Wild Pessimism

They’re dancing about this tonight:

By 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans said they trust the Democrats more than the Republicans with the main problems facing the country over the next few years, the first time since spring 1992 that Democrats have gained more than 50 percent support on that question.

But tomorrow morning’s gonna dawn cold and wet, and here’s why.

People are gonna say they like Democrats now, but I have to tell you, this all has the flavor of late 2004 and maybe I’m a bitter jilted John Kerry ex who’s still in her wedding dress and pissed about it, but I just can’t sit back and say okay, it’s in the bag, because look at those numbers. People will say anything. It’s who votes, and how we get them to vote, and that’s all about a bizarre combo of voodoo and sticking electrodes right into their lizard brains, and that’s what we haven’t started doing yet.

In other words, GET OFF YOUR ASSES.

People won’t vote for Democrats just because they’re sick of Republicans. You have no idea how thick the sense of “eh, they’re all the same” runs in the veins of Disaffected White Guys until you spend an afternoon with guys my Dad’s age, all of whom are vaguely convinced that the reason they’re dissatisfied with their lives is that some woman or minority got the job they would have gotten that would have made them king of the world. Doesn’t matter if it’s real. It’s the sort of half-informed miasma of Rush and low-level local fuckers like Charlie Sykes and the celebrity-obsessed local TV anchors whose only thought about politics is a ten-second spot on Bush waving from Air Force One.

And it’s frustrating as hell, because man, could I ever argue with them. I know stats, I know positions, I know anecdotes and I even know jokes. But there’s no arguing with this, right? With “I know what I think, even though it’s total crap.” You’ve all had that conversation with the guy who’s just so wrong, but fighting that with specifics is like fighting fog with a broadsword: you wear yourself out and the fog’s still there and oops, was that your finger? My bad.

On election day, it’s not gonna matter what that poll said, no matter how warm and fuzzy it makes us feel. You know what’s gonna matter? Whether or not we tied those guys my Dad’s age down into their recliners and barrelled some hard truths straight into the part of their brain that assimilates only half of what they hear. The only thing that’s going to matter is if we can make the other guy look worse.

And I’m sorry for all you college sophomores out there, but that’s how it works. I had a boss for a long time, used to tell me I trusted too much in the ability of people to draw their own conclusions. People don’t follow unless you lead, and you have to lead by drawing them a map and taking their hands and pulling them down the path and pointing out the landmarks so they can find their way back again and if they resist you have to pull and push and shove and sometimes kick them to get them to go where you want them to go. We can’t just trust that they’ll get to Point A: Republicans Suck and automatically look up and see Point B: I Have To Vote For A Democrat.

There’s something polls like this underestimate, and it’s the appeal of sitting around bitching about the present instead of working to change the future. Sitting around bitching is like the great American pasttime. Screw football, complaining is really what we do for fun.

So we have to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and scream. Kos is right:

Iraq won’t do Bush any favors (especially given the coverage of Woodruff’s condition), the prescription drug debacle is already raising ire with the elderly (people who actually vote), and we’ve got a whole spate of investigataions and trials on tap which will further highlight the Republican culture of corruption and Bush’s belief that he is an infallible monarch.

But look. Most people don’t KNOW this stuff. They just don’t. They don’t pay attention. WE have to point it out. We have to run the ads that say, “Eleven Republicans voted against Katrina aid, against helping the poor and desperate. Are these Christians?” We have to print up the fliers that say that and put them on cars in the church parking lots. We have to take copies of this Rolling Stone article, which made me jump up and down with joy at how baldly and bluntly it was written, and shove it into the dorm mailboxes of all voting age students. We have to show grandmothers and grandfathers, turned away at the pharmacy counters because they just couldn’t negotiate their way through the new drug “benefit” plans.

We need to ask the question, bluntly: Why are you still supporting people who fuck you? Every time? Why?

And once we’ve shown them the swamp we have to show them the way out. We have to give people something they want more than they want to be dissatisfied. Like I said, that’s hard. So many people I know seem to enjoy being pissed off. But we’ve got to give them a dream to be a part of. Kennedy and FDR and Lincoln are beloved for a reason. They were leaders. They looked out and said come along with me, I know where to go, and it’ll be great there. It’ll be more than you ever thought possible. Come on. Come.

If we can do that, if we can run on those two tracks, if we can make people understand that the current crop sucks but that you don’t have to live this way, that you can be proud of your country again, that you can take your anger and make a fight out of it, and that you can fight and WIN, and that it feels really, really fucking good to win, and we use the power of our own history as a country and our party and our people, well, then I can see all the pretty promises in that poll coming true.

But Democrats have to do it. I bought into it, too, the last time around, the idea that Republicans had done our jobs for us and all we had to do was sit back and wait for the spoils. It doesn’t work. They’re too good at making us hate each other just enough to let them squeak by. We have to do it, and we have to start now.