We are on the eve of a likely 56-44 or 57-43 Senate confirmation of right-wing, anti-choice Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
So how did we get here?
If you think this is going to be another "you shouldn't have voted for Nader" guilt-trip screed, you are wrong. Not all wrong, but mostly wrong.
The issue and attachable blame stretches farther and wider. It has an awful lot to do with three more overarching, and frankly depressing, trends:
The tendency of too many of my fellow liberals to vote their passions rather than recognize the necessity of voting as a political calculus;
The predisposition of many "economically conservative," "socially moderate" voters to let their fear of being taxed drown out their fear of being oppressed;
The historical tendency of lower-income demographic segments of the population to not vote at all.
Now let us go over each of these points, one by one.
I know "political calculation" sounds incredibly contrived, but too many liberals live in an insular world where they do not recognize the sheer strength of conservative blocs.
Those of us who live in a world of trendy in-town boutiques, restaurants, museums and grocers never travel to the suburbs and exurbs of our metro areas. Suburbs and exurbs filled with 10,000-member evangelical megachurches with nary a liberal in any pew. Megachurches where abortion is regarded as murder, the Iraq war as justifiable, and President Bush as a steadfast leader in the fight against terrorism.
The trendies in our midst never heard of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' "Left Behind" series - with descriptions of The Rapture that millions of people believe in. And, millions of Republican voters do, as well.
Yet because these powerful forces are largely invisible to so many liberals, we do not see them as what they are- Barbarians at the gates who must be neutralized at the ballot box.
Yes, the ill-informed vote for Nader in 2000 was part of this debacle-setter. Even 5% of those Nader votes going to Gore in Florida would have produced a President that signed the Kyoto Protocol and appointed pro-choice judges.
But let us go forward to more recent election cycles. Too many pro-choice "moderates" gave "moderate" Republican Senators Chafee, Specter, Collins and Snowe a free pass. And at this writing, it sure seems like they all will vote to confirm Alito.
And what about New Hampshire, a state with increasingly liberal sensibilities (carried by Kerry), whose newest Senator, John Sununu, won by a thin margin over a pro-choice former Governor?
Or what about Minnesota, where some moderates and perhaps even a few liberals voted for the anti-choice Norm Coleman over Walter Mondale because they were offended at the Democrat's behavior during the eulogy for Paul Wellstone?
Or what about South Dakota, where pro-choice Senator Tom Daschle lost by a couple hundred votes? Don't you think that state- which has one, one-day-a-week abortion clinic - sends more non-voting pregnant women to Minnesota each year than the margin of Daschle's defeat?
Take away those seven seats, and perhaps Florida as well. The Dems run the Senate and Alito doesn't get confirmed.
But there is something in the liberal mindset that is repulsed by political calculus. Those liberals who regard themselves as forthright thinkers believe that pragmatism at the voting booth is nothing less than whoring out principles.
I am convinced the refusal on the part of my fellow liberals to perform this calculus and to let those computations influence our votes is also influenced by our lack of familiarity with the forces arrayed against us. For too many of us, "Left Behind" refers to that item we forgot to take out of the cart when we were in the check-out line at Whole Foods.
We seldom have interface with these institutions and the voters that populate them. Instead of recognizing the threat from 11,000-member megachurches, we gather in smaller numbers and posit conspiracy theories about why we are losing.
Instead, we owe ourselves a reality check. Our ideological adversaries are strong- and with one of their own about to join the Supreme Court, have just become immeasurably stronger.
"And it appears to be a long - appears to be a long- such a long, long time before the dawn"- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.