By the time I had gone to bed, the chorus of pundits had fixed on a single tune, as they always do, and remarkably quickly, too. (Do they watch one another's feeds in the green room?) They had dusted off the old theme that the Democrats need to "reach out" more to the "heartland." Reach out? How, exactly? Forget that these folks blindly ignored all objective reality -- and their own best economic and national-security interests -- and voted for Bush. Look what they did at the Senate level. In Kentucky, they refused to use even basic sanity as a litmus test, and reelected a guy with apparent late-stage dementia; in Oklahoma, they tapped a fellow who wants to execute doctors who perform abortions, who was sued for sterilizing a woman against her will, who pled guilty to Medicaid fraud, and who largely opposes federal subsidies, even for his own state; in Louisiana, they embraced a man who has made back-door deals with David Duke and who was revealed to have had a long-running affair with a prostitute; in South Carolina, they went with a guy who thinks all gay teachers should be fired; and in Alaska, they reelected a woman who was appointed by her father to the job after a spectacularly undistinguished career as an obscure state senator. And compared with the rest of the GOP Class of '04, she's the freaking prom queen. These are the stellar elected officials that the "heartland" has foisted on the rest of us.
"Reach out" to these voters? Yeah. Then boil your hand till it's sterilized.
So what are their issues, anyway? They're "cultural and moral values," we keep hearing. Well, they voted in a president who ran up the largest deficits in history, saddling our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt to pay for a tax cut that largely skewed to the wealthiest Americans; underfunded his own education initiative by $9 billion; threw more than a million more families into poverty; lost more jobs than any president since Hoover; saw 5 million Americans lose their healthcare on his watch; demoted the office of counterterrorism and ignored months' worth of dire warnings about an attack in the months running up to 9/11, and after 9/11, fought the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, fought the formation of the 9/11 Commission, and diverted hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops away from the war on terror to fight a war of choice in Iraq, where we've lost more than 1,000 young Americans. Those soldiers who are lucky enough to make it home face cuts in their benefits and combat pay, as well as veterans' hospital closures.
Oh, and on a personal note, Bush and Vice President Cheney have been convicted of drunken driving three times between them, and both evaded the draft while hawkishly supporting the Vietnam War; huge questions still remain about Bush's National Guard tenure, while Cheney's story -- five deferments -- is a bit neater and more straightforward. But they do oppose gay marriage, affirmative action and a woman's right to choose. Ah -- now we're getting somewhere on what these "cultural and moral issues" are out in the "heartland." Bush and Cheney hate and fear the same people they do.
And how, exactly, are the Democrats supposed to counter this? Out-pander Karl Rove? Out-lie Dick Cheney? Out-fearmonger George Bush? Even if the Democrats were inclined to do all three -- and after this election, I'm betting they'd be willing to give it their best shot -- what are the odds, really, that they, or anybody, could succeed?
To me, the heartland of this country is anywhere that people work their asses off to make their lives better for their families. They stay true to their better angels no matter how miserable things get or how much easier it would be to succumb to hate and irrational fear. They read, and listen, and look for the truth and stay informed about what's really going on, no matter how grim the news. They don't live in Fox News cocoons, they don't blast Rush Limbaugh from their pickups, and they don't vote blindly for the guys whose prejudices most neatly line up with their own. Their concerns are genuine, their values are consistent, their principles are rock-solid, and their hearts are true.
They may not go around saying, "God bless America," but these days, they're probably praying that He'll save America. Because God knows the people in the "heartland" won't. (Janet Sullivan, Salon.com)
Or rather, America needs to be saved from these people in the "heartland." Have faith, stay vigilent, the day will come.