I spent yesterday at the Durham Road Fire Station, voting point for Precint 08-08, Wake County (Raleigh) North Carolina. I arrived at 7:30 AM about one hour after the polls opened and stayed until 6:30 PM, one hour before they closed.
The rain fell all day, alternating between a grey drizzle and a gulley-washer.
I printed 650 flyers that began with the statements: "I am an not a liberal. I am not a Democrat. And I urge you to vote a straight Democratic ticket here today," then went on to explain why -- emphasizing my status as a retired member of the US Armed Forces, the oath that is taken in that service to defend the Constitution, and briefly outlining the most egregious violations of the Constitution by the Bush administration... a sort of populist appeal, with enough facts to give it a bit of real nutrition.
I was there totally on my own, having made no coordination with the Democratic Party (which in North Carolina, at the state level, is a cesspool). I didn't have an umbrella (slowed me down, when I chased people around the parking lot), so I went through four layers of clothes throughout the day. There was one Republican operative there, with yellow voter-guide cards that he asked people to recycle to him at his desk under a Cadillac-sized umbrella. It's a Republican precinct, as a rule.
White folks vote their color hard out here, where fashionalbe clothes and shiny mortgaged gas-guzzlers conceal a primitive ignorance and hostile, defensive insecurity even among the mostly college-educated Research Triangle Park denizens. After a full day there, I was confirmed in my belief that late capitalist culture stupifies in ways that cut us off from 90% of the deeper experiences that are unique to humanity, and leaves us trapped in the psychic Potemkin village of a hellishly vapid consumerism. (We refer to this as... "freedom.")
At any rate, the Democrats, lacking poll-tending capacity, let this one go unattended. I was their sole representative, and dissing them in my appeal to support them. (Tactics can happen in dirty, dirty places.)
I had taken a coffee break at around noon, then re-descended on the polling station, so by the time my daughter got off work and came to vote at 5 PM, and dropping me my last change of clothing, she told me I was going to get sick. Jayme still thinks that people catch cold by getting wet. My argument that -- given how much time I spent in the infantry -- I and thousands of others should be stone dead of ague, has never convinced her of her error.
My conservative SWAG is that I managed to put flyers in the hands of around half of the voters. I spoiled around 50 of them during downpours, so that tells me there were at least 1,200 folks that showed up on my shifts. Extrapolating the before and after absent-times and the coffee-lunch break, we probably had around 2,000. The round-and-round parking lot became an intermittant goat-wrangle because of insufficient parking, though the lines indoors at the actual poll were very well-managed and orderly.
This was a unique and important opportunity for me to see this many people in one day who share my zipcode.
When I came home, after dropping a great heap of wet clothes on the porch to retrieve later, I demolished a plate of steak, macaroni-and-cheese, sweet peas, dirty rice, a glass of lemonade, and a quart of Heavenly Hash ice cream. My body began warming after this gluttony, and my metabolism's tachometer dropped way back. I felt I weighed around 700 pounds, and stretched out on the floor -- mentally alert, but corporeally comatose -- where I began watching election returns.
The fascination of watching this cross-center shift that carries with it the power to subpoena kept me up all night, and here I am, on caffeine life-support, blogging out my contradictory feelings and a few analytical impressions (if that is not an oxymoron).
The first impresson I have to note is that the Democratic Party as an institution is a corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded behemoth of rank opportunism. They used the growing opposition to Bush's energy war in Iraq as a battering ram, but in the process of making this breach will probably sacrifice the interests of women, African Americans, and immigrants to glide the winds of white xenophobia and thuggish patriachy that swirl over the post-Nixon Republican South.
The greatest downside of this election for the (institutional) Democratic Party is that the very issue that factored most heavily in this essentially anti-Repbulican election is opposition to a war for which have so far been able to wriggle free from responsibility. It is a downside because now anti-war forces will re-focus on them. I say that not merely as a prediction, but as a call to arms. Right now, I don't give a rat's ass if the Dems get figuratively slaughtered in 2008. There is a literal slaughter taking place every day in Iraq, in an unwinnable war, and we cannot allow the institutional opportunism of the Democratic Party to seek comfortable shelter behind a pending report (which is what they will inevitably do). All efforts of the antiwar movement need to be redoubled to break through the corporate media with explanations about why the US occupation must end NOW, unilaterally and completely, and to turn this into a moral and political litmus test prior to 2008 for any member of Congress. Outing Democrats for their ducking-and-dodging on this issue must be ruthless and relentless.
Note to the Democratic party: We now have you firmly in our sights, exposed. Ain't gonna be no honeymoon. We're not hearing that you need time. Not with the bodies piling up every day.
We also know that many Democrats are going to engage in immigrant-bashing with alarmed hyperventilations about the threat posed by the brown victims of US international policy from the Global South. Do it, and we'll bust our asses to strip away the enhanced base of Latin@ voters who helped bring you in this year.
We know that some of them will abandon the defense of reproductive choice for women. They should be made to pay, and pay big for that. What the hell is the (electoral) choice for Choice if enough misogynistic Democrats cross-over to support the Republican agenda anyway?
I noted earlier that the most striking thing about American voters that impressed me at my polling site was the staggering ignorance of our society. Not only ignorance, but a kind of chip-on-the-shoulder defense of that ignorance. I am reminded of the VOICE song that says, "We are selfish, we are ignroant, and we celebrate these things."
Rather than get caught on the infinitely-recycling treadmill of supporting this institution (the DP) as the lesser-of-two-evils, which frequently implies dumbing down our public discourse and evading the most embarrassing subjects, I would urge people to see this election as an opportunity to flush the Democratic Party out into the light.
It will be far more difficult now, for example, to see the US attempt to militarily redispose its forces from the anachronism of the Cold War to seize control of strategic Southwest Asia... as a Bush policy. Congress holds the purse strings to this whole project; and the Democratic Party leadership is as imperialist as any Republican. Expect to see the DP tie itself into the most excruciating rhetorical knots in order to explain what it tolerates.
What functions as the left in this country now needs to take up the mission of overcoming key aspects of our general ignorance to the point where it becomes problematic for the DP as it maneuvers over the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of human beings to win their next goddamned election. I can make three easy-to-remember suggestions about what should be a systematic, concerted, and relentless public education effort -- designed specifically to expose the DP to its own popular base, and thereby to move us closer a long-overdue and desperately-needed political crisis in the United States.
I call it the three-P's. Patriarchy. Prison. Palestine.
(1) While the Democratic party establishment moves further to the right on the single issue of reproductive choice, there has been little effective public education on how patriarchy infects so-called liberals. They are happy to point out how the fading paternal patriarchy of the theocratic right opposes any form of the liberation of women from male-hegemony; but they are pathologically averse to discussing the fraternal patriarchy embodied in the continued sexual objectification of women in media, entertainment, advertizing, and pornography. With the effective suppression of the most radical and important sections of the feminist movement by the ersatz-feminsm of the Rophies and Paglias and the politically-averse solipsism of academic postmodernism, women have moved forward past the post-feudalism of the theocrats only to be driven obliquely back into consumerist self-objectification. Meanwhile, the vast majority of women continue to be trapped in the sexual contract of trading some form of obedience for some form of security. Given that the misogynistic superstructure of patriarchy is the fountainhead of homophobia, part of this effort must be unequivocal and aggressive support for same-sex marriage.
(2) Bill Clinton put more African Americans and Latin@s in prison than any head of state in history when he signed his Crime Bill. Politicians avoid this subject like the avian flu. Prison is the most shameful reminder that the United States is still a culturally backward and (structurally) deeply racist nation. In combination with felony-disfranchisement laws, prison is this country's transfer of Jim Crow from segregated restrooms into a veritable gulag of highly secretive and sadistic network of invisible Hells. White American supports this status quo, and that is why both parties continually call for making this broken system that does more to perpetuate violent crime than curtail antisocial behavior... more punative, more sadistic, and more ubiquitous. African Americans and Latin@s are so powerfully affected by the US gulag that in many communities across the US, there is hardly a single family without one of its close members residing in a seething, spirit-killing lockup. Polticians do not want Americans to know what prison is really like in this country, and it is our job to make them know.
(3) Palestine is a real place, and the Palestinians area real people; and the most pivotal US ally in the region where we are paying for brutal and ultimately fruitless wars of attrition is a brutal, racist, expansionist, international scofflaw -- Israel. Republicans and Democrats alike have copped to the lie that opposition to Israel is equal to anti-Semitism; and both parties fall all over themselves to prove who can be the best Zionists. This issue is near the top ot the US colossal-ignorance list. Americans -- by and large -- have never been exposed to anything except the Zionist point of view on the region. They still believe that Zionism is the same as Judaism, and that the State of Israel was a necessary consequence of and reaction to the industrially-coordinated murder of millions of Jews by the German Nazis. Both of these propostions are false. Beginning with public education about the USS Liberty, and working out from there, there must be a widespread, multi-media, serial teach-in effort to expose Americans to the real history of Zionism, and to the real and inhuman conditions that occupied Palestine suffers from every single day.
I hope I never go to another mass demonstration on the DC Mall; and not just because the colonized residents of DC have to empty the crappers and pick up the litter behind jillions of mostly privileged political tourists. I hope the redoubled efforts of a nascent refounded left will be focused locally, at people who share our zipcodes, and targeting politicians of both parties where they live with a War on American Ignorance. Then we might see, eventually, the emergent basis of a real politics of resistance here in the Belly of the Beast.
The honeymoon should be over before it starts. The main issue in this election was the war; and it continues to rip its way through human bodies... as women remain trapped in a psychosexual protection racket, as we exist quietly alongside the American Gulag, and while we continue to ignore the cries of those colonized by our so-called allies.