the Disillusioned kid: Four More Years...
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Friday, November 05, 2004

Four More Years...

Four more years of belligerence, unilateralism, misogyny, imperialism, environmental destruction, lies, free-market fundamentalism, authoritarianism and ignorance. I have no illusions about what a Kerry presidency would likely have entailed, but however you look at it, four more years of Bush is a bad thing.

To make it worse, he actually won this time, gaining not only the greatest number of electoral college votes, but the popular vote as well. The ramifications of this, for anyone who missed it, is that he actually has support. Shitloads of it in fact. The front page of the Mirror on November 4 asked, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" Unfortunately this is hardly a sufficient response and demonstrates a misunderstanding of the reasons why people voted for Bush. Simon Shama's article in the Guardian goes someway towards offering a more compelling explanation, positing a "Divided States of America" split between a strongly moralistic "Godly America" and a liberal, urbane "Worldly America". Where this explanation is lacking, in my opinion, is in its failure to note the key difference between the two in political terms: only the former have organised themselves into a movement.

Writing prior to the election, Canadian activist and fellow blogger, Justin Podur noted,
[T]he difference between John Kerry and George W. Bush is not so much what they say or what they promise to do or what they will do once in office. The difference is that John Kerry is a slimy politician flailing around looking for a winning formula and George Bush is at the head of a massive, incredibly well organized, incredibly well disciplined, incredibly well resourced, truly revolutionary movement. And movements, radicals ought to understand, are serious business.

Movements can force governments out of power. Movements can constrain what elites can do even from a position of opposition. Movements can organize for the long haul and change the culture and context in which everyone has to operate. Movements can set the agenda even if they do not have majority support, compensating for that with ideological clarity, discipline, and organization. And that is exactly what the right has done in the US.
I think there is a considerable element of truth to this. Had Bush lost, the movement, of which he is merely the most obvious manifestation, would have continued to push its agenda regardless. In the aftermath of a Kerry defeat his supporters will most likely fade away until the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008. By then it may be too late. A woman's right to abortion, for instance, looks particularly shaky right now.

This would probably be a good time for reflection among activists. Many progressive forces put massive efforts into mobilising the vote for Kerry, but what do they now have to show for it? Very little. Not that the rest of us should be patting ourselves on the back. There's much to be done. I happen to be unconvinced by the argument, advanced by Juan Cole among others, that Bush will rush of to another war (whether in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba or elsewhere) to celebrate his success. The reality is that the US has bitten off more than it can chew in Iraq and is likely to be bogged down there for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, that does not mean that he will not seek to advance his agenda in other areas and by other means. The real questions is whether we can oppose this anymore effectively than we have over the last four years. To do that we need a movement capable of challenging his.

One of the most telling examples of our impotence is the coming assault on Fallujah. We've known about this for sometime, yet been completely unable to prevent it, it might be more accurate to say we've done very little to try. During the last attack on the city in April US forces only got as far as the outskirts. When Iraqi Body Count analysed the death toll, they discovered that between 572 and 612 civilians had been killed, of which at least 300 were women and children. With the US declaring that its stated aim this time is to retake the city - which will inevitably entail street fighting - we can expect even worse when they go in again. Regular readers will know that I dislike hyperbole, but in this case I don't hesitate to use the term "bloodbath". A bloodbath which we as citizens in an ostensibly democratic state are complicit in by virtue of our inaction.

Stop the world. I want to get off.

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