November 10, 2004

In the Future, All Elections Will Be 2000

I remember reading months back a post by Ace claiming that Michael Totten, being in the liberal hawk camp and thus something of an "independent" voter, was somehow asserting his superiority over those who stand firmly with one party:

He's finally gotten around to congratulating himself as being wise, intelligent, and brave for not being a member of the Republican Party.

It's about time that some liberal-leaning independent somewhere had the balls to acknowledge his own intellectual and moral superiority.

It goes on in that vein. The piece by Totten that set it off is here. I suspect the superiority complex accusation was inspired primarily by this portion of Totten's post:

Political parties are cruel to people who think. The more partisan members are bigots. They hate people in the other political party, and they hate you if you don't follow orders.
You can twist out of that passage that Totten is saying political parties cater to the stupid and the bigoted, but only just. It's a supposition you have to start the paragraph looking for, and it's not what I get out of it.

What I get out of it is this: It isn't that it's better to be an independent; it's that it's harder. If, as Woody Allen once joked, bisexuals automatically increase their chances of having a date for the night, then independents automatically increase their chances of rejection. The chances of getting blasted go up because now you're eligible to get it from either side.

During the 2000 election debacle, I was an active participant on the now-defunct FOX News message boards. I was in that group of voters, some of whom had voted for Gore, others of whom had voted for Bush, who felt that certain elements of the recount were getting out of hand.

We weren't, as noted, all necessarily pro-Bush, but we were all very tired of phrases like, "voter intent." We were tired of this dragging on so long. We were tired of hearing that every vote must count while the only votes being counted seemed to be in traditionally Democratic counties.

We were convinced that the whole country had gone crazy. There was something posted at least once a week noting that Texas retains the right to secede from the U.S. (This is, by the way, why I'm not losing my head over the blue-state secession talk. Been there, done it.) Would any of this ever be resolved?

Because on this issue we were (reluctantly, in some cases) on the side of Bush, the staunch Republicans were pretty nice to us. I had some great discussions with most of them, and when we'd hit a rough patch, something we disagreed on, they'd continue explaining their positions to me with the same courtesy and calmness with which they'd begun the discussion. Eventually we'd either reach a point of agreement, or agree to disagree. Insofar as this fleeting issue was concerned--who should be the next President--we were all on the same team, and that set the tone for most discussions.

The people who showed up saying, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I voted for Gore and yet, I don't like what he's doing. I don't actually want him to be president anymore. I thought Republicans were so sleazy before this but now it's the people in my own party I can't talk to"--oh, they were given the red carpet treatment. You poor thing, they were told. You've probably heard all about how intolerant Republicans are, but just look at the irony! We're not all meanspirited hatemongerers, dear. You'll see. You'll have a much nicer time with us. We will never reject you. We're a big tent. We can make room for you to squeeze in. Come sit by us, dear.

Then it was over. Bush was president. People who'd only been participating to follow the daily news developments in the election wrote their farewell posts, thanked everyone for an interesting time, and left.

And they weren't gone two minutes before it started: The avalanche of threads to discuss what to do now. Now that we've won, it's time to push hard for what we, the party faithful, really want to see done around here.

You want to guess what the most popular topic was?

It wasn't Social Security privatization. It wasn't school vouchers. It wasn't Medicare. It wasn't anything to do with foreign policy (oh, for the return of those days). It wasn't about anything that I, at least, could recall being among Bush's campaign promises. No, the number one topic could best be summarized as, "Now it's time to start rescuing our country from The Gay Agenda."

I had a couple email exchanges with some friends I'd made on the boards. They went like this:

To: bluecat99
From: ilyka
Subject: WTF?

What's with all the gay-bashing all of a sudden on the boards?

To: ilyka
From: bluecat99
Subject: Re: WTF?

You're asking me?

The very same people who'd assured us for the last two months that "The Republican Party caters to homophobes" was only a vicious smear tactic by the liberal media, now didn't want to talk about a damn thing except The Gay Agenda.

These had been sane, reasonable people, in my estimation. I couldn't believe that had changed. Because either it had changed or I had been duped, and who wants to admit they've been duped?

It was just as hard to believe they had changed, but that's what it looked like. The same people who'd politely explained to me that they were against boycotting the Boy Scouts simply because they thought a private organization, nongovernmentally funded, should be able to make whatever rules it pleased--who had couched all discussion in terms of the private versus the public, in terms of being against overlegislation, against government interference, and pro free market--these same people were now gleefully posting things like, "First the Boy Scouts--next, OUR SCHOOLS! I'm sick of these fags trying to force their 'lifestyle' on our kids!"

I didn't want to barge in and say, "Wow, you people disgust me." I thought that would be inflammatory. These people hadn't been inflammatory to me, or even to most other board participants. I thought of how nice they'd been to people who'd had the patience to discuss things with them politely, reasonably, even when no agreement was possible. They had given me a chance. I would give them a chance.

So I suggested that maybe, of all the issues out there, fighting the gay agenda was the least important of them. Hey, how 'bout that Social Security privatization, huh?

The response was essentially, "You're still here? Oh, yah, you, the fag-lover. Listen, thanks for all your help before. Now go hang out with all your FAG FRIENDS. We're in charge now." Thanks for helping us fight the good fight. You're dismissed.

Well, that was that. I was spending too much time with these discussions anyway. I had work to do and I was feeling guilty for having neglected it. My friends and I reasoned that, well, maybe this was inevitable--now that it was all over, everyone who had better things to do than fret over the gay agenda was off doing those better things. This was probably just the fringe element, the nutters who eventually take over any public forum. Most Republicans, we said, weren't like this.

Some white supremacists had started posting openly, too, but, geez, they weren't the backbone of the party either. Couldn't be! Right? Right? It was the Dixiecrats who'd catered to and stoked the racists in their midst. The Democratic Party, not the Republican one. Gee, everybody knew that.

Most Republicans weren't gay-bashers. Most Republicans weren't racists. But the ones who were, shouted the loudest. Eventually, no one else could be heard.

I suppose my point is that while I don't feel "the middle," however you define it, is superior to one end of the spectrum or the other, it is, if there is to be any unity, more necessary in times of heated disagreement. Oh, don't roll your eyes at me! Face it: The odds that the leftiest of the left and the rightiest of the right will dance together voluntarily are nil. I don't expect them to, I don't even want to see it; that's going to be some ugly dancing. And someone's going to have to hold the gun to their heads to force it to happen. No. No thanks.

These problems will not be solved at the ends of the political divide. They will be solved in the middle, by people who are sick of taking bullets from both directions. Take the Ashcroft thing: Is anyone happy about the Ashcroft thing on the left? (Okay, Willis is. Good for him.) I'd have thought Ashcroft's resignation would be like getting an early Christmas present, but no. The distrust and suspicion are so ingrained that the predominant reaction is, "Well, so what. Well, Bush will probably just choose someone worse now. Well, we shouldn't forget that he still sucked."

And on the other side, it's the sin of omission: "He wasn't that bad. He didn't invade that much privacy." I realize Simon's talking primarily about the Patriot Act, but I'm thinking of other issues, like the bit where he subpoenaed the medical records of women who'd had late abortions. That matters far more to me than whether or not he covered up the breasts on a statue.

That news wasn't widely discussed because--because why? Because it never stood a chance of making it through all the noise about the Patriot Act and statue boobies. Lots more fun to scream, scream, scream about the Patriot Act.

Apparently, I live in a country that's gone whole-hog Jerry Springer, and not just in Jesusland, where your average snob might expect that to occur. No, it's everywhere. Saying this or that side has been the better, the more civil, the less hateful--even if it were provably true, it'd still be a pointless assertion. Try this: Make yourself watch some Springer some time. Now, do your level best to care which half of which transgendered incestuous couple makes better arguments. You'll want to do this quick, before they start taking their clothes off.

Move to the middle, damnit. I'm not saying you have to compromise your positions, but you do have to quit treating us like cattle, herding us your direction by pointing your finger at the other side and saying, "See? See how insane they are? You wanna end up over there, with all the crazy people?" And then, when we start to trot over, the other side starts up: "You're standing over there, with all the bigots?" And we think, shoot, I didn't mean to give that impression. I'd better head back more towards--"Hey! Quit hanging with the crazy people!" Whoops, I guess I better--

Enough! I will stand with your side when I think your side is right, but if you come near my behind with that branding iron again you're going to get kicked in the teeth. When I say, "move to the middle," I don't mean "think exactly the way I do." I mean, quit behaving like this:

. . . now I'm suddenly a target not just for the left, but for the right. I'm being told I must fight the good fight, rethink my stance on gay issues, abortion, the definition of family and religion. I'm seeing the first hints of alienation. They got my war on terror vote. I was part of them for this whole election cycle, working side by side to get Bush elected. And now that the election is over, I've been given a put up or shut up demand. Bad enough to get the bullets from the opposing party, I'm now being eased out the door of my own.
You don't have to agree with the middle; as I learned here, "the middle" means different things to different people, and trying to build a platform around "the middle" might well be impossible. But you'll damn well quit alienating the middle if you're truly serious about achieving your goals. You'll quit calling for purges of the unbelievers and settle for being glad you've got a few of us to shore up your ranks.

You'll do this, or we'll leave.

We don't think we're "better" for being mushy middles. We just think we take double the grief for it.

And after four years of taking it, we are all grieved out.

UPDATE 11/12/2004: "I voted for Bush for two things: lower taxes and dead terrorists." Si, si. And since it's Veteran's Day and the author is in fact a veteran, one other thing: Thank you. Thank you for everything you did.

Posted by Ilyka at November 10, 2004 03:46 PM in hell is other people

" We just think we take double the grief for it."

Nope - you just whine the loudest.

Posted by: TS at November 10, 2004 06:09 PM


Posted by: Ewin at November 10, 2004 06:09 PM

To TS:


Posted by: Ewin at November 10, 2004 06:10 PM

TS needs to get in line behind Angela, basically.

Posted by: ilyka at November 10, 2004 06:30 PM

Change of subject! Let's talk about my boils.

See, I have why just a ton of boils all over my body, an unfortunate side effect of my decision last year to bathe exclusively in vegetable shortening from now on. Sweet greasy slippery short'nin!

But oh, the boils. They plague me. I've got this one real pus-monster just above my ass crack that really has to be seen to be believed. Maybe I'll get my own blog soon and post pictures. I just don't think you'd believe how horrifying it is without pictures. We're talking festering, y'all. Festering and oozing and occasionally, I am sad to say, exploding at random intervals. This has been hell on my pants. Or would be, if I ever wore any.


Posted by: TS at November 10, 2004 06:41 PM

Pretty lame to change my post.

Afraid I speak the truth about your whining?

Posted by: TS at November 10, 2004 07:27 PM

Damn, do you mean to tell me that TS didn't write the boil thing?

I was going to say how cool he was. :) I mean, that's practically right up there with Lileks' "I HAVE NEW UNDERWEAR!"

Posted by: Ewin at November 10, 2004 07:41 PM

I was going to say how cool he was.

See, TS? I was totally upping your cred, man, but then you had to go and ruin it. You could have been the best troll ever.

Posted by: ilyka at November 10, 2004 08:06 PM


You DO realize that the DOJ was not trying to invade the privacy of the women who had late term abortions, but to get data to fight the lawsuit of partial-birth abortionists. It was his job to try to win the case for the government. Fortunately, judges squashed the subpoeneas and rightly so.

Still, as a conservative, I'm happy that Ashcroft is moving on, his appointment gave the liberals too much ammo to say that the Bush administration was trying to bring about a theoracy

Posted by: JFH at November 10, 2004 08:10 PM

Hot damn! That's the best troll edit I've ever seen.

I bow down to your preeminence, blogsister mine.


Posted by: Jim at November 10, 2004 08:21 PM


I am SO using that on my next troll.

Posted by: michele at November 10, 2004 10:19 PM

Comment registration is so much easier.

Have I told you about comment registration lately? It's a beautiful thing.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at November 11, 2004 04:18 AM

By the way, can I just say, it's 100% certain that sooner or later the Republicans will trip up and alienate enough people that they'll lose power big time?

My guess would be that it'll be quite a few years, because most of the party leadership has sensible heads on its shoulders. But we'll see.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at November 11, 2004 04:20 AM

I was away from the computer all day, so I didn't read this until just now; but hot DAMN woman, you know I love the way you think.

It'd be a full-on kiss on the lips from me, if you know, I wasn't so busy gay bashing and consuming baby kitties in my spare time.

It's like I said: I was just stupid enough to think the election would take care of a lot of the bullshit. That'll learn me.

P.S. I hope you're right, Dean. I really, RILLY, do.

Posted by: Margi at November 11, 2004 09:43 AM

Dean, if I had the mega-traffic like you do I'd definitely need comment registration, but as it is, I only get a gem like this last one maybe every six months. So let me have my fun. :)

Posted by: ilyka at November 11, 2004 09:54 AM

Hey, thanks Ilyka. Great post, by the way. You and Michele pretty much nailed what I walk around thinking and trying to explain to people all day.

Posted by: francisthegreat at November 11, 2004 09:51 PM

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

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