You don’t have to leave the country (although they do have a good medical plan in Canada)
Several stories in Canadian newspapers mentioned a run of immigration queries by Americans so distraught by the reelection of George W. Bush they were planning to claim asylum in the Great White North. A satirical (I think) Web site called “marryanamerican” sought volunteers willing to sacrifice their “singlehood” to make honest Canadians out of the new political exiles. The slogan was, “No good American left behind.”
Not so fast there, once-born blue-hued people yearning for residency in the United States of Canada, there is a blue light shining in the sea of red. It comes from Colorado. Not only did enough Bush voters turn against conservative Pete Coors to help elect an Hispanic Democrat, Ken Salazar, to the U.S. Senate – they also helped elect the first Democrat-controlled Legislature since about 1960. That’s so long ago nobody can remember, but it apparently was the last time both houses had a majority of D’s.
The lesson: if you feel lost in Jesusland, stateless in the Evangelical Empire, a slave in the Confederacy, a bird in the oil slick, a servant in the House of Bush-Saud, don’t despair, don’t expatriate, don’t marry. There is something you can do: Go local.
In Colorado, four rich liberals tired of legislative parsimony put up $1.6 million for a bold campaign led by retired Colorado State University president Al Yates, who saw the chink the armor of the conservative crusaders. Republican contributors, confident as always in the entrenchment of conservatives under the gold-foiled Denver dome, were rendering everything unto Bush-Cheney-Coors. And so Yates was able to help equalize the tyranny of incumbency the old fashioned way: with money. It overturned the majority in the legislature. It could work in any state, and, make a difference down where people live: in university funding, highways, environmental justice. Legislative races are notoriously under funded and uncompetitive. A little energy can do wonders.
Again, if you want to have a direct effect on politics, go local. Let others fret over the news from Washington. Fewer than 1 per cent of the working reporters in the American media have ever set foot in the White House. Read instead those dull gray, but reliable, AP reports out of Santa Fe, Denver, Salt Lake City or Phoenix. Meet your representatives. Go sit in the legislative galleries. Attend committee hearings. And when you have caught on, go ahead: stand up and say your piece. It’s surprising how interested legislators can get when confronted with rational opposition from home. Can’t afford the trip to the capitol? Then go to your next county commission meeting. Or your city council. Or your school board. Democracy!
BODY LANGUAGE: John Kerry concluded his concession speech with a startling insight: “God bless America” is a prayer! Somehow I had gotten the idea it was a commandment. Politicians are accustomed to saying it so emphatically – jaws set, eyes narrowed, voices deep and full of conviction – that it never sounds like a plea to a higher power. It seems to be of the same grammatical order as “one nation, under God,” which also has become a political slogan.
Next, Kerry turned and gave John Edwards a great big hug. Those liberals! By contrast, an hour later at the same point in the victor’s ceremony, Bush and Dick Cheney didn’t even shake hands. Their military body language announced a new and manly era. The day of the sensitive guy is done. Stand straight, square your shoulders. Keep your hands at your sides, men. Dennis Miller is watching. And the twins were in the background staying well away from Mary Cheney.
OH MS. OH: Bush said he would “uphold our deepest values of faith and family.” The “our” means Judeo-Christian non-monastic America. “Family” means married heterosexual non-polygamous man and woman with children. The issue was defined for the first time in the 1992 Republican National Convention, the “family values” convention in Houston that nominated George H.W. Bush and born-again Dan Quayle and heard the last nationally televised speech of Ronald Reagan. I was there. The new Christian Coalition held a news conference at which the objective press was shunned. It was my first experience of being hated because of my profession.
The convention adopted a platform that opposed “same-sex” marriages and called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting abortion, although Bush Sr. had said he’d back up a daughter or granddaughter having to choose abortion and Barbara Bush said the issue had no place in the platform. Without the energized base, as it is now called, they lost. It also was time for a generational change, and the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton and Hillary.
The 1992 Republican platform also called for an end to the distribution of condoms in public schools. So the logic was pretty clear. If you have sex you’ll probably become a parent and have to get married before your time. So you can’t have sex until you’re married and besides abstinence is God’s will. Now, Psychology tells us you can’t repress sexuality with religiosity, and Psychology is really smart, almost as smart Karl Rove. Gillian Welch sings beautifully on this subject (repression): “Oh, Me-Oh My-Oh. / Look at Miss Ohio. / Ridin’ around with her rag top down. / She wants to do right, but not right now.”
This year the party put a strong anti-homosexual-marriage proposition on the ballot in Ohio and nine other states. It was ratified handily, as were the others. Ain’t no way Ohio was going to become the Queereye state. And while the voters were affirming “moral” issues, they voted for Bush. That’s a strange choice when you consider Ohio is losing jobs to outsourcing, which Kerry campaigned against and Bush said nothing about. Ohio would rather have Morality than Maytag.
An editorial in the Hindustan Times of India summed it up succinctly if not grammatically: “By losing that state against a candidate who refused to say a bad word against outsourcing, it is hoped this election has put the job-export bogey to rest once and for all. As many as 100,000 jobs in India are now safe, and several hundred thousand potential jobs in the future are more likely.”
NEO MANIFEST DESTINY: “A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one constitution, and one future that binds us,” the president said in his victory speech at the Ronald Reagan Center. One future. Don’t we have a choice? What about those who agreed with John Edwards, whose concession speech extended his fiery campaign stump speech about how there are “two Americas” and how he will continue to fight for those who are, to use the Evangelical code words, “left behind.”
One future. When I consider how dependent Bush is on prayer, I get the suspicion that the future has been predetermined by the Judeo-Christian God. Bush in that staged prime time press conference in which the press just sat there tossing softballs, the president said, “Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom,” adding: “That is what we have been called to do, as far as I’m concerned.” We have heard this before in America. In the 1840’s it was called Manifest Destiny.
Bush likely is quite honest in his profession of faith. But I wonder about the cynicism of Karl Rove and the others around the president. The political strategy of coming down from the mountain with the Word from God has proved over the centuries to be quite successful. But Bush is no Moses. He is no lawgiver. And Rove is tricky, crafty, full of pranks. Like, he gives a secret three-finger sign in photos, including the one where he is holding this trident (sign of the devil?) over the head of unaware Condi Rice. And Rove’s strategy may have the secondary gain of feeding the president’s dependency. The psychiatrist Justin Frank came through Santa Fe promoting his psycho-politico book on the president, saying, “Bush has long protected himself from experiencing his own suffering through drugs like alcohol, or God, or the expulsion of his own feelings of humiliation.”
That is standard psychological rationalism, which denies spiritual experience. But the psychologists usually are right in diagnosing religious delusion. Among conservative politicians, I prefer Rudy Giuliani, who was asked by Barbara Walters if his political misfortunes prior to 9/11 might have meant he was being saved for a higher purpose. The former New York mayor answered, “I believe in God. But I am not his agent.” This quote probably will ruin his chances of succeeding John Ashcroft, if the fact that when he left his wife he moved in with two gay friends didn’t.
RED SEA BLUES: Poor New Yorkers. The red people are supposed to have voted with security on their minds (when they weren’t thinking about sex), yet New Yorkers were the ones who experienced the horror of the twin towers falling from their skyline first hand, who breathed the foul air for months, who understood the terror of those who jumped from the towers, who mourned the dead and still have nightmares. And Manhattan and The Bronx voted 84 per cent for Kerry.
I watched C-span that Sunday afternoon prior to the Republican National Convention. Most of those hundreds of thousands of marchers were, I am certain, ordinary New Yorkers, deeply concerned. Now, like so many other communities, they feel politically isolated. Bush calls for some sort of national unity, but it will have to be on his terms. He is the one with the “political capital,” as he put it.
My Santa Fe is another blue community in a sea of red. It went 70 per cent for Kerry. The percentage would have been higher – and New Mexico might have gone for Kerry – if the Catholic voters had not been influenced by the bishops concerned over sexual issues. For a change!
But look at the bright side, Santa Feans. Right in the middle of town is this cylindrical building, once called the Bull Ring, now called the Merry Roundhouse. It is the State Cylinder, the Capitol. From mid January to mid March it will be the site of something called representative democracy. The 2005 Legislature. Go there. Go local!