In thinking about Bush’s reelection, we have to be realistic about what it means and what it does not mean. In the days after the election, so many people were depressed – actually depressed – and you heard a lot of loose talk like “I’m going to move to Canada.” We have to have some perspective – no one is going to move to Canada. Hopefully, a lot of folks are going to redouble their efforts to create positive change and to struggle against the US empire.
For radicals, no matter what the election results were, the struggle for a new society would have continued, and so it shall. Election results to decide the new CEO of the US corporate empire aren’t totally irrelevant to efforts to radically alter the society, but they certainly operate on a different plane, since it isn’t who runs the US monster that is at issue, but that the monster is brought down.
But having said that, it’s a mistake to pretend that because we seek goals far beyond a change in US leadership, Bush’s victory wasn’t a very harsh blow. Not just because he won — but because the election had the highest voter turn-out ever and tens of millions of people voluntarily voted for Bush. Radicals need to stay connected to reality and try to understand this kind of mass popular opinion. The fact that almost as many people voted against Bush as voted for him doesn’t lessen the apparent extreme conservatism of one hell of a lot of people.
It is hard to know whether most of Bush’s supporters are arrogant, war-mongering, selfish, religious fanatics or whether there could be less discouraging explanations. For instance, some Bush voters appear to have voted based on a confused understanding of his policies and recent historical events — perhaps a lot of people got played by a sophisticated marketing job and the election result does not really represent a democratically approved return to the dark ages. We can hope that Bush voters are as internally contradictory, diverse and split as any group of tens of millions of people. The idea troubling radicals is that the election could have been a fundamental rejection of humanity, tolerance and decision making based on evidence — not religious belief.
While Bush’s agenda is in your face scary, Kerry’s version of reality was not ours – it was still one based on corporate control, US military domination and industrial exploitation of nature – just perhaps kinder and gentler on things like abortion and social welfare. We have to keep in mind that boring old daily life is still a more serious threat to human happiness and environmental sustainability than the particular leader of the empire. No matter who won, the next morning everyone was going to burn fossil fuels to take a shower, hop in their car, work their job, buy more shit; corporations were going to keep growing; the prison system would stay full; the polar ice caps were going to keep melting.
That neither possible election result would address the greatest social threats doesn’t mean there isn’t important, inspiring work to be done to build a new world. In fact, there are abundant opportunities for progress that are totally unrelated to the quadrennial electoral cycle. When the world goes crazy, its time to turn our energy to our local communities and neighborhoods; to focus on doing things ourselves and setting up alternatives to the mainstream economy and culture.
Perhaps the election results will move some folks who were hoping things would be “okay” if Kerry got elected to realize they have no alternative to getting active. Elections are ultimately about surrendering power to rulers; activism is about empowerment — regular people participating in creating society.