took a ride on the reading


If you haven’t been watching “The West Wing” this season, you’re really missing out. I realize it lost a lot of viewers a couple of years ago through attrition (I was one of them) but it has regained its footing this season with the presidential campaign and the impending end of the series.

Seriously, you’re going to miss this show when it goes. Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, the writing has always remained impeccable. You may find yourself next year watching television and wondering who let the I.Q. dribble out the back of your satellite dish and curse yourself for being complacent while “The West Wing” still lived.

Anyway, tonight’s episode was the “Election Day” special, and although we don’t know if Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Vinick (Alan Alda) won yet, it did bring us back to our own Election Day experience in 2004. Brought it back so hard, in fact, that I had to fight back emotion on the couch, and Tessa was in tears.

I don’t think it’s possible for conservatives (or the – gasp – truly apolitical) to understand how awful 11/2/04 was for the rest of America. It certainly ranks among the worst days of my entire life, an opinion shared by a lot of people who survived cataclysmic events that were seemingly much more horrific. Sure, I guess that makes us whiny, or precious, or lacking all perspective, but the defeat was so utterly cruel and hopeless that it took every fiber of my being not to quit writing the blog because I no longer gave a remote shit.

Instead, I wrote the Coastopia thing which started a whole ‘nother ball of wax. But I digress.

This particular “West Wing” made us viscerally experience, for the first time in a year and a half, that awful feeling we got around 6pm on Election Day when it appeared the early exit poll numbers had been wrong. Many people – including those of us who worked on Election Protection – had refused to show any optimism until those numbers started saying that the Democrats were up, which made the evening’s reality so much harder to bear. By the time we got back to Brooklyn from Reading, PA, the disaster was in full swing.

How could the majority of the country see what we had seen from 2001 to 2004 and conclude they wanted more of the same? How could we re-elect this utter moron, this lying fratboy thug? Something in us broke that night, our skulls drifted away from the American body politic, and we have not recovered.

American Coastopia was a comic attempt to reconcile this break while continuing to live in a country in which we no longer felt welcome. It was written as an antidote to packing our things and moving somewhere more civilized, somewhere gays are loved, stem cells are researched, womens’ wombs are their own, wars are not the first option, the environment is not raped, and we don’t kill our own people. Because apparently the majority of Americans on 11/2/04 thought all those things were cool.

Oh yeah, national security. Well, you fell for that one too. I still find it incredibly ironic that the places that were actually hit or planned to be hit by foreign terrorism – California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Washington D.C. – all voted for Democrats. But as long as you Alabamians feel safer with Bush, then you got what you wanted.

In fact, you all got what you wanted, and in the eyes of progressives, you got what you deserved. Now your President has an approval rating of 37%, even in the usually-more-conservative Time Magazine poll. Roughly translated from the 2004 election returns, that means 14.2 MILLION people who voted for Bush now disapprove of him. Well, fourteen-point-two-million, you have nobody but yourselves to blame, you pathetic boobs.

Yes, I called you “pathetic boobs”. You deserve it. You left us with this guy and only now bother to show righteous indignation? You make me sick. You had access to the same information as the rest of us. At least real conservatives stick by their guns, but you’re the worst kind of pusillanimous, wobbling imbeciles. I hope your stomach lining eats away what’s left of your digestive tract.

But to be honest, I don’t really care anymore. I try to keep my side of the street clean. I still take potshots at Republican wingnuts from my miniscule pulpit here on the blog, but mostly, I try to negate my impact on the environment, try to write good stories for a living, entertain my friends, and be a good daddy. The tears we cried tonight over a TV show were not tears of rage, they were tears of loss, remembering the night when we cared so much about a country that it nearly killed us to lose it.

And she doesn’t even like me

And I know because she said so

In the room downstairs, she sat and stared

In the room downstairs, she sat and stared

I’ll never make that mistake again.

– The Smiths

0 thoughts on “took a ride on the reading

  1. LFMD

    My boobs are not pathetic! In fact, I am quite buxom. I am the envy of A and B cups everywhere!
    Yes, Ian — you are precious! That is why I like you so much!
    I have never been a fan of the West Wing. I always thought that the dialogue was too stilted and delivered in a manner that was too fast to be realistic. And you can practically sense the disdain with which the writers consider its American audience. It’s like the writers are giving the average American a big F U! But, then again, one of my favorite shows is the Gauntlet 2.
    Sorry to be so contrary today. Daylight Savings Time always kicks me in the pants. I am tired and cranky.

  2. furious

    Hey Ian, Your post about sums up how I felt watching that show last night. Admittedly, I had lost faith for a while when Sorkin quit working on the show and it seemed that the characters through whom I had been living my life (I guess I got what I deserved) seemed to have been body-snatched by someone more conservative, less lightning-fire about the dialogue. But I’ve come back, and that show last night hit November 2, 2004 precisely, except I think I may have been having less sex that day.

  3. Chris M

    Bush’s poll numbers are very low, but would soar overnight if he were in an electoral contest with a Democrat opponent. Anyway, he’s president until January 20, 2009.
    Presidential elections are (usually) a competition between two candidates from two different parties. If one wins, the other loses. If more people chose one side, more people rejected the other.
    Presidential elections are usually pretty close. The losing party could have won if they put forward a better candidate, ran a better campaign, offered better solutions.
    That means you can figure out how to win the next election if you can get over yourself and do some work. It’s TIME TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE of your own party and its candidates. Lefties will have another shot to prove you are right about current issues by nominating a really good candidate who can WIN.
    What should the next candidate should stand for? How will s/he get enough votes to win? How do you convince people that s/he will do a better job than likely Repub. opponents and come out to vote for him or her?

  4. Mat

    I like The West Wing. Or at least I did. I haven’t seen it since moving to VA a few months ago. Sure, there are lots of eye-rolling moments — when they set up conservative arguments as strawmen, but it was otherwise well written and entertaining. The characters must be well developed if they can get a knuckle-dragging neocon like me cheering for Josh.
    “How could the majority of the country see what we had seen from 2001 to 2004 and conclude they wanted more of the same?”
    It’s precisely because we don’t want more of what we had prior to ’01 (i.e. business as usual in our response to terrorism and despots in the Middle East) that we voted for the guy who was doing something about it. Personally, I was shocked that 49% of voters wanted to give the White House to the party of Cynthia McKinney. America dodged a bullet on 11/2/04.
    “Now your President has an approval rating of 37%, even in the usually-more-conservative Time Magazine poll. Roughly translated from the 2004 election returns, that means 14.2 MILLION people who voted for Bush now disapprove of him. Well, fourteen-point-two-million, you have nobody but yourselves to blame, you pathetic boobs.”
    I hope you’re not confusing displeasure with the president with support for Democrats. Conservatives and moderates may be unhappy with the President on some issues, but that doesn’t mean they’ll vote for crazy.
    Speaking of crazy, where’s my postcard?

  5. tregen

    I hate to say it but “they” are going to vote for Bush / Repuboots again. Until Democrats grow some balls we will continue down the road to kleptotheocracy.

  6. CL

    LFMD, I thought that Grup article was just pathetic trend journalism. First New York Magazine popularized the term “Metrosexual” (what is that, men who actually keep themselves clean?), and now this. What, someone in their 20s and 30s can’t like modern music? I hated that stupid article.
    Anyway, Ian, thanks for taking the high road not posting about the rape at Duke today. Also FYI, there was a Times Book Review story this weekend about a new book about the Duke v. UNC rivalry.

  7. Kevin from Philadelphia

    Excellent entry today, I feel precisly the same way. I really can’t tell you how many family dinners, Christmas parties, Thanksgivings, etc, have been ruined when my idiot (well, let’s be nice and say under-informed) family members spout off about how bad things in the USA are going, then blame liberals for it. It doesn’t take much to get my political hackles up, especially when my ideological adversaries use Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly as news sources. Anyway, it was actually the “America Coastopia” entry that got me hooked to your writing, and I heard about it from a local Philly con radio host. I called in and defended the entry (he read it on air, with multiple snide interjections) before I had read it myself. Keep up the good work . . and I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of “The Pink House”, anyone know where I can get one of those?

  8. Deb

    I hear you, Ian. I didn’t become cautiously optimistic until the 6:00 news that night, when I decided to have a cautiously celebratory glass of wine. By the end of the night, I’d finished the bottle; the only thing that numbed my despair (I use this word with absolutely no hyperbole). To this day, the hangover hasn’t subsided.
    I know you already said it, but I *still* can’t believe (or forgive) those who RE-elected him. Those who maybe voted the first time along party lines, not knowing who and what he was and what he was capable of. It’s what made the loss so much worse for me. That my countrymen could *knowingly* choose him. That they could put their hatred of me and mine and what we do in our own homes ahead of their own and their children’s well-being.
    Growing up, I remember being jealous that my parents had all these “Where were you when…” moments (Kennedy’s assassination, the moon landing, Nixon’s resignation), and I had none. I was only 9 when the Challenger exploded, and I only vaguely understood that the Berlin Wall coming down was a big deal (more a function of my head being in the clouds than my age). Obviously, on September 11, 2001, there will never be any question as to where I was “when”. Never did I think, just three years later, on November 2, 2004, I’d open another chaise lounge in my brain for that memory to take residence, soak up the sun, and have a standing order for pina coladas.

  9. Matt

    “That they could put their hatred of me and mine and what we do in our own homes ahead of their own and their children’s well-being.”
    Deb, Deb, Deb. There’s no hate coming from this side (if anything it’s your hate of Republicans generally and George Bush specifically that is clouding your judgment). And the 2004 election wasn’t a referendum on what you “do in [your] home.” It was about the war (as it was in Australia, Great Britian and Japan), about national security, about how we are going to address terrorist threats and rogue nations, about a foreign policy that makes tough decisions and doesn’t stick its head in the sand and hope things will somehow work themselves out. Indeed, it’s about making a better future for our children. I know you disagree with the strategy, and that’s fine, but you’re wrong to attribute false motivations. Maybe that’s what helps get you through the night, painting Republicans as evil enemies of children everywhere, but it’s not true, and it ain’t right either.

  10. Kevin from Philadelphia

    “Deb, Deb, Deb. There’s no hate coming from this side (if anything it’s your hate of Republicans generally and George Bush specifically that is clouding your judgment). ”
    This is just patently false. What was the big social issue that got Evangelicals into the voting booths in 2004? Gay Marriage. And what did the President – and everyone else elected because of their hatred for LGBT in general do? Nothing. This is a fake president, he uses troops as props, Katrina as a photo-op, is out of the office more than Congress, and has failed in every single attempt in his life, let alone his Presidency.
    9/11 warning: Sorry, on vacation.
    Katrina warning: Sorry, on vacation.
    Iraq: Plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ plan.
    Immigration: 11-12 million illegals here, well done indeed.
    Unemployment: 12-14 million unemployed (4.7%), see above I guess.
    Corporate tax breaks, capital gains tax breaks, energy policy failure, foriegn policy failure, domestic policy failure. This president is a joke both at home and especially abroad, and I voted for him in 2000.

  11. Matt

    PATENTLY false, Kevin? You can disagree on which was the bigger issue for voters, the war or gay marriage, but it’s hardly patently obvious. Interestly, before the election the media was panting hard about how it was all about the war (because it was deemed unpopular), but then after the election, when it didn’t go the way they wanted, they painted the election as all about social issues. Of course! (You’d do well to remember that our enemies really do hate gay people — and they kill them routinely.)

  12. Lara

    I just wanted to let you know that Coastopia was the only thing that kept me from spending November 3, 2004 in total despair. At least it made me realize that there were other people out there who were as appalled as I was and thus kept me from giving up on Americans entirely.
    And as a Chicagoan, I was happy we made it into Coastopia, even if it was only for our museums. (Though I would think our election of two of the Senate’s more liberal Democrats, Obama and Durbin, would give us additioal Coastopia street cred).
    Anyway, I felt a very overdue “thank you” was in order.
    Myself, my husband and my father, a veteran of the Korean War and president of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace in Monterey, California, are all proud owners of Coastopia t-shirts.

  13. Kevin from Philadelphia

    Check the voter turnout for Evangelicals. This Administration uses religion – especially of the extreme fundamentalist variety – for everything from policy-makeing to campaigning. You had Pastors preaching politcal ads from their pulpits, and there was at least one case of a Baptist church in SC expelling members who did not support the President. Maybe you truly do agree with everything the President has done, but don’t try to convince anyone else that he is anymore than all flash an no substance, and even the “flash” is not that bright.

  14. Matt

    Kevin, I prefer the phrase, “all hat and no cattle.” I don’t agree with everything Bush has done, of course, but I do agree with him on the big issues, or at least what I perceive as the big issues. If the Democrats were more serious about the war I might be able to vote according to other issues but, alas, I don’t see that to be the case.
    Wasn’t Hilary invoking Jesus just the other day, using religion for policy-making? One of my former Senators, Tom Harkin, famously said before the 2004 election that “God wants John Kerry to win.” Heh. Of course liberals overlook these and many other religion-invoking instances by Howard Dean, Kerry and others because they know they don’t mean it, whereas with President Bush. . .

  15. Piglet

    Who says the exit polls were wrong?
    The day will come when it is proved that the American people are not as stupid as the so called “election results” would indicate, and that the fucktards fixed both the 2001 and 2004 elections.
    The day will also come when the Republicans will have bled middle America into so deep a depression that they come running back to us in sackcloth and ashes, begging for a new FDR to rebuild America. And if there’s enough of a government left by then, we’ll do it.
    Of course, the Rethugs wouldn’t have gotten away with it if the media hadn’t acted as their personal stenographers, and if the Democratic candidates didn’t have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, across the finish line each and every time.

  16. xuxE

    this is why i can never leave the bay area, it is like being a political refugee.
    barbara lee speaks for me! i wish she was president.

  17. Beth

    What I’d like to know is when can we all be more unified and civilized again. I was just saying to my husband the other night, “Has the country ever been more divided than it is now?” He said, “Uh, have you heard of a little thing called the Civil War?” I know I have tunnel vision, not to mention being dumb and naive, but I’m just so fucking tired of all this aimless invective without any positive advancement whatsoever. It’s pretty clear that both the conservatives and the liberals are unhappy with the direction our country has been going. Why can’t we jointly turn our energies toward progress rather than just ceaselessly throwing rocks at each other?
    p.s.: Ian, Block’s album is really super. I’ve been enjoying it all morning.

  18. Chris M

    Reason #827 why scepticism increases with age:
    “The Cooling World”: From Newsweek, April 28, 1975.
    “To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”
    The rest:

  19. kent

    Joseph de Maistre said “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle merite.” — Every nation has the government it deserves.
    It would seem to me that the 50.7 percent who voted for Bush are getting the government they deserve, but what of the rest of us, which includes everyone else on the planet? Bush seems hell bent on running up the national debt, trashing the environment, and fighting disastrous, expensive wars, based on his ‘mandate’ from the plurality.
    It’s probably true that the Democrats could have run in a walk with a more likeable candidate, but we’re not just talking about who gets invited to the best parties in DC, we’re talking about the future of humanity.
    And I’ll send a postcard to the first Republican or Conservative who can justify ANY policy of the Bush Administration, in a way that passes the laugh test.

  20. Kevin from Philadelphia

    Matt, I am one liberal who would never vote for Hillary. She is a political opportunist, and every time she starts with this triangulation garbage it drives me insane. Like Truman said (paraphrase): If an American is forced to choose between Republican and Republican Lite, they will take the real thing everytime. I really want a politician to stop playing to the lowest common demoninator. Moderates in general just piss me off. Liberals and Conservatives have picked there sides and voiciferously defend their positions, moderates and independants are the classic “fence-sittin’ bitches” of society. Pick a side stick to it. If you aren’t familar with the issues or candidates in any given year, turn off American Idol and read a book, pick up a newspaper, talk to a better nformed friend, but shit, do something. Maybe we really do deserve this shit government if we can’t even be bothered to spend 5 minutes on google news.

  21. Claverack Weekender

    I cried too during last night’s West Wing… When I realized I hadn’t Tivo’d the HD version of the naked Donna shot!!
    RE: postcard — I think the president’s proposal to allow portable health insurance and the purchase of insurance across state lines is fair and decent.

  22. Chris M

    “It’s probably true that the Democrats could have run in a walk with a more likeable candidate, but we’re not just talking about who gets invited to the best parties in DC, we’re talking about the future of humanity.”
    Likeable? Invited to D.C. parties? Do you really think that was the problem with the person the Democrats nominated to run against Bush?
    2004 was *not* a “there’s no difference between the candidates so what’s the point in voting” election. There was a clear choice between Kerry and Bush. Kerry had a long record as a “dove” despite brief military service in the 1960s. Kerry tried, but failed, to obscure that record. Bush was a hawk and ran as a hawk.
    To be a voter you have to vote. The Democrats were super confident that 2004 was the year that hip, left-leaning youth — that year called “Deaniacs” — would *finally* show up to vote in huge numbers. They didn’t. Repub turnout was actually higher than expected.
    Ian, I think you are right to be pessimistic.
    1. No one here (or in D.C.) who wants a “progressive” Democrat can come up with much of anything positive to say about getting one elected. Please, someone sell the electoral prospects of HRC, Feingold, Warner — anyone who has a shot at being nominated in 2004.
    2. Relative conservative Bill Clinton — the best campaigner and natural politician in decades — could not manage to get 50% of the popular vote — even against friggin’ Bob (“Bob Dole”) Dole. Clinton was elected only because Ross Perot took so many votes from Bush I (19%) and Dole (8%). Compare that to Nader’s 2.75 % in 2000.
    Maybe what the Dems need is a new Ross Perot.

  23. kent

    Matt, if you don’t want to try and explain the Bush Adminstration just say so. All I’m asking for is an argument for any Bush policy that doesn’t seem silly. I have to hope that there are conservatives who have reasonable rationales for their beliefs — conservatives aren’t going away even if liberals get back into government in some way; I for one am all for the parties to find common ground and move the country forward.

  24. Matt

    Kent, I didn’t think you were being entirely serious. I’ve defended certain policies on which I agree with the Bush Administration many times in the comments of this blog. Which one do you want me to revisit? The war? Social Security? Patriot Act? Abortion? Kyoto? There are serious arguments to be made for each of them, I’d hope you would agree, and I’ve tried to make some of them here before.

  25. J.Boogie

    [hoodlie hoodlie hoo
    chugga chugga chugga
    oof oof oof oof oof oof oof]
    [edited for content – mod.]

  26. badbob

    “I try to keep my side of the street clean. I still take potshots at Republican wingnuts from my miniscule pulpit here on the blog, but mostly, I try to negate my impact on the environment, …………., entertain my friends, and be a good daddy.”
    Ian- Even us “Wingnuts” try to do the same and more! I sleep nights and I have not ‘turned’.
    I am a SheepDog. I perceive GW to be the same. Even though I am getting old by your gauge, as a life long warrior, I’ve known since Vietnam that if we were ever in a real fight the shitheads of my boomer generation would screw things up. I can’t let that happen.
    More cold water- There is NO going back to pre-9-11 times. We are in a generational fight for OUR very survival. No matter what we may “wish” for: “Coastopia”, “The West Wing” or even “Tequilaville”, will not alter that reality that was foisted on us by the “Evil Enemy”.

  27. Zel M.

    You know, this post kind of reminds me of a trip to West Virginia – if you want to escape the stereotypes, then quit reinforcing them. That’s exactly how I feel about these comments.
    First, turn off the hyperbole. “One of the worst days of your life” when the exercise of democracy goes on unfettered for the 51st time in this country’s history? I’m sorry your guy lost, but it shouldn’t rank as one of the worst days of your life.
    Second, “How could the majority of the country see what we had seen from 2001 to 2004 and conclude they wanted more of the same?” translates to “How could you be so stupid?” Clearly, according to you, it is the intelligentsia who shoukd be calling the shots, and not the ignorant masses.
    As you are so fond of talking about sports, then here is a variation of an old sports adage. If you want to win, get more votes. Like it or not, GWB received more votes than any other human in the history of democracy in 2004. I’m sorry that it was 1.4% more than your guy got.
    But this is how democracy works – if you don’t like the guy in charge, then put somebody good up there to run against him and vote his ass out. Surely you didn’t think John Kerry was the svaior of democracy, did you? That he was the absolute best you could put up there? When you find the absolute best, then you can win back the White House.
    Oh, and by the way, the Supreme Court did not appoint Bush, they merely upheld the laws of the state of Florida. Besides, if 2000 voters in south Florida were so dumb as to not know they were voting for Pat Buchanan, then they’re dumber than those who voted for Bush. And if Gore carries is own home state,all this is moot. BTW, this was over 5 years ago, get over it.

  28. Ian

    Zel M. – While you’re free to have your opinion about last Election Day, you are not free to dispute my emotions about it. If I say it was one of the worst days I’ve ever had, then that’s what it was.
    Secondly, yes, I’m fully saying “how could you be so stupid”? I should have made that more clear. The intelligentsia SHOULD be calling the shots in lieu of an uninformed populace. I’ve had it with your “ignorant masses” and don’t give a shit about them anymore. They get what they deserve. If they’re moved by xenophobia, racism, homophobia, fundamental religion and are too stupid to do any research, then fuck ’em.
    I have no hope for the next election either, in case that was your next question. My wife and I might still do Election Protection, but I doubt we’ll spend the money we did last time. If GWB still won after his first term, then our money and time wasn’t worth it.
    Did I think Kerry was the best choice for the Democrats? No. But you have to be smoking blue shaved crack to think GWB is the best the Republicans can do, and the best America can do. I was never on the early Kerry bandwagon (and he fucking frustrated me to no end), but Kerry has more integrity, bravery, empathy and intelligence in his little finger than a venal, small-minded bully like George Bush.
    “This was all five years ago, get over it,” you say. No thanks, we’re still suffering. The climate is changing above our heads. And for you to comment in this forum means you still have a dog in this fight as well.

  29. Zel M.

    My goodness, please get over yourself. You seem like a very smart, passionate man. But if some guy losing an election is among the worst days of your life, then either you don’t have much of a life or your priorities are terribly out of whack.
    Isn’t it funny how the masses turned ignorant overnight? I mean, were they so stupid when they elected Bill Clinton? When a majority of people voted for Al Gore?
    The point that I didn’t make clear, possibly due to my haste in trying to get the reply posted, is that this entire thread just reinforces the stereotypes of liberals and progressives as proffered by the right: the intelligentsia should rule; the masses don’t know what is good for them, so someone should make their decisions for them; we can’t win outright so someone must be cheating, etc. etc.
    The fact that we have free elections every 4 years and have done so for over 200 years is something to be celebrated. But Democrats and liberals are so stuck on the ascension of GWB and their dedication to his ultimate downfall that they have forgotten what brought their best representatives to the forefront. Take FDR and JFK – broad visions and plans to lead America into brighter days. Not rinky-dink stuff like gay marriage and who out-served who in the military 30 years ago. This is not to discount either of those issues, it’s just not what you sweep an incumbent president out of office on.
    Americans have shown in the last 75 years that they will throw a bum out if they are unhappy – Hoover, Ford, Carter, and Bush I were all unseated. But the Kerry claim about being the best to offer was based on this – Carter was dumped in favor of the Republican white knight, Ronald Reagan, someone who unified the base and won enough elsewhere to get into office. Clinton connected with voters (and took advantage of a third-party candidate) to knock GHWB out.
    So my dog in the fight is this: libs, Dems, progressives, get off your ass and get back in the game. Stop lamenting how November 04 was the worst night of your life and get to work for congessional candidates in 2006. Get a candidate with an actual shot of winning in 2008. And cons and Repubs, get off your ass being complacent and get to work for this year’s mid-terms. And you, too, had better get someone who can win in 2008 and who won’t shoot you in the face if you go hunting with him.
    I believe in America and I believe democracy works. I believe people will vote for the person who best touches their hearts, their values, and their pocketbooks. And if their guys don’t win, then congressional elections are just 2 years away and you start again, and then you prep for taking another run at it four years later.


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