The Bush-Boxer Voter

The Democrats’ real dilemma

I’m still in a mild state of shock after the re-selection of Dear Leader and company. Like many Democrats, progressives, moderates, and varied sane people, I’m trying to wrap my brain around enough people casting their ballots for the crew that’s eviscerating our economy, demolishing the federal budget, betraying our fundamental values at home and abroad, getting the troops “we support” killed by the Bushel, and otherwise making an utter and unholy mess of everything they touch. Confusing me further is a phenomenon I am at a loss to explain: California voters who chose Bush for President but also helped reelect Barbara Boxer.

Inexplicably, Bush won San Diego County by 6 percentage points, but Barbara Boxer took the county by an even wider margin. In San Bernardino County, a “red” area directly east of Los Angeles, Bush came out ahead by over 10 percent, but Boxer won there as well. (All the above information available at the Secretary of State’s website.) Even if we give all third-party presidential voters to Senator Boxer (an unlikely proposition, given the number of third-party voters in her race) and give all those who did not vote in the Senate race to Bush (a more likely but still absurd notion), we are left with at least thousands of Californians who split the ticket in two counties alone. And this wasn’t like voting Bush-Miller or Kerry-Jeffords. They voted for both a tax-slashing, empire-building, smack-talking would-be messiah on one side and a soft-spoken woman so liberal she makes Kerry look conservative on the other.

Say what?

Now, I have my theories as to why the junior senator from California won the state by a greater margin than the junior senator from Massachusetts. Still, let us pause to consider the ramifications here. We are talking about voters who are either a) so unimaginably stupid they shouldn’t be allowed to walk across the street without a guide, or at least a boy scout, or b) shockingly misinformed about where candidates stand. It is difficult to imagine any major issue on which the Resident and Senator Boxer agree. Of course, there was a shocking level of misinformation regarding Bush’s actual positions, much of it deliberate.

I suspect another reason, however. Much of the post-mortem revolving around the Kerry campaign centers around his team’s inability to create a theme more coherent than “he’s not Bush.” That was enough to get Kerry close, but not close enough to keep them from fudging Bush past the finish line. As Bush tried to label Kerry “the most liberal Senator” (based on a deeply flawed statistic recording a single year’s Senate votes), Kerry ran away from the identity, instead opting for…no identity at all. Kerry was the smart one, the actual veteran, who could, you know, do things. He kept saying he had a plan, and he did, but the only way to have any idea about it was to visit his website early in the season — much of the detail vanished after the convention.

No one who heard Barbara Boxer, on the other hand, could mistake her positions. She ran as an unapologetic liberal, and while she never sank to the Republicans’ level, she defended her positions and beliefs with conviction. In short, she displayed the backbone that has come to define real Democrats, brave Democrats, and perhaps most importantly, Democrats who win.

Obviously, part of the issue here is image — as many observers have noted over the last month and a half, appearances often trump issues, particularly for those who don’t like politics. In spite of the deep polarization of the country, millions still made up their minds in the last few days of the campaign, presumably based on “gut reactions.” Ultimately, the lesson of the Bush-Boxer voter may be that we don’t have to run from our values if we can portray them positively enough — and have the courage of our convictions.

(/) Roland X
Brand yourself as a Democrat! [was link to branddemocrat.org]

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