For me, the most chilling scene of Fahrenheit 9/11 was in the prologue, when Al Gore pathetically presided over his own demise at the joint session of Congress. There wasn't much that could have been done about the stolen election at that stage, but nevertheless the scene eloquently showed how the Democrats -- the party that won the popular vote, and in all likelihood won the vote in Florida -- spinelessly and willingly capitulated before the American far right. It made clear that the Democrats share the blame for the nightmare of the last four years, a fact that would not instil me with confidence if I were an American voter. Now don't get me wrong, I'd vote Kerry along with the rest of you, but not in the expectation that it would make much difference.
I can't speak about its grassroots level, but the Democratic party I see -- the presidential candidates, senators, ex-presidents and so on -- is far from being a party of the people. It's another right-wing big-business party, and its prime movers have a different agenda and live in a different world from most Americans. The only way they can connect with the 'common man' is to imagine an ignorant, gun-obsessed, kneejerk patriot -- i.e. to imagine their worst nightmare -- and start pandering to him. They condescend. Hence the avoidance of any meaningful policy discussion. Hence the strategy which made their candidate's military record a key election issue.
It's no surprise that the Democrat elite have taken this line, but it is disappointing that so many Democrat voters have gone along with it. They seem only too willing to believe that it's them against an army of morons. Democrat voters were so desperate to get an 'electable' candidate that they picked John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and obvious stuffed shirt. Some of them were so keen to get the gun nuts on their side that they supported General Wesley Clark, or advocated the dream vet-vet ticket of Kerry-McCain. What a choice that would have been! In all this effort to second-guess the opinions of ordinary Joes, Democrat voters forgot that they are the ordinary Joes. Instead of choosing the candidate and policies that they wanted, they chose what some hypothetical idiot wanted. Somewhere in the panic, the point of democracy was lost. It's as if people no longer have confidence in the system.
The "Lieutenant Kerry reporting for duty" schtick was never going to work. For one thing, you can't beat the Republicans at their own game. Bush doesn't have to condescend to morons: he's already a moron. People have to condescend to him. And for another, most Democrat supporters could never truly accept the idea that there was something honorable about having served in a failed imperialist venture like Vietnam. No matter how much they tried, they couldn't argue the point sincerely, and it lent an impression of bad faith to the Democrat campaign. It takes a special brand of incompetence to lose the moral high ground against the Bush administration.
But despite the fatalism I now see everywhere, the election is not lost yet. Though behind in the overall polls, Kerry seems to be ahead in the marginal states -- and as Tony Blair knows, elections are all about marginal constituencies. In any case, I refuse to believe that even Kerry and the Democrats can fuck up against such an unpopular president as Bush -- not until I actually see it. It could be that the shock poll reversal of the last few weeks will actually force more anti-Bush people out to vote, to stop the unthinkable happening again. I, and most of the rest of the world, certainly hope so.