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We are sending this Free Update in the aftermath of the election. 
 
We have placed a large number of post election essays on ZNet already,
and there are many more likely to follow. We are being rather broad
about it...posting a large and wide ranging set of pieces, with many
different and often even seriously conflicting views on the events. 
 
They all agree on the need to fight back...to work hard to resist right
wing agendas now, and to develop a capacity to win truly progressive and
radical gains later. But the essays differ quite a bit, sometimes even
dramatically, in how they see the vote, the electoral process, and in
particular the prospects and possibilities of continuing work. We hope
you will assess the various viewpoints, develop your own opinions, and
work for their implementation.
 
Essays online so far are from Hayden, Podur, Ireland, Prashad, Felux,
Vanden Heuvel, Davey D., Azualy and Dominick, Engelhardt, and Albert.
Many more will likely go online today and in the next few days. We hope
they will help in these difficult times.
 
Here, to close out this message, is one of those essays, from Michael
Albert...
 
 
Tomorrow Is a Long Time
By Michael Albert

I woke up, suffered through the news, and opened my email. This was the
first message I read.

"Seriously.. I don't know who answers you guy's email, but do you think
the coalitions that were working to get Bush out can overcome this shit?
I feel fucking hopeless... i've been working with ACT and SEIU and
canvassing and calling and blah blah blah... I can't believe we have
lost to this psychopath again.  I know Kerry sucked, but we have
nothing... what is left?" 

The short answer is, Yes, the coalitions, if they have a mind and heart
to do so, can "overcome this shit." It is true that many people, even
when they are united, can be defeated. We should not make believe it
isn't so. But it is also true that many united people can win, and win
again, and again. As to "what's left?" of course the answer is the true
left is left, and if we have sufficient mind and heart we can make it
grow until real victories are ours. I try to offer some parts of a
longer answer below.


Election Returns

First, the U.S. as a whole has not voted for anything by virtue of this
election. Around 60% of the eligible electorate voted. This was a
considerable increase over the recent past, but was still low by
international standards. It means about 30% of the eligible electorate
voted for Bush and just under that voted for Kerry. If Kerry had won
another percent or two and thereby won the election, it would change
almost nothing about the large-scale allegiances of the U.S. population.
More people didn't vote than supported either candidate.

Regarding judging the American populace, even before noting the
manipulation of perceptions that accompanies U.S. elections, it does not
make sense for us to act as though the country is inhabited by amoral,
self seeking vultures because Bush won, especially supposing that we
would have been celebrating America's return to reason and morality had
things been marginally different. If you weren't agonizing the views of
your fellow citizens yesterday, and if you wouldn't be agonizing them
had Kerry won Ohio, or had Kerry run with Gephardt as Vice Presidential
candidate and won Missouri and Iowa as well as Ohio and the election,
then there is not much reason to be agonizing them as is. They are what
they have been, needing much improvement but hardly as bad as some
people are going to deduce.

On the other hand, had the election gone to Kerry, while it wouldn't
have indicated much about the state of popular consciousness, it would
certainly have changed the complexion of the world for some time to come
and would probably also have changed the near term activity and
affectivity of those who wish to attain a truly better world. Weeping
about this very real implication of the re-enthronement of George Bush
and his fundamentalist agenda is warranted. 

One more contextual point. When Richard Nixon, a despicable thug who was
barely more cogent than Bush and who didn't have nearly as well
organized an electoral apparatus, ran for his second term in 1972, he
won all but one state. It was an electoral and a popular vote massacre.
He was, however, out of office not too long thereafter. The U.S.
electorate is no worse overall now than it was then, and it is arguably
better in many respects. 

That 2005 is similar to 1972 is not reason for cheer. For some of us,
people around then and now, it is deadly depressing. I write with tears
flowing. But at the same time it reveals that we are not suddenly in
some kind of unprecedented dark ages. It indicates that the population
has not become fascist in some new and unprecedented way. What it also
shows, very sad to say, is that after forty years of struggle we aren't
that far forward, and that fact deserves very serious consideration.

Okay, so what about the people who did vote?


Election Statistics and What They Say

According to CNN's exit polls, nationally men voted 54% to 45% for Bush
and women voted 52% to 47% for Kerry. 

White men voted 61% to 38% for Bush, white women 54% to 45%. Non white
men voted 68% to 30% for Kerry, non white women 75% to 24%. Kerry won
African Americans 9 to 1 but he lost whites 6 to 4. 

Kerry won among people aged 18 - 29, but he lost all older age groups.
There weren't enough young voters to offset their elders.

By income, not surprisingly Kerry got fewer votes the wealthier the
constituency and Bush got correspondingly more votes the wealthier the
constituency. Of the 45% of voters who earn less than $50,000 a year,
Kerry won 56% to 43%. (Of course, a big question is, what caused 43% to
vote so explicitly against their own material interests?) On the other
hand, of the 55% of voters who earn over $50,000 per year, Bush won 55%
to 44%. Kerry also won 51% to 48% among the 82% of voters who earn
$100,000 or less. But for the 18% who earn above $100,000, Bush won 57%
to 41%. If more people went to the polls, which would have meant that
more lower income people went to the polls, Kerry would have won the
election. Likewise, had voters who earn under $50,000 or under $100,000
for that matter, voted for Kerry proportionate to the real material
interests they had, he would have won. 

Among union members and their families Kerry won 60% to 40%. He lost 52%
to 47% among those who aren't unionized, but there are way more of the
latter. If we had more workers in unions, again Kerry would have won.

Among new voters Kerry won 55% - 45%, but there weren't enough, new
voters, or, if you prefer, this gap was not wide enough, to carry the
election for Kerry overall.

In regard to religion, Kerry overwhelmingly won Jews, "Other religions,"
and "none" - but Bush won Protestants 58% - 41% and Catholics 51% - 48%.
If you attended church weekly you voted for Bush 60% - 40%. If you went
only occasionally, you voted for Kerry 53% - 46%. If you never went, you
voted for Kerry 65% - 35%. Devout religion has a profoundly reactionary
impact in U.S. elections, or at least correlates well with factors that
do.

Kerry won gays, lesbians, and bisexuals 77% - 23%, but they were only 4%
of all voters. Bush won heterosexuals 52% - 47%. As an aside, purely on
intuition I find the 3 to 1 ratio here significant as an indicator. It
seems to me that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are probably very attuned
to the disaster that Bush could bring upon them and their community. I
suspect, therefore, that a 3-1 ratio indicates a constituency that
really understands the difference about an issue and feels quite
strongly about the matter in question.

Gun owners (who were 41% of all voters) voted for Bush 61% - 37%. Those
without guns (who were 59% of all voters) voted for Kerry 58% - 41%.
(Notice, gun ownership is supposed to be a very powerful issue and
determiner of views, and it is certainly significant, but under 2 - 1).

If you were in the 4% of voters who thought the most important issue was
education you voted Kerry 75%. If you were in the 20% who thought the
economy and jobs were most important you voted Kerry 80%. If you were in
the 8% who thought it was Health care, you voted Kerry 78%. If you were
in the 15% of voters who thought Iraq was most important you voted Kerry
75%. 

But if you were in the 19% who thought the most important issue was
terrorism, you voted Bush 86%. If you were in the 22% who thought "moral
values" was most important you voted Bush 79%. If you were in the 5% who
thought taxes most important you voted Bush 56%.

Except for taxes, these issue figures, on both sides, are all 3 - 1 or
more. It seems from this that voters who cared a lot about an issue
actually did know the difference between the candidates regarding each
issue and voted in tune, even more so on the right. Bush's victory,
looking at things from this vantage point, was arguably due to so many
voters considering terror or "morals" primary.

The 46% of voters who thought the national economy was excellent or good
voted for Bush 86% - 13%. The 52% who thought it was not good or poor
voted for Kerry 79% - 19%. Both are more than 3 to 1.

The 31% of voters who felt their family was better off financially than
four years ago, voted 79% - 20% for Bush. The 28% of voters who thought
they were worse off, voted 80% - 19% for Kerry. For the 39% who felt no
economic change, Kerry won 50%- 48%. Again clarity about an issue is
evident. And, here too, if more people had voted, it would have been
more who thought they were worse off, and Kerry would have won.

If you were among the 42% who thought we have become less safe from
terrorism in the past four years you voted Kerry 85%. But if you were
among the 54% who thought we had become more safe from terrorism over
the last four years, you voted Bush 79%. Over 3 -1 for both. Move a few
percent in their perception on this issue, and Kerry wins.

The 51% of voters who say they approve having gone to war in Iraq voted
85% - 14% for Bush. The 45% who say they disapprove having gone to war
in Iraq voted 87% - 11% for Kerry. Likewise, if you thought (54%) that
the Iraq war was part of the war on terrorism, you voted for Bush 80% -
19%. If you thought it wasn't (43%) you voted for Kerry 88% - 11%. These
people seem to me to be voting in accord with their perceptions about
reality and their correct views of the candidates, as for those above.
Their perceptions about reality are open to question, of course and had
more been skeptical of the war, again, Kerry would have won.

The 26% who thought same sex couples should be able to marry voted for
Kerry 77% - 22%. The 35% who favored civil union voted Bush 51% - 48%.
And the 36% who opposed any legal recognition of gay couples voted 69% -
30% for Bush. Interestingly and a bit surprisingly, results on the
reactionary position are not so aggressive as on the progressive one, or
so it seems. On the other hand, many Kerry voters obviously voted
against gay marriage in the state votes.

The 23% who thought abortion should be always legal voted Kerry 73% -
25%. The 38% who thought it should be mostly legal voted Kerry 61% -
18%. The 26% who thought abortion should be mostly illegal voted Bush
73% - 26%. The 16% who thought it should be always illegal voted Bush
77% - 22%. Better than 3 - 1 clarity here too, it seems. 

So - given the data, given our experiences, given our feelings and
thoughts, what do we think about the election?

People did seem to largely vote in accord with their priorities. Few
could have been tricked into thinking Bush was more anti-war or Kerry
was more pro-war or Bush was pro-gay or Bush was more for workers or
Kerry was more for the wealthy, and so on, with these poll results. The
mistaken notions in voters' minds were not about the candidates
positions so much as they were about the state of the world, or their
values.

Story One: Kerry and the Democrats lost because they failed to emphasize
Iraq and the economy. Voters who thought those issues mattered most
voted strongly for him. Voters who were keyed on terror and fearful of
attacks or who were worried about the decay of civilization via gay
marriages - which is "moral values", voted strongly for Bush. There were
more of the latter than the former, both across the country and in Ohio,
so Bush won. Kerry did not sufficiently move the focus from terror and
anti gay attitudes to Iraq and the economy.

Story Two. Kerry and the Democrats ran about as good a campaign as any
Democrat could have run. They had massive unprecedented activist support
from Hollywood and the music world. They hit hard on their best issues
seeking to move debate to those, but to keep their financial support and
to ward off massive media assault, they also addressed security. They
marshaled a very impressive get out the vote campaign with tens of
thousands of volunteers, particularly in Florida, Ohio, and
Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, Bush won the popular vote across the country
and the electoral vote too, the latter by winning both Florida and Ohio.


The odd thing is, both these stories are true. 

Religion, homophobia, machismo, family values, and fear that floated
nationalism above reason and that elevated paranoia above empathy buoyed
Bush above sidebar concerns like the demise of civilization, climate,
economy, solidarity, and even security. This likely occurred in
considerable part because regarding these concerns many people didn't
have any reason to think Kerry was all that much more promising than
Bush. Kerry's supporters got out the vote better than anyone could
reasonably have predicted months ago, but the efforts awakened not only
Kerry voters, but, in reaction, also brought out additional support for
Bush.

The problem isn't so much that the voters were deceived about the
candidates. People who voted seemed to know what the candidates were
saying, otherwise the correlations noted above wouldn't have been so
strong. The problem is that the voters were in many cases deceived about
the world, or had downright ugly views about it, in some cases. And of
course, the problem is, to an even greater degree, that so many people
who should have opposed Bush and would have opposed him had they voted,
did not vote.

What can we say? I think some things are pretty clear. Oppressed
constituencies are not going to embrace their own subordination. There
will be struggles around race, gender, and sexuality until the related
oppressions are entirely overcome. A left that doesn't educate and at
least depolarize and far better galvanize support around social issues
as well as economic and political ones, will not only be hypocritical
and unworthy, it will also always have great difficulty winning. 

Fear is always a possibility. A left that doesn't address it head on -
morally, ethically, reasonably - by dealing with international relations
and U.S. foreign policy including explaining its roots and implications,
and thus the roots and implications of terrorism as well, will rarely if
ever win. Had the anti-war movement convinced another five percent of
the population that the war in Iraq was unconnected to terrorism and was
morally wrong, Bush would be out of office.

But there is something more at play. Why didn't virtually all working
people vote for Kerry, and why didn't many more vote at all? Democrats
contend with Republicans for the same source of real support, which is
the ruling elites who monopolize money and media visibility. Even if the
Democrats had a different inclination - which is rarely if ever the case
- this fact limits the scope of their appeals for votes for fear of
losing the financial means or media accessibility to make any appeals at
all. They can't talk about the real roots of our problems, even were
they aware of them. They can't talk about real solutions to our
problems, even if they were inclined to conceive them. They can only
mumble unclearly about wanting to better people's lives and can only
offer half hearted policies for doing so. Otherwise their money dries
up. The media annihilates them. Meanwhile, Republicans do whatever they
want...with plenty of funding, with unlimited media visibility, having
no qualms whatsoever. 

The upshot is that we need something much more than a better Democratic
candidate. We need a new electoral system and a new base of support for
new candidates.

But further, even a good candidate with important things to say -- a
Nader, Cobb, Kucinich, or Sharpton - is barely listened to by American
audiences. Why is that? 

Our population does have a mental failing of great proportion. It is
greater even than its ignorance, which on many counts is profound. It is
greater even than its racism, which is often very substantial. And it is
greater even than its homophobia and sexism, which are still substantial
as well. 

This mental malady is that our population believes nothing better than
the corporate system we now endure is possible and believes as well that
the system we now endure makes most efforts at major reform largely
fruitless by either cutting them off before victory or rapidly rolling
back any gains they attain shortly after temporarily granting them. 

This malady is not so dumb, it turns out. It has causes. To overcome
this malady, which is often inaccurately called apathy, requires
movements that convey informed hope by communicating how society could
be different and how we could attain the changes and why they would then
persist. The vision problem is therefore central. To convince
significant sectors of the non-voting public to become politically
involved, or of the voting public to change their views, will require
dealing with it.

I was recently in Greece in part to give talks about the upcoming U.S.
election. I had conveyed that there was a good chance Bush would win the
election. Talking with a long time Greek activist I was told that things
were quite hopeless. Populations were apathetic and it was part of the
way people just are. They don't give a damn. Me first, and that's the
end of it. Despair was in the air. I tried to argue by one route and
then by another, but he kept returning to the U.S. How can there be
serious progress when your population in such large numbers sits idly by
and watches horrendous calamities unfold against others, meanwhile
pursuing silly tiny personal gains, if even that? People, this activist
felt, will get what they deserve, and it won't be pretty. 

For those still mulling over the current mindset of the U.S. population,
fearing that they are uncaring or worse that they are overtly callous,
try this thought experiment which I offered others while in Greece. 

Imagine that tomorrow God told us all that the just completed
presidential election was null and void. A new one is to be held. Bush
is running against someone new - let's say Zeke. Zeke puts forth an
uncompromising program including everything a good leftist would want -
universal health care, no nukes, drastic moves toward ecological
sustainability, not only withdrawal from Iraq but dismantling the empire
and implementing international legality, replacing the IMF, the World
Bank and the WTO with real internationalism, implementing real
affirmative action for gender, race, and class, redistributing wealth
downward plus establishing truly just wages, vastly improved conditions
and participation, and so on and so forth. 

And God says, here is the thing. The election campaign is going to go on
for six months. There will be universal discussion and debate of all the
issues and facts throughout society - in workplaces, schools,
neighborhoods, and so on, and I will make sure that everyone understands
the true choices at stake. Information will be fully presented, with me,
God, verifying truth in advertising at every stage. The election will
then be held. And then I, God, will guarantee that the winner will get
to successfully implement his or her program in the following four
years, until the next election, to be conducted like this one. 

How many people would vote in that case? 95%? 100%? 105% 

And what would be the result? 

It you think Bush would win, okay, you should worry about the underlying
psychology and morality of the American people, or, in fact, of all
people generally.

But if you think Bush would lose, Bush would suffers ignominious defeat,
Bush would be obliterated in a hailstorm of insight and joy over the
implementation of truly progressive policies, then you have to develop
vision, develop strategy, develop clarity about reality, and fight on,
because the obstacle to people participating that we must overcome is
not that people don't care and not that people are callous, or
congenitally apathetic, but mostly that people (quite reasonably) doubt
the efficacy of participation.

If, and it is a big if, the energy of Kerry's supporters including tens
of thousands of volunteers can be galvanized on behalf of a broadly
progressive agenda resisting Bush, and if the left can find the
wherewithal to keep pushing beyond toward new vision and goals as well,
then Bush can be roped in. We can have a four year interlude of struggle
to avoid calamities and to win some valuable gains as well, followed by
a Democrat in the White House, followed by continuing pressure for
improvements in people's lives plus escalated development of a serious
anti-capitalist movement. 

On the other hand, if we can't transfer Kerry's most activist support to
tenacious opposition to Bush, the interlude of continuing reaction will
last much longer than four more years and the pain and suffering of many
constituencies at the hands of U.S. fundamentalism will be that much
more savage. And if the left can't transcend being anti-Bush to offering
serious positive alternatives and strategic options, then the wait for
real change will also be that much longer.

It is forty years on from when I and many other people of my generation
became life-long activists and while the left's efforts have ensured
that nearly everyone now knows at some level that everything is broken -
which wasn't even barely the case in 1965 - still most people are
passive, easily manipulated, lacking hope, barely involved, dismissive
of politics and activism, hunkered down in virtual isolation, looking
for crumbs that might be available, and above all spectators. In other
words, what we on the left have been doing has had some impact, of
course, but doing the same thing as in the past for another forty years
would have barely any. A new left has got to be new where it matters -
in having real and compelling shared vision, real and compelling short
and mid term goals, and real and compelling shared practice and strategy
- indeed, in having long term vision and empowering and engaging
strategy at all.

We have to look at it squarely. Bush, without a very active, militant,
and effective opposition, could mean overturning Roe v Wade, ending the
separation of Church and State, and gutting Social Security and
Medicare. It could mean escalated ecological devastation, expanded
Patriot Act and repression, even larger gaps between rich and poor,
expanded violence in Iraq and beyond, and election reforms to protect
all this reaction against democracy. 

Elections are not the whole of politics, only a tiny part. The whole is,
or should be, mostly the development of consciousness and commitment and
the exercising of social pressure. We have to get right back to that.
And we have to do it immediately. And we have to do it more wisely than
in the past.

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