You will assume the lack of a column yesterday was due to Despondency, Fatigue, or Alcohol. Yes, I was tired and despondent (if foolishly sober) by the time Charles and I got back to our room last night, but that was not the problem. We were staying in The Most Expensive Hotel Room Since Time Began – a ‘suite,’ truth to tell (on our dime, I should note, not yours, in case you contributed to the DNC) – and although it was at The Ritz, and beautiful, and cost enough money to put both your kids through college and law school (though I think you should gently nudge them toward the sciences) – there was no broadband access (even Courtyard By Marriott offers broadband) and, to my great surprise and that of the Ritz Hotel operator, there was no phone service. I could call her – and did, repeatedly – but I could not make a local or long-distance or toll-free call to connect to the Internet and post my column.

‘Would you like me to send up an engineer?’ the operator asked.

I had already been informed that a bowl of clam chowder would take 40 minutes (and that alcoholic beverage service had ended, as prescribed by law, at 1:30am), so how long would it take to get an engineer? And what would he do, anyway? The problem pertained to all three of our phones (did I mention we were in a suite?), so clearly it was a problem ‘downstairs’ somewhere, not something a guy with a screwdriver could solve, least of all (and I mean here no disrespect to night-shift workers) the hotel engineer who would be on duty at 3am.

‘No,’ I whimpered, not entirely unhappy to have an excuse not to write anything yesterday.

We had booked this preposterously expensive suite (I won’t tell you how much it was, I am too ashamed, except to say that the $100 they knocked off to apologize for the phone problem made barely a dent – and this was without ordering the soup) because we thought there was a very good chance that, after four years’ work, we would have something to celebrate . . . and because as an officer of Democratic National Committee, I might have occasion to invite people ‘up to the suite’ as a gesture of thanks for their support.

So the first thing to say, of course (and leave it to these damnable parentheticals, which are my own form of Tourette’s Syndrome, to take me this long to get to the first thing I have to say) is that I was wrong. (Or, if you prefer, I was wrong. Okay?) Especially with regard to Florida.

We did not win as I thought we would.

Clearly, we are a divided nation. I just thought that, at the end of the day, a few million more of us would have come down on ‘our’ side than theirs.

Well, our side needs to learn how to make its case better. And possibly we need to adjust our case. (That second part is far less clear. Yes, we have to find a way to make gun owners less reflexively Republican – to take just one example. That’s about making our case. But I’m not sure it means we should favor ready purchase of assault weapons. That’s about changing our position.)

Core Bush voters apparently believe that the Christian way to approach the economy is to borrow from our children (who will inherit the debt) to give large tax cuts to the best off . . . and huge tax cuts to the very best off. We don’t know whether it’s Christian or not (blessed are the meek?), but we think it’s unfair, that it exaggerates the already staggering gulf between rich and everyone else in this country . . . and that that strains the social fabric. How awful was the 20% levy on long-term capital gains, anyway?

(We also think it’s wrong to flat out lie about it – to say that ‘by far the vast majority’ of the tax cuts will go ‘to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder’ when in fact – and this is a point of indisputable mathematical fact – by far the vast majority of the tax cuts went to people at the top end of the economic ladder.)

Or leave morality out of it – Bush voters seem to think that the best way to stimulate the economy is to give huge tax cuts to people who already have all the goods and services they need. Kerry voters think it would have been more stimulative to concentrate the bulk of the tax cuts on the great majority of people who can barely make ends meet.

Bush voters see the average American voter with more after-tax money in his or her pocket (leaving aside rising local taxes, health care, tuition, heating oil and gas). And that’s accurate, but it includes in the average guys like Bill Gates. (Nothing against Bill, but he’s been paid more than $3 billion this year.) Kerry voters look at the median, not the average, and see that the family in the economic middle has less in its pocket.

A majority of Bush voters believe Iraq played a significant role in the September 11 attacks. A majority of Kerry voters believe the report of the 9/11 Commission that Iraq played no significant role.

Bush voters feel safer because we have captured or killed three-quarters of Al-Qaeda’s top leadership. Kerry voters feel less safe because Bin Laden is still at large planning to attack us, and because thousands of new terrorists have been recruited to Al-Qaeda’s cause . . . and because by the incompetent, arrogant way we ‘did Iraq’ – as opposed to the fact that we toppled Saddam Hussein – we have turned against us much of the rest of the world and made blood enemies of millions if not hundreds of millions of Arabs.

Bush voters feel that children are better off in orphanages than adopted by loving, well-screened gay or lesbian parents. And that their own unions will be stronger or more meaningful if gay partners are denied equal economic and civil benefits (and responsibilities) for their own unions. Kerry voters disagree.

Bush voters think we should drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and give tax incentives for the purchase of $100,000 Hummers. That we should deny or ignore the scientific consensus of global climate change, and the devastating effects it could have.

Kerry voters think we should stress conservation and alternative energy – and that one look at the 400,000-year graph of CO2 content and global temperature change is evidence enough of a global crisis. (The graph is a predictable up-and-down pattern for 400,000 years, with temperature slightly lagging the CO2 content . . . until the last 100 years or so, when the CO2 content explodes, strongly suggesting that temperatures, which lag, are about to soar.)

The Republican view seems to be that until there’s 100% certainty of disaster, we should not deal with this. My own view is that if there were only a 10% chance the threat is real – and the scientific community seems to feel 90% would be a better number – it’s worth doing something about. This is, after all, the only planet we have.

Bush voters, whether they know it or not, have in effect affirmed the United States’ ongoing effort to ban embryonic stem cell research. (The thing Nancy Reagan, Ron Reagan, Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox, among others, all support.) The U.S. managed to get 79 votes at the U.N. for a global ban on this research – just one shy of what was needed to declare the ban.

Kerry voters weigh the interest of microscopic blastocysts against the interests of millions of people – perhaps even your own mom or dad or baby daughter – who will suffer terrible diseases that this research could one day cure, and they come down on the side of encouraging the research.

Bush voters believe young girls should not be able to get abortions under any circumstances. Kerry voters think abortions should be ‘safe, legal, and rare.’

These – and so many more – differences of opinion are legitimate. One citizen / one vote. Where it gets tragic is if a Bush voter (or a Kerry voter, for that matter) formed his or her opinion without knowing the facts. As, or course, so many voters do. (I live and breathe this stuff, and I know I don’t know all the facts, though I’ll admit I am arrogant enough to think I know a fair share of the most important ones.)

If the Bush voters really know what they’re voting for, then so be it. Part of the sadness I feel is that I think they don’t know – and don’t know, for example, that President Bush, as governor, executed Karl Fay Tucker, ignoring even a personal plea from the Pope (or that he then made jokes about it to a reporter). And on and on.

My feeling is that if they had enough time to research it, many would come out of the process as the folks at did. You will recall from Monday that they began as a pro-Bush group driving around the country supporting the President in a bus they had decorated and equipped with confetti cannons – but ultimately switched and endorsed John Kerry. ”In the course of our travels, we ended up learning more about Bush’s policies than he wanted us to know,’ said Harmon Spellmeyer, one of the Yes, Bush Can team. ‘We came to see that this administration is a catastrophe for most people.

Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

Soon, back to lighter fare (or at least the clam chowder).


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