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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bummer for the Left

I've seen a number of essays and posts from centrists and conservatives that are surprised at just how upset and angry the Left is about the outcome of the election. For example, Michele Catalano writes:

Sure, it's easy for me to say those things while I'm sitting in the victor's chair at the moment. But I believe in my heart that if Kerry were today making a victory speech, I would feel the same way.

I certainly wouldn't be calling for violent action. I would not be threatening total strangers with death or wishing ill will on them.

A nice essay all in all, but I think it misses one major point: the Left had far, far more to lose in this election and they lost it. It may well be the beginning of the end of the social liberals' way of life, whereas the typical social conservative was only going to be marginally impacted by a Kerry victory, at least on the domestic front.

With a Republican President and solid Republican Senate, it seems likely that we'll have more social conservatives installed in the Supreme Court. In addition, the country is trending towards social conservatism (conservatives have more children and most immigrants are social conservatives). The furthering of the social conservative agenda is inevitable over the next 20 years or so, and the current situation will push it forwards significantly faster.

So what is this "scary" agenda the conservatives have? In addition to reproductive rights rollbacks (mentioned in a comment above), there's intolerance to non-religious people (note that it's already true that not a lot of atheists hold offices of any kind), funding of churches, legislation of sexual mores (e.g., gay marriage), legislation of other "victimless" behaviors (e.g., draconian punishment for trace amounts of marijuana), rollback of environmental regulations, more complete acceptance of American exceptionalism, etc.

None of these things will happen rapidly. But the foundation is laid for that sort of progression. I personally am getting older and I don't get too wound up about the conservative agenda anymore (I admit that it is easier to be a parent in a conservative society), but when I was young I would have been absolutely horrified by the outcome of this election. I would have felt that my future was taken away from me, and in some sense, it would have been true. I would definitely have considered it to be an example of the tyranny of the majority.

When a group loses at the ballot box and the majority imposes unacceptable conditions on the minority, the minority has no choice but to revolt. Fortunately, the unacceptable conditions will only be opposed slowly, over decades, so it seems unlikely that there will be any trigger event for any sort of violent revolution. It's sort of like boiling a frog alive by turn up the heat so slowly it doesn't notice.

Nonetheless, I think that it is critically important for Bush and the Republicans to work with the minority to prevent other negative consequences (admittedly, I have no clear idea what those negative consequences might be). The hatred and bile of the Left could easily be channeled into something very, very nasty. The Left is close to the point where they think they have nothing left to lose. Whether or not that is "objectively" true doesn't matter. It's still a very dangerous situation to have a large minority that feels both completely disenfranchised and terrified of the future.

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