Almost going unnoticed in the continuing analysis of last week’s election has been the absence of the sort of high-drama and neurotic self-indulgence that followed Democrat losses in 2004. Where is the “Sorry, Everybody” movement of 2010?
Post Election 2004, a website called sorryeverybody.com collected and displayed hundreds of photographs from disappointed Democrats expressing their disgust-in-defeat by offering their apologies to the world. “Sorry, we tried to stop the stupidity” was a common sentiment. Dogs, babies, animals, and snowmen were enlisted in the effort to express sad-faced, clownish contrition—to the whole wide world—that so many Americans could be such morons.
While some ’04 Democrats were processing their disappointment through arts and crafts, others ran to their psychotherapists and to American Health Association-sponsored support sessions, for treatment of a Bush-Derangement-Syndrome by-product called Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST). The treatment basically consisted of paranoid group ranting, rendered therapeutic by the hourly rate, as reported by the Boca Raton News:
“The Republicans have gotten away with phony spirituality,” said Alfred. “The Jeffersonian ideal of separation between church and state is going to hell.”
“There’s more of them than us,” said a woman named Joyce, referring to “red state” voters. “That’s scary.”
“The Supreme Court terrifies me,” said Sharon, the Delray retiree who can’t sleep. “Bush has the ability to stack that court.”
Only a few days after successfully mounting an impressive rally in celebration of their “sanity,” their superior intellects, their enduring collegiate cool, and their boundless capacity for irony, the party of liberals and progressives suffered their biggest political loss in nearly sixty years to the very people they referred to in 2004 as “ineducable” and in 2010 as “racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” “xenophobes,” and “really stupid people.”
If the Democrats and the “reality-based” community needed therapeutic outlets in order to get past the failed campaign of John Kerry—a politician they didn’t even like very much and whose numbers never supported a victory narrative—last week’s dramatic “shellacking,” which was a direct repudiation of the policies and promises of a president who was carried into his office with near-messianic adulation, should have thrown them into a play-dough-pounding, Zoloft-eating frenzy of bitterness and recrimination.
And yet, there is silence. A week into their defeat, there are no moue-faced apologies absorbing internet bandwidth; therapists are not stocking up on punch-pillows.
Obviously, making international apologies is more glamorous than making domestic amends, but if GOP victories are the unmitigated catastrophes the Democrats and the press would have us believe, it seems like the progressive base should be able to muster the energy to grab a sharpie and do a little penance. They could write:
“Sorry, gay friends, about DADT . . . .”
“Sorry, thought California was cooler about cannabis . . . .”
“Very sad that healthcare will probably be messed with now, sorry . . . .”
“Don’t blame me; I voted for tax increases so we can spend more . . . .”
There are no signs. No sad clown faces or turned-down thumbs being offered by the Dem Drama Department, Class of ’10. But why?
Perhaps it is because we are all six years older, and a little wiser, and we’ve put away childish things.
No, scratch that. Perhaps it is because there is no time for signs and sighs when so many are working at their new Obama/Pelosi shovel-ready jobs.
No, scratch that. Perhaps is it because the preening rhetoric of the ’04 election, full of “fierce moral urgency,” was mostly an exercise in expedient hate, group dynamics, and “belonging.” The cynical truthiness that declared the American constitution to be have been “shredded” encouraged the activism of acting-out. Perhaps those who so enjoyed the theatrics of ’04 have a sense that this year things really are too seriously and too fiercely urgent for self-indulgent whimsy or navel-gazing, which feels a bit shallow and facetious when the president and his congress are clueless and out-of-touch, and you’ve been out of work for a year.
Perhaps the posturing of political contrition has been put on hold because the Democrat base—so accustomed to moving in lockstep—is secretly relieved that the moronic Republicans, the hateful conservatives, the backward centrists, and the independents have managed to pull the reins on a reckless president and a Congress they felt helpless to stop.
They will never admit it, but I suspect that—as a new Congress tries to find an exit from the deeply ruinous Obama/Pelosi course—the Democrat base will let loose a long, cleansing exhale, and they’ll be surprised realize that they’d been holding their breath.
Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer of First Things. She blogs at The Anchoress. Her previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here. The blog she mentions can be found at Sorryeverybody.com.