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Election Night 2004: The Liberal Report a Year Later

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As I jetted the streets of Chicago in a perverse attempt to find a liquor store that still carried Mad Dog 20/20, I reflected on how odd timing could be.   Not thirty minutes ago I was a doctoral student sitting in lecture at a prestigious, private university and now I was actively seeking a substance whose sole purpose was the destruction of the brain I was just developing.   Truthfully, this was the first time I was ever looking to buy some Mad Dog; though I do remember it floating around throughout my college years.   So, when I jumped in my car I never thought that this search would be so difficult; I just assumed I could get it anywhere.   But, as I continued to swerve my little Saturn from liquor store to liquor store, I kept receiving the same twisted dirty look from the staff when I asked where they kept their Mad Dog.   After about an hour of scouring the city streets I hit pay dirt.   The clerk had to go all the way to the back of the store, move some boxes out of the way and dig out my prize.   When I went to the register the second clerk asked to see my I. D.   As I reached for my wallet the first interjected quickly and said, “Now, we don’t need to see his I. D.   I trust him. “  With that he shot me a sly wink and bagged up my three bottles.   He must have thought he was doing some underage kid a favor.   I wanted to scream that I was really over 21 (by quite a many years) and decree the real reason I was purchasing this vile liquor.   But I hesitated and thought, maybe it just makes more sense to him that a youngin’ was buying such an inexpensive, atrocious alcohol.   After all, what respectable doctoral student would? At this point you may think this article to be about the trappings of a young alcoholic.   Now, while working toward a Ph. D. may drive me into the bottle, I’m not quite there just yet.   In all actuality, I was preparing for a party I hosted on November 2, 2004.   The invitation read as follows: All people and political parties are welcome to Election Night 2004!!! But, there is an agenda for the evening.   If: 1. John Kerry wins, I will have champagne for all. 2. If Dubya wins, everyone will be required to drink 1 glass of Mad Dog 20/20. 3. If Nader wins, I will personally buy an all-inclusive round-trip package to Hawaii for everyone who comes to the party. 4. If, somehow, the Democrats win the election but the Republicans steal it AGAIN then we all will pile into our cars and make a break for Canada!Hope you can make it!!! As I’m sure you can assume, the champagne was decidedly easier and much more expensive to obtain for the festivities.   Also, I didn’t exactly have American Airlines on hold with 20 round trip tickets to Hawaii in anticipation of the greatest political upset in the last 100 years.   As a reluctant Democrat, I spent the weeks preceding the election debating with my academic colleagues about who was going to win.   With all the higher education Republicans being called into an undisclosed F. B. I. conservative protection program, these discussions were largely one-sided.   The tenor is best characterized as having a measured optimism.   Kerry was obviously intelligent; the fact that he “flip-flopped” on issues only proved he could in fact change his mind if given new evidence.   And, of course, how could the character of a decorated Vietnam veteran ever be tarnished?  These discussions also provided ample opportunity for Bush-Bashing; I admit that I participated in these sessions with zeal!  Now, our President Bush has never been seen as a flip-flopper.   You either clearly knew his stance on an issue or you clearly knew he had no intention of taking any stance at all.   I think Chris Rock summed it up best: Reporter:          Mr. President, What about the economy?  When’s it going to pick up? Bush:                Well, you never know.   We’re talking to people. And economic indicators are indicating that indications are coming to the indicators. You know what I’m saying?  Alright. Reporter:          Mr. President, what about gay marriage? Bush:                F— them faggots! November 2, 2004 finally rolled around.   I was incredibly thankful that my near round the clock vigil of all the major media outlets would soon end; I hadn’t watched this much news coverage since the days following 9/11.   At any rate, I ducked out of work, drove to my polling station and cast my ballot.   Even up until the second I punched out my chad I was conflicted, but ultimately chose to follow my mind rather than my heart.    I make this distinction because if I had voted for who my heart wanted, Nader would have been a single vote greater in Illinois.   But, I bought into the hype that this election was just too important.   As I said before, I am a reluctant Democrat. The party that evening went well on its way and we watched the events unfold.   Of course nothing surprising initially happened; states were falling where we all new they would.   The northeast lit up blue, the south burned red.   Like clockwork, within 5 seconds of the polls closing in Illinois it was awarded to the Democrats.   I always take it as a matter of pride that my home state is the first blue beacon out to the west.   My partygoers continued to munch through all the hors d’oeuvres and make small talk since it would be at least a couple hours wait until we started receiving a few of the “toss-up” state election results.   And then it came – Kerry was projected to win Pennsylvania.   Not wanting to fall prey to another Florida fiasco, we quickly checked out all the news outlets for confirmation.   All except Fox News (surprise, surprise) had the same wonderful blue color enveloping Pennsylvania; at that point a Kerry win felt much more tangible.   The South cards all fell for Bush, as expected.   Our numbers looked horrible, but we knew we could add on California’s 55 electoral votes to put us at ease.   Until this point in the evening I was guarded in my optimism, but now I started to allow myself to believe.   Maybe we wouldn’t have four more years of Bush.   The night rolled on and Florida fell as I expected but along came Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota in the win column for us.   My eyes began to bore holes into Ohio on the TV map.   I don’t think I moved from my position for sometime as I sat hoping for an answer. I have never claimed to be a mathematician at any point in my life.   Truth be told, in my first-year of college I was required to take a no-credit, remedial Algebra course.   Nonetheless, on election night I found myself doing incredible calculations effortlessly in my head as I watched the returns come in from Ohio.   It was still too close to call but Kerry was trailing.   None of that mattered, each time I calculated the number of votes we needed I rationalized ways we were going to get them.   After all, Democrats are lazy aren’t they?  I had bet they were lounging around their houses all day, continually putting off going to the polls.   I just knew they were watching T. V. like I was and suddenly realized “Oh damn!  Look at those poll numbers.   We had better go vote!”  Plus, we were heavily relying on the college vote.   Having worked in colleges for many years now I’ve seen first hand just how adept students are at procrastinating.   They probably were piling out of their residence halls right now and slowly trampsing over to the polls.   Yeah, that must be it.   I pinned my hopes of the election on the fact that lazy Democrats and procrastinating college students from Ohio were going to save the day.   With fear starting to creep in, some of my companions began speculating about what four more years of Bush really meant.   The realization that we were going to lose continued to seep its way more and more into our psyche.   Needless to say, neither the champagne nor Mad Dog was drunk that evening.   And, my smart-aleck friend who brought with him a packed bag in hopes of a free Hawaiian vacation somberly went home.   The night ended on the familiar note of a build up minus a pay off reminiscent of 2000.   I struggled to stay awake into the night, but eventually fell asleep in my living room with the TV on. Let me pause for one quick side bar.   If elections are going to keep ending like a Hollywood cliffhanger, can we all decide to move them to Friday?  On the Wednesdays following these sleepless nights I get absolutely nothing done between the frequent dosing off and even more frequent refreshing of every media outlet I have opened up on my desktop.   Days like this I am addicted to these websites even though I can get a better idea about what will be on next week’s “24” than I can about an election that already happened! The early morning hours came without any news.   I turned on the coffee pot, no news.   I toasted my bagel, no news.   I showered while occasionally craning my neck out of the bathroom to see the TV, no news.   I was starting to get irritated. Then came the Kerry concession speech; I knew it was coming, but just didn’t want to believe it.   I wish I could say that he left me with some solace or hope in the future.   I wish I felt united behind President Bush as the justified winner.   But honestly, I cannot remember one word the man said during this speech.   All I remember is thinking that maybe it was a good thing he didn’t get elected.   I mean, for God’s sake, no President of the United States should ever be seen wearing a tie resembling something donated by the makers of Pepto-Bismol!  Come on, you have to agree with me there!  Of course, this was just my humor consoling the incredible loss I felt in this moment.   How could my calculations have been so off?  Did the unreliable college students of Ohio sell our collective souls down the river because of a good drink special on campus?  The parade of Bush parties all over the nation began to spring up and glow on my television screen.   Bush was then able to give the triumphant reelection speech his father never could.   As Bush supporters throughout the country were chanting enthusiastically “Four More Years” I sat down, put my head in my hands and muttered in a barely recognizable, guttural, pained effort of speech, “four. . . more. . . years. “ This article is not about what happened to the Democrats in losing this election.   I merely tell my story of the election to one, set the stage for what we see in liberal America today and two, as a method of cathartic release for the emotions I still have bottled up.   Looking back a year later, I can’t bring myself to hold Kerry solely responsible for this loss even though it seemed like a proverbial slam-dunk.   What concerns me more is the attitude and rhetoric my fellow liberals have employed in the months since November.   A year later I stand aghast at the senseless ramblings of individuals I thought to be patriots of this country.   I believe in many of their virtues and ideals and thought I was standing shoulder to shoulder with them in a fight for what we believed in.   Unfortunately, many of my liberal co-patriots have gone off the bitter deep end.   It is sad to witness the disgust, bordering on hate, many have expressed for those who dared cast their ballots for Bush.   I even heard remarks after the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe that “those people down South” should blame themselves for President Bush’s slow response in their time of need.   After all, they are the ones who voted for him.   I find such a sentiment revolting.   These are the people we hope to serve and yet we have shown so little respect for them in the wake of this election.   If they do not “get” that we can serve them better than the Republican right, who’s fault is that? In my junior year in high school, my entire class was unexpectedly called down to our large auditorium.    Not knowing why we were being beckoned, we hastened downstairs knowing the reason could not be good news.   A month or so prior we had all taken the Pre-ACT and evidentially our results had just been received.   My high school was supposed to be a rigorous college prep program and our combined Math scores were far below the national average.   This is of course a foreshadowing to the future problems I would have in college requiring remedial coursework.   In any case, the school administration had called us down to one, inform us of this fact and two, berate us for so horribly embarrassing the school by our poor performance.   The principal spoke at us.   The dean of students spoke at us.   After about 10-15 more minutes of our own teachers criticizing our work ethic and performance to date I shot my hand into the air.   I just couldn’t take it anymore.   When I was finally called on I could actually hear the hundreds of heads sweep back in my direction to see what I dared to say.   While what I said next was most definitely rooted in a rebellious, adolescent, smart-aleck rebuke to the administration, it was nonetheless a moment of truth and relatable to our current political situation.   I said, “Now, if I do poorly on a test, then that is my fault.   But, if ALL 400 of us do poorly on a nationally administered test, isn’t that YOUR fault?” as I pointed my finger in the direction of the faculty.   As I am sure you can imagine, I got into an incredible amount of trouble for my outburst; but that does not mean that I was wrong!  If Red-Staters who have lost their jobs, are having their daughters and sons die in the Middle East and are suffering through a horrendous federal response to a natural disaster are still voting for the man and political party responsible for their plight, how can we place blame for the election at their doorstep?  We evidentially did an outright horrible job at teaching and explaining how we want to work on behalf of these honest, hard-working people occupying the land between Los Angeles and New York City.   We did not show them how we have their true interest at heart and not just interests of the richest 1%.   It isn’t their fault and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them.   The problem lies within our nation of real-life, working liberals. I absolutely refuse to align myself with rhetoric of dejection, mistrust, and constant bemoaning of how we have been cheated.   I have some news for all my fellow liberals out there. . . WE WEREN’T CHEATED!  But, even if we were cheated, we cheated ourselves.   I can’t believe that some of the most highly educated and respectable people in our nation are such incredibly sore losers.   We aren’t on the playground anymore folks and there will be another day for another election.   I have no confidence in President Bush either, but I do have confidence in us as a people.   Besides, if Kerry was elected, we have to be honest, we were only hoping for a slightly less screwed up world than we already have.   A messiah sent to heal the wounds in our country he was not. We liberals here on the ground floor, living real lives, will not have success just happen to us.   We have to create our own fortune.   The Democrats may be the best we have and, unfortunately for us, the only thing they have successfully created is an ocean of failure.   Just take a quick look at the results for the past 10 elections:                         1968 – Richard M. Nixon (R)                         1972 – Richard M. Nixon/Gerald R. Ford (R)                         1976 – James E. Carter (D)                         1980 – Ronald W. Reagan (R)                         1984 – Ronald W. Reagan (R)                         1988 – George H. W. Bush (R)                         1992 – William J. Clinton (D)                         1996 – William J. Clinton (D)                         2000 – George W. Bush (R)                         2004 – George W. Bush (R) Are you able to see the problem?  We have elected 2 Democrats to our nations highest office in the past 36 years and one of those was JIMMY CARTER!  There are problems that pre-date the “Dubya” era of our history.   We have to take a critical look into how this history and the Democratic Party has affected the nation of liberals of which I am proud to be a part.   Proud yes, but not satisfied.   We can be better than we have shown ourselves to be this past year. One, we are not going to win allies by calling people stupid.   It is just that simple.   Liberals are quick to chastise President Bush for pushing around the world like he is Clint Eastwood in some Western.   He is not well liked around the world because he is a bully and thinks he knows what is right; let’s not make the same mistake.   Let’s not assume we naturally know what a family living in Stillwater, Oklahoma wants or needs.   We may share in a collective American culture, but our individual experiences are far removed from one another. Two, we are not going to win allies by looking down our noses at people.   Do you remember the stuck up professors you had in college who thought they were God’s gift to the world?  Did you like them?  Of course not!  Pretentious academics end their life in the solitude believing that they were always better than everyone else.   Notice closely that I said their story ends in solitude.   An important point here is that solitude doesn’t carry much voting power. Three, we are not going to win allies by telling people how easy it would be to improve their situation.   First off, I have rarely met a person whose situation was easy to begin with.   Everyone has a story about the hardest thing they have ever had to deal with in their lives.   To them it was difficult and, even if another’s experience was different, no one has the right to pass a value judgment.   Everyone’s story deserves respect. Many Red-Staters like their “situation” and don’t need people filling their head with the idea that there is something wrong with them.   We have fought and are still fighting hard battles for equal opportunity.   This means all people have the equal opportunity to lead any kind of life they want.   I too get annoyed when NASCAR clogs up my nightly ESPN time, but being a fan of NASCAR does not infer that you also possess a lower I. Q.   Again, I say we have constantly fought for the choice.   Why would we begrudge anyone that?  We should learn from and show respect to the Republican Party and Red-Staters.   They are ardent Americans and a large section of the population we hope to serve.   Furthermore, when the Republicans took a presidential back seat in the 1990s, never once did I hear that they wanted to flee to Canada as I heard loudly exclaimed from many liberals this past year.   I point the finger right back myself in this instance in reference to my Election Night invitation.   How more un-American and juvenile can a person sound by saying that since I didn’t get my way I’m taking my ball and going home.   If the Left is going to flee the country because the current King of the Right is still in office, I have to respect Republicans even more for deciding to continue the fight and not just BLOW town when Clinton held the same JOB.   Remember, the Right was exactly too ecstatic when we had our president in the 90s.   Special Note: For those of you who want to move to Canada over election results my first instinctual response is to help you pack.   We don’t need you here; you’re nothing but a pessimistic weight holding us down.   But, if you really are willing to move over this, then could you at least take one for the team and move to Ohio?  We need some more blue voters there. The point is that I have not seen my peers leading with respect this past year and I call upon them to do so.   I don’t care about the politicians; they are going to do what they are going to do.   I say again that I am talking to the real world, working liberals where the true charge for change falls.   We are better than this and only by being better are we going to reclaim positions of power in politics.   It is 3 more years until the next election and I am guessing it is at least 8-12 more years before Barrack Obama can run.   We need answers and leaders today.   Get your game face on liberals!

Art Munin owns a consulting company based out of Chicago, Art Munin Consulting (www. artmunin. com). He specializes in the field of diversity education and has provided workshops and speeches on topics such as White Privilege and Multicultural Communication to a wide variety of audiences . Art holds two Masters degrees in Community Counseling and Multicultural Communication and is currently a doctoral student in Higher Education. He can be contacted at art@artmunin. com.

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