gaping void scared
OK people, listen up. First, to all of you who worked your asses off for John Kerry, and got the vote out, thank you and congratulations on doing a remarkable job. The poor, the young, and minorities came out to vote in considerably larger numbers than in recent history, and you should be proud of accomplishing that. In the process you have also created networks that will be absolutely vital over the next four years to fight anti-democratic, corporatist, neoconservative forces to a standstill as they attempt to do the following:

  • Eliminate environmental & labour protections and otherwise deregulate of business, and sell off most remaining public land and resources for commercial purposes
  • Encourage as ‘natural and inevitable’ the outsourcing and offshoring of millions of jobs
  • Indemnify corporations against citizen litigation for misconduct
  • Launch pre-emptive attacks on Iran, then Syria, and then, when the House of Saud is overthrown, Saudi Arabia
  • Eliminate and privatize government social services
  • Institute a flat tax, repeal of the estate tax, and other subsidies for the rich
  • Re-introduce Patriot Act II
  • Ban abortion, after replacement of retiring Supreme Court members with religious zealots
  • Erode or dismantle the separation of church and state
  • Substantively withdraw from the UN

So rest up, because your energies will be needed. The fight will be on eight fronts, where we have an advantage, and I’ll be talking about them next week.

I’ve read a lot of analysis about what happened, and none of it makes sense. If you believe what you read this morning, Kerry should have won in a walk. The pundits say Kerry scored big with women, the young, moderates, African-Americans, Hispanics, political independents and baby boomers. But taken collectively that’s 80% of America. Significant numbers of women, moderates, independents and baby boomers obviously voted for Bush. Kerry got 4 million more votes than Gore, but Bush increased his popular vote by 8 million. The rural population of America is actually shrinking, so that doesn’t account for it. The exit polls suggest that each party kept 90% of its 2000 support and lost the other 10%. That means eight million ‘new’ voters, people who didn’t bother to vote in 2000, came out and voted for George Bush yesterday. Who are these people?

To answer that question, I sat down late last night with a map and the county-by-county results in the five swing states listed in the NYT map yesterday: Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico. The patterns are stark and obvious. If you live in a big city, chances are a large majority of your neighbours voted for John Kerry, and, in some areas, you could fire off a cannon and not hit a Bush supporter. It’s not surprising that city-dwellers were astonished with the results. None of the 8 million new votes came from the cities. None of them came from small towns and farms. They all came from the suburbs.

Demographically, according to the US Census Bureau, 30% of Americans live in urban areas, 50% in suburban areas, and 20% in small towns and rural areas. That means 57 million of yesterday’s voters were suburban. It appears that Bush got close to 75% of the 22 million small town and rural votes, and only about 25% of the 34 million urban votes. Do the math and that means Bush got 34 million suburban votes versus Kerry’s 23 million. In 2000, Bush beat Gore in the suburbs by a very small margin. Bush won the popular vote yesterday thanks solely to suburban voters. Go through the county-by-county results and you’ll see that confirmed.

What would cause 8 million suburban voters who stayed home in 2000 to vote for Bush in 2004? It’s not protecting their affluence and thanking Bush for their tax cuts: Fifteen million of those 57 million suburbanites live below the poverty line, as many poor as live in urban areas and twice the number of the rural poor. What does the suburban demographic look like?

  • Disproportionately white (though becoming less so), and quite heavily segregated
  • Disproportionately middle to upper-middle class, with two income earners, higher home ownership (72% vs 48% in urban areas) and a consumer debt load nearly twice what it was in 2000
  • Low-density, single-family homes (average 200 people per s.m. versus 3000 in urban areas and 25 in rural areas and small towns)

Suburban America is the perfect demographic for Republican fear-mongering. They own more, and owe a lot more, than the average American, so they have a lot more to lose. They depend on both incomes, and are fearful and stressed out about money — the definitive victims of the two-income trap. They commute to work (they own the vast majority of America’s SUVs) in private vehicles, and in most cases their commute is now to another suburb, rather than to the city. They are insulated and isolated from other people, especially people from other cultures. Where people in the city tend to have respect for diversity, and understand it, people in the suburbs aren’t exposed to it, and don’t know it, and fear it. They are more concerned about crime than city dwellers, for example, even though they have a much lower probability of being its victims. They are disproportionally fond of guns and opposed to gun control, although unlike other Americans, their guns are unlikely to ever be used. They are disproportionately evangelical in their religious beliefs. They read very little non-fiction (too tired), and know almost nothing about what’s going on in the world outside their own country and Iraq (and they don’t know much about them either). They are worse off than they were four years ago. Get the picture? In short, they are disconnected, anxious and fearful. The epitome of learned helplessness. I’m going to repeat my Ode to Learned Helplessness, because I’m convinced the people I describe in this poem are the 8 million suburbanites who came out yesterday and voted for the first time, for George Bush.

Vanessa wants to see the world, give something back, stop hoarding stuff
But stays a meek consumer out of fear of ‘not having enough’.
And Billy hides his genius, and acts and dresses like his friends
For fear of seeming different the means will justify the ends.

The NRA sticks to its guns, Bush rolls back freedoms — ‘Red Alert!’ —
They terrorize us and exploit our morbid fear of being hurt.
Katrina cleans the house and clothes with germicides, her expertise
Is making sure the world is free from her great fear of strange disease.

Gerard works eighty hours a week, his job, his life a gaping void,
His lifelong dreams sad victims of his fear of being unemployed.
Joanna’s child stays close at hand, a microchip in his left ear,
As homage to her greatest dread: The fear of losing someone dear.

He cut down all the trees nearby and, locked inside, John spends his days–
His artificial universe, in fear of nature‘s savage ways.
When Karen’s husband beats her up, she thinks it’s her job to atone.
Her shame and grief the ghastly cost of fear of being left alone.

And all the while the chance of these things happening’s remote, or less —
The greater dangers we ignore, distracted by learned helplessness:
Pollution, global warming, wealth imbalance, population stress,
Injustice, power run amok, farm factories, the world’s oppressed.

And while we look the other way, extinction looms within the fog
Divert attention for too long and we become The Boiling Frog.

Well, by now I’ve either convinced you, or I’m not going to. Yesterday eight million anxious, fearful white American suburbanites, male and female, who didn’t vote in 2000, pried themselves out of their isolated, insulated, heavily-mortgaged, two-income-trap homes, and voted for the devil they knew over of the devil they didn’t. And then they went home and prayed. And as a consequence, we have four more years of George Bush.

“Oh, please don’t take him away, Officer Kerry. George is really a good man when he isn’t drinking. He didn’t beat me. I got these bruises from a fall. Please tell the neighbours who complained that we’re OK, and next time we fight we’ll try not to disturb them. Oh, please don’t take their father away from my children. He loves us and we love and need him!”

It’s sad, it’s sickening. But we can’t give up. We mustn’t give up.


For those that are spent, who can’t bear the thought of living under an increasingly extreme, brutish, and isolated regime, I will, as promised, be working with a network of Canadian bloggers to create a site where you can get information and assistance in immigrating to Canada. Until then, here are three links I’ve posted before to get you started in the planning process:

  1. Canadian Government’s skilled worker self-assessment
  2. Immigrating to Canada info from Government of Canada:
  3. Great summary of information about immigrating to Ontario

Thanks again for voting for Kerry. /-/ Dave

Thanks to Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void for the brilliant words and pictures in the graphic above.

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  1. Derek says:

    Well, I scored 71 on the skilled worker test (67 points needed). The next question would be, where in Canada would I go?

  2. Mambrina says:

    Dave: the parallel you’ve drawn with victims of abuse rings true.DerekW: anywhere but Alberta ;-)

  3. Dave, the best analysis I’ve read, or I’m likely to read.

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Congrats and thanks. Derek: Depends what you want. To avoid cold winters, choose BC. For really exciting culture and great food, Quebec, but only if you speak passable French. Cheap housing, Prairies or Atlantic Provinces. Government work, Ottawa. Financial services, Toronto. We’ll put more up on the site soon. A complete FAQ on Canada, in faqt.

  5. I have a better idea. How about those Americans living in ‘moderate’ states, particularly those in the northeast, start rallying together to split away from the U.S. and join Canada. New York and all the New England states would probably fit in with Canada’s culture than that of the south. If New Yorkers really wanted to keep themselves safe, joining Canada is probably the best way.If you are thinking of starting up new websites, one I have considered is building a news/information website with the purpose of informing Americans of what is really happening in the world, the impact American foreign policy is affecting the world and how the rest of the world really views the United States.I mean, how many Americans realize that it was President Bush that backed out of the North Korean treaty and in doing so created the recent North Korean crisis and forced North Korea to restart its nuclear program. Don’t you think this would be important information for Americans to know? Is anyone confident that any American politician or news organization would ever mention this?Unfortunately I have no time (free time is at a minimum for me these days) to begin to get such a project like this going but I’d love to see it happen. And with Bush getting re-elected the more informed the American public is, the better chance they have of stopping him from doing devastating things.

  6. Gary says:

    I’ve looked at that map, too, and I’m convinced you’re right. It’s all – all – about fear. Fear of the other, of the unknown, of change. My wife thinks we should gather together as many like-minded progressives as we can from the blue states, and move to form educational enclaves in the populous swing red states.I’m not moving to Canada. I’m fighting for my country.

  7. etbnc says:

    Good for you, Gary!You’ll find tremendously helpful insight and information in George Lakoff’s book, _Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think_. Also visit Lakoff’s web site, http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org. What this election demonstrated to me–again!–is that shared vision and clear communication WORK. Even for a dangerously flawed vision, which is sad and scary, but which demonstrates the mechanism nevertheless.There’s no reason to believe a sustainable, supportive vision won’t take hold just as strongly, once we can express it clearly and consistently.That’s the task ahead of us today, same as yesterday.Cheers.

  8. JC says:

    Hello,You make the claim that “Fifteen million of those 57 million suburbanites live below the poverty line”. I would like to know what you base that on, as most people would look at that percentage, and say, “yeah right”. Thanks.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Hey, I loved Alberta! :) Calgary is a great city, though a bit sprawly, and no PST in that province. But Alberta is a long way away from my family, I’d want to stay in Ontario for proximity to my loved ones.I recently watched a documentary about Ellis Island and the era of mass immigration to the US (1890’s-1940’s). People were coming here to escape poverty, religious persecution, and political oppression in their own countries. At the time, the people were welcomed because they made up an unskilled workforce that helped push America’s great manufacturing boom. During the 1950’s things changed because the immigrants were starting to be seen as a burden, so consulates were created and the visa process started. Before that, you just got on a ship and came over and hoped that you wouldn’t be sent back. During that time, on the order of 3% of immigrants were sent back, originally because of sickness or criminal record, but later also based on illiteracy (in your native language, not English). So if you were a reasonably healthy person of sound mind and standard intelligence, you were in. Interestingly, if you said that you already had a job lined up for yourself, that was frowned upon, because it gave the impression that you were taking a job away from someone else already in the country. You were expected to just arrive and find your way.These days it’s much harder. I have enough points to get permanent resident status in Canada, but I’m caught in a catch-22 because I don’t have a job offer waiting for me and I also don’t have the 10,000 (or so, I can’t recall exactly) I would need to come in without a waiting job. Not to mention the couple thousand for the permanent resident application fees. I want to leave to escape the imminent poverty, atrocious healthcare, and political oppression in my country, but bureaucratically, it’s a lot harder than it was a century ago. But I find it interesting to think that this country that once was the placewhere people wanted to come to has now become the place people want to flee. Just as well, since all our jobs are being outsourced anyway. The country will end up being stratified with the super-rich on one end and the service-industry poor on the other. The rest of us in between will just disappear.Well this is rambling. I’m tired, I stayed up waaay too late last night :)

  10. Dave Pollard says:

    JC: August, 2004 US Census Bureau Report on Poverty says “In 2000, 13.8 million poor Americans lived in the suburbs–almost as many as the 14.6 million who lived in central cities. The suburban poor represented 38.5 percent of the nation’s poor, compared with 40.6 percent of the total who lived in central cities.” The report shows that trending strongly upwards, so I figure that after 4 years under Bush 15 million is a conservative estimate. The report says we have a very distorted view of wealth in the suburbs — like a lot of things under Bush, there’s a lot of illusion covering a stark reality.

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Rebecca: Well said. Nice rant, and exactly correct about the disappearance of the middle class. The irony is that a lot of suburban Bush voters will be the biggest victims when interest rates spike and the bottom falls out of the housing market, and the $US and stock market both crash. They’re going to lose their homes. Funny how pathology works — the victim is often the staunchest defender of the perp.

  12. adam says:

    interesting analysis but the exits polls tell a different story: the percentage of suburban votes is only 2% more than 2000 and bush gained just +3% among them — in fact he lost 2 with rural votes and gained +10 with urban ones.So most of those 8 million were in urban areas.2000 exit polls:http://www.lsu.edu/sociology/weil-temp/VNS2000National.html2004 exit polls:http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Adam: As in a lot of other areas, the exit polls just don’t add up. I prefer to use the *actual* vote totals, since the vast majority of people refuse to respond to exit polls. If you look at urban counties, at least in the swing states, there’s no way Bush picked up 10 points in the urban polls compared to 2000 — look at Cuyahoga or Broward counties — and no way he got the absurd 45% in the cities that CNN claims in the exit polls. The exit polls said Kerry would win Ohio and Florida. The polls also are disproportionally weighted by region relative to actual population. Maybe CNN skewed them in favour of the Bush regions so that the totals would add up to a Bush win, instead of a Kerry win that would show just how little credibility they have.

  14. Dave Pollard says:

    Further to my last comment: Allan Gregg from the Strategy Council told the CBC: “You need to be very wary of the exit polls. Who is coming out to vote who didn’t come out to vote in 2000? A good chunk appears to be four million newly registered fundamentalist Christians. The numbers suggest they favoured Bush by a 4-1 margin – and they came out in droves.”

  15. Jennifer says:

    One of the best books I’ve read about the American class system is Paul Fussel’s Class. It’s horribly outdated now, written in the 1980’s, but one thing it points out that is still true today: most Americans perceive of themselves as middle class, when in fact they are actually members of the working class. The suburbs are surreal, and not in a good way. Dave, thanks for the offer to move to Canada. I’ve considered it, and if things get too ugly, I may be checking out your expat website. But for now, I’m holding my ground.

  16. Another Dave says:

    This is really an excellent analysis of this election result, the best I’ve read yet. And I read a lot of them. Thanks!

  17. mscandide says:

    Yes, what he said. I finally missed you so much I sat through the 12 minutes it takes to load your images on this rural wire just to see what you thought. This explains so much.I’ve been a leftie who loves her country my whole life and now I’m starting to think that’s just the propaganda talkin’. Maybe I should look at it without all the sentiment. This country was a noble experiment that finally devolved, unraveled, and maybe it’s time to cash ’em in and try someplace else before I get caught up in the next revolting development. First time in my life I’ve had such thoughts, but I’m ready.

  18. Ahmed says:

    Instead of emigrating to Canada, please come to Europe. We work less, largely have better weather, have better health and educational systems. We are better dressed and eat better food. Politically, we are still seething with ideas and ideals. Our cities are beautiful wether it be Paris in Spring, London in Summer, Venice in the fall, or Lisbon in winter. Our countryside is ancient and often protected. We are multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-ethical and having already flattened our continent with war several times now prefer conversation over confrontation. Also, and you’ll have to take my word for this, we’re more fun in bed.[Avoid the Netherlands and Northern Germany, though…ugh.]

  19. Derek says:

    Looks like others have been thinking along the same line:http://www.marryanamerican.ca/Legions of Canadians have already pledged to sacrifice their singlehood to save our southern neighbours from four more years of cowboy conservatism.”No good American should be left behind …”

  20. David Jones says:

    Ahem, Ahmed. You are describing Canada. There is nothing anywhere that can compare to Vancouver in Spring, Halifax in Summer, Algonquian Park in autumn or Les Laurentides de Quebec pendant l’hiver. There is nothing more exciting than the Newfoundland coast, nothing so starkly beautiful as the Arctic Islands, and nothing so enchanting as the gardens of British Columbia. As for fun in bed, well you really need Brisk, not Balmy Breezes to properly get amorousity flowing.

  21. gbreez says:

    I do not believe any of this. I do not believe it was Kerry

  22. feith says:

    Well, by now I’ve either convinced you, or I’m not going to. Yesterday eight million anxious, fearful white American suburbanites, male and female, who didn’t vote in 2000, pried themselves out of their isolated, insulated, heavily-mortgaged, two-income-trap homes, and voted for the devil they knew over of the devil they didn’t. And then they went home and prayed. And as a consequence, we have four more years of George Bush.This nailed it. So sad.Feith

  23. JC says:

    Okay, thanks for the numbers.

  24. Heather says:

    Yes, great analysis and just what I thought. I’m thinking infiltration is the best bet, too (affirming what Gary said), but not just by moving there. I’m brainstorming and an idea is forming…

  25. Mike Fried says:

    Hold off on the moving to Canada! Although it might be nice to do so that would be bad for a number of reasons including 1) we need your votes and your effort 2) that effort is discounted when it comes from people thought to have run, deserted or what ever negative image that could (and will) be assigned 3) any significant effort that comes from abroad will seem like tampering or worse and will feed GOP propoganda 4) it wouldplease the “right” to no end if the opposition just left. 5) The more control the “right” gets the more likely the problems and effects they cause will be felt elsewhere – including where ever you have gone. And you will be evenmore powerless about it.I have some suggestions that I will mail and/or post buton the whole I don’t think that high altitude analysis of the entire situation is going to be enough. What the “right”is doing is somewhat from Sun Tzu (I think). And that is theresponse that is called for. What has happened in 2000, 2002and 2004 plus many of Rove’s numerous judical campaigns in Texas and Alabama is very focused. Targets are choosen carefully,weakeness and openings are scouted. When an appropriate targetis found overwhelming force is brought to bare on small races. Small gains have been parlayed into large gains then by shaping the agenda to create lose-lose situations for the next target(s).Examples include the Homeland Defense bill and the supplementalappropriations bill for Iraq. They, like many, create votingsituations where regardless of one’s vote there is something to beused against the candidate later. Does everyone see this? TheDems proposed a department homeland defense yet the GOP addedthe exclusion of collective bargining. Those who balked wherelabled unpatriotic – as against homeland defense! A few seats(like Max Clealand’s) were lost in 2002 that way. Most infamousis that the a $87 billion funding bill contains a small amount forbody armor and $20 billion of undesignated spending. Kerry votedagainst the $20 billion slush fund and was clobbered for beingagainst body armor!How a candidate chooses to run a campaign is up to them but thereis something WE CAN do. For each and every local race, you/we needto treat it as if it was the final months of this presidential race.Support your candidates however you can and spread the truth abouttheir opponents (I have some thoughts on that process as well).Don’t spend too much time reflecting on past races as big cracksform in the levy. Once the levy breaks there is no amount ofthoughtful analysis that will matter.

  26. Dave Pollard says:

    What a fabulous thread. Thank you! I am so honoured to have such creative, passionate, clever people reading my blog. And Ahmed gets the gold star for funniest blog comment of all time!

  27. “Small gains have been parlayed into large gains then by shaping the agenda to create lose-lose situations for the next target(s). Examples include the Homeland Defense bill and the supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq. They, like many, create voting situations where regardless of one’s vote there is something to be used against the candidate later. Does everyone see this?”Yes, I see that and what the democrats need to do is when you get put in a lose-lose situation you need to take the loss which changes the topic the quickest.For example. John Kerry had an impossible time explaining how Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time and yet also defended his vote for the war and said that vote was the right choice (presumably in order to show that democrats are not weak kneed and anti-war and will defend the country). He should have either backed off his vote for war and said if he knew then what he knows now (that Saddam didn’t have WMD) he would not have voted for the war. That would have given him a stronger leg to stand on in attacking how Bush went to war.The other part that really bugs me about the democrats is how they shy away from the ‘liberal’ label. When Bush called Kerry a liberal in one of the debates Kerry’s response was that Bush likes to throw around labels but only because he won’t tackle the issues. What Kerry should have done is be proud to be liberal and said something like “If being liberal means fighting for the average person, providing health care and after school programs to every child in America, helping out those in need, fighting for privacy rights, etc., then yeah, I am liberal and proud of it.” But the democrats don’t do that. They shy away from what they really beilieve. They have let the conservatives make the liberal label a bad label. The republicans let you know they are conservative and they are proud of it. The democrats need to do the same with respect to being liberal. Show a little confidence in what you believe in and people will be more willing to listen to you. Yeah, you might turn off some voters but others will be drawn to you.Kerry tried to be like Bush but different, especially on foreign policy. He should have just tried to be different.

  28. Don Dwiggins says:

    Interesting how this thread has echoed many of the thoughts I’ve been having. Yes, I’ve thought of Canada (I really like Vancouver and that whole area!), and of Europe as well. (Ahmed, why “ugh!” to the Netherlands? I’ve got a couple of pen pals there, and I remember liking Amsterdam quite a lot when I visited there briefly.)But it gives me a warm, proud feeling to hear people say “no, I’m going to stay and fight”, and that’s where I’m at right now. For one thing, I agree with Mike Fried that you can’t affect developments here from abroad, and that what happens to the US will affect everyone, wherever you move. (Well, maybe if you join an indigenous community somewhere deep in the Andes or Himalayas…) For another, my kids (and more recently my grandkids) are here — I’d feel like I’d be abandoning them. On the other hand, if it gets terribly bad here, it’d be nice if I were in a place that I could bring them to…Stepping back from the election, the real job remains today what it was last week: create a broad-based coalition to reform the system, along the lines of Dave’s 3 bullet points in Understanding the People, Part 1. The coalition will need to cross party and ideological boundaries, and attract everyone, of whatever political stripe, who recognizes the serious illness into which our system has fallen.To do this, we’ll need to find effective ways to work around the mainstream media, to find ways to spread memes virally, and thus provide a counterforce to the corporatist disinformation machine. Blogs may be a good tool for this, and Dave has discussed other social software that might be helpful.

  29. Dave Pollard says:

    David: Good analysis. Hope the Dem strategists are paying attention.Don: Ahmed was kidding about the Dutch, I think. I have admiration both for Americans who vow to leave and Americans who vow to say. As long as they do *something*. Just sitting around and hoping it will get better by itself is the only inexcusable course. BTW, the new website, tentatively called ‘Moving to Canada, eh?’ will be up by the start of next week.

  30. Mike Fried says:

    Right DJ, I agree. And, I would like to have seen Kerry, or anyoneelse, ask Bush which “Liberal” issues he liked the least: civil rights, school lunch, clean air act, women’s right to vote, head start, social security, child labor laws, 40 hour work weeks…Kerry could have kept that up until his rebuttal period expired, the red light came on and the warning buzzer sounded!In any case, you can’t just change the topic when it is on TVcommercials, print ads, websites and sound bites parroted from the daily stump speech. It is the very nature of battle that makes it impossible to stay above the fray. You must adapt to your opponent and respond in kind. I’m searching for the right metaphor – trying to come up withsomething that isn’t violent. But one that comes to mind is a swordfight in which your opponent pulls out a gun (or assault rifle :- ).Forget better swordsmanship or a sharper blade — it’s not a swordfight anymore.Lastly, even without politics I would have been interested in moving(and associating myself with an intentional community) and I don’t inanyway diminish someone else’s choice to do so. It’s something Ihave wanted to do for a long time and still may do. But, I have a feeling that this was the first approach the American Indians took.

  31. Mike Fried says:

    That wasn’t supposed to be a smile, let me try again. :-/

  32. Leah says:

    The day of the election, I stopped by the library and picked up, by chance, David Brooks new book called “On Paradise Drive”. In chapter two, he takes an interesting drive through the inhabited landscape of America. When he gets to what he calls “the exurbs”, i.e. “the great sprawling expanse of subdevelopments. . .and townhome communities”, I was surprised to read that they do vote overwhelmingly Republican. According to Brooks, they are busy pursuing the dream of conservative utopianism. Because it’s such a materialistic dream, as you pointed out, it does rack up a lot of debt, hence the resultant insecurity and fear.

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