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Don't stop now 

click to enlarge Edwards and Kerry at the end of the line on Wednesday. - PHOTO BY JENNY WARBURG

It will take a little while longer for the dust to settle. And while that's going on there will be bitterness and gloating, true attempts at unity and hollow gestures of the same. The election brought change but not sweeping change--not in the long run. One day George Bush will not be president. That day is likely to come four years later than many wanted, but it'll happen.

Remain calm. Don't be guided by contempt.

If you thought for a minute that the election of John Kerry would have ended even a modest slice of the ills of which he spoke, then you are experiencing a phenomenon called "frenzy."

Stop pacing. Walk outside. Look at the trees.

This is a big country. It turns in little clicks. More people got involved and organized and focused on the political system than ever before. More people voted. More people saw their hopes dashed. That often leads to a phenomenon called "perspective."

Dust yourself off. Get back in there.

If you got involved, the things that inspired you to do it haven't changed. They wouldn't have in one election, anyway. Get used to the idea that fighting for the right to vote, the right to health care, a fair and just society and a peaceful world will be lifelong efforts. You may wish you could storm the gates and take back your country, but do you really want to live in a country where that's how things change?

Save your breath. Your anger will only consume you.

If there was one theme of Kerry's that really rang true, it's that the election of George Bush and the shoring up of Republican congressional strength will mean more of the same. Karl Rove's election strategy underlined that. The president, who ran to the right immediately after his first, more contested election, has no reason to reach--or to govern--outside the comfort zone of his base. On issue after issue it will take even more involvement and organization.

Swim toward the light.

The increase in turnout and participation here in the Triangle broke an uptick in apathy and shifted the balance of power in the state House of Representatives. You can argue that in national terms the South is solidly Republican, but at a local level, things just aren't that monolithic. If you think state legislative races aren't important, remember that the Ohio ballot initiative against gay marriage--pushed by Bush backers in the legislature--probably led to a much more intense turnout of evangelicals in that state. If you think county commissioner races aren't important, take a look at where most legislators get their start.

Stay focused.

The next primary is five months away. The next full election--with mayors, school boards and town councils in the balance--is a year away. The entire N.C. legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate is in play in two years.

You'll get another chance.

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