I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about “Where do we go from here?” that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. (Yes) There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. (Yes) And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. (Yes) But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. (All right) It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” (Yes) You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” (Yes) You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?” (All right) These are words that must be said. (All right). Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Where do we go from here?” speech in Atlanta, 1967.
For the first time in my life, I gave money to a political campaign (no, I never checked the box to donate a $1 to the Presidential Campaign on the tax return). For the first time in my life, I volunteered. For the first time in my life, I publicly sought support for my candidate. I am not unique. Hundreds of thousands of first-time Democrats worked for Dean or Kerry campaigns. And it was not enough.
Where do we go from here? There is a lot of chatter about what the Democrat now has to do? Not stop, is what. Some analysis is needed, of course. To understand what has transpired. Some stabs are being made, here and there. In Slate, Jane Smiley makes an argument that it is cultivated and fostered ignorance that makes the red states red. Which is exactly the sort of thing that Tom Wolfe says pisses off the red states:
Morality, eh? I am loathe to acknowledge that the Golem that suddenly confronts us is Morality. Yes, I know that the “polls” all show that “moral values” was the # 1 concern. But that is just a keyword for we don’t like fags getting married. Not a moral issue – but a cultural one. If sanctity of marriage really keeps 55 million Americans up all night than I suggest they re-visit the whole “divorce” thing or the “adultery” thing or the “quickie marriage” thing. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Real World, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? are all north-eastern hits? Spring Break happens on Martha’s Vineyard? Mardi Gras at the corner of Haight and Ashbury?
I don’t know much but I would like to wager that morality alone is a red herring (pardon the pun). Class is still the elephant no one wants to talk about in America. The down-home values, the country-feel is all about class, not about morality. Heck, ever read Faulkner? Class seems a better bet to me. However, it is not one thing. The anti-intellectual strain that Jane Smiley calls ignorance is also misleading. There is no “lack of intelligence” in the Red states. But there is a particular abhorrance of, what I would call, “putting on airs” or anti-elitism which plays a role. The verbal stumblings of the Chosen One (ne√à Our Fearless Leader) are not the signs of stupidity as read by the latt√à sipping, NewYorker reading crowd but signs of normalcy as read by your average trailer trash. Bubba speaks like that. Bubba knows he ain’t got book-smarts, so Fuck You. But, remember, Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. Except his public persona was one of homily-spitting, fried chicken eating, gospel singing homeboy. And get this, he wasn’t pretending either.
Juan Cole argues that America will only vote for a Southern Democrat. To beat them, we need one of them. Well, John Edwards is one of them and he got squat from them. And he lost the primaries. So, it is more than just finding a Southern Democrat. We need a framer. Or a re-framer. But, I am not even remotely closed to discussing 2008. I would like, first, to understand why I am now a three time minority in this country (south asian, muslim, democrat).
I may be all kinds of off here but, I’d rather put it out there and think it through. There is lots of read and talk about and I will do it in the coming months. Hopefully, this conversation can be shared by moacir, marlowe, mark and the rest of my gentle readers. Normal broadcast can now resume. Have a good, safe weekend.
update (Nov. 8): Kevin Drum actually read the exit polls from 2000 and 2004 and concludes that the “morality” issue is, indeed, a red-herring.