John Kerry's Undelivered
Author: Samuel Metz
John Kerry addressed the
Democratic party after narrowly losing the presidential
election of 2004. He did not discuss the lessons we wish
he had learned and that he should have shared with his
party. Here is an imaginary speech that, if he had given
it instead of his unremarkable one, might galvanize the
Democrats into not making the same campaign mistakes for a
third time in 2008.
To all my disappointed
I regret I am the second
consecutive Democratic candidate to lose what should have
been an easy election against a candidate of no substance.
I offer my apologies for my mistakes.
My primary mistake was
underestimating the fear lurking in the hearts of so many
Americans. I spoke in the most sophisticated terms about
issues important only to me. Nothing I said, no matter how
intelligent-sounding to fellow intellectuals, could
overcome the extraordinary appeal of a few well-crafted
statements spoken over and over by an opponent incapable
of independent thought.
We live in an age alien to
most Americans. Terror drops unannounced from the skies.
The mightiest army on the planet is gnawed to pieces by an
unseen enemy. Our worst danger comes from highly
intelligent, highly motivated, highly financed individuals
who do not declare war, do not wear uniforms, do not fight
on distant deserts well away from civilians, do not
respect the Geneva Convention or the Rules of Engagement
or the Rights of Men and Women. We live in a world of
problems too complex to be understood by reading only
headlines, too close to ignore, and too amorphous to offer
As a result, many Americans
sought solace in a leader who, rather than solving
problems, offered only the reassuring Pabulum, “Trust me
and everything will be all right.” Easy answers to complex
questions - when most Americans voting for my opponent
accepted the palpable fictions that Iraq bombed the Twin
Towers, that WMD were found in Iraq, that their President
supports the Kyoto Protocols and treaties against land
mines and supports restricting nuclear testing and joining
the International Criminal Court, and that the rest of
world supports our Iraq invasion - when Americans delude
themselves to this extent, there must be a powerful
reason. And I did not address this reason.
I spent my campaign speaking
to voters already committed to me. I spent no time
soliciting opinions from the millions who voted for my
opponent in 2000. Did I expect they would abandon their
folly if blinded by my brilliant analysis of tax
apportionment and readjustments of Medicare payments? Did
I understand what drove so many Americans to confuse their
fear of unseen terrorists into homophobia? Did I reach out
to the independents and recovering Republicans who wanted
some easily understandable reason not to vote for a moron?
I let my unworthy opponent
set the agenda and choose the vocabulary. I blindly
accepted his apocalyptic agenda: every issue is a
confrontation between good and evil. No gray, no way. I
let my opponent seize the high ground on every issue
important to voters.
I failed to produce one
simple distinguishing bumper sticker. Could any of you
explain in twenty five words or less my campaign platform?
My opponent didn’t even need ten words, and often
distilled them to three. I never called my opponent for
perverting the concept of “Family Values.” I never asked
which families would be excluded from his blessings
because their values were different. I never called his
administration’s campaign to “make America the best place
in the world to do business” an abomination if it took
precedent over “making America the best place in the world
to raise your children” or “have your civil rights
respected” or “criticize a wartime leader without fear of
personal safety.” I never made public that this
administration committed the might of the US Army to a
prolonged police action without the support any police
department deserved. In short, I ignored what the majority
of Americans were most afraid of - the Unknown - and blew
a sure victory.
This is a difficult
realization for me. I can either believe that 55 million
voting Americans are too stupid to know what’s good for
them, or believe that I was too stupid to understand what
was all around me. I fear I was the stupid one. To my
disappointed supporters, I encourage you not to follow in
my footsteps. Listen to your opposition, do not ignore
them. Appreciate the feelings of those who vote against
you; do not revile them. Show the majority of Americans
who voted contrary to you the same respect you hope they
will eventually show you. We must coax the frightened
masses of Bush supporters back into the daylight of
civility and the Bill of Rights.
We were taught a costly
lesson. Let us apply this newfound knowledge wisely.
May God bless the United
States, both red and blue.
Steven Kull: The Separate
Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters. October 21, 2004.
Program on International
Policy Attitudes (PIPA), A joint program of the Center on
Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and
Security Studies at the University of Maryland