My friend Alex, who is probably one of the most literate and well-spoken people I know summed it all up in this tidy note.
We have just witnessed the profound failure of the democratic agenda. While the numbers (economic, war-related costs and casualties, etc.) may favor John Kerry, democrats faced an insurmountable wall of resistance in trying to win the minds of opinionated Americans. Though America experiences a costly war, a national debt that climbs a few billion per week, a Presidential approval rating in the fortieth percentile, and a Massachusetts Senator who emerged victorious from three straight National debates, the voters of America decided that they could not trust Mr. Kerry to lead the country. Why, or How, we ask, could Bush votaries admit the tremendous faults of this administration, yet, when given the opportunity to opine, they shrivel up into a tight ball of resentment, distrust, or even hate, for the alternative? Popular opinion has become so generalized, so abstract, that nuance, detail, facts and figures now fail to sway individual minds. Rationality and reason, which at one time was the great promise of American democracy, have failed. These generalizations, such as "freedom" and "our traditional values" have erased the possibility for any critical reflection on what these terms actually mean. They now have a shallow definition, and the result is the individual American now submits to majority opinions, just as the medieval prince submitted to the knowledge of the Priest. The project of our founders - a society meant to free individuals from the slavery of opinion (divine, aristocratic, or majority) - has finally failed.
It may take years of educational reform to address this decline of the American mind.