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Volume 70, Issue 53, Thursday, November 4, 2004

Opinion

Voters shouldn't want regular guy

David C. Salinas

Maybe America wasn't ready for a President like John Kerry. So consumed with instant gratification and simplicity, a majority of Americans saw thoughtful complexity and nuance as a negative. Or maybe, as one voter put it, they chose George W. Bush because, "he's like me." Why would you want the leader of the free world to be like us? He should be better than us, and John Kerry is, in terms of leadership ability. He has a wealth of experience, and breadth of knowledge not seen in a Presidential candidate since John Quincy Adams. But alas, he too was defeated by a southerner who had a "folksy" appeal. This is how the GOP kept the Presidency.

Besides retaining the White House, the Republicans also managed to expand their majorities in both houses of Congress. The Democrats now have to look for a new minority leader as well, because of the defeat of South Dakota Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle. The odds on favorite is Harry Reid of Nevada, but if Democrats want to really shake things up, they should consider either Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold of or even Kerry. The latter is more wishful thinking, though. The Democrats did have two bright spots Tuesday night, electing both Barrack Obama and Ken Salazar to first terms in the states of Illinois and Colorado, respectively. 

But I will say this about Salazar's opponent, Pete Coors. He lost the race in large part because he was against the death penalty. This was brought up in attack ads against him, shamefully including Osama Bin Laden, I might add. He could have easily hid this opinion, or changed it to the consensus of the state, but as a man of principle he stuck to his guns. Maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but he appears to have chosen principle over popularity. "Principle" is a fleeting concept in politics today, however. Or it has been terribly distorted.

But principle is not on the minds of media analysts these days. Already the pundits and talking heads have begun to second guess the Kerry campaign, asking where they went wrong. Why were they were so out of touch with the electorate? "There's going to be a lot of re-strategizing in the Democratic Party now," they say with smugness and gleam only a "liberal" press can have. But is it the Democrats that really have the problem? What, should the Democrats makes themselves appear more "common" now? Should they buy into the theory that, "Guns, God, and Gays" are the issues that need to be focused on? Shouldn't they simplify the policy issues and degrade the discourse down to pathetic name calling, the way Bush did by using the word "liberal," as if it was pejorative. Should their candidates resort to fear mongering to sway the "security moms" the way Karl Rove and Karen Hughes did, placing little kids in advertisements, while they criticized Kerry for being "weak" on defense? 

Yes, the Democrats do have internal problems. They listen too much to the special interests, such as Jesse Jackson and Union leaders, and bought into the "youth vote hype" that was nothing more than a pathetic t-shirt campaign. But those are not the problems that emerged out of this election. It wasn't Kerry who failed on Tuesday night; he didn't lose. America failed, failed to focus on the real problems facing this country, from the deficit to the health care crisis. Instead they focused on trivial matters of other people's personal lives. It was Americans who lost, lost the strength and will once shown during the Great Depression and World War II, as they pathetically accept tax cuts as we fight wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. But the great thing about America is, unlike our President, we can learn from our mistakes. But Democrats have to realize this.

John F. Kennedy once said, "Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." So over the course of the next few months, as the Democratic Party reflects on what they have to do, they must listen to the man who inspired most of them into government again. Do not conform to the politics of "dumbing" down America, offering simplistic answers to complicated questions. 

Don't conform to the notion that the world is black and white, and must be dealt with as such. Don't conform to the media's perception of campaigning, in which the candidate with the best sound bite wins. Democrats don't need to be more like Republicans, they need to forge a new, more precise way to lead the country, and they must do it now because the erosion of our political system has taken its toll. 

We can do better.

Salinas, a columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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