First, remember that John Kerry's 56 million votes were more than any other Democrat has received for president. Democrats increased their turnout by 10% over 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote. And this was achieved despite overt efforts by Republicans -- including election officials -- to suppress the Democratic turnout.
But barring a turnaround from 155,000 provisional and and undetermined number of absentee ballots in Ohio that remained to be counted a week after the election, Bush is expected to win the election by something less than 136,000 votes -- his lead in Ohio as of 11/9/04. That would put him over the top in the Electoral College. Transfer Ohio's 20 electoral votes to Kerry and he'd be planning his move into the White House.
As it stands, Bush got 51% of the national vote, possibly with the help of Diebold and other electronic vote programmers. Bush claims a mandate for his second term, but what he has showing is a bare majority, with small Republican gains in the House and Senate. That's not a mandate and Democrats would be suckers to treat it as such.
As for bipartisanship, Bush supports it as long as it involves passing whatever he sends to the Hill. Democratic Congress members shouldn't expect credit from voters for rolling over and showing Bush and GOP leaders their bellies. If Bush wants to privatize Social Security, enact more tax "reforms" that put more of a burden on workers, eviscerate other domestic programs or appoint more right-wing judges, let him find the 60 votes to get his bills or nominees to the Senate floor with somebody else besides Democrats.
Republicans will be looking to peel off some of the Democratic senators who are up for re-election in 2006, including Kent Conrad (N.D.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Dayton (Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and Herbert Kohl (Wis.). Democrats have no alternative but to stand and fight as an honest opposition party and work to overtake the GOP in 2006 when the Bush administration's chickens come home to roost.
Pundits have seized upon the exit poll finding that 22% of voters named "moral values" as their top issue -- and 80% of those moral-values votes went for Bush. Insofar as "moral values" are code words for gay marriage and abortion, that should be no surprise. As Molly Ivins notes, Republicans for years have been beating Texas Democrats with "God, guns and gays." That message also plays in Dubuque.
Gay activists didn't do themselves or the Democrats any favors by pushing gay marriage. State constitutional amendments to deny marriage, civil union rights and, in some cases, domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples helped draw conservative voters to the polls in 11 states, including Ohio.
On the other hand, if courts find that states can overrule other states on the legality of civil unions, it seems like states ought to be able to overrule other states' corporate charters ...
Of course Democrats should appeal to evangelical Christians. The New Testament is the friend of liberal activists. Eugene V. Debs, who ran for president five times in the early 1900s, used to say that the Sermon on the Mount reads like a socialist tract. With lines like, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," Our Lord wouldn't pass muster with the Republican central committee nowadays, but He'd fit right in with the liberal Democrats. So print up bumper stickers that proclaim "Jesus is a Democrat" and have fun.
The bishops and preachers who swayed their flocks toward Dubya should be held accountable when the Bush administration falls short of its "culture of life" rhetoric, starting with the failure to ensure a living wage and health care for workers at home and extending overseas to the bombing of neighborhoods in Iraq in a war that already has killed 100,000 civilians and recruits Islamic terrorists.
Democrats will rise again but they should forget about Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. Not only is she the most divisive candidate the Dems could put up in 2008; there are reasons the US has not elected a senator to be president since John Kennedy had Richard Nixon to kick around in 1960. Senators have too many procedural votes on their records that can be twisted into flip-flopping sound bites. Instead, look for a governor outside the Northeast, such as Mark Warner of Virginia, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Phil Bredesen of Tennessee and Michael Easley of North Carolina.
Democrats can't write off the South but they need to find a way to talk to the guys in the pickup trucks with the rebel flag decals, as Howard Dean proposed last winter. John Edwards tried to divert the good ol' boys to economic issues with his "Two Americas" theme, but "God, Guns and Gays" were too much to overcome this year. Democrats can win the White House without the South, but they won't get a majority in the Senate or Congress without getting competitive again in the old Confederacy.
But Democrats are still on the popular side of Social Security (57% want it protected), fundamental reform of health care (72% want it), enforcement of labor and environmental standards in trade accords (58% favor) and making universal health care and energy independence priorities over deficit reduction (54% agree). Bob Borosage noted that voters in Florida and Nevada passed initiatives increasing the minimum wage in the absence of action by Congress. California voted to borrow $3 billion to fund stem cell research. He added that despite the "moral values" bloc, the Democrats embraces the majority position on tolerance and civil rights.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who advised Kerry, said a pivotal group of voters was concerned about economic issues, but never heard them addressed by Kerry, so they were susceptible to Bush's appeal on moral issues. Greenberg noted that Kerry was talking about economic issues, but in the last two weeks before the election, events in Iraq drowned out those economic talking points.
Bush "succeeded in making the election about values and safety rather than Iraq and the economy," Greenberg said. "The election was about worldview instead of his job performance. ... Iraq kept Bush on the defensive, but it also kept John Kerry from being heard on economic issues."
There are serious claims of vote manipulation and discrepancies between exit polls and final results in key states. A national standard for voting machines is needed that includes a paper trail for e-vote machines. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., likely will re-file his bill to require verified voting but it's time to press for action at the state level. California and Nevada already have moved to require that touch-screen machines produce paper receipts that can be used to audit election returns.
Republican efforts to suppress the vote were unconscionable. The biggest travesty was voting lines, with widespread reports of voters having to wait hours to cast their ballot. In Ohio, some lines were reportedly seven to nine hours; one was estimated at 22 hours; two or three hours was a common wait. And that's for a turnout that at 70% of registered voters was 2 points less than the secretary of state had forecast.
Nobody should have to wait more than a half-hour to vote. Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos.com commented, "I'd venture to guess that we probably lost more votes to people unable to sit in line for hours, than we did due to bad voting machines." Election officials should provide more voting booths, expand early voting with more locations and adopt Oregon's practice of voting by mail. State election officials should be making it easier to vote, not supervising voter suppression efforts.
By the way, TPP is starting our 10th year of spreading the good word. See how you can help on p. 24. -- JMC