Continued from here.
Long after the 2000 election fiasco, I was talking about this with a good friend of mine (who had supported Nader in Florida, no less...) and she explained that we made this miscalculation because we were too young when Reagan was first elected. We were just little kids at the time, so we weren't politically aware enough to have learned anything from it.
But while that whole mess of sorting out the results in Florida was still going on, I didn't know what to think. So I followed the story on the news to try to figure it out.
Of course Nader was in the national spotlight because if not for him, Gore would easily have won. (Also, without the electoral college and other amusing quirks of the US presidential election system, Gore would have won.)
I don't remember what Nader said. It was probably something about building a viable progressive third party -- not necessarily objectionable on principle, but inappropriate in the face of the surrounding disaster.
All I remember is that he didn't say the one thing I wanted to hear him say:
"This is a travesty. Is this really the United States of America? Here we see election 'irregularities' to rival any banana republic, and the election has totally failed to express the will of the people. This election demonstrates that urgent need for a constitutional amendment for election reform now."
If he had said that, I would almost have felt vindicated, like "Okay, this is very bad, but the country has learned a valuable lesson from it, so we're closer to finally solving the problem." Instead I felt like "Boy, was I ever stupid!!!"
Between the election and the moment when Bush Jr. took office, my husband and I packed our bags and moved to France. It wasn't because of the election -- we'd been planning the move for more than a year -- but it probably looked bad. Like I was saying to my countrymen "Oops!! Sorry about that, guys. Umm... bye!"
Over the next few years, as news from the US rolled in off the Internet, I became increasingly convinced that the country had learned absolutely nothing from the election and that nothing good would ever come of my having shunned the Democrats as being equivalent to the Republicans.
After all my years of complaining about Clinton -- that he wasn't quite good enough -- once I got to see how very much worse it is possible for a president to be, I changed my tune and was begging to have Clinton back. After this perspective realignment, I started wistfully thinking "Clinton, now there was a truly great president. What skill at diplomacy!!! And talk about fiscal responsibility!!! To think, in those days we were concerned with how best to use the surplus!!! Ah, those bonny bygone days..."
Now I imagine this blog entry is going to earn me some hate mail telling me that I'm a traitor for thinking that "W" is incompetent (and a criminal), and probably some people will want to tell me that all the godless liberals should follow my lead and move to Europe.
Let me just tell you in advance that I am quite aware of this perspective, so I'll ask you kindly not to trouble yourself by sending me a personal message to this effect or even a personal love message telling me about how you'll be praying for my (damned) soul. There are plenty of god-free and/or liberal people out there who enjoy debating and would appreciate your message more than I would.
By the time the 2004 election rolled around, I had completely repented of my earlier Naderism and was ready to go on the campaign trail for Kerry. Through the Internet, I encouraged people back home to support Kerry, and I made sure that all three of the US citizens working in my office here in France were registered to vote via absentee ballot.
I know lots of people said stuff like "Kerry is just politics as usual," but given the choice between that and the worst president in the history of the United States, I think I'd like to have "politics as usual" back, please.
Plus I read a bunch of stuff about him in the Internet and in The New Yorker, and he seemed fine to me. For instance, he was brave enough to actually enlist when he favored war and he learned some serious lessons from what happened "over there," plus he was hilarious in that "Jib-Jab" song...
The election result was a huge disappointment. It was terrible for me to see that after four years of real experience seeing what "W" was made of, my countrymen actively chose to elect him for four more years.
Before that point, if people weren't happy about the fact that Bush basically told everyone that as the "world's policeman" he's allowed to invade any country he pleases, and if the rest of the world has anything to say about it, they can just kiss his ass, at least I could say to them "It's just Bush -- not the American people. He wasn't even really elected!!!"
After the election, I wore black for three days in mourning for my beautiful yet foolish homeland. My colleagues were pretty kind and understanding. I remember friendly calls of "Courage, Carole !" ;-)
Will W's administration cause more Americans to wake up and maybe reassess their politics a little? I hope so.