Politics & Policy

Election Day, Election Night, Elections to Come, and More

If Bush had lost, I would be presenting you with an appreciation of him–as a leader, a president, and a man. Should I do it anyway? I don’t think so–might as well go on with a regular Impromptus (to the degree that Impromptus can ever be regular). We’ll save the eulogistic stuff for January 2009 (as President-elect Clinton is preparing for her inauguration?).

‐Let me talk a little bit about my Election Day. I voted about 10:30 in the morning (I guess the other 10:30 would have been impossible). At the polling place was Peter Jennings–I may be wrong, but I’m fairly sure we canceled each other out! Also at the polling place was Julius Rudel, the veteran conductor. Of his vote, I cannot be sure.

A Martian, looking at the line, might have concluded that a Kerry-Edwards button was mandatory. But that was only the appearance of it.

The most disturbing aspect of the morning was the ease with which I voted–and I’m not talking about a laudable ease. I gave my name, gave my address, and that was it. No ID, no nothing. How did they know my name was Jay Nordlinger, and that I lived where I said I lived? True, I had to sign my name under a previous signature of mine–but such things are easy enough to copy. So too, I’m fairly sure I could have written “Mickey Mouse” and waltzed right in.

The whole setup seemed to me an invitation to fraud.

Speaking of which, an informed Michigan source told me they were “passing out provisional ballots like candy,” and, moreover, running them through–counting them as votes, contrary to the rules. This misbehavior was rampant, said my source, amazed and disgusted. I know that I, personally, as a citizen and as a journalist, have been far too ignorant about the mechanics of Election Day. If I had more discipline (and time), I would read John Fund’s Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.

Maybe I will.

‐Care to hear a word about media bias? I didn’t think you’d object. Whenever I watch TV news–as I did Tuesday night, for hours–I find all my suspicions confirmed. I wish it weren’t so.

Four years ago, I wrote a piece about Election Night (which I spent in Austin), and I would like to quote a little of it now:

Conservatives, I find, usually make too much or too little of media bias. The more common error, I now believe, is to make too little of it. As Kate O’Beirne says, it’s astonishing that a Republican ever wins.

One of the worst things, of course, about a rough election night is having to hear the television people report it. They can’t help looking pleased as punch. For instance, I thought some of the newscasters would wet themselves when announcing that Hillary Clinton had won in New York.

I was reminded of a story about Reagan (as we junkies so often are): It’s November ‘82, and he’s watching the midterm results, in the White House residence. The Republicans have had a lousy day; a lady correspondent is saying so. Reagan says–to himself, under his breath–”Wipe the glee off your face, sister.”

I’ve always loved that: “Wipe the glee off your face, sister.” Exactly.

During the 2000 campaign, I would sometimes listen to music through headphones, while others were watching television around me. (I need not go into the circumstances now.) And I remember being able to tell–merely by the look on her face–whether Katie Couric was interviewing a Republican or a Democrat. It was uncanny.

And I have a further memory of Judy Woodruff interviewing Ralph Nader. She was pressing him on why he wouldn’t drop out of the race, and I thought she was going to cry. She was kind of angrily tearful, or tearfully angry. She was virtually pleading with Nader, as a Gore partisan would.

I thought of that Tuesday night, when Woodruff appeared onscreen to say that a source in the Kerry campaign had confided to her that the campaign had given up on Florida. She looked unbelievably mournful–not just sober, in the accepted manner of a news reporter, but mournful. If you had instructed an actress, “Do this mournfully,” you would not have gotten a different result.

And then when she–and legal sidekick Jeffrey Toobin–got wind of Ohio’s provisional ballots, you could tell that they were excited, hopeful, almost given a new lease on life: for Kerry might still win.

Now, you could claim that my reaction is biased–warped–and maybe it is. But you should have seen it. If you saw a tape, I don’t think you’d disagree. The CNNers were so jazzed about the provisional ballots, they could barely get the words out.

How about the Fox guys? Did they evince the same bias? I don’t think so. But then, I may be too deep into it to tell.

And CBS! How could I forget CBS?! When other networks had become resigned to a Bush victory, Dan Rather was still playing it as a cliffhanger, even talking up the possibility of a Kerry comeback. Was this merely to retain viewer interest? That’s not how it seemed to me–it seemed to me an expression of rooting.

I tell you nothing you don’t know (you who are Bozellian–and Nordlingerian–conservatives out there). But I myself was amazed to have conservative suspicions and beliefs about the media so amply confirmed two nights ago.

‐John Edwards’s “concession” speech was terrible, I thought–petulant, acrid, graceless. He kept saying “rages”–the battle “rages” for this, and “rages” for that. Yes, that’s what we need, certainly from the Democratic party: more raging. By the evidence of yesterday afternoon, Edwards plans to run as Howard Dean in ‘08.

Kerry’s speech, on the other hand, was a wonderful surprise. At least, that’s what it was to me. I was amazed at how gracious it was. I was also amazed at how patriotic it was, and if that sounds McCarthyite, I’m sorry (though not really). I don’t remember hearing so patriotic a speech from a big liberal Democrat (as long as I’m being McCarthyite). I thought Kerry just figured that America was the country he happened to be born in–and the one whose greasy pole he had to climb (although he started pretty high up). But no. His patriotism seemed utterly sincere, even poetic. For the rest of my life, I will think better of Kerry because of that speech.

And I have to say that, after Kerry’s performance, the Bush-Cheney event seemed a little inappropriate. It was practically a rally. I understand that you had to address the campaign troops–but a subdued, humble statement from the White House lawn or something would have been ideal. It was a bit jarring to hear loud music and chants of “Four More Years,” and to see a sea of waving flags, after the Kerry concession. I think the Democrats are classier than the Republicans about once a decade, and this might have been it. Although, given Edwards . . . I guess I’d still give the GOP the nod.

‐Something I overheard on Fifth Ave., while walking to work yesterday: “They say that the election was about values–that they voted for Bush because of values. What values? Dropping bombs on people?”

Yes, ma’am, those are our values: dropping bombs on people. That’s what we want to do. It’s a matter of our jollies, you know.

‐I got several e-mails from New Yorkers saying how fast the Kerry-Edwards buttons dropped out of sight. Even early Tuesday morning–not a one of them. As though a whole strain of flowers had been wiped out, overnight. I figured that, if Kerry won, I’d be seeing those buttons for about a week–certainly in the concert halls and opera houses. It would have been a way for the Democrats in question to congratulate themselves, and kind of wink at one another, and high-five one another.

Writes a reader, “Have you noticed? No more Kerry-Edwards buttons! I took the subway down to the Upper West Side today, and during my entire two-hour walkabout I didn’t see a single button.”

Writes another reader, “On my walk to work through Washington Square to the West Village, I didn’t see any Kerry or anti-Bush buttons (for the past six weeks, it seemed like most people were wearing at least one). An apartment on Carmine Street still has the ‘4 More Years’ sign up, but all the Kerry signs are down.”

And this from Chicago: “Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I have to tell you I’ve been amused by all your reports of the Button Army. I commute into downtown Chicago every day and walk up Jackson Blvd. from Union Station all the way to Michigan Ave. Oh, the buttons! I’ve never seen so many buttons in all my life . . . Kerry-Edwards, Obama, not a single Bush-Cheney button, ever. Don’t you admire the sheer bravery of these people, wearing a Kerry-Edwards button in a city that’s 90 percent Democratic? Well, that’s all over now. This morning I was a little shocked to see absolutely no buttons–none, nada–along that roughly quarter-mile stretch through the heart of Daleyville.”

But, on a sad note–sad but typical:

My wife and I moved to Princeton a couple months ago so I could begin my grad work in chemical engineering. My wife found a job in a lab on campus (she is a biologist) and we were happy with our good fortune. Well, we both knew that Princeton was enemy territory (we are both conservative Republicans relocated from the Land of Enchantment) but we were not prepared for the level of invective that would be directed at us and our beliefs. It reached a crescendo yesterday [Tuesday] when I went to my wife’s lab to pick her up so we could go home. I was wearing a “W” shirt because of the day. It was not received warmly–I was told I had to leave by people who were supposed to be my wife’s friends. I thought they were joking and kidded around a bit but after enduring a few insults it became clear they were, at best, half joking. Then her boss came up to me and told me I had to leave–I had not even met this woman yet! I was trying to put on a friendly face since my wife still has to work with these people but my wife was visibly shaken at the rudeness with which I was treated. It’s not like they had an “apolitical” policy in the lab since anti-Bush T-shirts are de rigueur there. Needless to say, my wife will take the first out from that job that is offered. It’s not like they are bad people (we have had fun with them before), they are just a bunch of intellectually vain folks whose insulation has led to a complete intolerance of any other point of view but theirs. For them to lose a good employee and a potentially good friend because of that is their loss.

Somewhat happy ending though. We attended an Election Night party with a roomful of chemical engineering grad students. All East Coast Democrats, they still were civil to the only Republicans in the room (my wife and me). Our faith in humanity is somewhat restored now.

I’m still going to remove my bumper stickers before my tires get slashed.

Some news from other campuses?

Yesterday in my “Introduction to Nursing” class my teacher put on a 30-minute video stating why we should vote for John Kerry and not George W. Bush. The teacher did say the video was biased, but not to the extent it really was. My teacher is a political activist, and feels compelled to make the rest of us activists, too. She did not say “Vote for Kerry,” but the video said that for her. Can you imagine a teacher subjecting nursing students to a Republican propaganda video?

Nope.

Jay,

Here is a true story of Post-Election Morning at BU Law School. My international law professor just moments ago started class with a rant about the American electorate. [Yes, these kids write you during class, from their laptops!] He claims that he is from a family of Finnish socialists, which he alleges to be classic American liberalism. My understanding of our history and traditions is rather different. Anyway, following his rant, he encouraged students to comment. It is currently 21 minutes into class and this episode of collective liberal mourning has not yet abated. I’m not sure what $30,000 ends up costing me per class, but needless to say I have better uses for my money. Meanwhile, I have a broad grin that I simply can’t wipe off my face. Thank God for the red states. Go Bush!

* * *

Hey Jay!

Just thought I’d pass on the reaction here at Washington & Lee Law School. Some people are so despondent they have missed all classes today–which is not supposed to happen unless you’re really sick–and others go around like someone just shot their dog. The ‘club’ effect is more obvious than usual. My professors have not been able to refrain from making snide remarks about the election, and my CivPro professor just let one slip about W., personally. They just assume that everyone is in on the joke, and 99 percent of the class is. Brave, original thinkers, eh?

My likeminded friends and I have been discreetly overjoyed, but I know there would be zero effort to be thoughtful were the shoe on the other foot.

* * *

Mr. Nordlinger,

Today I was sitting around the law library after class reading National Review. [What a braveheart!] A group of upperclassmen were sitting in the area next to me bemoaning the election. They invited me to sit with them, I assume because they thought they had a kindred spirit, given that I’m Canadian.

When I told them that I would have voted for George W. if I had been able to and would dearly love to be an American one day, they were shocked. I was peppered with questions about how I could possibly want to live in a country that will soon resemble a cross between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. [They think Stalinist Russia was bad?]

As a good history student, I carefully explained the differences and why I found it insulting to make the comparison. Naturally this fell on deaf ears and I soon found myself sitting alone.

As though this weren’t enough, a number of girls in my class have jokingly (??) asked if we can get married so they can enjoy Canadian citizenship. They too are shocked to find out I want to stay.

And after the election, I am very proud to live here, and consider myself an American at heart!

P.S. If you print this, can you leave out my name? My school is very small and I have to hang out with these kids for the next three years.

* * *

Jay,

Conservatives at Harvard are still embattled, even as the Democrats try to recover from the implosion. I was yelling the phrase “I love America! I love democracy!” in the hallway, and a colleague exploded at me and yelled, “It’s completely inappropriate to express your homophobic views like that!” The disconnect with reality continues unabated. [Homophobic views!!!]

But there is a very funny glimmer of hope. The Republicans are all ecstatic, but can’t really show it. I walked past a TV and asked a girl where Kerry’s concession speech would be this afternoon. I then asked her if she was happy about the election, and she lowered her head and crouched a bit, and then peeped, almost silently, “Yes.” When I told her I had voted for Bush, her face just lit up and we had a nice chat, like two lonely souls in the midst of an enemy camp.

Check out this, y’all:

I thought I would share an inspiring moment I had today [Tuesday]. When I had finished filling out my ballot, I had to get in another line to give my ballot to the person who puts it in the scanner. Right in front of me, a woman was complaining that it took her an hour and 20 minutes to vote. Upon hearing this, a man in an Air Force uniform turned to her, smiled, and said, “That’s all right–this is the most important thing I’ll do today.” He let his words sink in and then said, “At least I didn’t have to walk three days to vote like some of the people in Afghanistan.”

I often take God’s gift of freedom and democracy for granted. Untold thousands or probably millions of people have died for freedom’s sake. Many more have served in the military to spread and protect freedom. We need to let these people and their families know how much we appreciate their sacrifice. This conversation I overheard reminded me of that. May God continue to bless America.

‐Frankly, I’m not so sure I like the Republican talking point that goes, “President Bush received more votes than anyone else in history.” Er, so what? He got 51 percent of the vote–and the percentage is the important thing (along with the Electoral College result, naturally). George McGovern got a helluva lot more votes than Lincoln. Does that mean anything? And Dukakis killed Van Buren!

‐We can’t have Jeb in 2008, because of the “dynasty” problem. But don’t you dislike this use of the word “dynasty”? I mean, I appreciate a metaphor as much as anybody, but I think the word “dynasty” is bandied about far too loosely and snortingly.

These Bushes face the voters, the same as anyone else who seeks office. George W. ran once for Congress, and lost. He ran for governor twice–won. Ran for the Republican presidential nomination–won. Ran for the presidency, twice–won.

His father lost some races, won some races–always faced the voters. His father, Prescott Bush, faced the voters. Jeb lost to Lawton Chiles in ‘94–ran again, won. Ran again, won.

The Adamses, the Harrisons–all democrats, all candidates, all officeholders. None of them a dynast.

Call the Assads in Syria a dynasty–a dictatorial dynasty–if you want. But the Bushes, no. If Republican primary voters want Jeb for their nominee in 2008, they can have him. And if the country wants to cast their ballots for Jeb that fall–let ‘em.

This is democracy, not dynasty, although you’ll never be able to tell it from the punditocracy.

‐Some music? If you insist. For the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble with the countertenor David Daniels, please go here. For Daniel Barenboim in Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier, please go here.

‐Last, you will recall that, on Monday, I published a letter from a young man who had “Fight Terrorism” license plates (Virginia). In Boulder, Colo., a woman pulled up next to him and started denouncing him as a Republican. How did she know he was a Republican? All he had done was express his desire to fight terrorism!

I mean, if we had surmised such a thing, we would have been called McCarthyites.

A reader from MIT writes, “Jay, your ‘Fight Terrorism’ guy reminded me of a conversation I had with my mom, right before the Democratic convention. My mother herself is somewhat left of center, but she has a finely tuned BS detector and, because of all the toxic crap she hears about him from colleagues who assume she agrees, she is more sympathetic to the president than she would otherwise be.

“Anyway, before the Dem convention, people were speculating about the possibility of a terrorist attack in Boston, and one of her lefter colleagues said, ‘Nah, they won’t attack us. They know we’re not their enemy.’

“I was shocked. All I could say, all I could think, is that that’s a nastier statement about liberals in this country than I would ever dare to utter, even in my worst moods, even in the heat of a nasty debate.”

You got it, brother.

‐Oh, hang on, I wanted to say one more thing, before I go. I want to tell you about a friend of mine, a former next-door neighbor. (We still live near each other.) On Monday, I ran into her, and she said, “Jay, I saw you on television, and I liked what you had to say, and if your man wins tomorrow–I won’t be voting for him–I won’t feel so bad, because I know you’ll be pleased, and you made good points.” I happened to see her again, Wednesday night. She said–sincerely and graciously–”Congratulations on the election.” I looked at her–you’ve got to know our neighborhood–and said, “I can’t think of another human being who would say that to me.”

I am grateful for such Democrats. And–I’ll say again–I’m grateful for that Kerry speech, too. He even said that it was important to win in Iraq, and win in the broader War on Terror. And he didn’t “have” to–the election was over!

Gee! Hmmm.

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