Read an Excerpt
HOW IN THE HELL
DID THIS HAPPEN?
November 1, 2004. Election eve in the world's greatest democracy...
Let's make sure we got this right:
America was in a brutal, nasty war in Iraq, a war that its president, George W. Bush, had convinced Congress and the nation to enter under false pretenses. Although the threat of "weapons of mass destruction" served as the justification for America's starting the war, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. America's fighting men and women lacked body armor and sufficient troop numbers. Over 1,100 Americans had been killed in Iraq most of them after Bush declared "mission accomplished" there. There was no end in sight. There was no real international coalition helping the United States, and there sure as hell wouldn't be any willing guinea pigs should Bush be reelected. The war was costing the country $200 billion a year. On top of that, the guy who was responsible for 3,000 deaths on American soil on September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden, was running free and seeing his terrorist empire grow exponentially. At one point in the campaign, President Bush inexplicably said he didn't give bin Laden much thought anymore. Polls showed that America's esteem in the world community had never been lower and that voters' stomach for the war was tenuous at best.
America's economy was shaky as hell. Unemployment was high particularly in states considered swing states. For the first time ever since records had been kept, this president had lost jobs. Over 3 million Americans had become unemployed under George W. Bush. Jobs that Bush was creating were, for the most part, service industry jobs at one-quarter the pay of the jobs lost and they offered no benefits. Forty-four million Americans lacked health insurance 4 million of them added since George Bush had taken office. Thirteen percent of Americans, a total of 36 million people, were in poverty. Let's repeat that one 13 percent, or 36 million, of Americans were in poverty, one-third of those children. More than 1.5 million people watched their income fall below the poverty line on W's watch. As a consequence of misguided and suspect tax cuts, the greatest redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest Americans in history had taken place in less than four years. There was a projected $7.5 trillion debt, after Bush had inherited a $2 trillion surplus from the Democrat Bill Clinton. More money had been spent in debt under George W. Bush than under any other president in American history. Think of that. But it was actually worse: In his first four years as president, George W. Bush had spent more money in debt than all previous American presidents combined. America's deficit spending spree sat at a whopping $412 billion for fiscal year 2004 alone. Interest rates were threatening to explode.
Storm clouds were gathering. This dismal record and all its attendant uncertainty occurred with Bush entrenched in the White House and Republicans firmly in control of both houses of Congress.
Democrats were hungry, and smarter than ever. They shortened their 2004 presidential primary calendar to ensure an early nominee to compete with what would be the incumbent's money advantage. They generated millions of new activists and donors of the Internet variety. They were unified in their disdain for W and careful not to beat the hell out of each other in the primaries. It worked. The Massachusetts senator and war hero John Kerry secured the nomination barely three weeks into the primary campaign season. Fallen Democratic pretenders jumped into his open arms. Kerry started raising money faster than Republican lobbyists pillage Indian gaming funds. Millions and millions rolled in. Kerry didn't even get burned by not taking the federal campaign spending "match!" He was more than competitive with Bush. His online fund-raising surpassed the president's. A million dollars a day poured in! Democrats started these funky 527 groups and raised even more money. Somewhere near $200 million! They were feelin' it, baby. They set up shop in the political swing states. Record numbers of volunteers, donors, and staff flooded Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico, and Florida. Life was good. Democrats were competitive financially! A big hurdle had been jumped.
On top of that, in this time of war, their presidential nominee was no mealymouthed, weak-kneed, pacifistic apologizer. Democrats had gotten themselves an honest-to-God, down-home, authentic-as-Elvis war hero! Even better, John Kerry had medals! Lots of them. Including three Purple Hearts. George Bush thought Purple Hearts were flavored marshmallows in Lucky Charms breakfast cereal. While Kerry had bled for his country he was wounded three times Bush's gums bled when he got his teeth cleaned. Kerry earned medals for valor while Bush earned a college athletic letter for being a cheerleader. In the late 1960s, Kerry did two tours in Vietnam; in the late 1960s, Bush would have been happy to tour Vietnam so long as the tour bus was air-conditioned and arrived back at the hotel each evening in time for happy hour. Kerry pulled fallen soldiers from the Mekong Delta. The only delta Bush knew of was "Delta Dawn" Helen Reddy's hit song if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line and Tanya Tucker's if you live south of it which he listened to by the pool at the club. Kerry chased a Vietcong killer into the jungle; Bush had a killer ride on Air Force One for a date with Tricia Nixon. (Apparently, she wasn't impressed.)
That's right, George Bush avoided the draft, and Dick Cheney "had other priorities" in the sixties. But now that they were the men in charge, safe in their Washington bunkers, war seemed exactly the politically expedient thing to do. Democrats thought Bush's misguided war in Iraq would do something else as well, they thought it would give them an ace in the hole by firing up the dormant "youth" vote, that mass of 40 million Americans aged eighteen to twenty-nine who usually vote in dismal numbers but who were sure to be bebopping to the polls in record numbers this time around. And just to be sure, the Democrats had Puffy a-rippin' and Eminem a-rappin', parting the political Red Sea for these previously lost electoral souls. Democrats knew they finally had a winner on defense and on patriotism.
To top it off, Kerry picked the superlawyer U.S. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina to be his running mate. Edwards was smart, possessed movie star looks, and had a record of defending the little guy in court unmatched since Atticus Finch strolled to the jury box in Harper Lee's classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The Democrats now had the smile to counter Dick Cheney's smirk. They had the lawyer who put the screws to big corporations to counter the callous, unfeeling Halliburton CEO who cashed out after screwing the working people. The planets were aligning.
Even the tenuous 51 to 48 hold Republicans had on the U.S. Senate seemed to be slipping. In Oklahoma they nominated a real nut job, Tom Coburn they just couldn't help themselves. Six weeks out their senator in Kentucky was branded by certain news media "mentally unfit" to be reelected. Their nepotistic ways were backfiring in Alaska. Their candidate in South Carolina seemed to open his mouth only to change feet. The times they were a-changin' just in time for Bob Dylan's autobiography. The sixties were not dead, they were alive! Democrats were on a roll. Democrats couldn't lose...
But they did.
NOVEMBER 2, 2004
It is enough to piss a person off...
Bush won a second term with 51 percent of the vote and a record nearly 60 million votes to Kerry's 48 percent of the vote and 56 million votes; Bush won the electoral college vote 286 to 252; Bush won thirty-one states, Kerry nineteen.
According to The Washington Post, this was the first election in which exit polls showed equal numbers of people, 37 percent, self-identifying as Democrats and Republicans. For decades Democrats had been winning those polls.
Worse, Bush's vote totals improved from his 2000 performance in forty-eight of the fifty states. On top of that, more states now leaned Republican, and in the fastest-growing areas of the country, the outer suburbs of major metropolitan areas, Democrats lost badly. A Los Angeles Times study showed that Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties in America.
Nationally, George Bush won with groups and in regions he was supposed to win with and in: men, whites, conservatives, churchgoers, the wealthy, rural areas, the South, and the exurbs. Indeed, he swept the South clean. What was disturbing was that his support within these groups got stronger, not weaker, from 2000 to 2004 even in regions and among groups devastated by his economic calamities.
Bush increased his vote among men from 53 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004; among married voters from 53 percent to 57 percent; among white voters from 54 percent to 58 percent; among conservatives from 81 percent to 84 percent; among white Protestants from 63 percent to 67 percent; among those who attend church at least once a week from 59 percent to 61 percent. Among those earning $75,000 to $100,000, Bush increased his vote from 52 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004, and he received a solid 63 percent of the votes of those earning over $200,000. Among gun owners, Bush won again by a better than two-to-one margin. In America's suburbs, he increased his winning total by 3 percentage points from 2000. In rural America, Bush increased his margin of victory to 59 to the Democrats' 40 percent in 2004, compared with 56 to their 40 percent in 2000. Among working-class whites, who were rocked by his misguided economic policies, Bush won by an amazing 23 points. And, just to make matters worse, exit polls showed that by a 55 to 39 percent margin, working-class, white voters trusted him to do a better job on the economy than Kerry.
Now look at what W did to the normally loyal Democratic base.
Among women voters, Bush increased his vote from 43 to 48 percent from 2000 to 2004. He drew 11 percent of black voters in 2004, up from 8 percent in 2000. He won 23 percent of those voters who self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. He garnered 25 percent of the Jewish vote, compared with 18 percent in 2000. And he won the Catholic vote in 2004, capturing 52 percent he lost that vote to Al Gore in 2000 (oh, and by the way, John Kerry was a Catholic). We know Kerry took some heat from the Catholic Church for his position on abortion, but he wasn't trying to get the Pope's vote. Studies show most American Catholics feel as he does on abortion. Had he gone after those voters and showed he was proud to be a Catholic even though he didn't entirely agree with Church doctrine, we believe most Catholics would have respected him and connected with him. But he ignored them.
And the numbers got even worse.
In urban areas, traditionally a Democratic blowout, Bush gained fully 39 percent of the vote up from 26 percent in 2000. Among Hispanic voters, his percentages were numbing. Bush won 44 percent of the burgeoning Hispanic vote in 2004, up from 31 percent in 2000. That amounted to the greatest share of the Hispanic vote of any Republican candidate for president since exit polling was first employed, in 1972. What about the elderly, voters aged sixty and older, a traditional Democratic coalition partner? Bush won among seniors 54 to 46 percent, a seven-point gain from 2000. Among those voters self-identified as "not a high school graduate," another traditionally Democratic group, Bush pulled even with Kerry, garnering 49 percent, up from 39 percent in 2000. And while Kerry did win the youth vote, 54 to 45 percent, up from Gore's winning percentage of 48 to 46 in 2000, the Associated Press reported that fewer than one in ten voters in 2004 were in the eighteen to twenty-four age-group.
Remember, not only did Bush receive these startling numbers but he did so against the best-funded, best-organized, best-prepared Democratic presidential nominee in modern political history.
Despite the greatest get-out-the-vote program ever waged in a dozen or so key swing states, Kerry lost. Despite the Democratic National Committee outpacing the Republican National Committee in fund-raising for the first time ever, Kerry lost. Despite record amounts of money raised by a Democratic presidential nominee, Kerry lost. Kerry even had $15 million left over on November 3 after he lost! Explain that one, Senator. Fifteen million dollars might have been just enough to buy 75,000 votes in Ohio. But we digress. Despite a unified party behind him and a seeming universal disdain for Bush among Democrats and significant segments of Independents, Kerry lost. Despite low job approval numbers and high "wrong direction" numbers for Bush, Kerry lost. Despite deplorable numbers of unemployed, staggering poverty rates, and mushrooming numbers of people lacking health care, Kerry lost. Despite more donors, volunteers, and paid staff than any other campaign in American history, Kerry lost. He lost Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Missouri. He was shut out in the South and nearly blanked in the Midwest. Despite $200 million spent by 527s in these and a handful of other key swing states, Kerry lost them all except New Hampshire his neighboring state.
That's $200 million for New Hampshire. And that is not even factoring in the money spent by Kerry's own campaign.
And Kerry's loss was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Republicans went from fifty-one to fifty-five seats in the Senate.
Democratic Senate majority leader Tom Daschle was beaten by a deer-in-the-headlights, pretty-boy empty suit in South Dakota.
In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, whose only qualifications were that her old man wanted her to be a senator, won in a walk.
Republicans swept every southern Senate seat: In Georgia and Florida they came up big; in Louisiana, they elected a Republican to a U.S. Senate seat for first time ever; the psycho Tom Coburn ran away with Oklahoma; the homophobe Jim DeMint cruised in South Carolina; and the Cuckoo's Nest escapee Jim Bunning was handily reelected in Kentucky. The Peter Principle, as it turns out, has reached a zenith in American politics.
To add a block of salt to the wound, the charm of the Democratic vice presidential nominee, John Edwards, seemed to run out; he couldn't even pull his home state, North Carolina, for Kerry (they lost it by a larger margin than did Al Gore four years earlier). On top of that, the Senate seat Edwards gave up to run for president went to the GOP.
And while the state losses are painful, the big-picture losses are stunning. Eighteen of twenty-two Senate seats in the states of the Old Confederacy are now firmly in the hands of the GOP. Throw in the fact that all four U.S. senators from Oklahoma and Kentucky are Republican, and the GOP is coming awfully close to an electoral U.S. Senate trifecta in the South. In the last two election cycles, there have been nine open Senate seats in the South. On November 3, 2004, the GOP was batting nine for nine. Democrats need to get someone up throwing in the bullpen.
Mix the southern red states with those nationally, and a very ominous picture is developing. The red states are getting redder, not just in presidential races but in U.S. Senate races as well. Following the 2004 elections, Republicans held forty-four of the fifty-eight Senate seats in the twenty-nine states that W won in both 2000 and 2004. To put this another way, the Republicans' stranglehold on red states is becoming so great that they are poised to capture a U.S. Senate majority every election cycle without ever having to contend in blue-state Senate contests.
The Republicans didn't stop with wins in the Senate. They slightly increased their hold on the U.S. House of Representatives, picking up 3 seats and moving to a solid 232 to 202 to 1 margin there. They also made the red states redder in this house. All six of the Democratic House seats won by the GOP on November 2, 2004, came in red states. On top of that, the Republicans virtually took over the Texas delegation, beating three long-term Democrats and taking a commanding 20 to 12 margin in the delegation. Funny, it doesn't seem that long ago because it wasn't that Democrats like Sam Rayburn, Lloyd Bentsen, and Lyndon Johnson led dominant Democratic delegations from Texas. The wins nationally guaranteed that Republicans would keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives for ten years running. Never before in American history had the GOP held the majority in the House for ten years.
One other topic of note in the 2004 elections. In the eleven states that had same-sex marriage amendments on the ballot Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah gay marriage proponents were crushed across the board.
So what did Democrats do following the debacle of November 2, 2004?
They went into denial. John Kerry touted the fact that he got more votes than any presidential candidate in American history except George W. Bush. Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe announced that Democrats were so successful in 2004 they would never again be at a money disadvantage with Republicans except figures for 2005 show that Republican victories in 2004 translated into a windfall at the fund-raising trough, while Democratic fund-raising looked more like a windchill. Party operatives claimed they had the greatest Democratic get-out-the-vote operation in swing states in American political history (they did) except the Republicans got more votes in virtually all of them.
Stop it, Democrats. You got your butts kicked. Admit it.
Politics is a bottom-line business. It is all about the win, the actual, count-the-votes win. There are no moral victories in politics. There are no ribbons given for second place and no power, no policy advancements, no political panaceas. Simply put, to govern, you have to win your political battles.
So what did Republicans do after their commanding wins on November 2, 2004?
They claimed a political mandate. Republican leaders and cheerleaders said, "We are one election cycle away from a veto-proof majority in the Senate"; they said, "We now control the judicial branch of power so thoroughly we will shape judicial precedent for generations, thus solidifying our loyal political base"; they said, "We have unified a national coalition of voters and made significant inroads into the destabilized and uncertain coalition of our opponents, on which we can build even greater electoral successes in future elections"; they said, "We will clamp down on all power in Washington from lobbyists to the bureaucracy, from the media to the moneyed interests, and use that power to our electoral advantage"; and they said, "You loser Democrats who doubt us, just watch us."
"To hell with you," we say.
These people are drunk on their own power. They believe their own government-subsidized talking heads. They believe there are no consequences for having sold their political souls to faceless, gutless corporate thieves. They have no sense of history or responsibility when it comes to governing the greatest democracy the world has ever known. They believe they have gotten away with their smoke-and-mirrors charade, in which they obfuscate their bankrupt values by wrapping themselves in all that is religious or patriotic. They believe it is acceptable to use this government as their personal playground and ATM machine, stealing from the poor and the working class and pouring billions of dollars into the pockets of the wealthiest and greediest.
They are wrong. They did not win a mandate on November 2, 2004.
Republicans from George W. Bush to any number of Senate, House, and gubernatorial candidates nationwide could have been and should have been defeated in 2004. They had weak candidates, an arrogant message, phony patriotic and religious justifications for support, and smug and elitist leadership.
Take nothing away from what they did. But let's be clear, Republicans won in 2004 because Democrats let them win.
It's time for that to stop. Democrats have to regain their footing and their voices. Democrats have to understand that too much is at stake, too many lives will be lost if they continue to lose to these fraudulent pretenders.
Democrats must win some elections.
We know the results of the 2004 elections were bleak for Democrats, but that should not intimidate them; it should embolden them. Enough is enough. It is time to stop the bleeding and win again.
In the pages that follow, we will provide a blueprint, first for how Democrats can regain their voice and their focus, and then for how Democrats can maneuver through some of the thorniest issue areas on the political landscape from God to guns, from family values to defense and patriotism issues, from fiscal policy to the environment. Along the way, we will fairly unmercifully target those deceitful scoundrels and knaves in the Republican leadership and the elite among their cheerleaders for their often shameless, hypocritical, and soulless words and actions.
We don't like the bastards. So in the pages that follow, we will peel back the curtain at Oz and unmask dozens of Republican leader and cheerleader fools, hypocrites, and charlatans, including the dangerously insecure head case George W. Bush, libido-crazed Bill O'Reilly, the appropriately named Dick "I had other priorities" in the sixties Cheney, the headline-grabbing-in-the-face-of-tragedy Rudy Giuliani, the white-trash opportunist Zigzag Zell Miller, the lightweight bullies disguised as nonpartisans at the National Rifle Association, the man whose life has come full circle from that of a killer of cockroaches to a cockroach himself, Tom DeLay, Pharisees including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the political prostitutes and genuinely stupid excuses for political commentators Armstrong Williams and Ann Coulter. We will even tell you of the Republican shill who got out of Vietnam because he had an infected hairy cyst on his ass.
We know these guys play for keeps. We know they will stop at nothing in their attempt to gain and retain power. But we do not fear them.
We will tell you how we would have done things differently in 2004 and what Democrats can do differently in 2006 and beyond so they can win again.
Playing to win sounds simple. But for too many Democratic candidates, it has been a difficult and hollow journey. We will offer some basic concepts for how any Democrat can win anywhere in the country, but particularly in areas like the South and the Heartland, where Republicans have been dominating elections for a generation. We advocate playing by the rules even if the rules are their rules to win.
Democrats have to change the way they practice politics. For instance, they have to learn again how to count. Why Democrats write off parts of congressional districts, regions of states, or regions of the country is beyond us. It is morally wrong to do so. All Americans deserve equal representation. But it is also politically inexplicable. John Kerry conceded the equivalent of twenty-seven states and 227 electoral votes to George Bush. That is 84 percent of the electoral votes Bush needed to win, meaning that he had to get only 43 of the 311 remaining electoral votes in the remaining twenty-three states to become president. What was Kerry thinking? But the senator wasn't alone in our mathematically challenged party. We argue that this is a lesson our party had better learn real fast.
Democrats also have to learn to show some passion. We love the former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who was defeated for reelection in 2004 by a pretty-boy fool named John Thune. But when, to his face, Daschle was accused by Thune on national television of uttering words that "emboldened the enemy" of the United States, he needed to do more than say he was "disappointed." We argue that had Daschle gone ballistic on Thune, right then and there, Thune would have shat himself, right then and there, and Daschle would have been in a much better position to win reelection. Daschle wasn't the only one who exercised caution and restraint in the face of a blitzkrieg attack on his person, and he sure won't be the last one. We'll talk about that.
Democrats have to learn how to connect with the disconnected voters and how to define themselves and their opponents before their opponents have the chance to do it. How in the hell did John Kerry and his campaign allow the draft-dodging, AWOL-loving, Air Force One-riding-for-a-date-with-Tricia-Nixon, September 11, 2001, deer-in-the-headlights stunned expression, wimpy shrub, Alfred E. Neuman look-alike George Walker Bush to tear the medals from the chest of an honest-to-God war hero and stomp them beyond recognition? We have some rather strong thoughts on that as well.
Democrats have to learn that when someone attacks your character with a bazooka, you attack his (or hers) with a nuclear weapon. We argue that character assassination is now a conventional weapon in the Republican arsenal. We think Republicans should be careful what they wish for, because when it comes to character assassination, we can blow most of these pretenders off the political face of this earth. In short, we believe we have bigger and better ammunition than they do. We argue that when someone attacks your character or integrity, when someone questions your patriotism, your commitment to humanity, your morals and values, not only do you have a license to fire back but you have a responsibility to fire back. Indeed, voters expect you to fire back. We'll go into some detail on this too.
Democrats have to gain a voice and craft an agenda. They have to learn not to be such intellectual elitists and to embrace all voters, regardless of their cultural or geographic status. They have to relearn the first rule of politics in a representative democracy, that politics is not about those who serve, it is about those who would be served. This one is vital to us and, we think, to Democrats' ability to rise up and win again throughout America.
In addition to these basic rules of electoral success, we will argue that Democrats need to figure out how to break through the culture of America. This includes the need to spend time with various cultural groups, from NASCAR to hunting and sporting groups, from high school and college athletics to country and bluegrass music performers and followers. It means spending time in areas where various cultures thrive, and it means offering policy proposals and perspectives to address the needs of people living in these cultures. We'll go into a fair amount of detail on this point, and present a fairly rigorous plan for doing so.
But before we get into the sections of the book that offer a blueprint for Democratic victory, and before we peel the hide off scoundrel Republican leaders and cheerleaders, and before we tackle the major polarizing and often albatrosslike issues sinking Democratic candidates, we will offer a quick historical section that chronicles the heyday of economic and cultural opportunity in rural and southern America, from the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt through the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson. It is important that we do this. For among the many propaganda tools utilized by the modern-day Republican Party, perhaps none is more overlooked and potentially more damning than their determination to rewrite American history.
According to the current crop of Republican genetic mutants, the New Deal of FDR was a ruse, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society did nothing for American society, and not only did Ronald Reagan save the world from the Soviet Union (a very questionable claim) but his redistribution of wealth to the greedy and record deficit spending programs prevented a world economic collapse. We are eager and pleased to respond to such fantasies with voluminous documentation.
In the historical section, we will also expose the cynical and calculated "Southern Strategy" of Republicans like Lee Atwater, who felt that to win the South and the Heartland of America, GOP candidates needed essentially to brainwash and ultimately "culturize" voters against Democrats by getting them to vote against their own economic self-interests, polarizing them on divisive issues such as race, God, gays, and guns.
Finally in the first section, we will offer the damning result of that cynical Southern Strategy from the arrogance of the Republican-controlled Congress, which results in gutting ethics rules through bureaucratic agencies paying so-called journalists to spew governmental propaganda to scripted press conferences and planted reporters. We will document a government that sold out to the greediest and highest bidders, resulting in disastrous policy, from the consolidation of media ownership through an offensive energy program to a bankruptcy bill that sold out working people to greedy corporate interests. We will assess the Republicans' disastrous trade policies and look at why wage earners are falling further and further behind. And we will examine the arrogance and cynicism that allow George W. Bush to, among other things, pin medals on the chests of individuals who failed their wartime responsibilities.
So, sit back and read and ponder and get pissed off we are.
Copyright © 2006 by Steve Jarding and Dave "Mudcat" Saunders