 houses, driving 13 cars, flying in a private jet and marrying into a fortune and a readymade political career.

John, your perspective is grudgingly gracious, as suits the day after a hard battle. But before you fire the first shot in the next GOP war on over 50% of the electorate, you might want to retreat to a quiet corner and ask yourself how the party you love became such a Grinch. Ask why they run on high octane hate and ridicule. Ask what they offer the young except undercutting and cynicism.

Finally, I'm going to lower my blood pressure by vowing to hug a Republican this Xmas. I suggest you try the same with a Democrat, if you can find one. If you can't bring yourself to it, think about that deep vein of anger the GOP accidentally and fatally tapped when through Fox, Palin, Limbaugh and other demagogues they accused Obama supporters of not being true Americans.

It turns out there are many more of us than they ever imagined. It turns out there are more of us than you.

Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas in Hawaiian)!


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