Volume 74, Number 22 | September 29 - October 5 , 2004

Talking Point

Don’t throw in the towel yet; Kerry can still win

By Ed Gold

Too many liberals in the Village have been raising the white flag.

Every day, since the Republican Convention, I have been stopped in the street, called on the phone or e-mailed by hand-wringers who tell me all is lost in the Presidential election — Kerry has done everything wrong, the Bush people are too smart for us, the media has sold out to the right; we won’t survive another four years. Some have even said they plan to leave the country after the election.

The problem with this hopeless approach in the liberal camp is that it can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It saps campaign energy and most important, it dries up needed financial support. People who had planned to help the Kerry cause at least one more time decide nothing will help and close their checkbooks. This sense of defeat is happening six weeks before the election.

Some facts have to be accepted: The Republicans got a huge bump from their convention, probably because the true base of their party, the DeLays and Falwells, were kept out of the spotlight in favor of the so-called small group of moderates.

Most polls showed the bounce was two-digit immediately after the New York conclave. That made many local liberals run for cover or raise their hands in surrender. That’s all I’ve been hearing in the Village: “People are just too stupid to see through the Republican tricks, so we’ve lost again and it’s very depressing.”

But now, several weeks later, the G.O.P. bump has shrunk in most polls and in fact two respected polling operations, Pew and Harris, showed a dead heat this past week. A Web site, www.electoral-vote.com, this week showed a neck-and-neck electoral vote with Kerry a shade ahead.

Bush may still be ahead at this writing, a New York Times analysis indicates, “but the voter sentiment shifts reflected in the surveys also indicate that the contest is far from over.”

There are a few positive signs that should buoy spirits in the liberal camp.

* Abu Ghraib showed dramatically that, while many Americans may not be impressed with the printed word, pictures do grab them. Bush keeps telling us how good things are going in Iraq, but each day on the screen we see a growing insurgency, more Americans killed and injured, near anarchy in the streets and angry Iraqis shouting epithets at our troops.

* Domestically, new figures indicate a growing inflation, particularly in medical costs, a pocketbook impact that has swung many voters in earlier elections. And we’ve still lost more than a million jobs during the Bush reign.

* In his political career, John Kerry has always gained strength and focus in the stretch run. Most of the pundits agree that his more vigorous approach in recent campaigning has helped tighten the race. And he has now taken a clear and firm stand on the Iraq issue.

* The upcoming TV debates between the candidates could have a profound effect as they did in Kennedy-Nixon and Reagan-Carter. One thing for sure: John Kerry will not sound like Al Gore during the debates.

* The Democrats have learned a few lessons from 2000. They estimate that one million blacks lost their franchise in the last election, and they promise that won’t happen in 2004. Further, a major drive is under way to get 22 million single women who didn’t vote in 2000 to turn out this year. There is good reason to believe that a heavy vote by blacks and single women, in particular, will be skewed in favor of Kerry.

Using the energy that had been generated before the G.O.P. Convention, Villagers, who have a reputation for political activism, must stay the course and help in every way to win this winnable election.

Perhaps I have an edge over many of my fellow liberals. I was at Unite Press Photo Services the night the American people elected President Dewey, Yeh!

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