All those people out there, trying to fit the election into their view of the world so that they don’t have to change their opinions, so that they don’t have to admit they were wrong! How pathetic.
All of them--all of them--miss the point. This election was not the victory of a particular branch of the Democratic Party, moderate, conservative, or liberal. It wasn’t a vindication of a progressive agenda, either. Nor does it prove the power of the netroots or the brilliance of Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy (powerful and brilliant though they be).
What we have here is a triumph of a system more than two-hundred years old. It showed its strength on Tuesday; it righted a ship of state about to turn turtle, nearly bested by the winds of fascism.
It’s quite simple: our system was tested by 9/11, just as Germany was by the burning of the Reichstag. Germany was found wanting, and a fascist state was the result. Before Tuesday, it looked as though America would be found wanting, too.
The astonishing importance of the election results isn’t contained in the slim margins of the victories of the Democrats. The group in power had engineered our electoral system in ways that gave it what many assumed was an insurmountable advantage. So, it is not the size of victory that is important, only the fact of it.
Many, many people believed that the group in power would never again be ousted. They boasted of it, wrote books proclaiming it. They cowed those who, though they might not agree with the agenda, felt that their own professional futures were tied up with the success that they had been browbeaten into believing.
Now that the success is shown as mere braggadocio, some of those who had followed along, feeling they had no choice, are beginning to break away. When the Titanic shows it is vulnerable, even the rats start swimming as fast as they can. Witness Rush Limbaugh, suddenly claiming he never agreed with the thuggish agenda anyway, saying, “If those in our party who are going to carry the day in the future -- both in Congress and the administration -- are going to choose a different path than what most of us believe, then that's [the victory of the Democrats] liberating.” The implication is that he “carried water” (his term) for the administration only because he thought it was going to continue to win, not because he agreed with it.
Whether Limbaugh is being honest or not (or is simply trying to save his position of influence), there are probably millions who went along simply because they saw the Bushists as victors—and wanted to be part of the victory. Just as millions of Germans went along with the Nazis when they seemed as unstoppable. Thing is, the Bushists were stopped, and by the people of the United States. The Nazis were only stopped when their ambition ran up against English and Russian tenacity and America’s industrial might.
Thing is, now that the regime is shown as something less than an unstoppable force, it is quickly becoming no force at all. How long did it take for Rumsfeld to go? How long, after being nominated again, was Bolton squashed? How long did Mehlman last after the election?
How long did it take for David Brooks, Rush Limbaugh, and all the other “water carriers” to break ranks?
A regime like this one can only continue as long as it seems undefeatable. Even on the eve of the election, pundits were saying that the Democrats could never match the Republican GOTV centralized and computerized effort, that the dirty tricks and control of election mechanisms would have their impact, and that there was no way the feeble Democrats could ever stop the Napoleonic march of the Bushists.
But they did stop it. The gleaming locomotive of last week has run out of steam and been shuttled to a dead-end side-track.
America, which had been quietly waiting for that engine to pass, is now beginning to build pressure in its own boilers once again, ready to start up once again, continuing on the track laid out for it by those visionaries who set it on its way more than two centuries ago.
So, no matter what else you might say about the election this week, it really only comes down to this: our system triumphed. America can now be America again.