It’s hard to look past the admitted bitterness I have against this president and his cronies who have proven that bald-faced lies and a denial of accountability are no impediments to gaining the backing of the majority of voters. Many Republicans can ignore such shortcomings and vote for the ideals of the current neo-conservative movement. And no matter what the other half of the country thinks, GOP voters frame the issues apart from neo-con tactics and from many of voters’ own religious philosophies to justify their vote. I believe many honestly think that their Christian philosophies of concern and compassion for the weak are not in conflict with this administration’s prejudice for the well-to-do. How so is a deep mystery to me. I can only judge by the conservatives I know. They are not bigoted, selfish or hypocritical, just misguided.

I’m confident that someone will explain to me why gay marriage, for example, portends the downfall of civilization. (Opposition to abortion I can at least understand.) I’m sure someone can explain how our long-term interests are served by laws making it easier to make money through exploitation and money manipulation rather than through work. I expect to be enlightened soon as to why the widening gulf between the haves and have-nots is good for our sons and daughters. I will no doubt soon learn why the killing of tens of thousands of innocents to avenge 3,000 deaths at the hands of what was three years ago a small band of terrorists is justified. And some foreign policy expert will enlighten me as to why the enmity of nearly one billion Muslims helps protect us.

During my brief travels abroad over the past four years, I found what many others have: The rest of the world hated Bush but not Americans. Now, expect anti-Americanism to increase. Before 9/11, we could say that we had no idea. But after the first reign of the GWB, the rest of the world can blame Bush squarely on us. It’s our vote that re-elected him, with eyes wide shut.

And what does the vote tell us?

First of all, turnout doesn’t necessarily help the Democrats or hurt the incumbent. Those rules are dead. Second, the youth vote still is largely missing in action. It increased, but still represents the same proportion as before. While exit polls showed the youth going for Kerry, I think further analysis will suggest, it’s still a philosophical 50-50 split. (Let’s face it, exit polls continue to lose credibility.) Dems can’t count on the youth in the next election.

“Moral values” is thought by some to be the trump card that won the election for Bush. I’m of two minds on this. If moral values won it for W, then either his Christian majority are hypocrites or the Dems just haven’t figured out how to sell their values. Again, abortion is the one exception. Though I’m pro-life, I think anti-abortionists have a credible moral case.

While I always thought Ronald Reagan’s greatest legacy to this country was that he made greed acceptable, I refuse to believe that is the foundation of the Bush vote. But I may be naïve. Still, I think the Dems haven’t figured out the philosophy of combining moral values and responsible government. Many think government doesn’t expedite, it impedes. It settles for bureaucracy instead of efficiency. The GOP has successfully painted government as apart from “us.” That there is blatant hypocrisy in the way the GOP uses government to advance its agenda is lost on voters. But the big question is: Do we really care about one another or is government manipulated solely to advance our individual agendas? Exit polls show (scroll down) almost a straight line correlation between higher incomes and GOP voters.

Would another Democratic candidate have won, or are Democratic values so out of step with a majority of Americans? No. After all, it was a 51-48% popular vote. But Dems still can’t articulate a clear policy, and Kerry was not particularly artful, to say the least. They are running scared. But in part that’s because they’ve neither developed the intellectual underpinnings for their values nor the strategic plan to implement them at all costs. I can’t think of another Democrat who would have been a clear winner.

Let’s face it, we lost ground last night. And about the worst thing we could do is look to the current Democratic leadership for guidance. In fact, I’m glad Tom Daschle lost. He’s the epitome of what’s wrong with Democratic party. No guts, no glory.

Don’t expect a healing over the next four years. The Supreme Court legacy of GWB is enough alone to keep wounds fresh for decades. The question is who can lead the re-birth of the Democratic party, or is it time to allow the old gal to die a graceful death and to start anew?

Update: A note of optimism from Kevin Drum.”

…[L]iberals need to continue building a long-term machine dedicated to changing popular opinion. And it’s hardly a herculean task: a switch of only 3 or 4 points in public opinion is a virtual landslide, and if we can pull it off it means that guys like George Bush can’t get elected anymore, even if they are the kind of people you’d like to have a beer with. It can be done.”