Many liberals are beside themselves. Things were bearable when they could delude themselves into blaming their loss of power on a "stolen" election. But with this decisive defeat, they're thinking, "It's not our America anymore."
As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, "But what troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don't just favor different policies than I do -- they favor a whole different kind of America. We don't just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is."
Liberals can live with their belief that nearly half the people are stupid. It was even tolerable to be out of power because they knew it would only be a matter of time before they recaptured power following a proper tutorial of the unwashed masses.
But now that they feel that America has truly slipped out of their grasp, they are even angrier than they were in 2000. Their angst proceeds from an arrogant feeling of superiority and entitlement that tells them they alone should be in power and that conservatives should keep their intolerant, bigoted views to themselves.
They are incredulous that they're not just under moronic rule but in a moronic nation. Yet, there's also that nagging doubt, that ray of hope that if they had just packaged themselves properly, they would have won the election, which would mean that a majority of Americans aren't Neanderthals after all and they wouldn't have to move to Canada.
So in their post-election analysis, we're seeing this conflict. In one paragraph we see a rage born of hopeless defeatism, and in the next, an expression that all is not yet lost and that they can still salvage a better America, "our America." If we just put forward the right candidate with the right zipcode, who will say the right things and with proper emotion we'll be back -- with a vengeance.
Concerning moral issues, for example, they are bashing conservatives for promoting values while simultaneously beating themselves up for not promoting their own. On the one hand, they're saying, "How dare those holy rolling do-gooders inject morals and religion into the campaign?" As columnist Susanna Rodell puts it, "The religious bigots, who think it's Christian to hate gay people ? are winning the ideological battle in this country."
On the other hand, they're saying, "Hey, they don't have a monopoly on religion, morals or values." As Rodell puts it, "We're going to have to put our values (you remember the ones: charity, love, that sort of thing) back into the public eye, and we're going to have to be loud about it."
But it is in their proposed solutions to regaining power that they reveal they simply don't get the "morals" issue. To them it's more about appearances and the packaging of values than about the core beliefs supporting them.
As Margaret Carlson wrote of Kerry, "Always religious, he didn't frame what he stood for in Bush's language of good and evil, right and wrong. A Catholic, he lost Catholics, for God's sake."
Always religious? Most people knew better. Kerry could not successfully pass himself off as a devout Catholic just because he said he was -- as an obligatory afterthought, no less.
And Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote, "If you set out to create the perfect Democratic presidential candidate, you would probably choose someone from the South or the border states? and someone who is comfortable talking the language of religion and values, since John Kerry was not."
No, Margaret. No, Richard. It's not about pious appearances, it's not about talking the religious talk. It's about actually believing it. It's about walking the walk, even against the intimidating forces of secular political correctness.
These liberals ought to go with their first instinct: that they do idealize a different America than do most Americans, which are decidedly conservative, and not just on values. (The liberals are so convinced that President Bush botched Iraq, they are attributing their defeat primarily to moral issues, which is partially true. But I happen to believe the main reason the president won is because he has been an effective wartime president, and the people trust that he will continue to be.)
I've been saying for some time now that the idea of an equally divided America is a myth. (If the Old Media hadn't been in the tank for Kerry, there's no telling what the scope of Bush's victory would have been.)
For the liberals to regain authority -- absent external circumstances, which there could easily be, or a major realignment in the electorate, they're going to have to do more than find a candidate who merely pays lip-service to the "right" things but who means them.