You win some and you lose some. America lost this one. Everyone’s favorite bumbling, smirking village idiot is back in the saddle again, allowed once more to play Shoot Out At The OK Corral wherever in the world he chooses. Half of this country’s citizens have given a man who doesn’t know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland the most important position on the face of the planet. Red covered virtually all but the coasts of the United States news maps last night, indicating a serious hemorrhaging of logic and rationality from within the American body politic—cut to a wounded democracy riding off into a blood red sunset. Music swells.
Melodramatic, yes, but when it comes to George Bush and his administration, we on the left are guilty of continuously underestimating the damage they can do and the treachery of which they are capable. Now we must all suffer at least four more years in the hopes that before the next election there will be a sufficient threshold of pain reached in the red states that it will compel people to open their eyes to the madness of King George and his extreme agenda. It would have been so much easier on everyone if we had just kicked Bush out of Washington DC yesterday.
Scapegoats? Excuses? There are plenty of them. In hindsight, Edwards probably would have been a stronger candidate for the Democrats with his good ole boy drawl, boyish charm and lawyer’s killer instincts. But I grew more impressed with Kerry as the campaign went on. True, he does have a habit of rambling in speeches, but he could also be direct and on topic, a talent he displayed admirably in the three debates. His perceived aloofness may have cost him votes, but compared to say, Nixon or even the Al Gore of 2000, the Senator is a Care Bear.
Was Kerry’s campaign run well? Kerry was not one of the favored candidates for the Democratic nomination way back when, and when he got it, he was considered a long shot to stand toe-to-toe with Bush in the campaign. Kerry overcame a lot of obstacles on the campaign trail, however, and gave the Bushies a run for their money. Monday morning quarterbacks will point to the lack of a quick response to the Swift Boat liars or the inability of the Kerry team to focus on one or two issues, but I think it is amazing that Kerry mounted as strong a challenge as he did against an incumbent president in the midst of a war overseas.
Republican dirty tricks certainly didn’t help Kerry. Rove and his band of reprobates around the country pulled off enough antics to actually make the weak-minded question whether Kerry was a war hero or not. This was an impressive feat given Bush’s miserable service record, which nobody seemed to care about. In fact, there were many, many important things about Bush that nobody seemed to care about. Mmmm.
So we come to what I consider the real culprit of election 2004—the American media. News organizations in this country, both network and cable, failed miserably to perform their jobs during this campaign, and I believe it cost Kerry the presidency. There is no other way to explain why so many Americans believed that WMD had been found in Iraq or that Iraq played a part in the 9/11 attacks long after these claims had been proven false. There is no other way to explain how esteemed scientists, economists, Nobel Prize winners, doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs—the most learned people in a variety of disciplines—could all object strenuously to Bush policies over the last four years, and have so little affect on US public opinion. There is no other way to explain how a President and his administration could lie time after time after time with virtually no consequences, even to the point of Bush telling millions of American television viewers there was nothing under his suit coat when the bulge was obvious in photographs.
For years, small left leaning publications like the Nation, the Progressive and others have been warning Americans of the danger of media consolidation. The major media outlets, of course, were not going to point fingers at themselves, so the story remained well under the radar for most citizens, and continues to hover there today. What may have sounded like Chicken Little ten years ago is a prophecy realized today. With only a few companies owning the vast media outlets in this country, our news and information at all levels is filtered, compressed, sanitized and framed until—like the message heard by the last person in a game of “pass-it-on”—it bears little resemblance to reality. Many have heralded the Internet as the new town square, where real information and news can be exchanged. I agree that the Internet has moved into a vacuum left by other media, but it is not yet a forum for the masses, as this election proves only too well. For all the information available in cyberspace, it didn’t reach a lot of people in the spaces between the West and East coasts.
Reversing the media monopoly should be a high priority for progressives, perhaps the highest, but with Bush in the Oval Office and a Republican congress, we have to concede that little will be accomplished over the coming years. Perhaps the best we can do is create a grassroots campaign to raise awareness among red state citizens of the dangers media consolidation poses. We’ve got four years. But if nothing is done, the consolidations will continue under a Republican administration, and it could get to the point where Democrats run Jesus himself and still lose Florida, Texas and Ohio. Sooner or later we need to rescue the fourth estate from itself or America will continue to bleed red until it seeps outward covering everything, and everybody, in its path.