Getting Out the Vote

The Democratic candidates were at their silliest a few weeks ago at that one debate when everyone was asked if they thought Dean could beat Bush, and (Dean excepted) they all said “No.” What poppycock. None of them will have an easy time of it, but _any_ of the major contenders has a real chance at victory. The main reason for this — and this is by no means an observation that originates with me — is that we’re a nation divided. Four years ago the popular vote was split right down the middle, and Bush’s policies have only served to cement the convictions of his supporters and detractors.

I thought about all of this as I looked over “my notes on Bush’s inauguration”: If I was annoyed then at the fact that Bush was behaving as if he had a popular mandate when he clearly did not, and troubled by the sense of entitlement displayed by many of his supporters, I don’t have a word for how I feel about it now. A couple things I said back then are particularly interesting in retrospect:

On the other hand, the protestors’ fundamental right to do what they were doing was challenged and belittled at every turn. The media coverage I saw didn’t reflect the extent or the passion or the sheer presence of the protests.

This is a dynamic that was repeated during the run-up to the war.

For those who do object not only to Bush’s politics but to his very legitimacy, it’s going to be hard to stay present in the public eye for two or four years. But I think it’s important that they do. This inauguration was not ritual-as-usual. Its circumstances were unique in American history. I am eager — and very curious — to see how the American people will comment on it all the next time we all head for the polls.

That ‘next’ time was the midterm election, and as far as the American people commenting on the previous election: they didn’t. It didn’t help that the DNC had its head up its tuckus, to boot.

The hope for a Democratic victory in November lies less with swaying swing voters and more with getting out the vote. I get the sense that many more people than usual have already made up their minds, and the important question is how many of them will actually get to the polls. Kerry, Dean, Edwards — whoever wins should remind America of the last presidential election. He must drive to the polls everyone who _didn’t_ vote in 2000 and said to themselves afterward, when they saw how close it was, “Man — I guess I should’ve voted.”

Inspiring the populace to action isn’t easy, and whoever wins the Democratic nomination had better be good at it. This is my biggest reservation about Kerry, and a strength for Dean and especially Edwards (who Bush is “clearly afraid of”:,0,4324470.story?coll=bal-health-headlines). But again — any of them _could_ pull it off.

And please, oh please, let Ralph Nader keep to himself this time around. “There’s no real difference between Gore and Bush” — remember _that_ poisonous bit of nonsense?