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KERRY LOSS TRIGGERS
LOCAL ANGST, RESOLVE

John F. Kerry returns to the U.S. Senate.

But what about his die-hard supporters -- or the voters who chose Kerry but would have settled for anyone but Bush?

They stray between anger and outrage, frustration and despair.

What's happened to their country, they wonder?

How could George W. Bush -- a man they consider remarkably unreflective, an intellectual lightweight and someone they believe deliberately misled the country into war -- have won?

Ralph Wahlstrom, a Buffalo State College English professor, said he still has trouble accepting Bush's re-election a week and a half later.

"I've never felt like this before, and I've voted in every election since I was 18," said Wahlstrom, a 51-year-old, Vietnam-era Navy veteran.

Some Kerry voters are angry and upset. Others are slowly recommitting to future battles.

And a few, like Charlene Angle of Buffalo, are looking longingly to Canada.

Angle's family owns two cottages in Minden, north of Toronto, and she's thought about moving there permanently some day.

"It's very scary what's going on here. Being a woman, I expect my rights to be taken away left and right," said Angle, a medical secretary.

Moving van to Canada

Angle isn't alone in imagining a moving van hauling her possessions north of the border. On the day after the election, the number of U.S. visitors to Canada's main immigration Web site jumped from an average of 20,000 to 115,016 -- a nearly sixfold increase that practically doubled the previous record.

Canada is laying out the welcome mat to new residents. Unlike most large countries, the nation of 32 million has a permanent immigration program. Recently, the minister of citizenship and immigration announced a goal of 220,000 to 240,000 new immigrants and refugees for 2005.

In recent years, 2 to 3 percent of immigrants to Canada have been from the United States -- the same percentage that made the move following the closely contested 2000 presidential race.

If this country becomes more conservative, Angle said, she may move to more socially liberal Canada.

So might Buffalo piano teacher Tim Socha, who has dealt with his post-election blues by recently looking at property in Canada with his roommate.

"We toyed with the idea for the weekend, at least. It was nice to imagine, although right now it's more of a fantasy," Socha said.

Easy transition

It's relatively easy to make a new life in English-speaking Canada: Potential immigrants can apply to become a permanent resident, a process that takes about a year. Or someone can choose to live in the country on a long-term basis by getting a work permit and finding a job.

Colin Eager, executive director of the Western New York Peace Center, won't be one of them. He's committed to working for change at home -- especially when he thinks about the prospect of new U.S. Supreme Court judges voting to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling or the prospect of more "pre-emptive" wars.

"The first thing those in progressive movements need to do is get over the shock of the moment and realize there is a huge body of people out there that agree with us," Eager said.

"Then we have to start doing what we can to mobilize them, and take other actions besides voting every four years."

Distress over the election results even showed up in many therapy sessions at the University at Buffalo, according to Christine Calmes, assistant director of the Psychological Services Center.

"This has been a topic at many sessions that therapists have had with existing clients," Calmes said.

Colin O'Malley, a student activist and junior at the University at Buffalo, said he was disappointed by Bush's victory, but is trying to look ahead. With Democrats and independents in the minority of a Republican-controlled White House and Congress, he is focusing on trying to shape public opinion outside electoral politics.

Canisius College political scientist Michael Haselswerdt said a number of people distraught by Bush's victory can be expected to disengage from politics.

"A professional (politician) looks at long-term gain -- you're going to win some and lose some," Haselswerdt said.

"The amateur is attracted to politics usually by some passionate issue or personality, and they think everything is riding on this one election. Those are the people who will have a very hard time with a loss, and typically leave politics after that experience."

Two acts of vandalism in the Buffalo area were linked to the election results. On Nov. 4, rocks were thrown through the windows of the Republican Party's downtown headquarters in the Statler Towers and also at a Town of Tonawanda military recruitment center. A letter reportedly claimed the actions were in reaction to the Republican agenda and the Iraq war.

Jennifer Gold, a speech-language pathologist who lives in Buffalo, admitted feeling "despondent, hopeless and helpless" ever since Ohio's declaration as a red state sealed Bush's victory.

"We're in danger of losing everything we've ever worked for, from the environment to Social Security," said Gold. "People are talking about leaving the country -- that's how depressed they feel. And the people who voted Bush in will say, 'Good. Leave.'

"They should be asking why. What has happened that has made their fellow citizens so desolate about the democratic system?"

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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