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:
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?
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.
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:
Thanks again for voting for Kerry. /-/ Dave
Thanks to Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void for the brilliant words and pictures in the graphic above.